Sunday, 22 February 2009

Hong Kong

Statues outside the Art Museum

I spent much of the ferry trip from Macau to Hong Kong feeling slightly apprehensive about what our accommodation would be like, as we were staying in Chungking Mansions. This is a chaotic and (in)famous building in Kowloon, full of cheap hotels, Indian restaurants, money changers and tailors. K and W had moved out of their Chungking Mansions hostel in horror at the squalor, and I was hoping we would not have to do the same.

We didn’t: there was a very good reason that the Guangdong Hostel has one of the best ratings on Our room, although tiny, was immaculate. The floor was probably cleaner than most of the tables I eat from in Shijiazhuang. We were provided with all sorts of creature comforts, including a fridge, tv and dvd player. The proprietor, Simon, gave us with tourist maps, let us borrow his laptop for free to use the internet, helped us find our way about and, as A’s parents had to go home a day earlier than they had planned, let us change to a cheaper, smaller room for the second night.
Peace bears, Avenue of the Stars

On the way out to explore the Kowloon peninsula I purchased on of the best garlic naans I had ever had in my life. Soft, fluffy yet slightly chewy and fantastically garlicky – let’s just say I was a repeat customer for the duration of my stay.

It is free to visit museums in Hong Kong on Wednesdays, so we took the opportunity to look around the Art and Space Museums. The Art Museum had a variety of very interesting and well curated exhibitions. My favourite was ‘The Art of Ding Yangyong’. I especially liked his cat pictures, which were playful, captured the cat-ness of cats very well, and never lapsed into sentimentality. I also enjoyed ‘Looking for Antonio Mak’, which had a thought provoking section of contemporary artists on this theme, and ‘The Story of the Horse’, which contained some beautiful antique scroll paintings.

Painting in painting, Ding Yangyong

The Space Museum was disappointing: it was shabby, many of the interactive exhibits were broken and there were huge queues to use any of the apparatus, so we didn’t spend very long there before walking down the Avenue of Stars. This affords stunning views over to Hong Kong Island, and I particularly liked watching the intriguing array of boats that went past. It is also home to a statue of Bruce Lee. There was a large crowd seething around the statue, most of them in the process of snapping pictures of themselves with Brucie.

Bruce Lee statue

I found Maltesers, which are totally unavailable in mainland China, and joyously bought two bags. The first one I devoured as if I hadn’t eaten for several hours, the second I had for breakfast the next day.

On our way down to the waterfront we had spotted an Irish bar, and we decided to pay a visit at happy hour. It was probably the strangest Irish bar I’ve ever been in. The Oirish memorabilia was overwhelming – I have never seen so many Guinness toucans in one place, although I did manage to find my surname on a map of Irish names. The traditional wooden bar divisions were decorated with Chinese New Year decorations, and the remarkably sullen staff waited on tables. We met a crazy Pakistani businessman, who was a complete bs merchant, but who very obliging bought us a drinks whilst he spun his yarns.

Good Morning II 1993, Antonio Mak

We wanted to sample some Cantonese food, and asked Simon about where would be good to eat. He offered to guide us to his favourite restaurant. We exited the back of Chungking Mansions, and in a trice had gone from the Westernised, modern clamour of Nathan Road to dank, dark back alleys, running with water whose origin I preferred not to speculate upon, filled with Indian and African men chatting and smoking, and men of various ethnicities pushing huge carts through the narrow passageways.

At the restaurant Simon procured us some English language menus. As we perused them I experienced a terrible fear that Simon would stay to eat with us, obliging us from politeness to try and force down the restaurant’s fare. It seemed to specialise in serving tendons of various different animals: in soup, braised, fried, and the place itself had a less than savoury air. Fortunately Simon had to go back to check in another guest, so we waiting for a few minutes and made our way to a Spaghetti House, where we happily chowed down on some delicious pasta.

Victoria Peak tram

After dinner we took the subway over to Hong Kong Island, rode the Victoria Peak Tram and observed the city at night, whilst trying not to get elbowed by some of the obnoxious mainland Chinese tourists. Very annoyingly my camera is rubbish at night shots, so I have a series of gloomy and blurry snaps to show for my diligence in fighting my way to the best photography spots.

1 comment:

  1. Chungking is an unbelievable place isn't it? I went 18 months ago but posted a few pics in February too. I'd seen the Wong Kar Wai film Chungking Express years ago as well but even that didn't prepare me for the rabbit warren!