The 5th was a day of exploration! We got dressed, headed for the glorious subway (air conditioned! Clean! So well-organized and laid out!) and made our way to a Buddhist nunnery. It was so, so beautiful. Kind of disheartening that it was built in 1995 and therefore not that historically inclined but still. It had all these pools filled with lotus flowers and turtles! That's what I think I loved about Hong Kong most. Turtles. Everywhere has pools with fish, Hong Kong had turtles. All swimming in their silly, yet peaceful, turtle way. Climbing on top of each other, craning their necks out of the water. I love turtles. They are actually one of my favorite creatures and I have one at home. He's about 14 years old and our family mascot, next to Egglet. It was so wonderful seeing his distant Chinese cousins. And trying not to think about how they will probably get eaten. Yeah, they eat a lot of turtle there. I saw a "turtle cafe." I am not that ashamed to say I screeched and made Elliot walk fast, fast away from it with me.
The nunnery was so peaceful. There was this soft chanting broadcast over the area and it was an oasis of calm right smack in the city. There were a lot of Japanese and Indian tourists too and it was kind of nice watching them pay their respects to the various Buddha statues and tableaus scattered around. It was such an open, good place to be. I get affected by stuff like this in a weird way. It happened in India too. I get this swelling of emotion in me and I don't know why and my breath catches and I start either crying or tearing up. But it's not a bad feeling. It's like this calm wave of release and though I'm sniffling, I never feel more open and relaxed inside. It sounds like a bunch of spiritual hogwash but I can't really explain it. I know my mom feels like that some places too. We both got hit with it in a temple in India. We didn't even have to talk about it, we saw it in each other's faces. It's like the deepest sigh you can breathe out and with the exhale, you're free. Okay, I sound high but it is what it is.
And then after this spiritual awakening we went to the mall next door and played arcade games. I played a game where I threw plastic balls at an image of a little girl while a man screamed at me in Chinese. I had no idea what was going on or what I had to do but it was amazing. I ended up losing, I think? I was laughing too hard to really figure it out. Elliot, of course, played his Street Fighter which he has to everywhere we go and made his mark on Hong Kong. Before he got in a match with the man sitting next to him and lost.
Then we went to Happy Lemon, Hong Kong's answer to the Boston Tea Stop. They have all sorts of milk tea drinks and treats and we got one with, get this, rock salt cheese. Doesn't that sound absolutely horrible? It was the most delicious milk tea drink I've ever had. It had this creamy condensed milk (?) layer and was just so rich and yummy. That's the thing with Hong Kong, everything is on the extreme side of the spectrum. There's no in-between good or bad. There's either wonder beyond anything or complete and utter shit.
On the way back we stumbled on some sort of street festival. There were families there and singing and jugglers and... clowns. It was bedlam. It was so noisy and so hot and then Elliot got a roast sweet potato off the street and we sat and watched the people as he ate his potato. They watched us right back. The exit lead to another sort of prayer spot filled with pools and yay, turtles again! A small Chinese boy was pushing them off the rocks back in the water so I avoided an international incident by yanking Elliot away (he yelled at the kid and was this close to drowning him for abusing the turtles) and we walked by the whole area. The air was thick with incense and the sound of shaking beads (you bought them in a can and they wished upon them for whatever you wanted) and ended up in a shaded passageway filled with fortune tellers and tarot card readers. Which we basically ran past as they freak both of us out. Thanks Hong Kong :D!
In the evening, since I was still sniffly and sick (fuck you immune system. Fuck you very much) I decided to ask the hotel for a nice massage place. I hadn't been able to locate an acupuncture place and I figured a nice massage was a good second to being stuck all over with needles. Elliot told me to ask because he was worried if he did, he'd get another sort of massage. Which I laughed off but then I found out the common hours of operation for massage places, even the nice ones, are from 10 am to 2 am...
The hotel directed me down the street to Chiba House. Wow. So not a place for Elliot. There was a small pond with carp in the entrance and I went upstairs to a dimly lit place with rows of pedicure chairs. I asked for a massage and they made me take of my shoes and gave me a pair of sandals I wobbled along in to a private room. In the room they gave me a kimono-type shirt and shorts to change into. Huh. I am not a small Asian girl. So with some trepidation I put them on. They fit just fine! I felt stupidly happy about this as I awkwardly stood in the room and waited for whatever came next. I had no idea. Finally, a small lady came in and made me lie down. Then for the next 50 minutes she pounded the shit out of my back. Holy god. It was so good and so painful at the same time. I was so confused. This is how sadomasochism originated didn't it? I don't like pain, I don't seek it out. But then, I never show it either. Tattoos, scars, falls, nothing. I came so close to gasping out loud during this massage, though. Yet, it still felt good!? Except for when she bent my leg all the way back so that my foot touched my rear and then proceeded to pound that leg. That's when I almost said uncle.
After that violent beat down (I had red marks on me where she rubbed), the lady assumed her calm demeanor and gave me a thermos and walked out. I hope to God it was tea in that thermos and that I was supposed to drink it because I sure did. I got dressed and came back out. A row of Japanese businessmen getting pedicures greeted me as I exited. Thanks Hong Kong :D!
That night we wandered back to the harbor and watched the Symphony of Lights. It's a light show bounced off the buildings on both sides set to music. And it's every night. It was so tacky and so delightful. Elliot took plenty of pictures and we had fun getting jostled by the crush of people there to see the lights.
We checked out on the 6th and headed to the Hong Kong side for The Cosmo Hotel. Huh. It wasn't a bad hotel per se. It was connected to a bigger, more star hotel called the Cosmopolitan and it was the smaller, satellite hotel off it. It was small but it's not like we really needed closets... or walking space in the room. We didn't have internet in the room and asked to pay for the service at check-in. I guess it wasn't that important that they didn't really listen to us at all and we ended up paying separately for it everyday. Much like everyone else in China, listening doesn't seem to be that big a priority. Oh and I suppose it wasn't that big a deal that we only got breakfast on that first day, and we had to pay even though it was 30% off, and Elliot ate the single worst pork bun of his life.
Yeah, Cosmo was kind of crappy but not horrible. Though, it was right next to the news agency so we were pretty paranoid/positive that the rooms were bugged and that the government was reading our emails. Which is why whenever I wrote anything disparaging to my sister I "disguised" it in Turkish.
The location was kind of out of the way too. We had to walk through an underpass and get on the double decker tram to get to the main city center. Did I not mention? Along with a truly excellent subway system with trains that never took longer than 2 minutes to arrive, Hong Kong had a series of buses and trams, both double decker. Probably out of necessity because it's so crammed with people. Which begs the question, why do they meander so? You'd think living in a city, nay a country with the most people per square inch would teach you that there's ALWAYS someone behind you. Walk faster goddammit!
My view of Cosmo may have been tempered by the fact that I had a fever again and a splitting headache that progressed into a full-blown migraine complete with retches. Thank God for the British and their colonizing efforts. Every corner had a Watson's (a pharmacy) so I did manage to get some cold medicine. It had codeine in it and was over the counter. Bless you. Though they did take my passport number and hotel down and then I ended up not really taking it because each dose had to be 10mL and there was no measuring implement given. I had a capful of the stuff every night to avoid being a zombie in the day but even that seemed not enough.
The Hong Kong side seemed kind of full of jackass tourists and attitude-y Chinese people. During the day it was a mess of noise and cars and at night, trashy people just flooded the streets. We wanted to experience the "native," night life, pardon me for sounding so awful, but everyone was either British or French.
Also, I forgot my sunglasses at the Luxe Manor and when we went back (we were homesick for the Kowloon side) they said they didn't have them. China stole my sunglasses! They were nice ones too. We did realize though that the youth of Hong Kong hangs out in Kowloon at night. We much preferred that side.
But we made do. I mean, Cosmo may not have been in the best location but we did have the most giant cemetery right next door! It was Parsee and we also had a Sikh temple as our other neighbor. It was kind of like coming to college for the first time and realizing there were dead people buried right across from my dorm. I live for ominous symbolism. I should add, by "made do" I mean, Elliot went out to explore and I spent the day dying in the room. They didn't even have Cartoon Network, just AXN which broadcast shows in English, so I spent my day in a haze of pain and mucus watching more CSI and House than I have my entire life. I also watched an Australian show called Wipe-Out where they basically torture weirdos on a silly obstacle course and the announcers then make fun of them when they fall. It was brilliant.
We put off finding the "old" Jumbo and the metal bar (and going up the Peak at night) for another night. We still had time and plus, we still needed to find roast suckling pig for Elliot. It's what Hong Kong is famous for and so far we hadn't managed to locate any place that had it. Plus, I now had a cough and we suspect the pollution coming from the mainland might be affecting my "healing" time. Thanks Hong Kong :D !
The lotus pools
Massage battle scars.
Hong Kong at night and The Symphony of Lights.