Typhoon Usagi (Rabbit or Bunny in Japanese) delayed our flight from Sunday morning till Monday night. So, we spent the extra day in New York walking the streets and picking up a few last minute things. We peeked into the epic St Patrick’s Cathedral and lit a candle for blessings from St Anthony, patron saint of travelers. We went for a ride on the carousel in Central Park and enjoyed a couple pretzels and dirty water dogs. For dinner, delicious steaks at Les Halles with Eric’s family. A perfect way to say goodbye to our beloved city.
After an smooth but long flight, we arrived in Hong Kong on Wednesday morning. We breezed through customs and our driver brought us over to the Cathay Pacific cargo terminal to get my cat, Boo. “Almost everyone speaks English”, I’ve heard and as a result have said countless times. No, not true. Many, many people speak English but in the back end of the airport I was grateful to have our driver’s help and eventually enjoyed a tearful reunion with my furchild who faired the journey (drug-free) extraordinarily well. They checked her vaccination documents, scanned for a microchip, and we were on our way! We drove from the airport on Lantau Island to Kowloon Peninsula, and then over to Hong Kong Island where our apartment is.
Our temporary residence for the first thirty days is between the neighborhoods of Sai Ying Pun and Sheung Wan, west of Central and overlooking Victoria Harbour. We unpacked, showered, and swiftly headed out to get a feel for our new city. After walking for about a block and a half, we realized why there is a slight smell of dried fish steadily wafting throughout the apartment. We are in the middle of the largest import/export hub for sea trade. Shark Fin (good for the man), which I thought had become an uncouth and politically incorrect thing of the past in HK, is dried on the sidewalk and sold abundantly in the stores here. This is sold alongside swallow’s nest (good for the woman), dried starfish, eel, snake, abalone, sea cucumber, cuttle bone, and an array of things I cannot yet identify. We found our way to the Sheung Wan MTR station and got our Octopus Cards so that we can get around on public transportation via trains, buses, ferries, and trollies. From there, Eric and I wandered up toward Cat Street Bazaar- an antique shop area and on the way enjoyed some greasy but yummy street food. We also met two friendly feral cats in a Traditional Chinese Medicine public garden/park.
We came back to the apartment to drop off our bags and regroup for dinner but then *ZONK* I fell asleep around 6pm and didn’t wake up till the next day around 11am. Eric, bless his soul, started work the day after we arrived so here I was in a brand new foreign city and time to explore it on my own rhythm. This city is extraordinarily approachable. The people are friendly and helpful. Almost every street sign is translated into English and it feels safe. Knowing this and feeling it to be true, I was still dragging as I woke up, for a little bit of fear was still lingering in my belly. The newness of it all was slightly overwhelming my system. I am trying to remember if I felt this my first few days in New York seven years ago, I don’t think so… I decided I needed a destination to strive toward and couldn’t think of a better thing to do than to get myself into a yoga class to unwind my body and my mind. I chose a lunch-hour class at Yoga Central, about 5 km from where we are staying. With a new found sense of purpose, I quickly showered, slid on my lulus, and made my way at a New York pace to the MTR.
“Walk out from the Central subway to Peddler street, cross the busy crossroads cutting Queen’s Road” the directions on the website said. EVERY road is busy here in the center of the city… but, I asked for help and found my way. The building was under construction so I had to walk into a street level chinese restaurant, go through the kitchen, up the back stairs, and there I found a very nice studio space just in time to slide in for the beginning of class. This studio teaches class in the Iyengar style and the detailed instruction of the practice was just what my mind needed to focus it. We started stretching out the back and the hamstrings with a few simple postures at the rope wall which my body drank up like a tall glass of water. Gale, the teacher, was energetic with a nice sense of humor. She made her way around class giving useful individual instructions in her lovely French accent. My body said “thank you”.
After class, I asked a fellow yogi where to grab a bite and she suggested the place across the street for good Chinese. I sat down and pointed to the tempting noodle dish two tables away. The waitress then asked me something in Cantonese. When I didn’t understand she pointed to Chinese characters on the lunch menu. I still didn’t understand so I looked to the couple seated next to me for some insight and translation. Oh! my lunch came with a free drink- I ordered an iced coffee with my pork ribs and noodles. De-lish!
Feeling good after yoga and a nice lunch, I made my way to Man Mo Temple, one of Hong Kong’s oldest temples. It was built in honor of ‘Man’, the Gods of literature and ‘Mo’, the Gods of war. Constructed in 1847, it has been not only a place of Taoist worship but also served as a court in the 19th century. The ceiling is lined with spiraling incense which drop ash on your head. Locals bow to the idols as they push lit candles and incense into pots of dust before them. The space was under renovation (as so much is in HK) when I visited. Bamboo scaffolding lined the walls inside and out, there was a Chinese man standing in the altar painting it red as another lining characters along the wall in gold. It reminded me of our visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral on our last day in NY seeing both of their attempts to keep a sense of sacredness alongside practical structural repairs. I passed on the option to get my fortune read by their in-house master. I couldn’t think of a specific enough question for him and figured he wouldn’t dig “tell me the most important thing for me to know at this moment in time” for his asking price of $150 HKD (about $19 USD) for one question. I wandered back to the apartment to welcomed Eric back from his first day of work. For dinner, we went to a local joint around the corner, Kwun Kee, known for their clay-pot rice dishes. I attempted a few words in Cantonese…
- Be-Jau = Beer
- Bui = Glass
- Ng-goy = super useful word “excuse me”, “please”… it gets the job done when wanting to get someone’s attention.
- Mai-daan = check
These last two days have been house-hunting days which deserves it’s own post. We’ve seen a lot of Hong Kong and have a pretty good idea where we would like to settle down. Till then, joy-gin… goodbye!