During the past few days the weather forecast had been for thundery showers, with sunny intervals. So far we had managed to miss any thundery showers, but when we awoke this morning the rain was pouring down outside. Normally, from Clara’s bedroom you can see over the harbour and into Kowloon and if visibility is good you can even see the mountains that split Kowloon from the New Territories. Today, it wasn’t even possible to see Kowloon and at some times the tops of buildings were even disappearing in the cloud.
Our original plan for today was to go to visit the famous peak. Due to the weather the view would not have been that good so we decided to give this a miss and go ‘Kowloon side’ to go shopping and to have a look at the many markets. We set off on our normal route by taking the number 12M bus down to Admiralty terminus where we interchanged with the MTR. We took the MTR under the harbour and up to Tsim Sha Tsui where we went to the surface. On exiting the MTR we emerged on Nathan Road, this is the main road that runs from the tip of Kowloon right up to the top end and is home to many shops, and hundreds of buses, cars and taxis! Today we were going to attempt to follow two of the walks provided on the Hong Kong tourist board website that go through Kowloon and take in the sights. We had already completed part of the walk yesterday and so started to walk up Nathan Road into the heart of Kowloon.
As the morning passed we visited a few shops, mainly to look at clothes, but also to see the many computer shops on the way. According to Clara this area is popular with illegal immigrants from India, and the road was full of Indian men trying to sell me dodgy ‘copy watches’ or ‘new suit’. This is funny for the first couple, but the 50th time someone asks it starts to really get on your nerves! Luckily as the road progresses into Kowloon so do the men. As we continued down the road the rain began to get heavier and turned into a torrential downpour. Walking around Hong Kong is hard enough on a dry day but when it is raining the extra obstacle of everyone carrying umbrellas makes it even harder to navigate down the street.
We set off from home quite late today so by this time we were getting hungry. As we followed our route onto Kimberly Street Clara took me into a Chinese cafe for our lunch. I found out that you can tell a Chinese cafe as they have a small kitchen at the entrance to the restaurant where the food is prepared and to all intents look very much like a transport cafe with tiled walls, and plastic tables – but with high powered air conditioning to take the temperature to a bearable level! I was the only westerner in the cafe and this was obviously a Chinese place as the menus were all in Chinese with no english translations. Even the prices were in a very ancient Chinese numbering system that even Clara could not understand! Clara ordered some egg noodles in soup with fish and squid balls. I ordered fried egg noodles with sauce and beef, fish and squid balls with fish dumplings. We both had ice lemon tea to drink. A tip from a Hong Konger is that you should not really drink the tea that they give you when you are seated as they frequently put there fingers in the glasses. Clara also washed the chopsticks that were available in a bucket on the table by dipping them in the tea and wiping them with a tissue – hopefully this will keep us safe from dodgy stomachs!
After lunch the rain was still pouring down and we continued our walk through the back streets of Kowloon and eventually back to Nathan Road. Another 10 minutes up the road and after passing a couple more MTR stations the rain was beginning to subside and we approached the next sight. Just off Nathan Road is a small temple – surprisingly enough on Temple Street. The temple is a working temple and much less touristy than Man Mo Temple yesterday. The temple was full of people worshipping the idols and full of incense burning in the roof.
On leaving the temple we continued north up a back street where we saw the wholesale fruit market. The market was closed (its normally open early in the morning) but looks more like a shanty town with tin roofs and various materials making up walls. This street also contained many shops selling items for funerals including clothes for the dead and the instruments such as a drum that are used in the funeral procession.
After crossing Nathan Road we came across Lady’s Market. This market sells everything from t-shirts to fake handbags, and is really aimed at the touristy market. The stalls stretch endlessly up the street and most are selling the same things. We paused in a couple of the stalls briefly but did not buy much. Clara says that this market used to contain many more counterfeit items such as DVD’s but these have been closed down. When we eventually came to the end of the many stalls we cam to another of the busy shopping streets in Kowloon. We visited a DVD shop where we managed to pick up some bargain DVD’s for the great price of $25 (2 pounds) of classic Chinese movies. Most of the recent release DVD’s are no cheaper than in the UK, but older DVD’s of classic films can be picked up at cheaper prices.
When we had finished in the DVD shop we moved onto the next market. This time the market was for local people and consisted of many small stalls in the middle of a shopping street with shops lining each side of the street. Many of the stalls sold fruit and veg, along with clothes, underwear and the things you would normally see in an English market. On the fruit and veg stall there were a few items that I didn’t really recognise including Lychees and Dragon Fruit (a large red fruit with spikes on it – which I have yet to try). There are also many of the familiar fruits but some seem to have been super-sized such as watermelons that are larger than in the UK.
As we approached the most northerly point of our walk, Price Edward street, close to the Prince Edward MTR station we paid a brief visit to the fish and meat market. These were like the shops I had seen on previous days selling fish from small polystyrene, water filled, trays. This market was indoor and the atmosphere (and smell) was much more overpowering. As we turned a corner and I pointed to a large fish on a stall the fishmonger called to Clara to ask her if she would like to buy a fish head (sadly, we had to decline…).
As we exited the market we paid a brief visit to the flower market area where there are many stalls selling flowers and plants. As no-one in Hong Kong has a garden, all of the plants are potted and many people have large collections (including Clara’s dad Andrew, who keeps many Orchids on his window-ledge). By now, the rain had stopped for a couple of hours and the temperature had soared, making things uncomfortable once again. We had come to the end of our tour and on the way to the MRT station I tried another of the many buns from the bakery – this time a apple and custard bun (but I have still have many more to try!).
We took the MTR back to Admiralty where we changed to the 12M bus to take us back up the hill to Clara’s flat. We deliberately took this bus as Clara said it takes a fairly indirect route and we could see the sights on the way. The bus quickly approaches the bottom of the hill on Hong Kong Island but then it winds its way up each road, slowly climbing to the mid-levels. As we went up the hill I saw the more residential areas of Hong Kong with many high rise buildings on both sides of the road. On the way home we also passed Clara’s old school (sorry no pictures as the batteries on my camera ran out!), which is in a listed building. After a 30 minute ride (costing about 30p) we arrived back at Robinson Road to get showered and have a rest as this evening we were going out for Japanese with Grace and a number of other friends Clara used to go to University with.