Thursday, September 18, 2008

Day 14: Kowloon Markets

We spent the entire day today in the Kowloon part of Hong Kong, north across the harbor from Hong Kong Island. Our first stop was a custom tailor shop, where Che wanted to have a suit and shirt made. I was just along for the ride but couldn't pass up the opportunity to have a Chinese dress made for myself. The staff was very patient in helping us choose the fabrics and styles we were looking for, then measured us for our new clothes. We go back tomorrow afternoon for a second fitting, then our clothes should be done and ready for us to pick up before we leave on Saturday. We're very excited to see how they turn out!

After the tailor, we met Jay, Cheron, and several of her coworkers for a traditional family-style Cantonese lunch, which was delicious. Cheron returned to work, and three of us set out to explore Kowloon, starting with Mong Kok. One of the interesting things about shopping in Hong Kong is that oftentimes, you will find a single street with hundreds of the same type of store. So if you are looking for something aquarium-related, you would go to the Goldfish Market. If you are looking for plants or flowers, the Flower Market. And for birds? You guessed it, the Bird Market. The same is true for many other types of goods, so it's extremely difficult to do one-stop shopping.

I wanted to take a quick stroll through the Flower Market, which is a street lined with nurseries, gardens, and shops and stalls selling tons of blooms and greenery. The variety of plants and flowers was overwhelming, and the street was so colorful and lively. And there was a huge range from very inexpensive flower stems (huge stems of lilies for only cents) to very expensive (rare and exotic orchids in the thousands of dollars). From there, we headed to the Goldfish Market, an obvious stop for the boys, who are both reef keepers. I tagged along for about two hours, but got bored of fish, corals, lights, and pumps, especially when I realized that they hadn't even made it through half the stores yet. We parted ways, and I headed south to the Jade Market, which was just closing up shop when I arrived. The Jade Market consists of over 400 vendors crammed in a warehouse-type space, each stall full of all things jade - carvings, jewelry, etc. Even with more than half the vendors packed or packing away, I was overwhelmed. I browsed but didn't buy. From there, I just wandered different areas of Kowloon - Yau Ma Tei, the shops along Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui - and eventually made my way down to the MTR station at TST where I met up with Jay, Che, and Cheron.

The four of us walked down to the TST promenade, where Che & I had been a few nights before with Amy & Erik. Between 8:00 and 8:20 every night, the skyscrapers on Hong Kong Island put on a colorful laser light display that is synchronized to music on the Kowloon side. The show was a lot of fun to watch, although it was difficult to capture any decent photographs. Afterwards, we headed back north to the Temple Street Night Market, Hong Kong's largest and most popular night market. Temple Street is closed to traffic after 6:00 p.m., and the street is crammed full of vendor stalls hawking anything and everything you might want to buy and/or eat. We picked up some souvenirs there, grabbed a bite for dinner, and finally made it back to the hotel room after midnight. It was a long day to be on our feet the whole time, and we're thinking massages might be on the agenda for tomorrow. We won't expect to pay Thai prices, though. I think the days of $7 massages are over for us.

Gorgeous rows of blooms at the Flower Market:

Can anyone tell me what these purple/pink flowers are? I thought the ones on the left were peonies. I have no idea about the ones on the right. Either way, I would have loved to have bought some. Each cluster (you can sort of see them arranged in clusters in the picture), at least three large blooms, was only $18 HKD (that's a little over $2 US).

Hong Kong Island's light show:

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