Incense offerings at Wong Tai Sin Temple, for the Daoist deities, Kowloon, Hong Kong, ©2014 Jeane Vogel Studios
A few random thoughts about Hong Kong after 36 hours:
• Are there friendlier people on the planet? Truly kind, helpful, cheerful people. How do they keep it up in this heat?
• Summer in Hong Kong: OMG. This is not camping in the Florida Keys in August hot. It’s not St. Louis in a heat wave hot. It’s HOT! A humid. The air can be cut with a knife… and yes, you can see the air. Pollution is bad. I can’t imagine what this country would be without air conditioning and I don’t even what to know the public and environmental cost of keeping it on.
• When a Chinese person wears a mask in public, it’s probably not because he or she fearful of catching YOUR germs, it’s because he or she is not well and doesn’t want YOU to be sick. We could use some of that consideration for the collective in the West.
• Subways are clean and bright and nice smelling (even in a land without deodorant) and look like little shopping centers. The carriages are clean, graffiti-free, well air-conditioned and comfortable. The passengers are polite and considerate. Nine of ten people on the train are looking at their phone.
• Because everyone is looking at their mobile, the escalator announcements remind them to “look up from your mobile” before departing so they don’t slam their faces into the pavement, bloodying the floor and impeding foot traffic.
• The subway tracks are protected by sliding, transparent doors that open when the carriage arrives and closes when it departs. My first thought upon seeing that: “well, no way to push someone in front of a train here.” Have no idea why I thought that.
• Everything is for sale. EVERYTHING.
• The flower market in Yau Ma Tei section of Hong Kong, really four or five square blocks of shops, contain enough flowers to fill a hundred banquet halls and have hundreds left over to brighten all the nursing homes in North America. The orchids are exquisite. The bonsais are huge and must be several hundred years old. Cut flowers by the truck full. All look fresh and perfect. They must sell out because no one could stay in business tossing these out every few days.
• I haven’t seen cut flowers anywhere else I’ve been.
• The temples are the most inspiring creations of art, and people take their offerings seriously. Holy places.
• Very few people smoke.
• Cabs are cheap. Buses are cheaper. Subways are easy to negotiate. Getting around is easy.
• There is only a river that separates Greater Hong Kong (Kowloon & the New Territories) from the Mainland, and a small bay that separates the island of Hong Kong from the Kowloon. I thought they were much farther apart. The politics are interesting. Whole worlds are kept apart by a stream.
• Images Che & Mao are found on tourist items, presumably for tourists who think its funny to masquerade as freedom fighter/socialist/community/dictator, or who want to shock conservative family with communist souvenirs. No, I did not buy the Che hat or the Mao coasters. Seriously? Mao coasters?