Have to start today’s commentary with a brief story about Susy (my favorite subject). As we’re sailing between Shanghai and Hong Kong it seems Susy was passing thru the ship’s on-board shops (it’s like a small shopping mall which Susy goes through each day so she won’t miss the Town Center – what a surprise!!) when she came upon a jade elephant statue with it’s trunk up. Now for those of you who don’t know Susy very well, an elephant with the trunk up is her favorite good luck charm, hence the dozens of elephant statues that crowd our apartment. Anyway, her next stop was the casino (another one of her haunts) where she stopped at the Blackjack table, told everyone she had just bought a good luck charm and wanted to bet $5.00 to try it out. She won, the dealer busted and everyone at the table was in awe, including one lady who told Susy she had to buy her one. Susy agrees, goes to buy the lady one and while buying it the sales lady told her that she should also know the dragon is the good luck charm for the Chinese. Of coarse, thinking two good luck charms are better than one, she buys the jade dragon for herself and heads back to the Casino. At the Casino she gives the lady her elephant, sits down at the table with her two good luck charms (see the first photo in the Hong Kong – Day 1 photo album above) and proceeds to lose her $5.00 winnings (so much for to many good luck charms). Ilene, Susy said to be sure and tell you this story, because she said you would appreciate what she has to go through to win at Blackjack.
OK, let’s get on to Hong Kong. Most of us are familiar with the Hong Kong skyline from many movies, the most famous one from many years ago, "Love is a Many Splendid Thing" with William Holden. Hong Kong has a population of 7 million, located on the southeast coast of China, on the East China Sea. It consists of a mainland (called New Territories and Kowloon where the ship was docked) connected to China and 235 islands, the largest being Lantou Island, the second largest Hong Kong Island. It is very small, only 426 square miles. As we all know, it was British from the 1840’s until July 1st, 1997 (156 years) when it passed to Chinese sovereignty as the "Hong Kong Special Administrative Region". What that means is it maintains it’s own "way of life" and only reverts to Beijing for major policy decisions. It has it’s own currency, the "Hong Kong Dollar" as opposed to China with the "Yuan". The police force and laws remain almost unchanged since China took over.
In the second photo you see the Hong Kong Island skyline as we sailed into Victoria Harbor and tied up across from Hong Kong Island at the huge Ocean Terminal on the mainland (Kowloon). An interesting fact about Victoria Harbor is that it is the largest container port in the world and as we drove to our Day 1 morning tour called "Lantou by Skyrail" we could see miles of containers laid out around the harbor, mostly on Lantou Island and the mainland. I’m not going to show you a photo of miles of containers, so the next is taken from a cable car as we made our way from the Tung Chung Cable Car Terminal, past the new Hong Kong airport to the Ngong Ping Cable Car Terminal, a ride of 25 minutes covering a distance of about 4 miles. It was by far the longest cable car ride Susy and I have ever taken. The Ngong Ping terminal, where we got out, is next to a Chinese village (shopping stores only) and the gigantic "Tian Tan" Buddha which you can see in the fourth photo from the cable car sitting on a hillside in the distance. After we arrived and passed thru the village I took a picture of the Buddha statue. Don’t ask me how large the stature is but to put it in perspective that is a staircase going up to the statue with 200+ steps and people going up to the statue. Susy said (and, of coarse, I agreed) we shouldn’t climb the stairs because we needed to save our energy for the day and a half of shopping we had ahead. The next photo shows me all decked out for site seeing in front of the statue steps. The alternative to climbing the stairs was to visit the "Po Lin" monastery, a Buddhist monastery which was just in front of the large Buddha statue. The seventh photo shows Susy in front of the main monastery building, and the next photo shows the main alter of that building with 3 Buddha gold statues. I couldn’t get any literature on the monastery so I can’t confirm that the statues were gold, but they sure looked like it. Inside one of the many temple buildings (there were several on the grounds with Buddha statues of different Gods you could pray to) was a series of four statues, all gold, and I took a picture of one who looked the "meanest" of the lot. He must have been a warrior who fights off the evil spirits because he sure looks mean. By the way, Susy prayed to Buddha for all of us, especially Gary, so he would be on his good behavior through out the trip. One last photo from the cable car on the return trip shows the Hong Kong "new" airport in the background and gives you an idea of one of the longest legs of the ride.
Well that’s ten photos, but today I’m going to cheat and add two more to show you the rest of the day. When we got back to the ship Susy wanted to visit one of the famous Hong Kong markets which was close by called the "Temple" market, located on Temple Street. The first or eleventh photo shows you a shot of Temple Market looking down Temple Street. The market itself is five city blocks long with small stalls the entire length on each side of the street plus stores behind the stalls. The last photo shows Susy hard at work in one of the stalls looking for "Chanel" purse copies, which, as I said before, are illegal to sell in China, but when you ask seem to appear out of nowhere. We walked the market twice finishing the day about 8 PM, shopped out and exhausted with Gary (that’s me) being the only real winner, getting two men’s purses for $20.00. Even Susy said the purses were good and couldn’t believe the price.
On to Day 2 – Hong Kong,
Love to All,
Gary (alias Gagu)