World Cruise Archive: Hong Kong New Year

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This is the coldest Chinese New Year’s in 46 years according to the Hong Kong Meteorologist. The weather forecast is for more of the same tomorrow. That, coupled with the fact that most stores are closed for the New Year, kind of spoils any lengthy excursions into Kowloon or Hong Kong. We did go to a couple of stores. Michael wants a new camera that has a more powerful zoom, so I went into a newsstand to get a photography magazine for research. The conversation went like this:

“What want?”

“A photography magazine.”

“No have, go home, sleep!”

Ah, the Chinese and their inscrutable marketing technique.

We took a tour this morning. First we went to what Michael thought our guide, a Chinese woman named June, had referred to as the tallest temple. I guess Michael figured all Asians had a problem saying the letter “l.” Although impressive, the temple was not very tall. Probably because it was a Taoist Temple, not the tawest temple.

The temple was jammed with people praying, burning incense, and making offerings of fruit and meat.

One of the popular things to do was to shake a cup full of numbered wooden sticks until one stick came out. The stick was then taken to a Temple fortune teller who, for a price, would interpret the number and forecast the coming year. The fortune tellers rent their booths from the Temple priests. I saw one Chinese lady shake out a stick, look at it in disappointment, put it back, and try again. Must have been last year’s number, and she wanted no part of that.

The tour stopped by an arts and crafts store to allow us shop and take a much needed bathroom break. We were led to the second floor where two small rest rooms were located. The women lined up, and their slightly fractious queue stretched a ways out the open door and down the hall. I went up to the next floor and found identical facilities. I came down to tell the crowd of women the good news. They just looked at me and then turned back to pressing forward in line. The herd instinct is alive and well on this tour.

From there to the food market and the jade market; the two markets are bisected by a busy street. The fish were so fresh they were flopping around on the display trays. The fishmongers scaled them while alive. Want some eel? They cut a piece off; and the rest of the eel wiggles around.

People were buying fish heads, the jaws opening and closing, even though the body of the fish had been sold earlier. This little food foray really affected Michael. For now, at least, she will only eat pasta.

The jade market was strange; tons of jade; pendants, nuggets, bracelets, statues at an incredibly cheap price. Like $1.50 US for a guaranteed, fine Burma jade pendant.

Methinks the Burma plastic factories are running at full speed. Michael bought a neat chunky bracelet. It is brown and has Chinese stuff carved into the sides. It is made of something heavy, and cost about $8.00.

The afternoon was spent buying a camera. When you ask the price, the salesman enters it into a pocket calculator and shows the readout to you. Then you take the calculator and put in what you want to pay. Then he groans, and puts in another number. This continues until you both agree on a price. He groans again, and looks like you have really taking advantage of him. The real reason he has a sad face is that he only cheated you out of $100 instead of $200. Yes, I am sure I paid too much for the camera, but it was a fun experience, and we needed the camera for the rest of the trip. If anything ever goes wrong with it, it shouldn’t cost too much to have the warranty translated from Chinese to English.

When I put everything together for this trip, I knew that I would forget one or two things, but felt confident that I could pick them up ashore or in the ship’s store. I have run out of shaving lotion. For over 30 years I have used cologne called Canoe. It is from France, and to my nose, lacks the cloying sweetness of many men’s after shave lotions. (If I were King, I would have the man who invented Paco Robanne shot.) Every time I go to the Caribbean, I buy Canoe in bulk. When I travel, I leave the larger bottle home and carry only a small spray bottle. It is now empty. Michael and I searched all over Hong Kong for Canoe, but were finally told that it is not available in Asia. Then came the testing of various products. The Chinese in the store were fascinated with this process. We finally decided on something for men from Estee Lauder. We left the store with my wrists smelling like a crowded subway full of hookers. When I waved to attract a cab, eyes around me rolled back into their heads.

I have this mirror vision in my mind,

but it is so strange, after all these years, to not smell like me.

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