Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hong Kong- city of 1 million watches

The Hong Kong Report
Last time I came through Hong Kong, the air was so polluted and smoggy, I couldn’t see the sky. This time, the air looked almost breathable. I immediately suspected we had landed at the wrong airport.
“Welcome to Hong Kong,” our pilot announced, allaying my fears, “The temperature outside is thirty degrees, and the local time is, tomorrow. Sorry that you can see the sky folks. Hope it didn’t confuse you.”

The city is like a boa constrictor. The further you go inside, the tighter its coil wrap around you. Homogenous high rises line every block. Traffic through the narrow streets gets gridlocked for miles. Our supposedly 4 star hotel room is so small, I, at 12% body fat, needed to grease myself up to squeeze through the door. Taking a shower is like strapping yourself into a straight jacket, move your arms and your elbows might crack open the walls. In Hong Kong, space is at a premium.

The Kaiser
Our point man here in Hong Kong, gave us call, and journeyed to our hotel to meet us. His name is, and I swear I am not making this up is, "The Kaiser."
For those of you who are not students of history, the Kaiser is the famous German dictator who created Mickey Mouse back in the early 1900’s. Unfortunately, movies had not yet been invented, so he started World War I instead. The Kaiser looks surprisingly young.

Shop Kong
The Kaiser gave us a list of places we might want to see over the two days we’d be here, and so, we set out on our noble quest on foot, in search of the subway.
It becomes immediately apparent that they should change the name of the city to “Shop Kong.” Store after store after store after mall after mall after mall. I needed a hat, so we stepped into the Nike Store. I figured with the Nike Sweatshops less than fifty miles away, I’d be able to get some great deals.
WRONG! Prices here are substantially higher than in the States, (even Nike.) And stores here are upscale; Prada, Rolex, Chanel.
Literally every third store sells watches. I mean, lavish designer watches encrusted with diamonds. Watches that sell for $125,000 US +. The problem is, my traveling buddy, Andrew, is a corporation’s dream, both wealthy and easily hypnotized by slick marketing, I found myself stopping at nearly every watch store so he could gaze longingly at the products created for our consumer status oriented society.
And what’s ironic is that outside of every single one of these fancy watch stores is an Indian trying to sell you knock offs of the same watches. There are no beggars in Hong Kong, they’ve all taken up counterfeiting.

Buddah El Grande
It took awhile to figure out the subway system, but after an hour or so, we managed to get on the wrong train.
Frankly, I was starting to get sick of Shop Kong after only a few hours. Buildings, concrete, and shopping just don’t do it for me. I prefer nature, so I was pleasantly surprised when we finally made it to mountainous Lantau Island which is covered with trees and color.

Buddha on the hill of Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Our island cabby, Christine, gave us an informative ride through the windy hillside roads.
The following points may be of interest.
Hong Kong, while technically part of China now, still acts largely as a separate entity.
Hong Kongers consider themselves superior to the mainland Chinese. Christine described them as rude and uneducated.
Many women from China come to Hong Kong to give birth. The Chinese government, in an effort to curb population growth, allows only one child per family. Any more than one child, you have to pay a hefty fine to the government. Hong Kong is exempt from the law, and many mainland babies are delivered here, which puts a vast strain on the health care system.
Given these facts it should not surprise you that China has the highest abortion rate in the world. 99% of the abortions are girls as all families want a son. There is now a vast chasm in the number of young men compared to women in China, which is becoming a cause for concern (another reason I thank God I live in the USA).
We finally made it to the Big Buddah. The Buddah was erected in the 1980’s by the monks in an effort to sow seeds of peace and understanding. Looking at the hundred foot tall bronze Buddah, sitting atop the hill, even from afar, is awe inspiring.
You’ll note in the picture below that The Buddah has what appears to be a Swastika above his heart. For those of you who don’t know Buddah like I do, he is not anti-semitic. The swastika is the Buddhist symbol for wisdom, and was sadly co-opted by the Nazis.
Giant Buddha, the Buddhist symbol for wisdom is above the heart
I have to say, I loved being there. Surrounded by nature, looking from the top of a mountain at a magnificent view, greenery, and beautiful statues devoted to peace -it was serene and divine.
There are a lot of things I take my time with. I am the world’s slowest eater, I walk slowly, and there I was taking the time to savor the beauty and peace around me. I could have stayed there for hours.
Drew, on the other hand, eats like a ravenous wolf, walks faster than he runs, and is the type of tourist that we, as a nation, should be proud to call our own. A rare combination of speed and insight, Andrew was clocked doing a 7 minute Lourve, (Mona Lisa, check) and has the ability to within mere seconds of entry to note that the Sistine Chapel, “Seems kind of gay.”
So, after maybe 5 minutes of being there, he was more than ready to go. This time I put my foot down, using the continual watch store stops as leverage. He relented, and I just blissed out, grateful to be there.
After making Drew spend what for him must have been an agonizing twenty minutes atop the hill, we went below and visited the monastery.
Buddhist Temple
I sat down and meditated. I entered the sublime presence of being, of pure bliss, which lasted until Drew entered the temple, asking me if there might be a gift shop nearby where they sell watches.

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