Tag Archives | Hong Kong

FUNNY PHOTO: HONG KONG BATHROOM

This month’s Funny Photo from the Road is brought to you by:

Hong Kong Bathroom

A Hong Kong bathroom.

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DIALOGUE IN THE DARK IN HONG KONG

MEI FOO STATION, HONG KONG

I emerge from the MTR, cross Wai Lan Road and pass the library, according to my directions. Now I see it, Nob Hill Household Centre.

The name Household Centre captures all the glamour of this nondescript mall with its ho-hum stores. I ride the escalator up to Dialogue in the Dark.

From the Dialogue in the Dark website:

The concept of Dialogue in the Dark is simple: visitors are lead by blind guides in groups through specially constructed dark rooms in which scent, sound, wind, temperature and texture convey the characteristics of daily environments.

After dining in the dark at Unsicht-bar in Berlin (very fun) and floating in a sensory deprivation tank in Chicago (50 minutes of boredom followed by 10 minutes of blissful lucid dreaming) I’m eager to once again experiment with my senses. After the past few days of exploring Hong Kong I’m curious to see how this manufactured experience compares with the real thing.

Blind Buddha

 

DIALOGUE IN THE DARK

I am placed with a family from Malaysia. Armed only with walking sticks, we pass through a door into the darkness. Our guide, Lin, introduces herself (I’m guessing she’s in her 50′s or 60′s), as do Jim, Karen, Sharon, Shane, Shaun (Shawn? Sean?) and I.

Dialogue in the Dark

Attempting to navigate the space is somewhat frustrating: the six of us are bumping into one another and father Jim or adolescent Shaun just groped his way to my chest — whether it’s intentional or not I can’t tell.

Our first scenario is a forest, which is obvious from the overwhelming smell of Lysol pine and a recording of rhythmic, synthesized bird chirping. Not for a second do I feel as though I’m actually walking in the woods.

Now we’re crossing a bridge, because I’m swaying. Wait — no — I take that back – we’re boarding a ferry. The loud motor kicks-in and we vibrate. Cold air hits my face. I can “see” myself crossing Victoria Harbor: this experience is much more realistic than the last.

We move on, stop. Lin hands me some sort rubber thingy, which I cannot identify

“Do you know ginger? Do you know gingerbread man?” she wants to know. She waits my answer.

“Yes, I know the gingerbread man,” I oblige.

Continuing on, we cross a busy Hong Kong street. Only I’m pretty sure that actually negotiating an intersection in this city without the benefit of sight would be 100 times more terrifying.

Now we are supposedly in a store, as our group is patting at a few pieces of clothing hanging from a rack. It’s nothing like being in a store, unable to see, bumping into display cases and shoppers, assaulted by random sounds, disoriented: it’s like patting at a rack of clothing in the dark.

We file into a classroom, stumble into our seats. A fairly schlocky version of “Let it Snow” fills the room.

“Michael Bublé!” says Sharon – or Karen.

“Michael José?” asks Lin. She’s so earnest it makes me uncomfortable. I’d love to lighten the atmosphere a little with a joke.

Lin asks each of us a question about the holidays. When she gets to me she inquires whether or not people in the U.S. are happy that’s it’s Christmas.

“Not really, ” I reply, non-stop images of the recent school shooting playing on every airport television still stuck in my head.

Silence. I don’t think that was the right answer. I suppose that our group is supposed to be having a dialogue in the dark, but it feels forced.

Our last stop is the cafe, where we each order, pay for our beverage (interesting – I have no idea if I just received correct change back or not) and sip in the dark. We are individually called upon to speak about our experience and this time I just say what they expect to hear.

Lin shares with us her own story of losing her sight as a child, which is interesting and touching, and then closes the tour by saying that she hopes we now realize that it is difficult to be visually-impaired (understatement). I’m probably over-analyzing the situation — I have a tendency to do so — but I kind of feel the opposite:  that comparing the challenge of going through life without the benefit of sight to this amusing exercise of one hour almost trivializes it.

Clearly I am alone in my assessment of Dialogue in the Dark, as  nearly every Tripadvisor reviewer raves over it. I’m onboard with the concept — the goal of providing insight into the world of the sight-impaired to those of us blessed with it — but the execution of the idea — this time, for me, anyway — fell short.

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UP, DOWN and ALL AROUND KOWLOON

TSIM SHA TSUI (bless you)

I transfer to the Hyatt Regency Hong Kong for exploring Kowloon. It’s not as plush a property as the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, but with its central location in the Tsim Sha Tsui neighborhood and direct access to the MTR, it’s a convenient base for exploring the peninsula.

The Hyatt Regency sits atop K11, “The World’s First Art Shopping Mall,” home to millions of dollars worth of art, as well as temporary exhibits. A pink, metallic, pneumatic pig with gently flapping wings greets me as I exit the hotel lobby.

Pink flying pig Hong Kong

Shopping dominates Tsim Sha Tsui and hawkers everywhere attempt to catch my attention, interest me in a watch, some jewelry, a suit, a camera…. I head North, through Kowloon Park, pausing briefly to admire the flamingos. Who doesn’t like flamingos? Continuing up Nathan Road, Kowloon’s main thoroughfare, is an exercise in frustration. The sidewalks grow more congested, and the pedestrians walk more slowly, with every step.

MONG KOK

I take the obligatory stroll up and down Temple Street. It’s sad and seedy by day when the market is closed.

I’m walking to Mong Kok to get a taste for the “real”, residential Hong Kong, and to see Tung Choi Street North, a strip of road lined on either side with shops selling pet fish (gold fish are considered luck by feng shui devotees), which seemed like a good idea when I was researching my trip, but not so much now. Claustrophobia. I beat it to Mong Kok East Station to escape the throngs.

Goldfish Street Tung Choi Street

TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS MONASTERY

I get off the train at the Sha Tin Station, having now left Kowloon and entered the New Territories. I’m here to visit the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, which my guidebook barely mentions, but if it’s true to its name the attraction could be pretty cool.

No signs direct me to the monastery. I can *see* the red pagoda that marks it, but I can’t *get* to the red pagoda that marks it.

Ten Thousand Buddhas?

Ten Thousand Buddhas?

Ten Thousand Buddhas?

The locals are nice enough, but none of them seem to have heard of it.

Red Pagoda 10000 Buddhas Hong Kong

I finally stumble upon the stairs leading up to Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. Lots and lots of stairs. Steep ones.

Crap! What is it with me and steps? I loathe them, but I seem to always be attracted to them. Or what lies at the end of them.

The climbing becomes less odious as hundreds of golden, life-size Arhat (Buddhist disciples freed from the cycle of life and death) statues welcome me from either side of the staircase.

Golden Arhat

Terraces, temples and pavillions reward me for my efforts. And thousands and thousands of Buddhas. Big Buddhas, little ones, happy Buddhas, sad ones, red Buddhas, blue ones, Buddhas sitting, Buddhas meditiating, Buddhas riding dragons. Buddhas, Buddhas, Buddhas. Plus, gods, goddesses and demons. They make for a comical sight.

Goddess at 10000 Buddhas Hong Kong

10000 buddhas little buddhas

 

Kowloon 10000 buddhas multi head buddha

The bizarre and beautiful Ten Thousand Buddas Monastery is by far my favorite part of Hong Kong — although the dedication is meant sincerely and not ironically – it appeals immensely to my sense of kitsch. Liberace had subtler style. What’s wild is that I’m sharing this wonderland with very few other tourists. Perhaps the long MTR ride, lack of signage and steps deter them. After Mong Kok, I’m not complaining. The peace up here is a relief.

NEW KOWLOON

I detour on my way back to the Tsim Sha Tsui to New Kowloon, first to see the Chi Lin Nunnery. The compound is peaceful with its ponds, lotus leaves and bonsai trees, but a bit of a let-down after the fabulousness of Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. The monks and nuns certainly differ in their aesthetic tastes.

Kowloon Walled-City Park is situated across the street from the nunnery. The oasis from chaotic Kowloon boasts gardens, statues, walkways and a lake.

Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens

What’s fascinating about Kowloon Walled-City Park, however, is that just 25 years ago it looked like this.

Kowloon Walled City

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