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20th March 2012

Walk on the Wild Side and a Visit to Stanley

Residential Kowloon - Bamboo Scaffolding, Air-Conditioning and Endless Washing Hanging on Walls
Dried Octopus
Fresh Squid
    Dan collected his laundry. It was immaculate and very neatly folded. He was pleased. He then had to sort out a more pressing problem. When I depart on Friday, he will still be on this side of the planet for another week, and he was still mulling over his options. He wanted to visit Macau and Shenzhen, and perhaps travel further afield, though the latter options would involve a lot of hassle. Thus, assuming he was still using Hong Kong as a base, he had to find accommodation. The Hong Kong Rugby Sevens over the weekend were hiking accommodation costs to astronomical levels.
    While he spent the morning on the internet, I indulged in some present shopping in the local shops, and then walked the whole length of Kowloon through the residential non-tourist areas.
    I was the only European walking through these quarters, but nobody batted an eyelid. I peered down back alleys, a clutter of air-conditioning units growing out of the walls all the way to the summits, with washing draped ingeniously over any spaces available. Scattered piles of rubbish graced the ground, and skinny alley cats prowled around, trying to avoid the butcher's cleaver no doubt. There was no glitz or glamour in these dark canyons, but there again is there any in the backyards of Coronation Street.
    Colourful stalls displayed fruit and vegetables, meats of unknown descriptions, and fish still alive and thrashing about in shallow holding tanks. I watched as a lady came along, pointed out a fish to the fishmonger, who in 5 seconds, scooped up the wriggling creature, despatched it with his cleaver, and unceremoniously popped the fish into a bag and handed it to the lady.
    I came across a basket full of Greenshell Mussels, similar to those I had seen in Havelock. The stallholder would not let me take a photo. "My boss will get angry," she explained. Another old man on a street corner was selling bunches of cooked, splayed, small birds. I got my camera out and gestured to the man that I would like to take a picture, but he shook his head in disapproval. I respected his wishes, gave a barely perceptible bow, and moved on.
    I gradually worked my way down to the MTR Hung Hom Station, and then waded through the thousands of students pouring into and out of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. The numerous cafes in the vicinity were packed with students devouring noodles, soups and a 1001 varieties of stir fries, elbow-to-elbow. The din was incredible, and I have no idea how 50% of them managed to still communicate over the mobile phones glued to their ears.
    Meanwhile Dan managed to get himself sorted out for next week, and he came to join me in Tsim Sha Tsui. Over coffee we made an impromptu decision to visit Stanley on the south side of Hong Kong Island.
    Here we explored the bazaar, where I managed to pick up more presents. A sea front bar helped us recover from the traumas of shopping. A Chinese waiter who spoke impeccable English convinced us to have a beer. We sat, sipped, people watched, and immediately understood why the town was labelled as an expatriate town. The area was awash with Europeans, and we could have been at an English seaside town. Apparently lots of these expats commute across the island each day; it must be a nightmare journey during rush hour. The route across the island is narrow, hilly and winding, with a natural bottleneck at the long Aberdeen Tunnel.
Dan Chilling Out at Stanley
    We strolled by golden sands, strewn with an alarming content of broken glass. Couples canoodled on orange rocks jutting out into the blue waiters. A fishing boat lazily floated off shore, and in the distance, the sea mist semi-hid large containerships navigating the southern channels around the island, sounding their booming fog horns as they sank deeper into the grey void.
    We followed a path by the shore, passing a large fenced sports area where an organised series of kids football matches were in progress.
    Climbing up a hill to a road that skirted the coast, we came across a jogger who temporarily stopped for breath. After exchanging a few words with the American, I asked, "What sort of schools are there for all the expat school kids playing on the sports pitch?" "There are lots of schools, the choice is endless. I send my children to the International School, which had children of many nationalities," he told me.
    "So how do such schools measure up to schools elsewhere in the world? For instance if you took your children back to America, would the educational system there recognise the curriculum achievements made here?" I probed further. "They come out very well in comparison. The International School grooms its students for Oxford and Cambridge." "Really," I replied, "What pupil/staff ratio has the school got?" "It depends on the subject, but on average 15-20 students per tutor," he told me. The chap had to dash off and complete his jogging circuit; his daughter was playing in one of the football teams below, and he needed to return in time to collect her.
    Apart from a modern plaza by the sea front, there wasn't much else to hold our attention in Stanley, so we crossed back over the island, where we ended the night in a pub where musicians filed in and out all night long. The crowd was predominantly Dutch. Folk would get up, do their party pieces, join in jamming sessions, and drift off again.
    I wouldn't say they were talented musicians, but it was a pleasant atmosphere, and a chilled out way to end the day.
Beach at Stanley      (please use scroll bar)

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Uploaded from Ipswich on 31st March at 13:25

Last updated 1.4.2012