Happy New Year! 祝你元旦快乐！
I’m still not sure what the Gregorian Calendar new year means to people here. Officially people get the day off work and I expected that people would take advantage of the opportunity to go out and have a party, as they do in Hong Kong for both Christmas and New Year. However, in the bar district I visited tonight there wasn’t much going on. Perhaps it was too cold.
Here’s what I did for New Year 2011. Since Chinese New Year is typically celebrated in northern China by eating dumplings, I invited a friend to join me at a fine dumpling restaurant. After that we mixed the Chinese tradition with a western tradition and headed down to a bar district to ring in the new year with some cocktails.
At the cocktail bar we got roped into helping the owner locate an online countdown clock. I couldn’t find a countdown clock that included audio, so with less than 20 seconds to go I dragged one of the house singers over to the computer to manually announce the countdown on the microphone. The owner had stepped outside for a smoke so she missed it.
Since we were helping the owner run her business, I figured we should get something for it, so I went up to the bar and asked the owner for some free drinks. At first she was reluctant but then she came over with a few free drinks and started chatting to us. We wound up the evening listening to the remaining patrons singing karaoke using the bar’s computer as a karaoke machine.
So that was my New Year celebration in Beijing. Not bad since I threw the plan together only two days ahead of time.
Today I went out to Lantau Island, where Disneyland is located, not to visit the magical kingdom, but to see the Grand Buddha. This is a famous landmark which you’ve probably seen in movies. I went out by subway and came back by ferry, just for a change of scenery. This also gave me the opportunity to make a quick visit to the village of Mui Wo and see a somewhat different part of Hong Kong.
Today was my last day in Hong Kong. Tomorrow I fly back to Beijing where I’ll continue working and studying Mandarin until mid-February. After that I’ll be heading to India (assuming I obtain the consent of the ever benevolent Indian bureaucracy) for a friend’s wedding. I will be back in Hong Kong in March as this is where my return flight departs from, so if you like Hong Kong, come back for more in March. I might also take a side-trip to Taiwan when I come back to HK. But don’t leave yet, I’ll have plenty more stories to tell about mainland China in the meantime.
On Sunday morning I met up with my friend and former colleague Ellery, his wife Athena and their daughter Fiona. These are the friends I previously told you introduced me to snake soup. I first went with Ellery and Fiona to the Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Rd.. I wanted to see this temple, after seeing so many in China, because I read both members of the police force and members of the triads frequent this temple to worship. I discovered that the Man Mo temples are dedicated to the god of martial arts, so I suppose that makes sense.
After we ate our snake soup, I went off to ride the double-decker streetcars. This was an amusing bit of sightseeing and I probably spent about two hours riding them.
In the evening I went to a district called Wan Chai for supper. Wan Chai is a kind of red-light district, but there are some good restaurants and bars there. After supper I wandered along the street and every time I passed a certain type of bar, a middle-aged woman would grab me by the arm and invite me to come in for a drink and to talk to a “pretty lady.” I never imagined I’d meet middle-aged female pimps. In case you’re wondering, no I didn’t stick around to find out if the pretty ladies are any prettier than the pimps.
Hong Kong Dollars (HKD) are the oddest currency I’ve ever seen. Every
bank prints its own money and the bills are interchangeable. These
twenty dollar bills are printed by Standard Chartered and HSBC. Hong
Kong does have a central bank, but I’m not sure what it does. You can’t
tell from the picture, but the ten dollar bill is made of plastic. All
the ten dollar bills I’ve seen are printed by the HK SAR Government. No
other bills are printed by the government and I don’t know who mints the
Yesterday I tasted snake soup. It was quite good. My friend and former
colleague, Ellery, and his wife Athena introduced me to it. Athena is
originally from Hong Kong. It’s always good to have local friends,
because then you get to try things like this that you would never find