Across the Middle Kingdom

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9 August

9 August 1998 - Hong Kong

Today is an excursion to the top of Mount Victoria, which we're told offers a beautiful (and famous) view of the city. Kat's letting me go along in exchange for a promise to take it easy and tell her the minute I feel worse. Between the medication and breakfast, I feel rather better, although by no means am I in great shape. The Cefaclor certainly seems to have had an effect, though.

The trip up to the top of Mount Victoria is, of course, winding and steep, so the bus moves rather slowly. This was a good thing, since it let us appreciate the view of the city. Today was one of those "mostly sunny" days-- the sky clear except where large puffy clouds interrupt it.

Upon reaching the top of the mountain, we parked in the underground garage of the shopping center situated at the summit. Oh, what a surprise. I suppose it's my illness making me grumpy, or maybe I'm tired-- but I'm getting really sick of everything being an opportunity to shop. Now, on what's supposed to be a great view of Hong Kong, we'll be doing our sightseeing from the patio of a shopping center. I mean, didn't we leave this party in America? Sigh.

Despite my sullen attitude about the rampant commercialism of the Far East (I realize now that one of the best things about the Yangtze cruise was its lack of shopping excursions), the view of Hong Kong was truly wonderful. If you've seen a panoramic view of the city from above, with skyscrapers dominating the lower half of the picture, the harbor knifing across the middle picture, and the city continuing on the other side of the water, then you've seen the work of a photographer who stood very near where we were standing. The weather couldn't have been more perfect, despite the fact there was a major typhoon only a few hundred kilometers to the east of the city. I imagine these will be some of the best pictures of the trip, just due to the weather.

So then we left the summit to head down the other side of Victoria, into another district of the city. This area was much less urban, and therefore much greener and more beautiful. Apparently, this is where the obscenely rich of Hong Kong make their homes, and I can see why. The view of the sea is outstanding, and the subtropical forest is still thick here.

So, of course, we swept past all this to go to an open-air market.

In its defense, this market was nicer than most, and more interesting. We were warned to head left at the first fork, not right, so we turned as recommended and checked out all the stalls we could reach in the time alotted. We did finally find a good Chinese baby doll, as well as a mahjong set for ourselves-- the tiles were not only thick enough, but a pretty sky-blue on the backs. We haggled with merchants who took one look at our "Tourist" badges and overcharged us shamelessly, which I suppose is all part of the fun, assuming you still have any interest left in shopping. I was wearing out; only the knowledge that we're leaving tomorrow, and therefore will be beyond the reach of any more excursions like this, kept me going.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a jade-carving and tapestry factory. There were many nice examples of silk tapestries, and they were all way out of our price range. Then we saw some jade carvers and a jade shop. One thing we noticed was that as we moved through the jade workshop, the carvers were all busily at work, carving the jade with diamond-edged saws and -tipped drills. But then, while we were shopping, I poked my head back into the carving shop. Nobody was doing a thing except talking. Now, I saw them working and know they weren't props there for show-- these people know what they're doing. But then where is the real carving being done? For I got the distinct feeling that, for all their obvious skill, they were there to carve when the tourists stood around to watch, but other than that, they weren't doing anything. Very puzzling.

When we finally got back to the hotel, Kat decided she and Brenda should go to the chocolate buffet the hotel has in the afternoons. Since I had less than no interest in this event, and I was feeling run down in any case, I took my afternoon medication, and then Kat gave me half a Valium to help me sleep.

Two hours later, I hadn't slept a wink, and had no particular urge to do so. Given that I have no experiential tolerance for basic painkillers, let alone any form of drug, could it be that I'm one of those small few whom Valium simply doesn't affect? I never even felt drowsy, and I did want to get some sleep. Perhaps I was too wary of the drug's effects to sleep? I don't know. It was a little strange.

For dinner, we decided to order room service again. We were on our own, and ordinarily we would have headed out to a dumpling house or some form of restaurant, but going out just didn't seem like an option for me, and Kat, bless her, wouldn't go without me, no matter how firmly I told her to go and at least see some of the city.

Tomorrow we leave for America. As much as I'm looking forward to getting back, I'm sorry we couldn't do more here.

All Done!