Sunday, February 2
Another day of my semi-quarantine! I enjoyed a good night’s sleep, and a nice morning in the room. Along about noon, I headed out for lunch and a visit to the Man Mo Temple. The bar I found for lunch was western-ish. I had chicken nachos! I am determined to get something Asian tomorrow (and I found a place later in the day). The temple is a short walk along Hollywood Road. This part of the road is dominated by Asian antiques and jade. Not all were open on Sunday, but the windows I saw were beautiful, and I’m sure beyond my price. The sidewalks continued to require attention to various steps.
The Man Mo temple is in two parts, Man is a god of literature, and Mo is a god of war. The building dates to 1840 and is surrounded by modern skyscrapers. I’m not sure if the folks there were a regular Sunday thing, or a part of the New Year. I read that it is a popular place for students to make offerings related to their term of study, so that may be part of it. They were selling incense, candles, and packets of printed papers that folks used to make various offerings, The altars had pots of sand to place the burning incense and candles. There were temple employees who periodically gathered the burned down sticks and put them in water. There were offerings of fruit, vegetables, candy, and other things. I saw a bottle of cooking oil, and my favorite, a box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates.
One part of the temple is a commemoration room, the walls covered with small plaques honoring members of the organization supporting the temple. The temple also had two booths with official fortune tellers, and a gift shop with various good luck charms, Chinese zodiac charms, and postcards. I also bought one of the packets of paper, and I have no idea of the significance of the various pieces of paper. It was a tempting souvenir for a paper junkie like me.
One portion of the temple has incense cone lanterns. These are cone-shaped spirals of incense (quite thick, about ½ inch). They are lit and fill the room with the scent, and some flakes of ash floating around. In one area, folks were tying green, red, and pink ribbons with writing on them on to parts of the altar. There was so much going on with significance to folks: candles incense, offerings all at different altars—lots of questions to go with the observations. I indulged in one; there was a drum and bell that folks hit three times each, and made an offering. It was a very interesting visit.
On the way back, I glanced down an alley and saw what looked like a little market. It was worth climbing down the stairs and I enjoyed looking at things, including some flea market stuff. It was a fun diversion, but no purchases. I went to a different grocery—is cup of noodles counted as an Asian meal for dinner?! I was surprised to see a couple of guys carrying a coffin along the street, but then I saw a truck and realized they were just making a delivery to a mortuary. I checked at a pharmacy for a mask with no luck. Most folks were wearing them today, and I decided it gave me some protection that they were all wearing them to keep them from breathing on me! I even saw one woman carrying a little dog wearing a mask.
I have been monitoring the status of the virus. My flight is still on schedule, and the US quarantine is on people who have been in Hubei province in the last 14 days. The quarantine facilities in the US are currently for people that were there and have been evacuated. They will probably be some screening in San Francisco, perhaps some kind of health check, and possibly a closer passport review. Hopefully things will not accelerate too much in the next two days.
I don’t know what my little outing will be tomorrow (other than lunch). I may take the tram up to Victoria Peak if it is sunny.
Monday, February 3
Well, not so sunny, so it will be another day in the neighborhood. I noted yesterday the Sheung Wan Market on Queens Road advertised a food court on the second level. I thought this would be some guaranteed local food, and I was right. It was booming at lunch time with what looked like local working folks (and not a lot of suits and ties work). I was going to wander around and look at different places, but a waitress came up to show me their lunch menu. It being Hong Kong, there were English descriptions, fortunately, and I ordered ‘shredded pork on crispy fried noodles’. So for about $5.50 I got a plate of noodles, strips of pork and mushrooms in a light sauce, and a diet Coke. Quite a deal and about half of the regular restaurant meal prices. The table had a pot of chopsticks, and the ceramic soup spoons, but nary a fork in sight, and I didn’t see the waitress nearby. I gave my hands and the chopsticks a cleaning with my disinfectant wipe, and dove in with chopsticks. I wasn’t especially graceful, but I did manage to eat my lunch, and felt like I was definitely going local. I suppose it wasn’t traditional to stab a slippery mushroom with a chopstick, but it worked.The market was traditional with stalls selling meat, fish, poultry, and lots of vegetables I didn’t recognize. I walked on along the road to investigate other shops of different varieties. I noticed the McDonalds, and there was a Starbucks as well. There were other coffee shops too—I wondered about the one that advertised a ‘punchy coffee roaster’. I also noted specific (English) graffiti indicating that men would have an unpleasant result in their anatomy if they ate shark fin. There may have been equally interesting topics if I could read Chinese!
Back in my room, I took on the task of organizing the suitcase for travel home—new stuff in the carry-on and old and dirty stuff in the checked bag. Now a relaxing evening to check out TV, or listen to an audio book on the computer.
Note from my friend Shannon; that prickly tropical fruit is a rambutan. They got them when they lived in Hawaii. Now I will know if they happen to show up at Safeway!
Tuesday, February 4
A lazy morning today, just finishing up packing and getting ready to head to the airport for my late flight. I hope I get to come back to Hong Kong and get to see and do the things that tempted me.
I have enjoyed getting to know this neighborhood of the city. It is interesting to see this kind of urban life that is so different from my normal experience, and even of most of my travels. Even Singapore at the beginning wasn't quite like this. I look out from the 15th floor and am surrounded by buildings so much taller than I am. It truly is a concrete jungle, teeming with vibrant life even with the restrictions of the virus warnings. It is interesting that my concerns before the trip were about possible demonstrations in Hong Kong, and the virus situation never occurred to me! It shows you can only plan so far ahead, and be ready to deal with whatever comes along. I do know that I will snitch a mask from Kaiser to take along on future trips!
The Singapore Air flight to San Francisco is ‘only’ 12 hours, then a layover to clear immigration, customs and whatever other greeting committee they may have, then an Alaska flight to Seattle where I should arrive at about 1:00 am on Wednesday. Throughout the trip I have focused on local time and day, with a phone ap that told me what time it was in Olympia. I never thought too much about what day it was at home—the concept of the international date line was more than I wanted to ponder.