back to Asian Experience home page



A travel day.  A long travel day.  An early morning flight from Krabi to Bangkok .  A long layover at the Bangkok airport for our late afternoon flight to Hong Kong .  By the time we got into our room at the Kimberly Hotel in Kowloon it was 9:30pm.  With more cream on our backs, we hit the sack.  It would be another early morning.




After an early breakfast at the hotel, we walked six blocks to the Park Hotel to meet a tour bus.   We find it advantageous to take a city tour when visiting a city for the first time.  It provides an overall view and allows us to get a bearing on locations or sights we would like to see on our own.  The bus stopped along the way to pick up more tourists before making its first official stop at the fishing village of Aberdeen .

“Fishing village” conjures up images of a small quaint group of houses on the banks of a bay out in some forgotten part of the countryside with a small pier providing moorage for a yet smaller number of fishing vessels.  This “fishing village” isn’t like that.  This floating village community in Hong Kong’s harbour is an original part of Hong Kong.

It may have one time been a small “fishing village” as we might imagine from the words, but today the landscape is not of remote countryside but of towering apartment buildings and shiny glass office towers stretching skyward.  Some might recognize the jumbo floating restaurant we passed which was a dominant setting for the tv mini-series Noble House. We took a sampan (a kind of junk) to get a close-up view of life on the water for this ancient fishing clan.  

Houseboats (much more basic than we would see on BC lakes) boast tvs, refrigerators and washing machines but that seems to be where “up town living” stops.  Large fishing boats now go farther away from their floating homes as the fish stocks around Hong Kong have been fished out and the waters have become more polluted.  While the men fish the ladies run these sampans for tourists and commuters.

Tourism is now Hong Kong’s second largest industry next to textiles which still remain number one (although most of the actual manufacturing is done in mainland China where cheap labour is plentiful).   

We then drove out to Stanley Market where we were among the very few who did not walk away with a bargain treasure after pleasantly haggling over price. 


It was a marked change in atmosphere when they next took us to a prestigious jewelry factory.  All but one of the artisans were off for the day (since it was Sunday) but the showroom, sparkling with gold, silver and precious stones, was manned by a large and most attentive staff.  

The bus took us to Victoria Peak for a commanding view of Hong Kong Island , Kowloon and surrounding islands.  After taking the funicular down from the peak to the waiting bus, we returned to the Park Hotel. 

Rather than walking directly back to our hotel, we ventured off on our own walking tour.                                                           
Because it was Sunday, the streets were relatively quiet but the line up at the famed Peninsula Hotel for afternoon tea was long.  We made our way down to the pier and took the familiar green and white Star Ferry from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island .

The top deck provides a stunning view of the skyline stretching almost out of view and back again.  This is the heart of Hong Kong (which means Fragrant Harbour ) and the people who are constantly on the move, day and night, are the adrenalin which keep it throbbing.

The ride is a short one – about ten minutes.  Getting on and off is a new experience as waves cause the gang plank to move in motion with the ferry while the dock stands still.   

The ancient Chinese practice of feng shui (literally meaning “wind and water”) is the art of positioning objects and buildings in harmony to ensure good fortune.  Its origins lay in a respect for the environment and a belief that cosmological influences strongly affect lives. 

Feng shui has played an important role in the building of Hong Kong and its perceived impact on the economy.  For example the HSBC main building was enjoying excellent profits until the Bank of China Tower was build.  The Bank of China Tower is wedge shaped and the edge of the axe is directed at the HSBC building.  HSBC profits plummeted.  A feng shui master was brought in.  He advised HSBC to build faux cannon-type guns on its roof and point them at the Bank of China Tower.  They did and have enjoyed increasing profits since. 
Another example of feng shui on Hong Kong ’s buildings is on the Two IFC building.  This very tall building looks very much like a burning cigarette.  A feng shui master pointed out that this could be bad luck.  To offset the “burning” he advised that a swimming pool be placed on the top.  They built it and it is now one of the world’s highest swimming pools. 
On Hong Kong Island a visitor can follow the “Sun Yat-sen Historical Trail”.  The name may be familiar to those who know Dr. Sun Yat-sen Gardens in Vancouver ’s Chinatown .  The Hong Kong “trail” presents a historical account of Dr. Sun Yat-sen during his stay in Hong Kong .  Dr. Sun Yat-sen, who founded the Republic of China after overthrowing the Qing Dynasty, is a figure of utmost importance in the modern history of China .  Although we didn’t follow the “trail” we did cross it a number of times.
There are many “textures” to Hong Kong : from the small English-style colonial building set among tall concrete apartment blocks dotted with air conditioners to the smooth shining glass towers; from its rough cobblestone streets that climb steep hills to the smooth wide elevated walkways that stretch from building to building above the busy wide streets below.
A few of these wide, usually busy streets were blocked off and groups of ladies were “camped out”.   We first notice the gatherings when we sought out the post office.  The post office was closed and we wondered if there were some kind of job action taking place (that was before we realized it was Sunday).  We asked someone what was going on.  “It’s Sunday,” they said, “This happens every Saturday night and Sunday.”    Terry noted that they were virtually all women.  Perhaps this was a day for women to let the husband’s take care of the kids at home while they got out of their small homes to visit friends.  Some of the ladies were playing cards, some were sharing meals on picnic blankets, some were just quietly reading while others talked and laughed.  At one spot a lady was on a microphone with a sign behind her that read, “Bring Back Minimum Wage”. 
Nearing the ferry terminal for our return trip back to Kowloon , we watched a huge (about four stories tall) Christmas tree being put together.   Down in a pedestrian tunnel we were stopped by three young girls who were conducting a survey for a school project and asked us questions like, “Where are you from?  How long are you here for?  What do you like best about this paradise for food?”    

A short distance away we saw more ladies “camping out” and when Sherrie went to take a picture, one of the ladies stopped to pose.  We got to talking.  Her name is Lalaine.  She is Filipino.  She came to Hong Kong at age twenty-five and she is now thirty-four.  While all of the other ladies in her group are married and most have children, she is unmarried and has no children.  Lalaine explained to us that all the other ladies we had been seeing on the streets are also Filipino.   They all work as live-in domestics (they are not allowed to work in factories).  Most have families back in the Philippines .  Their husbands (of whom most cannot find work) are at home with their children.  A Filipino lady working as a domestic in Hong Kong makes approximately $550 Canadian dollars a month.  They work approximately sixteen hours a day, six days a week.  Most of their money goes home to their families in the Philippines . 

Lalaine’s father is dead but she supports her mother, and her two married sisters (she’s the third child in the family) and their families.  She has a brother but we didn’t get the impression that she supported him nor that he was able to contribute support.

Sunday is their day off and they spend what part of Saturday night they can and all day Sunday together on the streets of Hong Kong .  These ladies were playing scrabble – in English ... always wanting to improve their English skills.   Some of their precious kept money goes into buying food from nearby vendors as they enjoy their weekly visits.   Some employers, Lalaine shared with us, even limit their food and demand twenty-four hour availability.  If the employer wants to kick them out of the house without notice, the domestic can call the police because there are rules of employment, however, all the employer has to do is say the domestic stole something and the rules change.  The domestics can fight it in court – but that takes money.  A dream of many is to work in Canada or the USA .  She was so sweet and personable we regretted having to leave her, but she was missing out on the food and the scrabble game.  
The trip back across the water at night was a different experience than our day trip.  Colourful lights shone from the tall towers like glow sticks at a rock concert and danced upon the black waters of the harbour.  
The glitz and shine did not stop there.  Near the Kowloon pier a Christmas display had been set up and people were lining up to take photos of friends and children near the staircase which was blocked off from use.
A little over the top for our tastes with lots of purple and white Christmas trees adorned with gold, white, silver, green  and blue balls sitting on dark blue round platforms covered with”snow” and cordoned off with gold posts hinged with red, white and blue; swags of red velvet curtains, purple garlands, and fringes (about 2 feet or 60 cm long) in gold and silver; down the centre hung numerous crystal chandeliers with a gigantic one (of about 24 arms) in the centre; plus one disco ball to give it that extra glitz.  Quite the spectacle!  
One cannot leave  Hong Kong without having an authentic Chinese dinner.  We looked for a restaurant that was busy with locals and had the English speaking manager help us with our selections.  Tasty.  A fitting end to a day in Hong Kong .  


Our transfer from the hotel to the airport was scheduled for 12:30 pm even though our flight was not until 4:40.    

We took the morning to walk around Kowloon some more (we would be a long time sitting once we boarded the plane) and to make an impromptu visit to John Lee of Tom Lee Music  – a international music company with numerous stores in Hong Kong, Vancouver and soon into mainland China (John’s trip to China today was delayed or we may have missed him).  Tom is now eighty-four years old and has passed on the company to the capable hands of his sons.   Terry met John when they were both at UBC.  John was a member of a small band and Terry (at that time just starting up his first company Audio Tec), fixed some equipment for John.  They continued to know each other when Terry represented Fender Guitars and Tom Lee Music was (and still is) a major retailer of Fender.  We even worked with John when we had Briar Patch Industries.  It was good to see them together again.  John kindly gave us a tour even though it meant disturbing his daily schedule.  


Sunset and then sunrise were experienced during the 10 hour and 40 minute flight (10280 km) and because of the dateline and time changes, we actually landed in Vancouver before we took off in Hong Kong ... and some people think time travel is futuristic!  

Michael picked us up.  

We hadn’t thought about the 6 C temperature that would greet us.  Michael took off his jacket and wrapped it around his mom.  

It’s good to be home.    



Asia    ....   it was a great experience.


back to Asian Experience home page