Hong Kong, China (Day 3)
We spent Friday, March 4, our last Hong Kong day exploring Kowloon, where we were docked. We exited, as we did every day, through the cruise terminal, located in a very large shopping mall. The mall is filled with high-end fashion boutiques & its basement has endless numbers of them selling only fashion branded clothes for babies & children (really!). This mall attracts some 200.000 shoppers every weekend. Would you buy high priced designer clothes for a child who will grow out of them in 6 months?
We walked over to the clock tower, located in an area called Tsim Sha Tsui, originally built in 1915 as part of the terminus of the new Kowloon-Canton Railway. The terminal building was demolished in 1975 but the clock tower was left standing alone. We saw a photo of the harbor from around 1950 in which this tower, only about 135 feet tall, seemed to be the tallest building around. Near the tower was a museum complex, including the Art Museum (which was closed for renovation).
Across the street is the venerable Peninsula Hotel, built in 1928 primarily for those arriving by train. Its interior is luxurious, but the most interesting thing is that it was about to undergo cleaning or renovation. Workers were perched about 6 stories in the air on a bamboo scaffolding they were in the process of building. There were no nets or cables or other safety devices that we could see. This is a city with a lot of construction in progress & we wondered just how tall they would build a scaffolding out of bamboo, lashed together by rope or (as one person told us) by plastic ties. Yikes. When we returned later in the day the scaffolding was completed & being covered in plastic sheeting.
We walked up Nathan Road to the History Museum. Nathan Road is one of the primo shopping streets in Hong Kong, a wide street about 2.5 miles long (although we didn’t walk that far). It is lined on both sides with clothing boutiques, electronics stores, etc. It seemed to us to have two kinds of shopping, expensive & very cheap. On each block we would be approached 3 or 4 times by men offering cards for tailor shops or knock-off designer watches (Rolex, Cartier, etc). We couldn’t understand why the guy who was 3rd or 4th on the block would think we might want his watches when we had already turned down 2 or 3 others within sight offering the same thing. How do these guys make any money?
The history museum was pretty interesting, although it was long on dioramas and reproductions & short on actual artifacts. We learned a lot about the opium wars & the colonial years, as well as the brutal Japanese occupation & the days of housing shortages after the war, etc. On the way back down Nathan Street we stopped in Kowloon Park. To get there you had to climb a set of stairs that was interestingly painted only on the risers & not on the top, looking like a painting from below but just stairs from above. Hong Kong’s largest mosque was on the left behind a wall of trees & there was a sculpture garden that also had a lot of nice flowers at the top.
We crossed back from Nathan Street to Tsim Sha Tsui through an underground crossing that was filled with pictures & text about Hong Kong film stars. We recognized some of the stars & some of the movies, but not others. After some exploration in the waterfront area we found the Avenue of Stars, an elevated plaza with handprints of many Hong Kong film stars and statues of a few, including Bruce Lee, seen here with his least successful apprentice. We returned to the nearby ship & prepared to depart for Vietnam.