Rabbit Jill wanted to watch the Chinese New Year go by safely on the couch watching the parade on TV. But Dragon Jill spat out the word LAME in fire and burned up the couch. That's right, I think of myself as both. You see I have been a dragon my whole life until last night when I read that anyone born prior to the actual February-ish date of the Chinese New Year remains actually the sign of the year prior. The sign is not ruled by the Gregorian calendar, rather the Chinese calendar. January and early February birthdays, prepare to have your world turned upside down. I am now trying to think of myself as a rabbit. Eminem goes by Rabbit so I guess it's not all bad, however, I cannot deal with losing my dragon so have compromised and adopted both. I am sure they will learn to get along and serve me well.
Dragon 3 kids out on the craziest night of the year in the most densely populated city in the world felt like formidable. Did you know a swarm of Asians actually have the ability to take on the properties of water and carry your child away like a rip tide? It's true. We experienced this first hand at the Mong Kok pre-New Year flower market rush. Kicked off the couch persnickety rabbit found a tour that takes you to the night parade by bus, secures you a dedicated seat for the celebration plus includes dinner before. Score! We were poised to lose ourselves in the music, the moment, we own it, we better never let it go, we only get one shot, will not miss our chance, won't blow, this opportunity to see Chinese New Year in Hong Kong comes once in a lifetime. Bus trip, dedicated seat, I can do that on my own with 3 kids in tow.
We won't meet up with the tour until late afternoon so head into town to tackle a few errands. We are now the locals walking with purpose on elusive pathways- have even found some innovations to the route. Now armed with the gift of perspective we know our locale is great. It is quiet and green with a park, a grocery, a massage place (oh yes I did) and an organic vegetarian restaurant all within 1 block. We can walk to town in 15 minutes and back in 20. The way back is quite a climb so is pure stairmaster time. Bonus.
Barely ¼ of the way into our descent and what? Something has changed. Really changed. SWARM. They head up the hill as we try to descend down- the rip is dragging the kids right out to sea. They are not Chinese. They are ALL Filipinos. Thousands. They appear to be heading towards the Peak. The line for the tram extends 2 blocks. Another swarm pours out of the Catholic church. We fight our way through the constant crowd and find some are tucked into the nooks and crannies of stairways along the path with accoutrements spread out on a blanket. I didn't want to gawk- maybe candles and spices like the Indians do on their holidays??
It thins out a bit in the back church parking lot where the path opens up...no longer needing to make a human life I disconnect my death grip on the girls and summon the courage to make contact- I can't handle the suspense. I politely ask, "Why do you seek the peak? Why?"
They respond. "For entertainment."
We are now in Central and our main cut-through to the MTR under the HSBC building in the covered atrium is buzzing. Several thousand Filipinos are in clusters on cardboard boxes.
So they go to high places for amusement after they pay homage to HSBC….?
Later on, we depart via coach from a hotel in Wan Chai and make our way through the tunnel that traverses the depths of Victoria Harbor and rejoins sea level in Kowloon. Dropped off at the waterfront in Tsim sha tsui we have time to kill so the tour tells us to wander and return in half hour. The girls and I want to stay close so we stop into a coffee shop in the same complex to grab refreshment and run into the Seattle Sea Girls- the NFL Seattle Seahawks cheerleaders. They are in the finale of the parade. Super sweet but hey…wasn't that the Dallas Cowboy outfit of yesteryear? Even I had to stare.
We are placed at a dinner table with mother-daughter Canadians, a woman from California and a couple from Wales. The tour placed like language speakers together which, was nice. Just as we settle, CLICKiCK, a series of CLICKS happen almost in unison. The Chinese at the tables around us have timed snapping open their beers. Some crazy custom? Dunno..am still trying to sort out the HSBC phenomenon (which I do by the end of the night). Dinner is great- the lazy susan spins round and round as we use the black chopsticks for serving and the red ones for eating. It is the kid's first introduction to a pitcher of hot water as the table beverage.
The tour people come over to us and give a 15-minute toilet warning. They are surprising and delighting me now. Right outside the restaurant are the bleachers...and we have gift bags on our seats! A flashlight, noisemaking bangers, a program, candy, silly headwear and a water bottle. The parade starts and it is spectacular. Many countries have sent floats and dancers. The traditional dragon dance is my favorite. I never had the chance to really study it before. It is extremely athletic to work the dragon- those men are giving it their all. The dragon chases a ball. Tonight it is a silvery one that represents the "Pearl of Wisdom"…a pursuit for insight and knowledge. Sometimes it is a red or yellow globe representing the sun.
The tour has paid for itself in my opinion. It was clear we were on our own to find a way home as the roads are all closed. The swarm starts to build and my dinner mates from Canada and Cali are enchanted by FGM (wand, wand, sprinkle) and each grabs one of my girls and helps me through the crowd and onto the Star ferry that leads us back peacefully back to Hong Kong Island.
We find on the way home from there that our Cali friend is staying in our same apartment building! She just grabs cabs to get to and from town. We show her the path home.