Friday was my first full day with Jordan. We covered some ground, literally. I walked 22,000 steps! Our first stop was to "The Peak," a mountain on Hong Kong Island, which you access by tram. The view at the top was incredible, if you don't look at the mall. There is a mall at the top. There are malls everywhere here! It's convenient if you need a restroom (or, yes, I'll admit it, a Starbucks), but otherwise disappointing. After I took 25,000 pictures of the harbor below (and yes, I'll admit it, grabbed a coffee at the Starbucks), we took the tram back down.
One thing I notice here more than at home is the selfie situation. It's gone way too far. That's all I've got to say about that.
After the tram down, we walked down Hollywood Road, mostly antique stores, jewelry shops, and a few clothing boutiques. Most interesting to me were the side streets, all long steep hills leading down, with awnings jutting from the sidewalks toward the street, sheltering a small restaurant, some fruit for sale, flowers, trinkets and the like. I loved the scenes on each side road.
Jordan and I walked into a store with rugs and tapestries in the window, as I was on the hunt for some specific embroidered tapestries my sister asked me to find, if I could. (Spoiler alert: I did find them, but they are way cheaper on ebay than on Hollywood Road!). When I stepped inside the shop, it was empty, except for the one woman working there who was sitting near the door, on a stool, looking at her phone, AND THERE WAS AN ACTUAL COCKROACH ON HER FACE! ON PURPOSE! I only saw it for a second, because as soon as she saw me, she grabbed it and hid it. She told me, "we practice healing here." And I thought, "GOOD because it is going to take me a long time to get over what I just saw." I asked her if that had been real (yes) and if it was part of the healing practice (yes). She said it was good for the skin. Then she said, "come with me." I caught Jordan's eye, and he was smirking.
We walked to the center of the store where there was a bench. She asked me to sit down, and she began striking bowls with a gong and causing the resulting sound to reverberate for awhile. Then she turned a small bowl over, and put it over my head (and eyes). She tapped it with a small gong and I must admit, as strange as this whole experience had become, I did like the sound and the isolation. :) I wasn't sure how long I was meant to stay under this bowl, but I took it off and asked her if we could talk about the things for sale in the store. As she spread tapestries out for me to consider, she was singing. Not humming, or quietly singing under her breath, but singing long, loud chants while she moved about, spreading textiles on counters and piles of boxes for me to peruse. She was not looking at me or Jordan, she was just moving about and singing like no one was watching. I have seen Jordan's rendition of this moment about 30 times (and I laugh every time). It's difficult to capture just how strange it was!
We left without making a purchase, and her effort to change our minds included something about the store closing because of the protests, because mainland China was now punishing Hong Kong (not sure how but I assume taxes or some other financial penalty) and many stores were closing. I suppose she was expecting me to bargain, but I was not even in bargaining range. She told me to face time my sister (even though it was after 10pm in Kentucky) and show her the stuff in the store (and she modeled a robe for me after I refused 10 times to put it on, afraid that there might be some healing going on in that robe). She also wanted to make sure I am a customer and not a journalist spying for China. I was relieved when my sister said that the embroidered textiles were out of her range, so I didn't need to return!
After the healing/gonging/singing place, we visited another Temple, the Man Mo temple. It was stunning inside, with coils hung from the ceiling and emitting sandalwood incense. There were also the incense and fruit offerings at the feet of the various statues and numerous worshipers. I was permitted to photograph inside this time, and as I did, I struck up a conversation with a chap who was also a "shutterbug." He told me that he is originally from Hong Kong but lives in Sweden now. I asked what brought him back home, and he said he returned home because of the protests. He has two close friends who are a part of the movement, one who was arrested and has not been seen since. Scary. I'm still not sure why he came home, other than perhaps support?
Jordan and I enjoyed lunch at one of the more hectic spots we've been in since I arrived, but he had heard good things about this place and we were nearby. There was a line outside, which was a good sign. People were being rushed in and out of there, and when Jordan and I were seated it was at two empty seats at a table for 8. The specialty there is beef brisket in a noodle soup. Brisket isn't usually my jam, but a friend recommended it and so I ordered it. It was truly delicious! (thanks Dori!). I gave most of the meat to Jordan, but was still full when we left (maybe 15 minutes after we were seated ...they do NOT mess around in there). One thing that puzzles me: in most places, no one serves you water unless you ask. The water is usually warm. And napkins aren't always a thing. The Chinese guy next to me noticed me looking (and, I'll admit, wiping my mouth with my hand, like a heathen) and offered me a tissue from a travel sized tissue pack. That's what he and his friend were using. People here are nice. And also prepared.
I'm going to jump to dinner because this is getting long and all we did in the afternoon was rest! We had dinner at a super nice restaurant overlooking Victoria harbor, where I had one of the best meals I've ever eaten! It was seared sea bass -- Jordan ordered the same dish. I took a bite before he did, and then I just put down my fork and waited for him to take a bite, so I could see his reaction. His eyes got huge and he looked up at me and said, "oh my god." That sums it up. Thanks for the restaurant suggestion Lisa Penn! It was amazing and we also got a nice view of the light show over the harbor.
Jordan and I overheard a bit of the exchange between the man and woman at the next table. They were Latinx and clearly getting acquainted. He was telling her that Steve Madden is a friend of his, that he has known Taylor Swift since before she was famous (which must have been in her teens, which is creepy because he is clearly around my age), and that he does business all over the world and can basically live anywhere he wants, but he would never live in America. I couldn't hear his rationale. She was riveted. When he went to the bathroom, she fixed her lipstick and took about 25 pouty selfies.
During the walk back to the train, at certain corners, we had to time the street crossings just right, because the protestors had torn down all of the traffic lights or smashed them. The cars were just driving willy nilly (someone look up where that phrase originated, pls?) and somehow not hitting each other or any of the pedestrians making a run for it to the other side of the street (like us). There was also a subway exit we couldn't use because it had been vandalized so badly by the protestors that it was closed and taped up with a plastic barrier. I photographed a ton of graffiti that the protestors put on walls, floors, sidewalks, storefronts, etc, condemning China and Carrie Lam and demanding "free Hong Kong!" I support their demands for continued democracy, but I don't see the logic in destroying their own city, the one that they are fighting to preserve. Crowd mentality often lacks logic.