June 03, 2011

New Territories and Chicken Feet!

Usually Lady Hiva and I opt to tour on our own adventure without a guide or a set plan--we head out and if something is interesting to us, we check it out. However, today decided to book a tour to the New Territories. It was not one of the really "advertised" tours so that let us justify breaking our track record of guide-less tourism. There were only three other couples on the tour with us, an elderly Indian couple and two other young couples. Our Tour Guide, Gigi, was completely candid and hilarious throughout the entire tour. She learned English in Australia, so she was really blunt sometimes when we explained things. For example, as we were driving out of the city we passed a bunch of the tall--really tall--residential buildings. She told us to look over at them. Each were painted in a solid color, usually a beige, soft blue or green. The paint was stained and cracked with wear over the years. Windows were open to allow air circulation in and laundry hung to dry in the damp breeze. Gigi explained that each of these were only 400-500 sq feet of living space and the WHOLE family lived there. Her Aussie bluntness--with a sweet Asian accent--then explained why that was awkward because the "mom and dad needed to make babies" Hiva and I could not help but laugh with her throughout the tour.

As I watched these massive public houses, Gigi further explained they were provided by the government and only people can live there if they make $200 per month for the entire family. I looked more closely and watched the families coming in and out and could not help but be thankful for all that I have. $200 a month is not very much money to live on. I also thought about all the elderly women and men that are out cleaning the streets for work. Many of them pulling large boxes of trash that are much larger than they are and their fragile backs bend under the burden. Here I am stressing over a stupid phone contract and they are still working to rent a tiny house and eat meagerly.

Like most countries, Hong Kong is an economic dichotomy. We saw the really poor trying to live and we walked through malls and housing buildings for the super-wealthy. Some aspects of life are seen in all cultures I guess. This is the reason we ended up on this tour. We wanted to see the "authentic" Hong Kong--the country, not the tourist based city. Much like getting out to the North Shore of Oahu instead of spending your whole holiday at Waikiki.

We rode to the top of the mountains and overlooked all the islands of Hong Kong and saw how over the years, the people have "reclaimed" land from the sea and connected the islands for more room to build. The New Territories is the green farming and traditional family living in between the City and Mainland China. As we drove Gigi explained to us cultural histories of small communities and how many of them have histories dating hundreds and some thousands of years ago. We stopped in one village at a Temple. It was beautiful. The artwork was ornate and detailed in a myrad of colors. Gigi explained burial processes because of the shortage of land and money, most people only have a marker in the temple instead of being buried. She also showed us how people burn paper items for their ancestors to use in the next life. You can burn clothes, dentures, money and anything else you feel they need including Ipods and I-phone 5!

We stopped at an original walled city, decised as protection to the clan against enemies, these cities only had one opened that could be locked and all houses are built square, tall and no parcel of land is wasted.  We walked through the narrow sidewalks that were literally only a few feet across, so people could reach out their windows and touch the house of the neighbor across the walkway. It was nostalgic and felt like we were in the movies of China hundreds and hundreds of years ago.

We finally ended the tour by looking across the bay at the border of China. Gigi explained that the body of water between in two countries used to be a high traffic place for Chinese immigrants to sneak into Hong Kong in hopes for a better life.

We met some friends later the in the afternoon in Mang Kok. We stood at the exit to the underground train system waiting for them and Hiva and I could not process the floods of people that were traversing into the train system and out onto the street. It was a sea of faces in a continuous stream--a bit overwhelming when you think that in the States, even the most crowded places have SOMEWHERE you can get away and let your claustrophobia rest. I asked our friends if it was like that because of the Holiday, but they said "Nope, it is ALWAYS like this." That would take some getting used to. We ate a traditional Chinese restaurant with them and Hiva and I ate starfish, squid legs, and I ate some chicken feet. They really were good. They were fixed in some kind of jalapeno teriyaki sauce and I enjoyed them. Hiva thought I was crazy and stuck with the starfish. I have to say that our favorite are still the steamed pork dumplings and the char siu buns (manapua in Hawaii).

We went to see the LDS Hong Kong Temple and it was so peaceful after the business of the city. I am so glad that we went there.

We finished the day by watching the choreographed light show over the harbor between Kowloon and Hong Kong. They show it every night and we enjoyed seeing how Hong Kong puts their love of technology to work in such a large way.


  1. I love these posts. I can picture you guys there. That was funny about your international experience eating at the Italian restaurant. It sounds like you're having an awesome time.

  2. I'm fascinated. Hiva, what does starfish taste like? (You're probably thinking "uh, like starfish..." huh?) ;)