Hidden Parks and Egg Tarts in Hong Kong

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When I was gearing up to travel to Hong Kong for the week off work for the Spring Festival (also known as the Chinese New Year–these holidays all have several names which can be extremely confusing), I would tell co-workers and friends where I was headed. Every time, they would exclaim, “Ohhhh shopping!” To which I would respond by shrugging and saying, “I guess I might do some shopping…”

As soon as I arrived in Hong Kong, I understood why the majority thought I was set on retail therapy. I could not walk a single, overcrowded block without running into a mall. It was heavenly. And also very dangerous for my wallet. Instead of whittling all of my time away in Zara and H&M, I made a point to wander outside and see things that I can’t find in Beijing.

The humid, salty sea air and the ferry boats that shuttled both tourists and local commuters alike were special treats unique to Hong Kong. I enjoyed every second of the lush, green parks crammed in between skyscrapers and traditional food like dim sum with a new Australian friend.

I met up with a friend and native Hong Kongian (totally made up word) who accompanied me to The Victoria Peak and mouth watering sushi. I also spent time with my roommate, Katie, who was visiting her uncle in Hong Kong on her way back the The U.K. It was a bitter sweet way to end our adventure together as roommates.

While my 9-person dorm was less than ideal for rest, I found my holiday as relaxing as ever and Hong Kong is definitely one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited.

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Enjoying a traditional Hong Kong meal of Dim Sum

A dragon dance in the mall for CNY. Rub his nose for good luck!

Ferry ride

Ferry ride

Tram ride

Tram ride

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Taking the Peak Tram to the Victoria Peak

Taking the Peak Tram to the Victoria Peak

Victoria Peak & astounding views

Victoria Peak & astounding views

Trying egg tart for the first time

Trying egg tart for the first time

Drum decorations

Drum decorations

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Glass floored cable car to see the Big Buddha

The Big Buddha

The Big Buddha

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People burning incense for prayers at the Po Lin Monastery

People burning incense for prayers at the Po Lin Monastery

Discovery Bay on Lantau Island with Katie

Discovery Bay on Lantau Island with Katie

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Hipster Art District

As implied by the open-mouthed gasps I received when I told people I had not been to the 798 Art District, I had to go. An autumn leaf scent so crisp that it made me long for hot apple cider filled the sunny Saturday afternoon. It was perfect for wandering through the graffiti-ed back alleys, colorful art galleries, and quaint knick knack shops.

As I wandered through the exhibits and stores with my British friend Katie, I was consistently yelled at for taking pictures. Apparently I have no shame in pretending to be a clueless foreigner. In most of the shops there were signs, written in both Chinese in English, clearly stating you shouldn’t take pictures, but I was scolded on multiple occasions for ignoring them. So many cat trinkets and quirky displays made it difficult to fight the urge to take pictures. It became somewhat of a game to feign innocence about my ability to read the signs. At one point, Katie and I pretended not to speak Chinese nor English and she began speaking German, as I responded to her in Spanish.

We ended up sipping coffee in a small, dark restaurant booming with Spanish songs from a live band. The band members sat next to our table after their performance and I asked them about where they learned Spanish. “Spanish? Oh, we don’t speak it…we just sing it.” Oh, right. Only in China…

 

 

 

Tài Guìle!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bargaining at the Silk Market

After spending Saturday with Keith at the Silk Market my head is spinning from an abundance of shouting and bargaining. The market was gloriously crammed with purses, wallets, belts, shoes, clothing, sunglasses and everything else you can possibly imagine. The main idea of this market was to haggle your way to a price cheaper than the vendor requests.

The building buzzed with excitement from wide-eyed foreigners and shouting Chinese vendors luring them into their stores. Passing by the doors of the shops, Chinese women shook silk scarves yelling “pretty scarves for you!” and pleaded with potential customers to try them out.

Keith quickly established his love of bargaining and advised me on how to negotiate my way to the cheapest price. His methods included not revealing if and when you desperately want an item, standing firm on your price, and a skill I don’t yet have: busting out in Chinese when the haggling gets really intense. The vendors all speak English quite well which is great for me and other foreigners. Keith likes to speak to them in English, but when he wants to clinch the deal, he speaks in Chinese to catch them off guard.

The Chinese slyly butter up customers with compliments and insist that the material is real and top-notch quality. Unfortunately Keith left me alone for 20 minutes and I found it difficult to resist the vendor’s flattery. I managed to overpay for an adorable [fake] Tory Burch purse, but I’m viewing it as an experience that I will learn from and grow to become better at bargaining. I also learned a new Chinese phrase which is often exclaimed after the vendors show you the price they want you to pay: Tài Guìle (pronounced “tie quay la”), which means “too expensive” in English.

I also learned that although I admittedly have a [slight] shopping addiction, Keith may need to attend a shoppers’ anonymous meeting. He returned to the market three times after Saturday to buy more wallets and bags.

The Silk Market is now definitely on my list of favorite places in Beijing!

Watch Keith try to pay ¥100/$15 USD for a North Face jacket here