Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sunday, March 12: Victoria Peak (Mark)

We planned on going to church this morning, and after some wardrobe consulting from Liz (she rejected Dale's choice of tie to go with his shirt) we took the MTR to Hong Kong island to attend sacrament meeting. The church building is in the bustling heart of the city, and in many respects is a "showcase" meetinghouse for the church. It's the first meetinghouse I've been to that has receptionists, for example. We took the elevator up a floor where the chapel is. We were greeted by many church members and had some conversations. Much of this branch is American, but not all of it - there were a few Australians, Koreans, and Filipinos in attendance as well. We happened to be there for branch conference, and they were reorganizing the branch presidency. The old branch president was moving to Saudi Arabia with his family. Most branch members don't stay long, but some we spoke to had been in Hong Kong for over five  years.

Our next objective: more dim sum. We had a specific place in mind, called Tim Ho Wan. It's in the complex of Hong Kong station, and it's a Michelin star restaurant. There was quite the line when we got there, so we were glad to have not waited. It took us over a half hour to get through the line. Was the food worth it? Yes! It was delicious dim sum and we all especially liked the pork buns. Instead of the soft, squishy buns you normally get, these ones were like a combination of melon pan (complete with cookie-like topping) and pork bun. It was a great combination. We also had an interesting petal cake, which was some kind of gelatin with a floral flavor to it, and a few other dim sum standards. It ended up amounting to just over thirty dollars for the three of us. It's the world's cheapest Michelin star restaurant.

They couldn't be bothered to smile because the food was too good.

Next up, we wanted to hit up the peak. We wanted to take the peak tram, but I was a little concerned about visibility. We found out that we could take the 15C bus to the tram terminus, so we wandered until we found the main bus depot. While we were there, we noticed an interesting scene: Lots of Filipina women had set up little places for them to hang out and socialize. They were often blankets or cardboard boxes - it almost resembled a series of box forts. Most of them are maids or other types of household assistants, and Sunday is their only day off. So, they converge onto Hong Kong island to hang out with each other. We also happened upon a filming crew. I don't know if they were filming a movie, a music video, or a commercial, but there were ninjas involved, so it must be awesome.

Now that's what I call REAL ULTIMATE POWER!
We found a bus 15, and hopped on it, but then realized that this bus went all the way up the peak, and not to the tram. Oh well - we figured we could just take the tram back down if we really felt like it. The ride was very windy and offered some good views as we ascended, though the low clouds obscured things a bit. It took a little over half an hour to reach the top.

The top of the peak is a very trendy, touristy area. If I didn't know better, I might have guessed it was somewhere in the United States. There is a mall up on the top, and some very overpriced restaurants. It's mostly tourists up there - I figure it's the Hong Kong equivalent of going to the top of the Space Needle: the locals generally avoid it. We couldn't even go to the top of the lookout tower without paying for a ticket, but fortunately, there are a few other places to get a view. We hung out by the viewpoint maintained by the Lion's Club and enjoyed it for a few minutes. As I suspected, the view was nebulous, but it was still nice.

We ended up taking the tram back down, which was an odd experience. The grade is very steep, as you might expect, but the seats were all facing uphill, so we were going backwards. The grade also varies in its steepness throughout the trip. It was fun, however, and I enjoyed riding another form of transportation on this trip. Turns out the peak tram is built and maintained by a company based out of a city that Dad knows well: Thun, Switzerland.

Me, geeking out about a thing on rails.
We weren't entirely sure where to go next, but we figured it was too early to head back to the apartment. After some deliberation, we decided to take the Ding Ding to the west and look through some of the markets. So, that's exactly what we did! The markets are full of a wide variety of trinkets and souvenirs, copies of the little red book, Bruce Lee movie posters, knock-offs of popular intellectual properties, and various forms of erotica (often on playing cards). We looked around for things the girls might like and eventually settled on a necklace for Claire.

The market was nearby the Man Mo Temple, and we ventured in for a look. It was built in the mid 19th century, which is what counts for old in Hong Kong. It was very busy, with many local worshipers coming to bang the drum, ring the bell, and burn offerings (usually paper effigies of popular products, so they don't end up burning the real thing). The ceiling was covered in spiral-shaped incense, and there were also many lanterns placed around the temple. The smell of incense and amount of smoke in the temple was so strong, Liz couldn't stay in there for more than a few minutes.

We decided we'd had enough of the island for a day and decided to head back to Tsim Sha Tsui for food and some relaxation time. We decided on getting food first, but we wanted something other than Chinese food this time. It was harder to find non-Chinese food than we thought. We searched up and down several streets near our apartment in TST, and only found Chinese restaurants. We knew there were Korean places near our apartment, so we finally found one in our price range and gave it a try. We were glad we did: it was delicious. I had spicy pork with rice, and Liz and Dale both had bibimbap. It of course came with an array of Korean condiments and kimchi for us to enjoy. Our meal was delicious and we were glad we went.

After chilling in the apartment for a bit, Liz and I ventured into the night market. It was not unlike the markets we went to on the island earlier that afternoon, but it was night time and it was just a bit seedier. We found a few items to get for the girls: sets of training chopsticks, and a waving cat toy for Olivia. We stopped for some ice cream at a nearby McDonald's on the way home. I got a standard vanilla cone (less than a dollar when converted to USD), and Liz got a swirl of vanilla and sweet potato. She liked it, but I'm not as into sweet potato as she is.

  • MTR trains are very frequent. In fact, I think the longest we've had to wait for a train was three minutes. Not only are they frequent, but they are long (often 8 train cars long) and very spacious inside. In spite of how many trains come by and their capacity, they are almost always busy and I'm standing up more often than not. The people here really put the MTR to use.
  • Jaywalking is common and often necessary. Pedestrians often have a long wait at crosswalks, and wider avenues usually have some kind of pedestrian shelter in the middle, making it more easy for a person to jaywalk. I don't really mind jaywalking, it's just a little more dangerous when you're used to cars being on the right side of the road. Liz forgot about this detail at one point and stepped into the road when she should not have (thankfully, the driver noticed her with plenty of time to slow down).

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