Kowloon, High Noon and the Path to Wisdom

Wednesday

Carrying on the theme of extreme budgeting we visited two excellent museums on Kowloon today – The Hong Kong Museum of Art and The Hong Kong Museum of History. They were so good that we wouldn’t have grudged paying the entry fee of HK$10 each per museum. However, entry to both museums is free on Wednesdays so it would have been rude not to take up such a generous offer. The total saving of HK$40 (approx £3.34) may not seem like a lot but it does buy us 8 large bottles of beer from our local Wellcome Supermarket.

The Hong Kong Museum of Art had some fine examples of Chinese painting and calligraphy. The antiquities galleries included examples of Chinese gold, accessories and ceramics and there was an excellent exhibit of works by Chinese artist Wu Guanzhong who is 91 and still producing some great paintings. However, the modern art was made up mainly of installations which went whoosh over my head – not my thing – but all in all an enjoyable visit and we spent a lot longer there than we had anticipated.

We returned to Chungking Mansions, where we stayed on our previous visit to Hong Kong in 2006, for lunch. Don’t be fooled by the name, unless your idea of a mansion is a multi-story monstrosity filled with ‘Guest Houses’ that are no more than hovels. Nevertheless, you can get a cheap and tasty Indian meal here, which is what we did. It was nice to know that we would be returning to our Happy Valley apartment and not the cell that we occupied back then.

The Hong Kong Museum of History is in another modern building – they don’t really do old here. The museum walks you through The Story of Hong Kong from 400 million years ago to present day. Luckily they skip through the first 399.99 million years fairly quickly so we had enough time to appreciate the dioramas and audio-visual displays depicting Hong Kong life from The Dynasties to present day. My favourites were the Folk Culture gallery with full size replicas of junks, temples and houses of four ethnic groups and the post war displays. I got quite nostalgic when I entered the classroom of the 60s with desks identical to the ones I sat at in my own school days.

Saturday

As the cleaner was coming today we got out of her way and went for a wander round Wan Chai market. After an early lunch of Dim Sum we found ourselves in the vicinity of the noon day gun so decided to take a stroll down and watch the firing ceremony. At 11.55 we found ourselves wandering through a labyrinth of tunnels trying to get from the World Trade Centre across the multi-lane highway to the waterside where the gun is fired. We made it with 2 minutes to spare. It wasn’t as atmospheric as the ramparts of Edinburgh Castle (for those who don’t know we have the one O’clock gun) but definitely as loud!

Monday

Best day weather wise so far so we took ourselves off by tram, ferry and bus to the Ngong Ping Plateau on Lantau island.The main things to see here are the Po Lin Monastery and the Tian Tan Buddha. This is the largest, seated, outdoor, bronze Buddha in the world. For a minute there, as I read that description, I was transported back to Oz, you know the kind of thing,’this is the biggest plastic banana with Coffs Harbour printed on the side in the whole world’. The Buddha is very impressive and worth climbing the 271 steps (I didn’t count them, Lonely Planet did) for a close up view of the statue .The views of the surrounding mountains are good too. The monastery is beautiful but there’s a lot of construction work going on. Still, it’ll be nice when it’s finished.

We concluded our visit with a short walk to the Path to Wisdom. I really should have done that before I bought the ice-cream that melted down the front of my clean t-shirt – not a wise move.

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