Tuesday, February 17, 2015

From Valentines to the New Year

17 February 2015

There's a temple near our apartment in Wan Chai, the central (and old) part of Hong Kong city.  And there's wonderful information on a sign across the street from the temple:  

"The worship of Hung Shing originates from the worship of stone, a phallic symbol.  The Hung Shing Temple in Wan Chai was built around a huge stone, with the statue of Hung Shing beneath it.  The exact year of construction is hard to be traced, but reading from the couplet on the column, the Temple was renovated in 1860.  Next to the Hung Shing Temple is a Sea-Guarding Guan Yin Temple, for the two temples were fronting the sea at the time they were built.  The road in front of them marked Wan Chai's original coastline before the British came to start the first reclamation project in Hong Kong in the mid-19th century.  The reclamation widened the path in front of the temples which became the majestic Queen's Road East, and the coastline of Wan Chai was also extended to Praya East (now Johnston Road).

"Today, the Hung Sing Temple is still frequented by worshippers who come to seek advice from the fortune tellers stationing at the temple."

You can see the large rock to the left of the temple.  Hard to imagine that this street was once the coast, since we're now four or five city blocks from the harbor - all that land was reclaimed, and is now covered with skyscrapers!

One Chinese bank has lovely artwork on the outside, so that passers-by know that it's a Chinese bank.  Not to be confused with Japanese or Korean banks, nor English banks which don't have pretty peach blossom pictures.

We have no idea what the building is featuring fans on the front doors, and a fan with peach blossoms inside the lobby.  Possibly an office building, or maybe a residence.  But it was just a pretty way of decorating the building.  And the pink flowering branches and trees are ornamental peach, the same flowers we saw all over Vietnam.  Not cherry.  

Of course, I had to pose with the fans.  I think they make delightful wings.  No, my eyes aren't closed as I imagine flying.  I think I just blinked.

While Valentine's Day isn't a huge holiday here, the way it is in some places, this is a major international city, with residents who come from all over the world.  So some bakeries had heart-shaped cookies and scones, a few restaurants offered special meals, and of course the flower prices went up for the one day.  But there are flower markets all over the city right now, because finding and giving the perfect flower seems to be part of the Lunar New Year celebration.  Even supermarkets carry lucky charms and stuffed animals to hang on the orange trees and peach blossoms, bringing good fortune and happiness to the family or business.

I've always maintained that there are two main things to do in Hong Kong - shop, and eat.  Really, the city has specialized markets, shops, stores, malls everywhere.  And more eating places than there are stores.  Yes, there are sights to see and things to do.  But shopping and eating are right there with those things to do.

My computer, now about five years old, was starting to have problems.  I debated getting it repaired, but salespeople at two different places (and two different countries) told me that hard drives have about a life expectancy of five years, so I was pretty lucky the computer hadn't crashed.  Well, so I succumbed to the shopping and ended up buying the new version of my computer.  Yup, a new MacBook Air, which was much lower priced here than in the US.  So I'm happy with it.

And eating.  Yes, we're eating, and enjoying all the choices available here.  We have a few favorites, though, worth a mention:

Pausa, a lovely little pizza, pasta, coffee, gelato, and dessert spot - 60 Johnston Road (entrance on Ship Street) in Wan Chai, just down the road from our apartment.  Thick crust pizza, fresh pasta cooked to order, home made gelato, fabulous crostata (co-owner Francesco said it's his mother's recipe), and Richard vouches for the brownies - this is our neighborhood hangout, where we have a brownie or sample the gelato or have a slice, and chat with Francesco and his friendly staff.  Absolutely the place to pause in this busy city!  www.pausa.com

My other favorite, Passion (by Gerard duBois), is French - the salads, sandwiches, and evening meals are straight out of a little bistro on a side street, but the pastries equal any patisserie on the Champs Elysée.  Seriously, I didn't want to post photos of the food, people would be drooling all over their computers.  The salad plates are wonderful (though don't do the salads for takeaway, the boxes are much smaller than the plates and you get more food if you eat in).  The coq au vin was a huge portion of rich fragrant chicken and vegs in a mouth-watering sauce full of wine flavor, with slices of country bread for dunking or just eating.  Go there.  Really.  We go to the place on Johnston in Wan Chai, but they also have a new place in Central.  http://www.passionbygd.com/

Richard is checking out the burger spots, and when he finds a place worthy of his recommendation, he'll let everyone know.

The New Year celebrations begin tomorrow or Thursday, so we're figuring out what is happening where, and we'll make sure we're in the right place at the right time!  And of course, we'll report back.


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