I've done this before, ridden the #6 bus from near the ferry terminal at Central to the other side of Hong Kong island and the little village of Stanley. Stanley is know for, among other things, its market, which is a very Chinese-seeming collection of stalls and tiny storefronts set along narrow, winding alleys. It's mostly a tourist market, a fun collection of local stuff--paintings and carvings--and more generic Chinese industrial output--t-shirts and cell phone covers, etc. Like all these markets I've seen, it seems as much a place for the vendors to socialize as a market for selling things. More so than, say, the Best Buy in Appleton, there is a sense that the Stanley Market represents the lives of these vendors; they've all drawn this lot and they're in it together.
(Hong Kong's version of the Routemaster.)
But the real fun with the Stanley Market is getting there. Hong Kong island seems to have an unexpectedly huge number of bus routes (in addition to the old double-decker trolley system and a subway). The buses themselves exist in a hundred varieties, but most of them are sturdy double-decker units that seat about 80 and stand as many more (I suppose in deference to British custom, which is still so recently in the colony's past). So right from the get-go you're in for a treat, since plunking yourself anywhere upstairs gives you a vista of the passing scenery that you likely will not have experienced before.
(The view from up top.)
And what views. From the passage through the constant traffic jam of downtown Hong Kong, the bus climbs up narrow, winding streets which cling to the sides of the steep hills, with seemingly inches between the sheer rock face on one side and the opposite direction buses on the other. The tops of the buses are continuously brushed by the trees so that one appears to be driving most of the time in a tunnel. Today's bus was the 6X, which passes through a mile-long tunnel through the middle of the island, presumably cutting 10-15 minutes from the trip.
|(Stanley with its market.)|
(Roaming the Stanley Market.)
(The view from the #6 bus on the back of the island.)
(Repulse Bay seen from the bus.)
It's very difficult to get pictures on the bus, as the amazing scenes flash by and are gone, and everything is so close to you that it's tough to frame a shot. There are a couple videos on YouTube, I see, showing someone's filming of the trip.
I got back downtown from the market about 5:PM and decided to see a movie. There are a zillion screens here, and most big American films can be seen along with Chinese and Hong Kong films and German and French movies. Not feeling up for The Help (which is supposed to be excellent), I defaulted to Rowan Atkinson's latest Johnny English installment (I'll review that separately).
Emerging about 7:30 PM into a drizzly night, the city is electric with possibility. The low-hanging clouds reflect the light from millions of bulbs to give a kind of twilight aspect to the entire city, and neon is everywhere, on signs and storefronts and decorating the sides of buildings. There are even decorative lights on some of the tour boats out in Victoria Harbor. The clotted mass of cars and trucks and buses and trolleys makes for a din that's almost overwhelming. I talked briefly on the phone to Susan (as in, $4.95 a minute briefly, but I needed to share the moment with my traveling partner) and conversation is not particularly easy in so noisy an environment. But you're flooded with a sense that a billion things are happening all around you--thousands of bars and restaurants, hundreds of open shops, meetings and gatherings, folks going to and from work in a 24-hour city. I am for the natives one of tens of thousands of daily visitors to the city, an obvious foreigner standing on a footbridge watching the city hum around me.
|(The crowd at the Tsim Sha Tsui ferry terminal.)|
|(My hotel room view.)|