Friday, March 30, 2007

kowloon markets

Yesterday evening I went to Kowloon. For some reason I thought Kowloon was far, far away but as we got there in a fairly short subway (MTR) ride, I realized--oh, Kowloon is like Cambridge is to Boston. Just over (er, under) the water. The subway system in Hong Kong is immaculate--no food or drink is allowed onboard, everything is sparkling, clean and FAST. People can have their passes in their watches and just wave their arm through the turnstyle--like easy pass for humans. And a train comes every 2 minutes, max. Also, I noticed everything is built for slightly shorter people. In the T in Boston, I can barely reach the top holding bar, here the bar is an easy grasp.

Anyway, I reached Kowloon (with the wonderful Roseanne Thong as my guide) and our first stop was the flower market. Hundreds of stalls full of flowers lined what felt like street after street. Kowloon has less of the British influence, English was less widely understood and the city, compared to Hong Kong island, seemed less modern, more old world--with crotchey street vendors, dirtier streets, and more chaotic crowds. And beautiful, beautiful flowers. A true rainbow and the smell of lilies filled the air.

At the end of the flower market, we went through this little passage and entered the Bird Market.

Which is where people go and buy birds, bird cages and bird supplies. Birds and goldfish seem to be the pets of choice here in Hong Kong, where space is quite limited. Birds seem to be especially popular with old men, who can be seen carrying their bird cages. They like to take their birds out for a walk.

The bird cages themselves are works of art. Handmade, intricately carved of bamboo or rosewood, I found myself staring at each one. In the end, I couldn't resist and bought one as a souvenir. I don't know how I'm going to get it home.

The sun was setting, so that meant the night markets were opening. Here, you can buy pretty much everything, from food to fruits to footwear. Vendors here like to bargain and I watched a customer and vendor sputter at eachother in Cantonese as if they were angry, but both left smiling and seemed satisfied. I bought a Monkichi t-shirt for Ki-Ki. Luckily, Roseanne speaks Cantonese and was able to do the appropriate bargaining for me.

The market was just getting into full swing when we left. But my arms were full with the birdcage and I couldn't carry another thing, so it was time to go. I thought I might look a sight carrying the cage on the subway, but no one gave me a second glance. I suppose the only unusual thing was that I didn't have a bird in it.