I´m´pretty tired, and likely not very literate, but hereś what I did today....
Work about 6:30am Hong Kong time, and it *did* feel like morning time to me... anticipating the time shift a few days before really helps me in getting acclimated.
The ¨executive breakfast¨ at the Novotel was all western-style, with the odd (yet popular) inclusion of tomato-y baked beans. Will try the regular breakfast tomorrow, see if I can get some good pickles and steamed bok choy. Coffee is those nice dual drip/espresso machines from Solis, so I won´t have to use the Starbucks around the corner. (Of _course_ thereś a Starbucks around the corner.... ;-)
Out at about 9:30, walked down Nathan Road, found a Citibank ATM (it still seems magical that you can get local currency with just a little plastic card), dodged the Indian tailoring touts and Pakistani ¨copy watch¨ guys, paid my respects to the Kowloon Clock Tour and Victoria Harbor, and trudged around until I found the tiny access to Signal Hill.
Signal Hill is an old-tech high-tech place. It was originally the highest shoreside point of land, and the British built a brick tower atop it, and atop that they had a large metal ball. Every day at 1pm theyd drop a large metal ball down the pole. All the ships in the harbor could see it, and they´d synch their chronometers, which let them use their octants and sextants and stuff correctly when using the stars to find their location.
I still don´t understand octants and sextants and stuff. But their navigators apparently did, or at least the navigators that lived so we could hear about them. Anyway, big old hill, big old tower, big old ball on the top of the tower, and when the ball dropped, the ships could find their way home. Later on the ships got radios, and CB and iPhones and such later tools.
Quiet place. Few visit. Itś hidden among the highrises now. But it was an important technical feature of Hong Kong, just a hundred fifty years ago.
Then I walked half-a-mile north, to the Hong Kong Historical Museum. Didn´t expect to have such fun, I was in hog heaven! Itś a new museum, and is laid out to give you a sequential view of the natural history, the earliest humans, changes during the Chinese dynasties, the British era, then Reunification, closing with popular culture since World War II.
One graphic at the start caught my imagination... if you consider the many eras that Hong Kong has had landmass as one hour, then humans have been there for only the last five seconds of that hour -- and humans have lived around Hong Kong for many thousands of years. Really shows that weŕe part of this planet and its natural evolution, when all our changes of recent recorded history and are just an evanescent pop in what this planet has been waiting to do....
The area had volcanoes long, long ago... itś´considered tectonically inactive now. Was a shallow sea with coral, then spent a long time as a barren desert. The islands are relatively recent. (And some of the later graphics at the museum show how wevé changed the coastline dramatically over the past century.)
Burial grounds found in Kowloon in 1955 were connected to the Han empire back around the time of Christ. Well, the brick tombs themselves were significant engineering for the time, but they haven´t found any human remains inside. But itś pretty sure it was people what built ´ém.
(By the way, this new keyboard seems to have some problems with its single-quotes... will have to go back and fix these entries when I´m back to a fullsized keyboard. Apologies in the meantime.)
One weird thing I didn´t know, at least not for Hong Kong, is that the Qing Empire forced people to abandon Hong Kong in the 1600s. I knew this happened in Fujian, in response to all the Ming/Koaxinga dissent, but I didn´t know the northerners forced people to leave to abandon Hong Kong back then too. Abandoning trade, mariculture, fishing industries... massive cost, almost unimaginable! Chinese empires did some pretty nutty things.
Speaking of nutty things, one section I didn´t like was their coverage of ¨The Opium Wars¨. I read Fernand Braudel´ś ¨The Mediterranean in the Age of Philip II¨ long ago, and was always struck by the centrism of Chinaś´various empires, the inward-looking nature of Confucianism, and how that manifested in the collection of wealth and precious metals. Britain offered trade in woolen textiles, which may not have made much sense in Southern China, but they also offered cotton from India, iron, spices from the New World, and other worldly goods. But the empire controlled the ports and trading concessions, and made centralized choices over what was permitted to be sold to whom. And the court liked silver, liked to have big storehouses of it. The museum exhibit (and other Chinese histories) have portrayed the opium trade as immorally greedy, but if China had had a more open and decentralized society things likely would never have had to go into blackmarket addictions. Before my time, though, and a done deal, so I won´t fret about it.
I spent almost four hours there -- really got off on seeing the models of Kowloon Walled City and the farmlands of only a century ago -- but the travelling costs were starting to hit me. Managed to make it to the museumś luncheonette and had a bowl of ramen with fried egg and sausage (which turned out to be two hot dogs), along with an OJ, for HK$33 (about US$4.50).
Walked back to the hotel along Jordan Path, a little paved pathway, with bouganvillas and bird coops by the ballfields. The path also had those cool little exercise stations found in every Chinese city, but which haven´t really caught on in the US... balance beams, parallel bars, twistńturn stretches. Away from the traffic, nice.
Going to rest up in the hotel, and then walk north tonight. Ive never been to the Ladies Market, the Jade Market, the Bird Market. And I still need to score a good sit-down meal.... ;-
(PS: If youŕe trying to find the entrance to Signal Hill Park, thereś a small driveway just to the right of the Middle Road Refuse Collection Center. Sneeze and youĺl miss it.)