For the day ahead or second on our revisit, we planned to immerse ourselves into the madness of Hong Kong, unlike the day before when we went for a hike along the Dragon’s Back. We walked the short distance from our hotel past the market street of Tai Yuen with its little stalls selling everything from souvenirs to fruit and vegetables. Jerome quickly went into one of the toyshops, which was crammed from floor to ceiling with every toy imaginable.
The tram stop was just at the end of the market street and despite the trams being a slower mode of transport than the metro we always loved the rickety old double decker trams, the only wooden double decked fleet in the world. Jerome has always enjoyed a ride on trams but there is nothing like the first class view you can get when you are lucky enough to grab a seat at the front on the top deck. Jerome could spend hours riding through the streets of Hong Kong this way. The first was crowded and we waited for the next one to arrive but Jerome wanted to ride on an old wooden one not the new flashier ones. We did not have to wait for long and Jerome had luck on his side, as we were able to get seats in his favourite spot up top up front.
Towering above the road, we gently rocked back and forth along the busy streets of Hong Kong. We passed the sleek, modern sky scarpers of Central and the boutiques of international fashion houses with their fancy window displays.
We disembarked the tram near Sheung Wan station and headed left into the array of alleys. Our first point of call was Man Wa Alley, also called Chop alley, where many seal makers have their little stalls. We found that most of them were closed due to the upcoming new years celebrations. Jerome wanted to have a seal made by one of the chop makers and had originally wanted one that stands for dragon, as he always liked it as a star sign. The man advised him to get a cockerel instead and looked up the Chinese character for his name. He told us that the stamp would be ready in an hour.
We walked on a block or so then Jerome noticed a snake in a little cage next to doorway of a restaurant. Indeed, the delicacy was snake soup and a friend of ours had even told us when we last saw her that we should go and eat it, in fact it is one of her favourite winter dishes. We agreed that while we are quite adventurous we could not face the idea at that time in the morning and left the restaurant behind us.
This part of town we could still has a fascinating array of traditional shops and older buildings and it shows what the rest of Hong Kong might have been like before the beautiful old houses were torn down and replaced with the vast high rise condos instead.
On Morrisson Street we passed some shops selling birds nests and ginseng and some others sold paper offerings for funerals and the dead. At Cat Street market we purchased some Chinese New Years ornaments to take home with us. Jerome chose red peppers and the butterflies took my fancy.
We strolled up the hill from there and just as we turned the corner stumbled upon Man Mo temple. We had visited the temple during our last visit, Jerome did not want to enter the building with me as he was not very keen on the intense incense smoke wafting from the small temple. In fact the thick sandalwood smoke comes from the giant incense coils hanging overhead and gives the gold and red an even gloomier feel than it already has. Man Mo temple dates back to 1840 and is dedicated to the god of literature and war, which I find is a rather strange combination.
We lazily strolled on, back downhill past Hollywood Road Park with its traditional walls made up of green, glazed, roof tiles. The playground was busy with children running around and some older local sitting on the bench chatting to each other. We made a left turn and stumbled upon a road of herbalist stores with their weird array of dried goods on offer.
None of us liked the pervading smell of the dried seafood and other dead animals and so we quickly moved on. Making a loop we walked back along Des Voeux Road to collect Jerome’s seal from the chop maker. He was pleased and tried it straight away.
We then walked to the closest tram stop and rode back to Wan Chai and our hotel. As the sun was peeking through we grabbed our swimming clothes and headed up to the rooftop pool of the hotel, where we lazed and played card games until it was dark. It is an amazing sight to watch the lights come on in the buildings around us, one by one.
For dinner we strolled over to Ship street, a few blocks away from the hotel and enjoyed a lovely supper of delicious, tapas style dishes at 22 Ships. Ship Street is a popular pedestrian street with plenty of options for lunch and dinner. In the evenings it can be quite busy with hip local office workers and tourists alike, I would therefore recommend to book ahead if you plan on having dinner there. There also is a Pizza Express, everyone from the UK will know is a child friendly place to have a decent pizza with your little ones if you are taking a break from the local food.