Hong Kong Holiday: Day 4 – Nan Lian Garden, Chi Lin Nunnery, noodles, Wong Tai Sin
After we woke up, had coffee and breakfast, and noticed that the sky was pretty clear we realized we had no choice but to head straight back to Tsim Sha Tsui to take pictures of the skyline. It was cool and breezy, and we got a really nice view of Hong Kong during the day. It was a pretty good start to the day. Opening our handy dandy Hong Kong walking tour map, we decided to head up to Diamond Hill to see a few sites deep in Kowloon.
Nan Lian Garden is a beautiful Chinese garden with tons of koi and beautifully groomed plants. We walked around here for a bit, but much to our disappointment none of the koi turned into dragons. It seemed like every leaf, on every tree here was sculpted, trained, coached, or whatever the hell it is bonsai enthusiasts do. They played a soundtrack of traditional Chinese music, and people even quieted their voices a bit as they walked around.
Adjacent to the Nan Lian Garden is the Chi Lin Nunnery. The Nunnery has gorgeous lotus ponds, and magnificent golden Buddhas, but there were no photography signs next to all of the statues of the Bodhisattvas. Sigh. In the nunnery was the sound of monks chanting in that super low throaty voice, and silence. It was beautiful. After spending a couple of hours in the garden and nunnery, we were hungry. Next stop, LUNCH.
We had lunch at a mall food court, but the food courts in Asia are awesome. Each stall sells one or maybe two food items, and it’s fresh, and prepared to order. Hello! We found a stall called “Noodle Expert” and ordered the chicken congee and fish ball and noodle soup. This was my first fish ball soup in Hong Kong, and it was delicious. With just a bit of chili sauce and soy this soup was a spicy, savory way to fill my belly before we continued on our quest to see
every cultural site a few temples on the Kowloon peninsula. But first, dessert. We had a milk pudding, which is a special Hong Kong treat. The milk is steamed with sugar and some sort of stabilizer, but as soon as you put it into your mouth the change of temperature causes it to collapse into a liquidy mess. A few years ago I would have hated this for the texture, but I really really liked it. Carolyn had a more stable mango flavored one that was perhaps a little bit tastier, but I digress.
Our next stop on the temple tour of Hong Kong was the Wong Tai Sin temple. This is the most popular temple in Hong Kong, and boy can you tell. There were a ton of people coming to worship, pray, and do whatever people do in these temples. I’ve been to Buddhist temples in Thailand and Korea, and seen people performing their acts of faith before, but this was something else. In Korea people seem to do a few bows or even a prostration or two and move along. In Thailand they shake out their sticks of incense, light incense, etc. Here everyone was doing something different. There were people shaking groups of sticks with writing on them, reading the one that came out, and then following that up with other activities. There were people with fruits, vegetables, chickens, and money spread out in very specific patterns in front of their prayer mats. Hundreds of people were carrying bundles of lit incense like torches as they made their way to different prayer boxes. It was chaotic, it was noisy, it was smokey, it was awesome. We watched for a while, let ourselves get caught up in all of it, and then made our way back down to the subway to head towards our final stop.
The last stop was a place that no longer exists, but we wanted to see it anyway. Kowloon Walled City was once the most densely populated place in the world, a cluster of apartment buildings not under governance by Hong Kong, the British Empire, or China. It was a place of crime, prostitution, and unlicensed dentistry. It was definitely worth a look. Now there’s a park, where one of the bases of the gate remains, and the original gatehouse still stands. It’s hard to imagine what this place looked like before it was destroyed in 1993, but from photos like the one above I can only imagine what kind of gambling, drug dealing, and organized crime went on.
After walking around all day we were tired and hungry. After getting off the MTR in Central we sat down for a few minutes, got organized, and decided that for dinner we wanted something spectacular as it was payday and we were sooooooo reserved with our spending until our paychecks were deposited. We headed into soho and got a table at a Spanish restaurant and ordered wine and tapas. Spanish food in Hong Kong? Well you know, Hong Kong is a bit like New York. You can get whatever you want, when you want it. We wanted Spanish. Don’t judge me. You don’t know me. You don’t know my story. God, that line NEVER gets old. Dinner was absolutely delicious.
Walking back towards the Mini Hotel through Lan Kwai Fong, we stumbled upon a wine bar. We went in and had a couple of glasses of wine, wound down, and thought about how awesome our day was. We were definitely ready for some rest at this point, because in the morning we would be headed to Macau.