Monday, November 7, 2011

Last Day in Hong Kong: Closing the Circle

Wednesday, May 25

On our final morning in Hong Kong, we got up early and headed to Kowloon Park in search of Tai Chi-ers and others demonstrating the combination of self-discipline and art.


As we walked the pathways past ponds and between lush areas of green, we were privy to moments of meditation and careful instruction. Beneath a tree, a cluster of people sat cross-legged on towels, their hands hovering and their eyes closed in meditation. One woman looked to her instructor for guidance, mimicking his posture and deep breathing. Further along our stroll we came across a simple gazebo placed out over a pond, inside of which another woman took Tai Chi lessons, the movements carefully controlled, yet elegant.

Everywhere we looked there were groups of women doing dance moves in unison and laughing, and people of all ages engaged in meditative poses. The air was calm and pleasant as we wandered among people enjoying the beautiful day and outside air.

Following the sound of music, we wound around to find a group of people laughing and talking while they played instruments and sang together. It didn't look to be anything official, just a casual coming together of friends in a park. We watched from the other side of a turtle pond for a while, and then I decided to approach for pictures.

I approached the group and waited to catch the eye of one of the women who'd been singing along to the music. Not wanting to assume anyone spoke English, I lifted my camera, then my eyebrows, and gestured to the group before me. The woman kind of laughed, then presumably told the rest I wanted to take their picture, and commenced leading the group in a boisterous song, clapping and smiling brightly at me. (In the picture above, she's the woman wearing the black shirt and blue pants, smiling at the camera.) Their instruments were varied and unfamiliar to me, which made it even better to watch. The sounds melded together in a flowing and flipping kind of song, and I was happy they let allowed me and my camera to be a part of their gathering for a few minutes.

Also, you gotta love the Phat Farm T-shirt :)

From there, we went in search of the famed Kung Fu Corner of the Sculpture Walk section of the Park. During certain times of the week there are wild demonstrations of traditional Chinese dances in this part of the Park, but we were just hoping for some more opportunities to watch people engaged in group Tai Chi classes. What we found when we got there was more than we'd expected, as different groups of people moved in unison around a courtyard lined with artistic sculptures. 

 From traditional Tai Chi, to Chinese fan dancing

One of my favorite spots was populated by one man practicing graceful sword movements, while a small group of women practiced Tai Chi moves nearby.

Just as it was at the Chi Lin Nunnery, the grounds of the Park were a calm and peaceful oasis surrounded by city buildings reaching into the hazy sky.

The coexistence of modern art and ancient practices in Kowloon Park was an inspiring thing to witness. We watched for a long while, moving about the open courtyard to spend some time in audience of each group.

At one point, an elderly man approached us and began talking to Chris, asking if this was our first visit to Hong Kong. Since it was, the man declared that this was to be our Hong Kong Honeymoon :) The man was so friendly and welcoming to us, and seemed genuinely glad to see visitors in his beloved city. It was nice. Since he'd mostly directed his attention toward Chris, I felt weird to ask to take his photo - so I wanted until he left to sneak one.

After the Park, we hopped a train back over to Hong Kong Island to walk the promenade along Victoria Harbour and see the Hong Kong version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Avenue of Stars. The part of the afternoon I most looked forward to was having High Tea at the Peninsula Hotel, a very posh hotel many people recommended we not miss.

Tea was served in the front lobby of the hotel, but its lobby looked like that of a palace, complete with a string quartet playing in one of the upper balconies. The staff was friendly, despite our casual dress, and an afternoon tea ended up being our last meal in Hong Kong - an excellent note on which to end.

The tea was fabulous, and surprisingly reasonably priced. We ate fresh scones, cucumber sandwiches, and bits of cake, among other tasty treats on a three-tier platter. 

Back down on the Avenue of Stars, there was an art exhibit of interesting photos. As it was the end of the trip, I was running out of memory on the camera, so opted to take a picture of my favorite. The artist's photographs were unaltered, but taken in ways that challenged the viewer's eye. I wish I would have taken more pictures of his!

Every night at 8pm in Hong Kong there is a collaborative light show where different buildings participate to create a beautiful laser show across the harbor. It began with this gorgeous, traditional boat passing across the water.

A statue of Bruce Lee on the Avenue of Stars

I'm not sure why we waited until our last night to see the light show, but it was a nice end to an amazing trip. We stayed until the lasers went out, until the promenade cleared and the night felt like ours.

Goodnight, Hong Kong. It's been swell.

In the morning, we would be catching a pre-dawn taxi to the airport to fly the final twelve hours back home to Germany, thus completing the circle that took us around the world.

From the adventurous and wild landscapes of New Zealand to the peaceful gardens nestled into this bustling and crowded city, experiences from this trip will remain fresh in our minds for a long time to come. I never imagined I'd actually circle the globe in one trip, but that just goes to show how amazing life can be. It's things like this that only make me look forward to what else life has in store.

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