Our tour of the New Territories on Chinese New Year's Day in Hong Kong
included a stop at the Tai Po Monastery and Wishing Tree. We were warned
by our tour guide that it would be very busy because of all the local
people coming to place their New Year wishes. But we had no idea it would
be an absolute "free for all" fruit flinging! It was so much
There must have been a thousand people all milling about the Banyan trees
(there are actually two). Clouds of incense rose into the air, and there
were oranges being flung at the trees every two seconds. If your orange-laden
paper gets caught in the tree, that's a good thing! The Chinese believe
your wish will come true if the tree "catches" it.
We bought our Wishing Paper and Orange from one of the vendors for $10HK.
Then, as instructed by our tour guide, we wrote our names and wishes on
the colored papers. Then, we stood in front of the larger Wishing Tree
and watched a teenager get hit squarely on the head by a flying orange!
Smash! Everyone laughed!
The crowd was really supportive of each other. A thousand strangers all
united in an effort to get a wish granted! Every time a paper and orange
got caught in the tree, the crowd cheered. Every time a flying orange
missed the tree, the crowd groaned.
Ben and I wished each other luck and let our wishes fly into the air!
Ben had no problem getting his wish wedged right into the crook of a large
branch. Mine missed! But I saw where it fell, ran and picked it up, and
threw it up again. This time it hit and stayed! Yeah! What a great feeling
to be part of such a joyful ritual.
The path to the trees was lined with umbrella covered vendor wagons full
of trinkets in different shapes and sizes. Of course, being the Year of
the Monkey, the best selling trinkets were monkey shaped. My son Ben picked
out a bright brass one with a red tassel. The vendor behind the wagon
told him it was a good choice. She said the character he picked would
bring him many sons! Ben immediately put that one back! Ben is grown,
but not married and definitely not ready for many sons! He picked another
one that was clearly a monkey...with a red tassel. He hung it on his car
mirror back home for fun and luck, and to remember the good times and
good feelings we shared with the rest of the crowd at the Wishing Tree.
sent us two links to read about Chinese food and traditions. Then she
sent another letter! Here are the links:
the latest letter:
From the food page - I think we ate everything except JAI CHOI. We wanted
to try as much of the local food as possible. We found the
and I had cold chicken in wine sauce. Yummy. My son had beef with spicy
noodles. He loves spicy! We were lucky to find that shop open. Most of
the smaller businesses were closed for four to eight days in observance
of the Chinese
New Year. We walked past it the first time because not all the
odd numbered spaces run on the same side of the street. We were across
the street when we spotted it. We went in a tried to explain we wanted
a picture for Kath of the Kids Club. Luckily I had my Kid's Club membership
card with me because when I showed it to them, the memory clicked. They
were so happy about it!
On our first day we walked into Mong Kok. We were on the prowl for Dim
Sum. We found the London Restaurant, but it was NOT British. It was a
very busy Chinese Restaurant that also did catering. Part of the fun was
that it was full of Chinese families having their reunions for the new
year. Many were taking pictures of each other at the tables.
We were seated and the Dim Sum menu was presented. Heaven! Items were
in Chinese and English and we picked several. Our selections arrived -
some hot, some cold, all delicious. As with most of our other adventures,
my son and I got along pretty well with local customs and events by doing
our homework ahead, and being willing to figure out the rest (even without
speaking much Chinese). I did make one big mistake at the end of the meal.
I forgot that you're not supposed to tip in a restaurant. The tip or "gratuity"
is included on the bill. I tried to give the waitress back some money
and she said "no way"! I was embarrassed and didn't make that
We always drank Chinese tea with our meals (it was always offered). The
local waiters seemed pleased that we were so willing to try their specialties.
Sad to say this is my last day in Hong Kong, but I have lots more stories
I was able to get back and take some more pictures of the tiles and will
share then as soon as I can get them developed. Unfortunately, the weather
was still dark and rainy while I was there, so I don't know how well the
colors will come out.
During my first visit to Jackie's Kowloon office I was hosted by Solon's
assistant. She kept saying it was her job to help out the fans, but she
was so polite and patient I wanted to say thank you to her here as well.
When I went back the second time, she was in a meeting and another nice
assistant helped me out. This is a very busy time for them and I appreciate
the time they took for my questions. I found out that Jackie will resume
work on "New Police Story" starting in February.
My son and I walked up the street after our second visit to the JC office
to the Festival Walk. That is the 5-story magnificent shopping mall in
Kowloon Tong. We were just in time to see not one, but NINE Lion Dance
teams setting up in the center of the mall. It was so colorful! There
were getting ready to dance together and then split up and dance through
the entire mall to bring joy and prosperity to all of the stores! Their
acrobatic dance talent is amazing and I know they have to practice a long
time to get it just right. They must have been proud to be the ones chosen
to perform in this huge, beautiful place.
We had to hurry back to Tsim Sha Tsui so we could get in one more Dim
Sum meal before we have to leave. We have really enjoyed the food here!
We have enjoyed everything here. And there is no snow!
One thing that has been constant here is everywhere we go we see the Hong
Kong Tourist Board commercials with Jackie. They play on public monitors...so
he seems to be everywhere.
Most people know all about Victoria Peak and the fabulous views. Because
it is Chinese New Year, EVERYONE is going to the Peak. When we tried to
get on the tram on Sunday it reminded me of the opening of Drunken Master
II when the crowd of people ran like crazy for the train...even jumping
in the windows to get a seat.
Today we went to the movies here at the big mall called Festival Walk.
All of the films were listed in both English and Chinese and the ticket
sellers spoke both languages too. We figured out the system and stepped
up to buy our tickets. The really cool thing was that you could pick your
seat in the theater! The ticketseller had a touch screen in front of them
and said the white seats were vacant,which ones would we like? That was
great. The movie we went to see was "Silverhawk" starring Michelle
Yeoh. Michelle starred with Jackie in Police Story 3- "SuperCop."
There was lots of great action and lots of fun. Both English and Chinese
was spoken in the movie and both Chinese and English subtitles were shown.
It was very interesting. I hope people around the world get to see this
movie. Michelle was great as a "masked avenger" and wow is she
in great physical shape!
I have a great interest in the Hong Kong film industry. I try to learn
as much as I can beyond even our hero Jackie Chan. Today my son and I
had a great thrill in meeting a Brit who has managed to do quite well
for himself in the Hong Kong film industry. His name is Bey Logan.
He started out as a writer for the martial arts magazine "Impact".
Eventually he made a name for himself and became known as a good writer
and dependable worker. He is living full time in Hong Kong now. He has
worked several times with Jackie Chan, most recently on "The Medallion".
He also produced Jackie's "My Story" and "My Stunts."
He was very gracious and gave us lots of his time to talk about Hong Kong
film. He is currently working on "Sword Searchers," which is
a film that Jackie will have a cameo appearance in.
I first learned about Bey on-line when reading about Jackie and Hong Kong
Cinema. If you ever have a chance to buy one of Jackie's films from Hong
Kong Legends, please do. The film quality is excellent, there are lots
of extras on the DVD's and Bey does a nonstop commentary giving all kinds
of tidbits about Jackie and the other actors in the film.
Bey's office is on Hong Kong Island near Central. I think people who live
and work on Hong Kong Island must be part mountain goat! It is SO hilly!
I thought my legs would fall off the first time we climbed those hills,
but in a week I have built up a little strength.
Another exciting day in Hong Kong!
More about the Hong Kong Jockey Club:
I wondered where all the money went that the club must get from the thousands
of people there trying their luck. It is very popular for the Chinese
people to bet on the horses, especially with their Chinese New Year money.
I was very glad to hear that many Hong Kong charities benefit from the
profits gained from the horseraces.
We got more than our money's worth on the tour. We saw the wonderful facility,
including the paddock area where you could see the horses up close. We
were seated on the top floor of the private members box enclosure. That
means we had lovely tables to sit at to eat a huge hot buffet dinner that
was provided as part of the tour. At the front of our tables was a big
glass door where you could see everything happening down on the racecourse.
There were tall, tall screens down beside the track that showed each horse
as he was led to the gate. The screens also displayed the race while it
was going on.
Because it was cold, we stayed inside the glass to eat and pick our winners.
When each race was run, we stepped outside into the "box" seats-
up high so we had a very good view. WE would yell and cheer our choices
on as they ran the track.
It was all so beautiful- those horses were in such great shape! To see
them run was thrilling. Our tour guide instructed us that Chinese people
play jockeys more than horses. So it was fun trying to figure out who
might win based on the jockey's reputation and how the horse looked. We
were also given $60HK by the club as part of the tour to use to place
bets. We only used that money and we won some and lost some...but came
out even for the day- which was our plan. I said that if we had actually
won money ahead we would give it to charity. It was very generous of the
Jockey Club to let us ordinary people live like Emperors for a day.
lot about Hong Kong that reminds me of New York City. Lots of hustle and
bustle, people crowding the streets walking everywhere, so many different
kinds of businesses. BUT the one thing that is VERY different is that
Hong Kong, for a big, big city is so clean! The taxis, busses and even
the subway (MTR) is kept unbelievably clean. And because it is Chinese
New Year there are thousands more people than usual using these every
day. You rarely see anyone doing the cleaning (except for someone sweeping
the street here and there), but they do manage to keep it all so clean.
There should be an award for this.
You no doubt have seen the well-known neon signs lighting up the streets
either in pictures (or from your trip in August). But since it is Chines
New Year there is even MORE neon everywhere. This is in addition to the
traditional red and gold hangings with well wishes, pictures of the monkey
everywhere, bows, balls, paper firecrackers and pictures of the other
gods bringing good luck to the new year.
Throughout the streets there is wire fencing with neon decorations and
wishes for the new year. At the Victoria Harbour waterfront all of the
skyscrapers have a wild array of animated neon designs. (You will have
a better idea when I get back and can post some pictures.) The night we
were in the harbour for the fireworks, in addition to all the neon and
decorations, I think every business and apartment building had every light
on they owned. Whew! I'm glad I don't have to pay that light bill! That
makes me wonder how their power is generated. I will have to research
It is hard to sleep. Mostly because we are so excited about where we are
and what is going on. But also because it is so bright and colorful and
noisy! One of our tour guides said that's because the Chinese believe
that red is a very lucky color (I'm sure you knew that), and that making
noise is lucky. So believe me...it has been very noisy! We love it!
My son, who
is with me, is grown up. We are not gamblers, but the "Come HorseRacing
Tour" sounded so beautiful and exciting, we signed up.
Wow! Or Wah! I should say. The Hong Kong Jockey Club in Sha Tin is a huge
and breathtakingly beautiful facility. It's design is impressive and it
is set into the mountains in a very efficient manner. (Everything seems
to be efficient in Hong Kong). The Chinese feel so strongly about their
horses that they are cared for very, very carefully in the stables at
the racetrack. They have air conditioning when it is hot and a swimming
pool! They even get two months off in the summer (July and August) like
the school children.
We saw this care firsthand when one horse was injured on the racetrack.
He stumbled and started to limp. The jockey immediately got off and walked
beside the horse. Within a few seconds the race was over and a doctor
(veterinarian) was right on the scene. Then a horse trailer pulled up
right onto the course and a crew jumped out. Helpers came running from
everywhere. Since the horse had stopped right by the fence where all the
people where, they unrolled and held up a green screen material to shield
the horse. A second doctor arrived and checked the horse as well. Then
they loaded the horse up into the trailer and took him away.
I also noticed that an ambulance follows behind the horses and riders
on the racetrack during each race. What a great idea! So if there is an
accident and a rider is injured, he can be attended to right away. Of
course, this also keeps the schedule of the races on schedule, but I was
impressed with this kind of thought put into taking care of what might
More on the races later.....
weather was quite cold and rainy. Very unusual and very New England-like.
I asked at the front desk if the fireworks would be canceled because of
the weather and the woman behind the desk was emphatic. "Oh no! Fireworks
We got picked up at our hotel by the tour guide and made our way further
down the Kowloon peninsula to pick up the others. Even though it was two
hours before the fireworks were to begin, the area near Victoria Harbour
was already very crowded. The tour guide was worried that we might get
stuck at the Peninsula Hotel because they were starting to block off the
streets. However, we did make it through and went via the underground
tunnel to the Hong Kong Island to catch our boat.
Our tour guide had two cute stories to tell as we made our way. The first
was that the tunnel was nicknamed "No Excuse" tunnel. That's
because before the tunnel was built, the only way to get back and forth
between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon was the ferry. The last ferry was
at 11:30pm. If you missed it, you couldn't get home. If you didn't want
to get home, you just called and said "sorry, I missed the last ferry
and can't make it home". Now that the tunnel is built and open 24
hours a day there is no excuse not to get home every night.
The other story is about the red packets that everyone gives out on Chinese
New Year. Our tour guide said that they believe the evil character called
the "Lin" monster likes to eat children - because they are tender
and juicy. The monster doesn't like to eat adults because they are tough.
The Lin monster does not like the color red. Since parents cannot always
be with their children, they give them the red packets to ward off the
Lin monster. Now parents know that if a child is only given a red piece
of paper, they might lose it or throw it away. If they put money in the
red packet, the child will be sure to keep it. And so- it is tradition
for older people to give younger people these red packets...which are
also for good luck and prosperity in the New Year.
Even though it was cold and a bit rainy (I even wore my winter coat) the
fireworks were really wonderful as seen from our boat in the harbor. So
many colors and shapes (oval and lips shapes even). They were shot from
three large barges in the harbor. There were even fireworks ON the barges.
My favorites were the ones that looked like they kept getting bigger and
closer and bigger and closer.
The Marine police boats kept the large flotilla of boats behind a certain
point in the harbour for safety. They kept going back and forth and warning
boats getting too close to the borderline. But if we called "Kung
Hei Fat Choi" they called back and waved.
When it was over all of the boats went to shore in an orderly manner.
I noticed a large, lovely private white yacht among the boats. I wondered
if some celebrity we know was on that boat watching the fireworks? If
so, it was a terrific location.
As with last night's festivities, the large crowds made their way back
up the peninsula in an orderly fashion. As we walked, all of the children
looked very happy.
And so was
I could write a hundred stories about being here in Hong Kong for Chinese
New Year! I've been keeping a journal and will tell you everything. (Probably
more than you want to know...but you can edit).
The Big Parade was last night and was fantastic. But earlier in the day
we were on a tour of the New Territories and they said something about
Jackie I wanted to share right away. The tour guide said the name Kowloon
meant Nine Dragons. There are actually Eight mountains representing the
dragons, then the emperor was in residence (also considered a dragon),
he made the ninth dragon, so they called it nine Dragons. She pointed
out Jackie's JC Group office as we went by and told us that since Jackie
is also dragon, they now have TEN dragons in that area...and that makes
it very, very lucky.
So Jackie has added to the luck of Hong Kong in many, many ways. I wonder
if he knows he's on the tour? Probably.
All for now...much more to see and do.
I did get a chance to go to the JC Group office but it was raining and
dark, so I will go back again to take pictures of the tiles that are up.
Some are on the building and some are on the wall OUTSIDE the building!
But one thing I can tell you is that they need more tiles. Send more tiles!
My son Ben and I got to see Jackie just briefly. He was gracious, of course,
but it was heartbreaking to see the heavy sadness in his eyes from all
the sad recent events. I was a bit tongue-tied since it was my first time
meeting him and we didn't expect him to be there...I wish I could have
said something to lift his burden.
Will tell you more of my trip to the American International School when
I return. I got to speak to the principal who was VERY nice.
The big parade is tomorrow and the fireworks the next night. There's so
much going on! Happy Chinese New Year.
back frequently for more letters from Mary!
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