Days 13-14: We Totally Redeemed Ourselves

Reluctant to spend another day in the rain (refer to day 12), our entire Saturday slipped away indoors. I rested and watched a lot of HMC – the sole English television station that plays random American movies with Chinese subtitles. Newer releases such as The Hangover, The King’s Speech, and The Hurt Locker are shown; but oddly, these often air between older movies like the 1984 Razzie-nominated Streets of Fire, and Sliver (a movie from 1993 featuring the lesser-known Baldwin brother, William). There’s not a television guide, so the upcoming movie is a surprise until about 15 minutes before it airs. It’s not bad though; I find the unpredictability to be refreshing and entertaining.

The weather on Sunday was an improvement from the previous two days, but there were intermittent rain showers. Despite this, we were determined to get out of the hotel and experience more sites on our must-see list. I realized that we could check off at least 4 attractions in Tsim Sha Tsui (TST), a very nice shopping area of Hong Kong with museums and incredible views of Victoria Harbour.

Stacie, Christy, and I took the MTR to the TST area around 11:00am. We began with an early lunch at a restaurant called Hong Kong Day in the Harbour City Mall. I splurged and ordered the most expensive thing on the menu: soft-shell crab served over a bed of angel hair pasta with bacon, asparagus, and cream sauce. The description sounded delicious, but the dish was completely unseasoned and thoroughly mediocre. Towards the end of the meal, I realized we must’ve been eating at the Chinese equivalent of Chili’s and felt somewhat duped by the “fancy” menu descriptions.

Next up on the agenda: trying a macaron from the pricey Jean-Paul Hévin Chocolatier shop. It was my first time to taste a macaron, and despite how pretty and colorful they are, I’ve always imagined they would have a chalky texture. I tried the crème brûlée flavor, Stacie tried the vanilla, and Christy went for praline. I was happy to find the chalky texture was more light and airy than expected, but it may have just been subdued by the overly-sweetened interior. It was overpriced and underwhelming –  a fitting way to top off the meal from Chinese Chili’s.

Macaroons at Jean-Paul Hévin Chocolatier

Macarons at Jean-Paul Hévin Chocolatier

We left the Harbour City Mall to check out some of the museums and attractions nearby. On the way, a man approached us and whispered, “Chanel? Gucci? Prada?” He was holding a business card and wanted to show us his counterfeit merchandise. We were forewarned of these vendors before we arrived in Hong Kong, but my curiosity took over and I convinced Stacie and Christy to join me in the shopping excursion.

The man led us into in an office building where he showed identification to a petite female security guard and waved us into the elevator. The doors opened on the sixth floor revealing a long, stark white hallway illuminated by fluorescent bulbs. We shot each other nervous glances but continued to follow the man. Half way down the hall we stopped at a door where he began knocking in Morse code. As the door opened, a cloud of cigarette smoke billowed out into the hallway. A family of six Europeans were on their way out and wished us “happy shopping,” before leaving us alone in the small room. As the smoke dissipated, I was able to see the contents of the room: one rack of cheongsams (Mandarin-style dresses) and a man sitting at a desk with three chairs.

We had a seat and were given five Hello Kitty themed photo albums filled with pictures of counterfeit designer purses. Each photo album was organized by designer and the individual photos were labeled with an identification number in the top corner.  I asked to see three different bags, so the man made a quick phone call to have the bags brought to us. They appeared within three minutes and were placed in front of me for inspection. Only one of the three looked and felt of quality, so I asked the price. $280USD! I made a counter offer for a generous $100USD and he emphatically told us to get out…

We made it safely back to the street and decided to take a stroll down the Avenue of Stars (Hong Kong’s version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame). I only recognized three names, but I was really excited to see the popular statue of Bruce Lee located at the end of the promenade. I waited in line for nearly 15 minutes to take this gem:

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Bruce Lee statue on the Avenue of Stars

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Jackie Chan’s handprints on the Avenue of Stars

The Avenue of Stars is located directly behind the Hong Kong Museum of Art and the Space Museum, so we decided to check those out, too. The museums offered a discount for students, making our entry fee only $5HKD (less than $1USD). The art museum was a nice, calming change of pace. It’s spread over four floors, but the exhibits on each floor are fairly small. We spent a little over an hour there before we headed to the space museum where we bought tickets for a short educational film called “Space Junk 3D.”  The movie was in Cantonese, but there were headphones available to listen in English. Unfortunately, the combination of watching a 3D space movie in a planetarium and the English dubbing made me a little motion sick, so I closed my eyes and just listened.

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Space Junk 3D!

After the movie, we sat outside at the waterfront of Victoria Harbour and waited about an hour for the Symphony of Lights to begin. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’d read reviews online that the nightly show is something to see. At 8pm, music began to play and 45 buildings around the harbor flashed interactive lights to the beat of the music. The electric bill for the show must be astronomical, but it was a really cool experience!

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Symphony of Lights

NIght View of Victoria Harbour

Night View of Victoria Harbour

We finally made our way back to the hotel after the 15-minute light show. Any guilt I had felt about spending the entire day indoors on Saturday had been replaced with the foot aches and exhaustion of a long, fun, and eventful day. We had totally redeemed ourselves.

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