This is our last day in Honkers. We fly out later this evening for Paris.
I’m calling it ‘honkers’ because that what the British tourists call it – and what a bunch of sour-pusses they are. Never in my life have I heard so much whining about everything, especially “how they can’t speak proper English.” It makes me wonder what their expectations were before they arrived. Surprisingly, the German tourists here are quite nice. Previously (the September 2005 trip to France) we only encountered the sort of German tourist which led us to dub them “the Americans of Europe.” Here, the Brits deserve a similar title. Especially infuriating is the way they treat the locals in whatever service industry they come across as if the people trying to help them were coolies at the hieght of the colonial era.
We’re having some trouble allowing ourselves to enjoy our holiday. We can’t help but remember that if things had happened differently we wouldn’t be here and that the funding for the trip comes from the money we had intended for setting ourselves up for bringing home our girls, Charlotte and Marianne, from hospital. It seems to have hit us fairly hard today. Consequently, we didn’t feel quite up to the ferry to Lan Tau island to see the huge golden Buddha and the museums we had planned on seeing are closed Tuesdays. Damn. Instead, we took the subway to the Nan Lian gardens and old Walled City of Kowloon.
The Nan Lian Gardens are built in the Tang style and so highlight the interactions of stone and water. Completely superfluous sprayers make sure that there is a fine mist in the air so that every view looks like a Chinese landscape painting. The skill behind the design of the garden only becomes evident when you realise that each stopping place along the one-way path opens into a different vista: a stone garden, a wooden grove, a waterfall, stones retreating into the water, woods emerging from the water.
The Kowloon Walled City was, by a lapse in bureaucratic excellence, left out of the region which became the British colony. Consequently, all growth in this area was compeltely unregualted. Locals tell stories (apparently) of rats the size of small dogs carrying away anything that was edible. Photos from before the area’s destruction and restoration show unplanned high-rise monstrosities that by any concept of engineering or even aesthetics should be unable to remain standing. Today it’s a neat little park with replica Qing Dynasty walled courtyards, covered walkways and pagodas.
We’ve spent some time looking ofr some small trinkets or gifts by which we could remomber our visit here and can find nothing we want to pay money for. Everything we come across looks like it was – umm – made in China. Neither markets, department stores nor tourist traps have a single thing worth buying. There’s lots of little cute things but we can find the same tacky cuteness at home. Very disappointing.
Now, we sitting around and about to start the mammoth task of repacking everything for the flight this evening. I’d like to come back here some time. But befoe I do, I’d like to know a lot more of the history of the place and its place as a part of modern China. I also think that learning a little Cantonese is vital for successly getting about here.