From there, we run by the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden. Even as we near the market, the air is filled with the songs of hundreds of birds. I watch as potential buyers go from cage to cage, listening to each bird’s song and judging its desirability.
Others, mostly men and older boys, have brought their birds (in cages, of course) for some time in the park. The birds in their cages hang in the trees, while the men sit and chat. Others play mah jong or simply soak in the sun.
Yet my favorite stop is the Temple Street Night Market, where the cacophony of vendors and shoppers speaking Cantonese and English rises to a dull roar. Fortune tellers set up lights and tables, offering to tell your future with cards or even a bird.
“Go try it,” Winnie encourages me, but I just stand back and watch. By the end of the evening, one thing is clear. I’ve bought so much in Hong Kong that I’m going to have to purchase another suitcase just to get it all home.
Made up of many islands, Hong Kong has made excellent use of its setting along the water. There are waterfront promenades and parks to enjoy, as well as an excellent ferry system. Traces of the town’s colonial past are everywhere — from the English that is widely spoken to the High Tea served at several area hotels. Yet beneath that English exterior beats a rich, Chinese heart.
Now a part of China, Hong Kong continues its brisk capitalistic ways. But even though modern ways are the norm, traditions are not forgotten — even when designing huge sky scrapers.
When a new building is designed, feng shui experts are often brought in to consult. This ancient Chinese art, which literally means “wind and water,” is the practice of positioning objects and buildings in harmony with nature to ensure good fortune.
The art is taken quite seriously here, so I’m pleased when I come across Mr. Yu and his free feng shui class for visitors. Mr. Yu is an experienced practitioner of this art, and he lectures on it each week for the Hong Kong’s Meet the People program.
Goemancy, as feng shui is also called, is an important part of the local architecture. Many residents believe that a business’ success hinges on assuring harmony in the environment. Winnie points out one building with “bad right angles,” and then others that offer “beautiful harmony.”
She tells me of one local businessman who scoffed at feng shui and built his office building to his own whims. Of course, as many here could foretell, such foolishness was costly. The business soon went under.
After this introduction to feng shui, the layout of the city, its harbors and skyscrapers take on new meaning. Such insight into Chinese culture offers visitors a rare opportunity to see Hong Kong in a whole new light. And that, some would say, enriches any visit.
If You Go
Hong Kong Tourism Board