laundry and hookers - more to come

If I had taken my iPad Mini (I call her Minnie). I could have shown you but it was nighttime and I don't have a flash. I went on a Hong Kong by night excursion, seeing the night lights from the top of a double decker bus, with commentaries by an enthusiastic young Chinese girl with a mike, whom we couldn't hear because she faced the wrong way.  I loved the high-end, upscale shops in the heart of the city, beautifully lighted and alluring.   I was in Hong Kong, in 1996,  deliberately, before the British Crown colony was turned over to China in 1997.  It smelled of money then, even more now: clean (freshly laundered?), new money, lots of it.  The architecture is stunning from the harbour, even more so up close, worth the price of the excursion.  The draw to others, however, was the Temple Street Market.  I had hurt my foot that day and wasn't walking too well. I had brought  along a cane, just in case, and my roommate found it useful.  The next day I borrowed it back. Also, I am not in a buying mood. I have enough tschotschkkes already. So I stayed on top of the bus while others shopped. Several others stayed, too, and the guide came back and told us more than we cared to learn about the hookers of Hong Kong.  The bus had parked on a seedy street near the Temple Street market and away from the glossy shops of Nathan Street. in the heart, it seemed, of the red light district, or so our guide told us. From our bird's eye (bus-eye) view we could look down on the street and she helpfully pointed out a few hookers, also a couple of policeman checking on them.  She then proceeded to tell us what they - the hookers, not the policemen - charged.  Apparently Asian girls don't command as much as Russian girls, though I find that hard to believe.  But being helpful and enthusiastic, our guide whipped out her calculator and translated the comparative prices for us into U.S. dollars: $150 for an Asian girl; $800 for a Russian.  Njet.

The tacky street we were parked on was a low-class residential section with apartments on both sides. Because of our vantage point we could see their laundry quite clearly, dangling from whatever hook or ledge available. With my fear of heights, I would have had serious trouble hanging a sock.  However, shirts and blouses on hangers swung on the carbon-monoxided breeze, attesting to the determination and coutage of their wearers. 

Everyone in urban China hangs laundry from their windows. I remember that from seeing Shanghai twenty years ago.  .The only difference is that the more affluent have balconies and lines and some even have glass-enclosed balconies so their laundry won't get dirty while drying. On the tour I took yesterday ("Highlights of Xiamen") I saw really beautiful balconies with laundry like flags flying their colours.  That was the best part of that tour.

We had a sweet young incomprehensible guide who laughed at her own jokes (no one else understood them) and who lost a few of her charges a couple of times. We reclaimed them for her so we all arrived back at the ship. She was very proud of taking us out to a park across the water from Taiwan for a photo-op. I suppose on a clear day you could see Taiwan, but we couldn't.  

I was disappointed in the Tea Ceremony touted in the brochure and I worried about the water they were using for the tea. Most tourists know they should drink bottled water but they forget about ice cubes and swimming pools - or tea ceremonies. Our little girl didn't know what I was asking about the water. Oh, well, I thought, if 40 people came down with dysentery that night, we would all be wiser.  We were given thimble-size cups of different teas to sample (Green, Golden Green, Oolong, etc.) and a sheet of information telling us what each tea was good for.  I specially liked the properties of Litchi Tea, said to "relieve freckles."  If I ever develop anxious freckles, I'll know what to drink. 

I felt sorry, though for the three little tea ladies, so young and so needy, trying to sell tea to a restive, critical (by that time) audience, dissatisfied with our guide.  We sat on bamboo kindergarten-size chairs and gossiped and joked as we sipped our minuscule cups of (polluted?) tea.  The poor darlings had a hard time selling us tea, especially as our guide couldn't translate what they were saying, not even the price. 

So I walked too much yesterday on my sore foot. This morning I am ensconced in the library with my security blanket, my feet up, and hogging the internet. (Each stateroom gets one line so my sharer and I must share that, too. It's working out.) 

We sail at 6 tonight for Shanghai.