This morning was a bit more relaxed than most. We didn’t have to wake up early to work, and instead met downstairs for hotel breakfast at around 10:15am. After an exciting evening last night, I was grateful for an opportunity to sleep in. Breakfast was great. They have delicious French toast, and Alex Kee learned that we do, in fact, have it in America as well. They also have noodles and fried eggs and dumplings, though most are not vegetarian.
The group met to go visit some nearby areas at 11:45, and we took the MTR to the Wong Tai Sin temple. The temple square smelled of incense, and many people stood praying or rubbing the statues located at the base of the temple. Several of us took incense to burn; it was in an open area for anyone to take. Most people were taking at least three sticks of incense (that number seems to be significant but I don’t know enough about Taoism to say why). I watched the smoke of my incense unfurl and thought about things I hoped and wished for, mostly the health of my friends and family. It was relaxing to watch people praying, to get a glimpse of the personal moment between an individual and their spirituality.
We walked through the rest of the temple and though it was beautiful, I couldn’t help but notice the contrast between those short, colorfully decorated buildings and the tall city towers behind them. There is something magnificent about cities, but also something a bit confining as well. One of the most apparent differences to me between Hong Kong and Philadelphia has been the usage of space. Almost all the buildings here reach high into the sky, and when I see the clothes hanging to dry out the windows of each building, I can’t help but think that I would feel a bit trapped and small from my one window of one building on a single city block. After seeing the dazzling lights from the peak the other night, it really hit me just how many people occupy the small area of these islands. No wonder the MTR has to be as clean and efficient as it is, and the traffic of everyday life so organized. Anyway, it was very calming to wander along the paths of the temple, but the highlight of my day was definitely our next stop, the Nan Lien garden.
This was hands down my favorite place in Hong Kong so far. We walked through the garden and stepped inside many wooden, earthy-smelling buildings. I took my time walking through and breathing in the fresh air. My nose felt so alive!! There is a lot more cigarette smoke in public areas in Hong Kong than in Philadelphia, and it has been difficult to acclimate to that. In the garden, I felt like I finally got the chance to breathe deeply and enjoy it. The trees and water were also quite beautiful, as were the wooden structures and the koi fish circling in the pond. Though the water wheel was kind of fake (not actually powered by naturally flowing water, but by a high pressure spout), it was interesting, from an engineering perspective, to see the layout of a water turbine-powered building.
Then we walked across the street to a nunnery, which had more wooden architecture. Afterwards, we went into a mall, where a couple of us bought snacks. I bought a cheesy bread which I ate in minutes – it was pretty good.
Since many of us were tired, we headed back to the hotel at around 3:30pm. When I got back, I took a much-needed nap and some of the others went to the hotel pool. For dinner, we went to the mall food area. I tried some delicious rice, eggplant, and something Alex suggested I eat… I think it was Chinese seitan but I’m not entirely sure.