HolidayCity Flash June Edition - Monthly
had come to Hong Kong to visit my sister, who had married an expatriate and was
now living a rather enviable life in this vibrant, madly hectic city. With
almost three weeks to do my shopping, sight-seeing and lazing about, I had
thought I was in for a quiet time; but I hadn’t reckoned on the Monster.
My sister’s precocious 13-year-old daughter thoroughly deserved her nickname. I
spent an inordinate amount of time chasing her about Hong Kong as she was
delegated to ‘show me the sights’; this often included seeing her back
disappearing into a crowd as she yelled “Come on, Auntie!”. Still, we managed to
‘do’ the Peak, Nathan Road, the beach at Repulse Bay, Stanley Market, random
open-air markets and at her insistence, Disneyland.
In the midst of all these sight-seeing, my favourite stops were the brief visits
we made to the many temples in Hong Kong. I had always admired the colour and
vibrancy of Chinese temples and this was my chance to see them in real life.
On that particular day, the Monster decided I should see Man Mo Temple, which
was after all the most popular temple in Hong Kong. The numerous tour buses
parked near the temple were proof enough of that!
Man Mo Temple itself was a riot of colours: bright red pillars and walls, jade
green roof tiles, gold frescoes and indecipherable characters everywhere in all
colours of the rainbow. It seemed like there were hundreds of people throughout
the temple, adding their own noise and colour to the scene. It was overwhelming
The Monster dragged me to a row of stalls nearby, which were apparently the
domain of the fortune tellers. On her instructions, I pulled a marked ‘fortune
stick’ from a bamboo tube the fortune teller had shook, then used the number to
dig out a piece of paper with some more indecipherable characters on it from a
row of similarly numbered drawers nearby. The fortune teller then interpreted my
fortune from the paper, which I have to say, I’m still waiting to see if it
was pondering my fortunes when I realised my niece had gone missing – again –
and frantically searched until I found her contemplating two rather ornate sedan
chairs. In a calmer moment later on, she mentioned that the chairs had once been
used to carry the statues of the gods around the neighborhood but at that
particular moment, some firm persuasion was required to prevent said kid from
clambering onto a chair and pretending to be a deity. I hastily bundled her into
the main temple and sternly warned her that any further nonsense would only be
tolerated if it was approved by the deities inside. We then proceeded to examine
the statues in the temple, which she pronounced ‘cool’.
I have to admit, I thought they were cool too. I managed to pick out the statue
of the God of Literature, Man Cheong, which was wielding a brush. At this point,
some explanation was required as to why it was a brush and not a pen; as in the
Monster patiently explained to me why the Chinese wrote with brushes, not pens.
On the other hand, the statue of Kwan Yu, God of War, needed no explanation, as
he looked appropriately fierce with his red face and brandishing a sword.
Having done some surreptitious reading beforehand, I was able to airily inform
my niece that the Kwan Yu’s red face represented loyalty and righteousness and
that he was such a popular god that every police station in Hong Kong contained
a shrine to him. Unfortunately, there were also other colourful statues ranged
about the temple as well, presumably of other gods and goddesses. After repeated
questions about all the other images, I had to admit I didn’t know any other
amusing anecdotes. This did not impress the Monster very much.
There were dozens of incense sticks burning in pots full of ashes in front of
the statues, as well as rather charming bell shaped coils of incense hanging
from the rafters. The smell of the incense permeated the temple, and was rather
pleasant. I was debating with myself whether it would be improper to light an
incense stick myself when, just then, a knot of actual worshippers came forward
with lighted incense sticks to pay their respects and we tactfully withdrew.
I had actually brought my camera, planning to take the requisite touristy
pictures of the temple and the worshippers, but something held me back. Despite
the crowds and almost carnival-like coloring, the noise and overall foreignness
of the temple, as I watched the worshippers kneel before the altars and close
their eyes in prayer, I felt for a moment a sense of serene calmness and peace.
Moved, I left the camera in its pouch and quietly lead the way out,
relinquishing the temple to wafting incense and silent pleas. I think even the
Monster felt it too, for she was unusually quiet for a few minutes after we
Then, as we headed through the crowded streets to the nearest bus stand, she
piped up, “Ok, let’s go shopping!” and darted forward.
I groaned and started chasing after her again.
Book Hong Kong Hotels here
Kong Featured Hotel
Stanford Hotel Hongkong with 194 guest rooms, conveniently located in one of the
most colourful and vibrant areas of Kowloon. Wellserved by public transport - a
few minutes’ walk to the LadiesMarket and MTR Stations, with access to all parts
of KowloonPeninsula, Hong Kong Island, New Territories, Lantau Island
HKD 600. Find rates for other Hong Kong hotels
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Tips and Advice
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on the getting around in another travel destination they have
are traveling by air at peak times of year, it's worth remembering that
many airlines overbook up to 5% as a regular policy. If you allow
yourself a couple of days either side of your journey, airlines will
often accept 'volunteers' - people who are prepared to slip on to the
next available flight when their flight is overcrowded. In return, many
airlines will offer you a free upgrade, free use of their lounges, a
special cash payment and/or overnight airport hotel stay and/or free
meal vouchers. Ask at check-in whether the airline requires any
- Mike Hollingsworth, UK
If one or more persons are traveling together bypass the transfers that
are offered with packages and get a limo from the airport limo service
counters. Then you will be not first on last off the bus and if there
are at least 2 of you the price is sometimes cheaper.
- Gail Davis, OZ
Be very careful driving country roads especially at Y intersections.
Stay at an old castle out of the main cities - there is much to explore
on the grounds and in the surrounding area.
- Donita Simmons, USA
For a free and informative tour of backstreets Cairo (and probably any
Egyptian city), grab a random man passing on the street and ask him
where to buy cushion covers or the like. Undoubtedly he will have a
great aunt/third cousin twice removed/niece’s daughter who owns a cloth
shop. No matter what he was doing or where he was going, he will drop
all and lead you there, spending half an hour or more taking you through
the local market and shopping streets with a running commentary on all
the local trades. When you get there, he will of course offer you
"special price, my friend, just for you". But beware, pretty female
travellers... he will most likely try to buy you for a million camels
(more, if you barter), so travel with at least one male who can claim
you are his property!
- Liz Brooke, UK
It would be useful to learn a few common phrases in the local language.
Strangers open up when they hear people speaking in their local
language. This is a simple yet highly effective way to make new friends
as well as to make your way around the country.
- Joyce Nesamani Simson, Malaysia
Note all Malaysians and
Singaporeans visiting Hong Kong or Guangdong! Do not say 'Ta Pau' when
you order a takeaway. The Cantonese phrase is understood to mean exactly
that in your home countries through force of long usage but could be
offensive to supertitious Chinese in Hong Kong and southern China,
because you'd be telling them 'to go wrap up a corpse'.
- Steven Ching, Malaysia
A traveller does not have to
be an observer. If you are on your way to Ireland, it is imperative for
you to talk to the locals. You will find that your opinions are heard,
your company is appreciated, and your ideas will not be overlooked.
Sharing a round of drinks with an Irish local will put a smile on your
face and remind you that life can be simple and grand. An open heart
will always have room for new friends.
- Hilary, USA
If you travel to Indonesia don't forget to say "Terima kasih" for thank
you,it means a lot to Indonesians.
English is the "must" language for us, but if you go to Asia learn some
of Chinese language will be more useful.
- Luigi Ariawan, Indonesia
After freezing with a 4 hour layover at the La Airport, I vowed I would
never travel anywhere again without a sleeping bag and a good book. I
bought a sleeping bag that fold in to a 8 inch square which fits neatly
into my hand luggage. Layovers? No worries, now I snuggle up in my
sleeping bag with my book in comfort!
- Gaylene Temple, OZ
If you travel to a place where shop-owners are very forward and you feel
uncomfortable being dragged into every second shop on the street, you
must remain friendly, but at the same time also communicate what you are
interested in and what not. Don't lead the local shop owner on to
believing that you will buy something next time you pass by, that will
only make the problem worse. Remember to always be polite as you are in
- Kaare Christensen, Denmark
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