I have been taking the train back and forth from Hong Kong to mainland China to attend various furniture & design trade shows this week. Each evening when I get back I usually feel a little restless, which I am sure has nothing to do with staying in a 100 sq. ft hotel room. At least I over look the harbour!
So I have been going for aimless strolls to see what pops up along the way. The night streets are busier than the day ones here and the lights are well, a real testament to the power of neon. I could chase a rabbit here but I want to tell you about my adventure. Stay focused Heather.
While being aimless, I saw a sign post for the “Flower Market”. Ya’ll know how I am about fresh flowers so I marched right on in that direction, already feeling giddy to go hang out with some lilies and orchids. As I approached the market street, I saw two more sign posts now, one for the “Goldfish Market” and one for the “Bird Garden”. Of course, makes sense right – where the flowers grow there is a pond filled with fish & trees full of singing birds. How delightful. In proper Chinese fashion each of these markets are within their own street blocks and do not, would not cross pollinate vendor stalls. Makes for a good themed street.
Istrolled and admired all the stunning varieties of fleurs and took in the evening air ripe with the scent of lilies and night jasmine. However its the orchids that I love the most. Unfortunately they would die within a week in my care, because “she who loves flowers, does not mean she who has green thumb”, Ancient Chinese Proverb. I noted that the flower market also sold the pots, the soils and all things flower. Harmony.
Then I went into the bird “garden” which is actually just the bird market. What a dream. The most wonderfully colored birds chatting and singing to the top of their beaks like schoolgirls at a party. I have no idea of any of the names of what I saw but they were amazing. Some were curious and just followed me around with their eyes, some yelled at me when I approached (much like the angry little stall owner who shooed me with her broom), some sang to me and some were too busy with being a bird to care. Lovely. There were guys selling carved wooden cages, seed & feed, live crickets and the most beautiful little hand painted porcelain water pots. It was harmony. All things bird.
There were lots of little finches(?) that were free and flying all over the place. That kind of seemed unfair to me. Why were the caged birds singing when all these other guys were free floating from tree to tree? Even stranger why did they stay?
The bird market ended and I landed in the middle of the goldfish market. Not for dinner, for pets. The goldfish represents abundance & wealth so every good casa has a fishbowl. Again, no clue what any of their names were, but for sure, I had no idea there were so many kinds. I liked the one with the red fez hat.
I was wearing one of those half drunk smiles as I wandered from stall to stall. I was in awe. Women were sitting filling clear bags with a handful of fish, tying them off and hanging them on the walls for the customers to hem and haw over – which looked brighter, healthier or bigger. Note – fish appear larger in the bag 🙂
There were little turtles and plants to buy to decorate your fish bowl just as there were crickets and mini porcelain water pots. All things Goldfish. Harmony.
At this point I was so light my feet were two inches from the ground and I was floating up Nathan St. completely lost in some garden full of singing birds, dripping with orchids and dotted with goldfish ponds. Think Snow White floating down the sidewalk in central Kowloon. I wasn’t paying attention to where I was headed and ended up at a night food market for the locals. I was the only yang guizi (foreign devil) in sight. Love it.
The air had changed and the scent was intense – raw fire, part cooking spices and part cooking flesh. There was another smell that I kept getting wafts of, raw meat. Snow White had left the enchanted forest. It was a local butchers market and each vendor had a few plastic tables and chairs to sit and enjoy a meal “fresh from the stove” rather than take it away for cooking at home. Some of the things I saw I would never post. (I know I am letting you down on this one Anthony, but I can’t be responsible for anyone else’s nightmares.) Suffice it say there were not little certification papers on the walls with A, B, C, D or F. My stomach began to turn, which says alot coming from a woman who took a butchery course herself. This was different. The smell was raw. I wasn’t repulsed by the sights, actually more curious. The closer I would get to the stall and BAM, there it was. Stall owners were sullen and stared at me with hard looks and scowls as if I were judging them somehow.
I stumbled out of the market and headed back towards my postage stamp. I felt confused, conflicted, almost dirty. How could one part of the culture be so appreciative of beautiful things like fish and flowers and then two streets over be butchering away on the goldfish’s cousin?
My head felt a bit dizzy, my stomach queezy and then I was here….at this temple. Tin Hau Temple.
I went inside, now getting a healthy dose of incense to add to the mix. A visual feast. Massive coils of incense were burning and giving the entire room a smoky intoxicating air while little fires burned around shrines. Each little offering has fruit or money but the central one had a whole roasted suckling pig, a whole duck and some other kids that I just couldn’t look at anymore. Then I saw a little symbol.
Yin – Yang. The Light and the Dark. The negative and positive forces of life which come together as the interaction of energy causing everything to happen. Tao. or Chi, the perfect balance of all things. Harmony.
I am not sure if I will be able to face any meat for dinner tonight just yet, but I think its true the yin yang. We must have both to know the other. No Rain, No Rainbow.