Northern Idiocy, Part III

I woke up in the middle of the night absolutely frozen and in a tug-of-war over blankets. I'm from Canada. I believe I am an expert in cold. I don't need to make up stories for my grandkids, I actually do walk to work when it's below -40 degrees celcius. So it's simply naivety that I, of course, knew it got cold in the desert at night but I didn't realize exactly HOW cold it got. It is downright bone-chilling! Having said that, I'm from Winnipeg so naturally I won the battle for the comforter. 


If you've never been to the Grand Canyon, let me describe the experience: if visiting the South Rim—the most popular location to view this natural wonder—you will start your day, preferably early, driving in from either Flagstaff or Williams. The journey will take just over an hour on a single lane highway in which not a single vehicle will pay heed to the posted speed limit. There are few places to stop. You will, however, pass a Flintstones campground that looks like it was constructed in 2018 B.C. (it might be enjoyable to visit for nostalgic purposes if it weren't so damn depressing). As you near the national park entrance, the landscape will change from desert to thick forest. Afterwards, you will be met with several supersized parking lots. Even if you arrive early, like we did, they will all be near capacity. 

I managed to park in the last row of the last lot which was near some trees that I hoped would provide a bit of respite from the blazing sun. HA! Northern idiocy redux. Both my car and myself would feel like they were set on fire at the end of the day, the non-covered parts of my skin turning a hue comparable to Pantone 186. What you might not realize is how few amenities there are next to these giant parking lots at the Grand Canyon, just a visitor centre and a scenic overlook. To get to the township and other points of interest, one must get on one of several bus lines that takes visitors around the park proper. Of course, during the summer these have longer line-ups than Disneyland. It makes for a long, sweltering day of mostly just standing around. I did about an hour's worth of hiking, took a few selfies to prove I was there and then left with a souvenir bottle of Canyon Cutter white wine

The Grand Canyon is, undoubtably, spectacular. But I did not feel relaxed there or in touch with nature. I felt hurried. I felt stressed. At the end of it, I didn't feel any deep connection. For me, it paled in comparison to the isolated, howl-at-the-moon wild of highway 89A from the previous day. That was very much the highlight of my trip. 

The evening was spent back in Williams, Arizona, only this time at a hotel rather than a teepee.  Williams is a small town located on historic U.S. Route 66., also known as the "Main Street of America". It is, perhaps, the most iconic highway in all of the United States, previously acting as the main thoroughfare for people who migrated from the midwest to southern California during the Great Depression. The town of just over 3,000 citizens definitely caters to tourists with a nod to Americana; there are more classic fifties-style diners within its boundaries than any major city I've visited before. As well, the imagery of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe appear to still resonate, symbolizing a feeling (or idea) we collectively aim to capture. 

We walked the streets as sunlight transitioned to dusk, conversing about what America was and what it's become. We later returned to our hotel room to drink. 

 Me at the entrance to the Grand Canyon (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Me at the entrance to the Grand Canyon (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 South Rim, Grand Canyon (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

South Rim, Grand Canyon (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 South Rim, Grand Canyon (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

South Rim, Grand Canyon (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 South Rim, Grand Canyon (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

South Rim, Grand Canyon (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 South Rim, Grand Canyon (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

South Rim, Grand Canyon (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Interstate 15, Part II

I like Montana. I like the mountains and crisp air and postcard panoramas. The first night of our road trip we stayed in its capital, Helena, which has less than 32,000 citizens. This statistic nicely details just how sparse the population is within the state. It's very ... breathable. Outside the natural scenery, the capital is somewhat nondescript in appearance; being two hours delayed from the unexpected detour, we made our way to a wood-fired pizza place and then just retired to our hotel room for the night not feeling like we missed anything. For future trips, I feel Butte would have been a better overnight destination. With snow-capped peaks framing it in the distance and historic architecture steeped in legend, the word "majestic" seems well-suited to describe its beauty. 

One can take Interstate 15 all the way from the Canadian border to the Mexican one. It's a nice drive with lots of rest stops, fuel stations and, within Utah at least, numerous billboards reminding people that God is watching and you should atone for your sins. 

Outside of having an ultra-conservative religious base that practices polygamy, I didn't really know anything about Utah. Ignoring the influence of creed and instead seeking enlightenment from mother nature, I was completely in awe of the rock formations in the southern portion of the state which includes a number of protected areas, national and state parks such as the breathtaking Grand Staircase National Monument. Eventually turning east off of Interstate 15, we were in the thick of it while enroute to our next stop: the biggest tourist destination of them all – the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  

Highway 89A in particular, a scenic route that runs through a Navaho reservation in Arizona, was the highlight of my entire trip. Driving through it was a showcase of some of America's most iconic landscape; landscape which has featured in many a Hollywood western to represent our storied, brutal history. I half-expected the ghost of John Wayne to manifest on the horizon as we drove this isolated stretch of roadway. Or perhaps hear the distant call of the roadrunner. Meep Meep.

Our adventure-filled day ended on a magical note as we slept in a teepee under a galaxy of visible stars. Living in a city with constant light pollution, this reminder of the scale of the universe (and my place within it) was a cathartic ending to a long, tiring, immensely memorable day. 

 Start of Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Start of Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Hiking off Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Hiking off Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Our accommodation for the night, a teepee in Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Our accommodation for the night, a teepee in Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Interior of teepee, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Interior of teepee, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Teepee selfie, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Teepee selfie, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Also the first BBQ of the season, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Also the first BBQ of the season, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Hong Kong X

Every morning after waking up, I would open the curtain from the window and flood my room with light from the rising sun. I wanted the view of the city—my impeccable view of Victoria Harbour—to be the first thing I saw. It was a sight that would fill me with motivation and gratitude. And as my trip was nearing its end, I wanted to soak up every minute of it in hopes that the feeling would carry forward long after I left Hong Kong. 

Beyond the view, there was something else at the window that elicited wonder from me daily. A bird would often circle around my window, perhaps able to see movement behind the glass and as curious about me as I was about him and his urban adventures.


A bird wouldn't be the only creature that I held silent conversation with. 

Visiting Buddhist temples and pausing in the presence of their serenity was a most welcome respite from the constant traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian. Outside, people just stared at the screen of their phone (like most everywhere else, just amplified here amongst 7+ million citizens). While inside, one couldn't help but take stock of their surroundings as the feeling of peace carried over the air with the wisps of incense. Man Mo Temple was a highlight but I also wanted to return to Wong Tai Sin, the "good luck" temple. I wanted my trip to start, and end, there in the hopes that its myth might rub off on me. 

On my second visit, I had a strange encounter. One that I should preface with a brief story because I know it's going to sound strange and unbelievable but is not, perhaps, entirely unprecedented. A few years ago, my best friend was on her own spiritual journey and found herself delving into the world of crystals, even attending a conference to learn about their supposed healing power and other mystical properties. One strange experience she shared with me was participating in a breathing exercise circle. As she paced her exhalation, eyes closed and deep in thought, she felt the sensation of someone poking her stomach. Immediately exiting her zen-like state, she darted her eyes to see who it was. And there was no one present. Admittedly, I thought she may have, ahem, also been researching other "natural" ways to seek enlightenment during this period but it turned out to not be the case and she swore by the story.

And now, back to mine. 

On my second visit to Wong Tai Sin, I again paid respects at the alters, each representing one of the five geomantic elements—metal, wood, water, fire and earth—and ended by pausing in the Good Wish Garden. It was here that I took a few moments to reflect on my newfound love for the city of Hong Kong, the hardships I've experienced over the past few years and my hope that the future would continue on a path of light ... when I felt a poke. It DISTINCTLY felt like someone's finger poking me near my ribcage. I, like my friend, immediately exited my trance and looked around to see who it was. 

But there was no one there. 

I looked down at the pond, at the koi swimming around, and for the first time I saw a turtle perched on a rock staring at me.  


At Wong Tai Sin, I returned to the same fortune teller I visited ten days prior. On this occasion, he had a line of two women awaiting his seer services. I joined them by sitting patiently on a stool outside his tiny storefront and recollecting back on the futurities he previously shared with me. After involving myself with some dubious characters over the years, that initial inquiry specifically related to my love life. People these days act like love is an archaic concept and feelings don't exist but I am not wired that way. I value honesty, integrity and respect and lament how rare they increasingly seem to be as people treat the emotions of others like commodity to be traded for ego. This toxicity can, unfairly, also taint future relationships as well and while I have met someone who possesses the strong character traits I desire in a partner, I don't want my past to hold any influence on my view of who they actually are. 

"They will travel to meet you. You will meet at an event relating to dance."

And so it was written.

My partner is originally from Kerala, India, but has lived in Australia, South Africa and South Korea performing scientific research. I met him three years ago at a salsa dancing class neither he, nor I, was planning to be at. The chemistry was immediate. All night, I noticed him staring at me (and I'm sure he did likewise). When my friend wanted to leave, I implored her to stay just a little bit longer as I felt I wasn't leaving without his number. Too shy to approach him though, I felt I could will it into fruition. Sure enough, a few minutes later he asked me to dance and the rest was history. While we've had our ups-and-downs, our ons-and-offs, we always return to each other as we are best friends. 

I waited in line for around thirty minutes and then made the decision to leave. The original fortune I received could have been somewhat vague to anyone, but there was an eerie specificity to my life that gave me hope I already found the answer I was looking for. 


The last image of my trip that will forever stay with me is flying over the red lights of a ferris wheel illuminated against the stark countryside of Taiwan down below. Sometimes the perspective you need can only be found at 20,000 feet. 

 Hong Kong sunrise (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Hong Kong sunrise (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Central district, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Central district, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 Hong Kong's famous trams, Central district (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Hong Kong's famous trams, Central district (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 Central district, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Central district, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 Rainy afternoon in the Central district (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Rainy afternoon in the Central district (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 Back alleys of Central district (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Back alleys of Central district (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Man Mo Temple (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Walking along the promenade at night, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Walking along the promenade at night, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 Various amulets available for purchase at Wong Tai Sin Temple (you best believe I now own a "get rid of scumbag" amulet) (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Various amulets available for purchase at Wong Tai Sin Temple (you best believe I now own a "get rid of scumbag" amulet) (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 One last selfie from the top of Hotel Icon (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

One last selfie from the top of Hotel Icon (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Hong Kong IX

This will be a long, photo-heavy post because the day I trekked to Lantau Island, Tai O Fishing Village and Po Lin Monastery was the most memorable of my trip. 

I get anxiety from the small things while traveling, which sounds ridiculous because I feel that traveling solo to a foreign land where you don't know anyone, not even the language, is of itself pretty bold. But things such as my first trip on a local subway or bus cause great stress and I generally put it off for a few days until I familiarize myself with my immediate surroundings (and the temperament of the local populace). During my time in Hong Kong, there were places I wanted to visit that required me to take on this fear so I couldn't put it off for long.

Entering Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station amongst a sea of people during the morning commute nearly made me break out in hives from nerves. It felt like there were more people rushing about than the entire population of the city I now live in. I searched for the least crowded ticket dispenser and felt my breathing increase as I made my way to the front of the line. "What if I don't understand how to use it?", "What if I cause the people behind me to miss their train?", "What if people start yelling at me for being an idiot?", "What if?", "What if?"

When all was said-and-done, I discovered that the Hong Kong subway is the EASIEST to navigate of all the places I've been. It's a complete breeze! And the local populace is more welcoming and patient than other western cities of equivalent size. This realization gave me a new freedom during my trip, broadening my horizon as to how (and where) I could spend the remainder of my days. The confidence these small tasks can instil should not be underestimated. Small steps can lead to great journeys. 

The train eventually took me across land and over water to Lantau Island, home of Tai O Fishing Village, Po Lin Buddhist Monastery and its "Big Buddha". To get to these sights though, I had to take a long—and very scenic—gondola up a mountain, choosing to upgrade to the glass-bottomed version for optimal viewing. On the twenty minute or so ride, I was grouped with a family from New Delhi, India. At first I sat in the corner, looking out into the distance and not wanting to infringe as they took numerous photos of each other and coordinated dance moves for a video they were making. Seriously (at one point I grew concerned at how much the gondola was rocking). The father eventually reached out asking if I wanted a picture taken of myself. After saying yes, I was pretty much adopted into their clan for the remainder of the day and even invited back to their hotel afterwards to feast on my favourite dish, biriyani, which we all agreed was better than the fish-heavy local cuisine. 

I learned that they would be moving to Canada in the coming year, seeing it as a clean break from a homeland that they described as being riddled with corruption. This echoed what I have heard from others, including my partner who is originally from southern state Kerala. They inquired as to the best place to settle in my homeland and asked just how cold our winters were. I'm not sure they believed me. But they will find out. As the conversation continued, the men - the father and his two adult sons - excused themselves from the women and invited me for a cigarette. It amused me that they assumed I smoked (I don't). When I asked if their wives would be joining, they informed me they would "never". The youngest son even tried to conceal his habit from his new bride by holding nacho chips in his hand which he felt would eradicate all traces of the smell of smoke. 

I felt a tinge of pity for his naïveté.

How little men know that when a woman wants to find out what her mate it up to, it is with the greatest of ease that she become a Russian-level spy. 


After disembarking from the gondola, I took a bus from Ngong Ping Village to Tai O Fishing Village which is pretty much constructed on stilts overtop of water. It was an amazing sight to behold and offered glimpse into a life vastly different than my own. A life revolved around the ebb of tides versus the whims of head office. I was even invited into one of these traditional homes for a brief tour. Its sparse decoration focused on pictures of family and their history, along with written Buddhist prayers. Another thing I noticed about this place was the number of dogs running about. Maybe it was their freedom, maybe it was the scraps of fish that were thrown their way, but these friendly, happy doggos beamed with contentment. I set out a goal of petting and taking pictures of all of them. 

I also took a boat ride around the general area and saw a portion of the world's longest sea bridge; the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge connects the three major Pearl River Delta cities at a span of 55km. The megaproject hasn't even opened yet and will officially welcome vehicular traffic in July 2018. 

Completing my day-long excursion, I visited Po Lin Buddhist Monastery where I hiked up to "Big Buddha" and contemplated the next steps I want to take in life.  

 Going up the Ngong Ping 360 gondola on Lantau Island, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Going up the Ngong Ping 360 gondola on Lantau Island, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Looking down at Lantau Island—and my filthy Nikes—while looking through the glass-bottom gondola on Lantau Island, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Looking down at Lantau Island—and my filthy Nikes—while looking through the glass-bottom gondola on Lantau Island, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Going up the Ngong Ping 360 glass-bottom gondola on Lantau Island, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Going up the Ngong Ping 360 glass-bottom gondola on Lantau Island, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Taking part in a traditional tea ceremony on Lantau Island (@Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Taking part in a traditional tea ceremony on Lantau Island (@Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Lantau Island, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Lantau Island, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Lantau Island, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Lantau Island, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Good boy no. 1, Lantau Island, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Good boy no. 1, Lantau Island, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Good boy no.2, Lantau Island, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Good boy no.2, Lantau Island, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Good boys no.3 and no.4, Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Good boys no.3 and no.4, Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Family portrait inside home in Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Family portrait inside home in Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Toilet in house in Tai O Fishing Village. I'm glad I didn't have to go because I don't know how to swim if I fell in (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Toilet in house in Tai O Fishing Village. I'm glad I didn't have to go because I don't know how to swim if I fell in (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 Good boy no.5, Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Good boy no.5, Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 What's for dinner? Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

What's for dinner? Tai O Fishing Village, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 My new adoptive family, Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

My new adoptive family, Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Good boy no.6, Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Good boy no.6, Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Climbing up to Big Buddha at Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Climbing up to Big Buddha at Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Climbing up to Big Buddha at Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Climbing up to Big Buddha at Po Lin Monastery, China (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Hong Kong VIII

Hong Kong vignette no.1: The rising sun cast a marigold tint over the Central District as I leisurely strolled along Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade. There were few people out at this hour. Joggers made use of the cooler temperature. As well, other sleep-deprived tourists snapped selfies as the neon signage flickered in conclusion to a long night. I paused, taking it all in. At a different time, I would not be afforded the solitude to appreciate the spectacular view I now faced. 

And then, a noise.

The faint sound of music approaching.

As it neared, I recognized the instrumentation and, of course, THE voice. An older woman paused around ten feet from me also to soak in the glorious view of her presumed hometown. On her iPhone, she loudly played Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Love of All". I remained still as well, thinking about how small the world is and how this moment, however pedestrian, would remain near the top of my memories of Hong Kong. 

Hong Kong vignette no. 2: Later in the day, I stood near the entrance to the mid-levels escalator with the intent of taking a picture of this unique urban convenience. As I posited the perfect angle, the siren call of hell's gate opening—or something similar—rumbled. It was loud. It was shrill. It was a tiny, old Cantonese man perched atop the biggest hog I have ever seen in my life as it blasted Michael Jackson's "You Are Not Alone". The contrast both amused and fascinated me. 

He stopped at the light while everyone in the vicinity stared at him with curiosity and awe. I could tell he enjoyed it. I could tell he was a rock star in his own mind. He revved his motor a few times for the crowd and smiled before driving away. 

"That's how you live life," I thought to myself. 

Hong Kong VII

I am a creature of habit. My hotel in Hong Kong was situated across a public square that I walked through daily. So ingrained in my mind is this prosaic ceremony that I can recall every detail from the advertised price of traditional remedies in the medicine shops, to the faces of the gweilo lined up at McDonalds ordering strawberry ice cream cones, to the hare krishnas causing spectacle with song and dance while soliciting their creed (and monetary donations). While it may seem boring to have such a predictable routine—especially while on holiday—I now relish the ability to close my eyes and return to such sweet vivid memory in my life. 

This public square became the starting point for my journey to several markets within the city, including the bird market, flower market, ladies market and Temple Street night market. There was also a pet market, which I would normally be excited to visit, but I read that it wouldn't be a happy place filled with boops and zooms so avoided it. Watching a fish try to escape a food stall one day was all my sensitivity could handle. 

The bird market, known as the Yuen Po Bird Garden, and flower market are adjacent to each other. Neither one is very big—the bird market just constitutes a small lane—but they are interesting to visit. Birds are a popular pet in China and this area acts as a place for locals to take theirs out for show, somewhat similar to a dog park in North America. In mid-afternoon, this was THE area for senior citizens to congregate and socialize with a bamboo cage in one hand and deck of cards in the other. There were also several shops selling all manner of fowl and the insects they consume. 

The ladies market and Temple Street night market are very similar. They both have a maze of stalls selling mass produced, cheaply made merchandise that is of dubious quality and origin. I walked through them and became bored after awhile. There's only so much knock-off Supreme clothing that one can take. The only thing that caught my eye was a pair of Gudetama (!!!) pajamas that I bartered down from 300HKD to 80HKD (roughly $13.00 CDN). They are an XL and I can barely fit into the pants. Perhaps the only difference between these two markets were the prostitutes chatting up the foreigners in the Temple Street area. As I travel alone, I'm always leery of being mistaken for one but then remember that I look like a journalist and there are few men into that kink. 

On that topic, Hong Kong has the most sex shops of any city I've visited. 

 Birds for sale at Yuen Po Bird Garden, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Birds for sale at Yuen Po Bird Garden, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Yuen Po Bird Garden, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Yuen Po Bird Garden, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Birds for sale at Yuen Po Bird Garden, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Birds for sale at Yuen Po Bird Garden, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Seniors socializing at Yuen Po Bird Garden, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Seniors socializing at Yuen Po Bird Garden, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 The flower market, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

The flower market, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 The flower market, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

The flower market, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Temple Street night market, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018)

Temple Street night market, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018)

 Area near Temple Street night market, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018)

Area near Temple Street night market, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018)

 Area near Temple Street night market, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018)

Area near Temple Street night market, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018)

 Area near Temple Street night market, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018)

Area near Temple Street night market, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018)

 Area near Temple Street night market, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018)

Area near Temple Street night market, Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018)

 One of Hong Kong's many sex shops (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

One of Hong Kong's many sex shops (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Meat market in the Central district of Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Meat market in the Central district of Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Meat market in the Central district of Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Meat market in the Central district of Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Meat market in the Central district of Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Meat market in the Central district of Hong Kong (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 The despondent face of the fish that tried to escape (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

The despondent face of the fish that tried to escape (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Hong Kong street fashion on the Star Ferry (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Hong Kong street fashion on the Star Ferry (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Hong Kong VI

I need to write about food in Hong Kong. 

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It's FUCKIN' expensive! 

Prior to my trip, I watched a number of Youtube videos that spoke of this but I chose not to believe them foolishly equating Hong Kong with the mainland that I visited oh, so long ago. Cities like Shanghai and Beijing had a cornucopia of delicious street food options that one could purchase with the spare change in their pocket. Hong Kong ... not so much. In fact, I can't even recall seeing a single street food vendor and prices matched - if not outright exceeded - the costly eats I've had in places like London and Paris. Prices seemed to be 3 - 4 times what I'd spend on equivalents in Canada. Thank God my hotel had a free mini bar; those Halloween-sized bags of BBQ potato chips and M&Ms sustained me.  

The difficulty of doing a quick monetary conversion in my head also played into my ignorance regarding food prices. As did absence of shared language. On my third day in the city, I passed a small traditional Chinese restaurant where a plate of beef stir-fry caught my eye. I am trying to cut back on meat but the whole presentation - with a mountain of seasoned vegetables atop a bed of noodles - really appealed to me. With all the hiking I was doing, my body would welcome the nutrition. While I do enjoy sitting in restaurants and savouring the entire experience of dining in a foreign land, the restaurant was packed and thus I ordered the dish as takeaway. Staff initially appeared to not know the price as I pointed to it, quizzically looking at each other, but finally quoted me a reasonable 60HKD (roughly $9.50 CDN). I paid and stood to the side, eventually flipping through a table menu as I waited where I observed the exact same meal listed at 35HKD. I was annoyed but chose to not say anything, considering it part of the cost of travel. But when I got back to my room and opened the container to see that it was 98% noodles, 1.5% poorly cooked beef and .5% scallions (and that's generous), I vowed to be more diligent. I feel I was given a cup of Nissin. I eventually found an Indian restaurant that had delicious biriyani and garlic naan. I visited so often that the owner knew me by the end of my trip. 

The most sticker shock I received though was at a supermarket in the IFC Mall. Now that I'm learning how to cook, the main souvenirs I wanted to purchase for myself included a number of ingredients that aren't readily available back home. Like pickled sakura cherry blossoms. Didn't know I wanted them, and have no idea what I'm going to do with them, but I now have some in my pantry. I could have walked around this store for hours studying the packaging and thinking up recipes that may or may not be edible when I finished. After filling my basket with a few obscure baking items and small snacks, I made my way to the register where the total caused me to gulp: 752HKD (roughly $120.00 CDN). If purchased in Canada, at our most expensive grocery, I don't feel it would have topped $30. 

As for the item pictured above? That is "suckling pig" and will set you back roughly $30 CDN.  

 My pickled sakura blossoms.

My pickled sakura blossoms.