恭喜發財! It’s the year of the monkey!

Happy New Year!

It’s been a busy two days here in Hong Kong! On Tuesday, we did tai chi in the morning, yum cha with my grandma and exploring the market streets in Mong Kok like Goldfish Street.

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It’s an interesting place to see but probably one to avoid if you’re a big animal lover. I don’t know what their conditions are like during their tenancy at this shops but seeing a puppy or kitten in a small glass cage is pretty cruel. There are plenty of other market streets around here that are suitable for exploration and lots that have quirky souvenir ideas.

Today, started off with dragging G along with me (sorry G) to the Just Climb bouldering wall near Diamond Hill. I normally climb three to four times a week so was definitely needing a session having not been since last Monday. It was a small but good bouldering centre which makes the most of its space by having a lot of challenging routes mainly on vertical or overhang walls. I did find the routes a tad confusing though as each hold in a route was marked by a tag near the hold and not by the colour of the hold itself which is the more helpful practice – it’s hard to see the tags when you’re on the wall. It was also a lot more expensive in comparison to climbing in the UK. In London, the average place has free registration and shoe rental plus entry is ~£13. Here it was $158 for entry, $100 for registration and $40 for shoe rental if you need it which works out about ~£26. Although having looked at another climbing wall in HK, it seems like this might be to do with the local market.

After climbing we visited Wong Tai Sin Temple on the way back. It’s a beautiful old temple which sits in the midst of lots of high rise residential blocks of flats. Like most landscapes in central HK, it is a pleasant clash of nature, traditional culture and modern day city.

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If you fancy visiting this large, beautiful place of worship but hate lager crowds, any time before midnight on CNY is recommended. Chaos breaks out at the stroke of midnight as people try and be the first to offer incense to the Gods as thanks for looking after them in the previous year and for any wishes that were made and granted. Getting the incense down as early into the year as possible shows a high level of sincerity to the gods so all temples for at least the first week after CNY tend to be full of hustle and bustle. Wong Tai Sin is one of the most popular for people trying to lay the incense down first.

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Last night we went round my mum’s family for a traditional reunion dinner. This happens on the last day of the lunar year and traditionally is the main day of the year families would make the effort to all eat together (usually they would eat at different times according to needs on the farms). We had a Chinese Hotpot (although not sure if it’s called hotpot) which had all the ingredients cooked in the same pot – the traditional meal ate on this day.

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No the picture does not deceive. It was a gigantic metal bowl full of everything. Chicken, prawns, fish balls, squid, pork belly, turnips, beancurds, dried fish, mushrooms, hair moss fungus thing, dried mussels etc. Literally everything.
For dessert we had rice balls, another traditional food for today.

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The roundness of the balls represent unity of the family and symbolise the family gathering.
After midnight and letting off some fireworks (and surviving the one that went rogue), we headed back via a flower market.
These flower markets are pop up stalls that open in local community areas like basketball courts and are open up until CNY selling goods to help celebrate the new year. The goods sold vary by market but generally it’s flowers, toys and food. Last day of the lunar year is the last day these stalls are open so from evening onwards, these vendors will greatly reduce prices in order to shift their leftover stock. By 1am when we arrived, it was havoc as they were trying to flog everything so they could go home.

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The flower stalls in particular have the best deals as obviously they deal with perishable goods. One store was offering vases for $100 and then allowing those customers to fill the vases with all the flowers they wanted. Another was (forcefully) pushing literal armfuls of flowers into the crowd for $50. “Grab all you want and just pay 50, I want to go home!” Shouted the man.

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If you like a good bargain and a bit of a chaotic environment, I would definitely recommend visiting one these markets at night at the start of CNY.

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