Sunday, March 07, 2010

Visiting Stanley

Today we struggled out of bed late, and took a taxi over to Stanley.

Stanley holds a quasi-mystical status for most Hong Kongers - it's this curious place on the other side of the island, sometimes thought of but infrequently visited.  Possibly because the journey there is something of an odyssey - an eighty dollar taxi ride from Happy Valley with most of it on a long winding road, stuck behind either a bus or a cement mixer, trundling slowly down the coast.

But when you arrive, there's a cornucopia of delights awaiting you.

Well, there's a Dymocks bookshop, just like the one in IFC, but a fraction of the size.  And there's a Watson's chemist, same as on any street in the rest of Hong Kong.  But there is a wider assortment of tourist tat in the market for you to buy.  Perhaps because Stanley is so difficult to get to (well, it's not on the MTR, which might as well mean off the end of a map with an arrow pointing towards it labelled "here be dragons") people have to talk up the quality of the market, but it's the same tat as you can buy on any of the alleyways off Queen's Road in Central.  Oh, plus some terrible oil paintings.  And possibly some variety in exactly which Bruce Lee t-shirts are available.

But if you press through the market, soon you come out to the promenade, or the Plaza, or whatever they're calling it this week.  This is much more pleasant - you can see the sea, and you can see lots of small boats bobbing up and down, and you can see Murray House, which was removed from Central about thirty years ago, and rebuilt in Stanley after being in storage for many years.  (Somewhere along the way they lost the instructions, which is why there are six stone pillars lined up outside, found to be surplus to requirements after the reconstruction.)  Along the promenade to Murray House, you'll walk past a Pickled Pelican and a Pizza Express, which help abate any feelings of homesickness for the part of Hong Kong you've just missed.

(Although on a Sunday, the Stanley Pizza Express does have some unlucky sod dressed up in a bear costume, who is followed around by several snotty-nosed seven-year-old shits, kicking him or her up the arse and tweaking its apron strings.  God, sometimes I really hate children.)

Inside Murray House lurks the Maritime Museum, which is pretty small, but because 2010 is the year of the Sea Farer, is currently littered with passive-aggressive signs telling you how important sailors are.  But in a rather inept way - "No Sea Farers - NO FREIGHT PORT", one of them reads.  Well, yes - if you had no supply chain fed by oceangoing freighters, you certainly wouldn't have much need for a freight terminal.  But I don't think anyone was talking about harpooning all the sailors aboard ships.  Or did I miss that memorandum?

There's some good exhibits in the Museum, but unfortunately I'm judging it against the Maritime Museum in Greenwich, which is more than three rooms.  It just seems a little strange that given how much of Hong Kong's history has been related to the sea, that there would be so little shown here, save a few replicas of boats and a pretty horrendous oceanliner simulator.

United Kingdom Tea Company 
And a interesting advertisement for tea.

After that, we looked at some of the postcards in the museum shop, and I tried to avoid looking at a wine bottle holder that has been designed to look like some jolly jack tar with elephantiasis of the [glass, wine-filled] penis, before going upstairs for lunch.  To Wildfire, which, once again, is hardly some unique facet of Hong Kong life only found on Stanley.  Great hummus though, pizza wasn't brilliant.

And after that excitement, it was time to go back to bed.  I'd been awake for at least four hours by then, so we took a taxi and fled.  Very, very slowly, while being subjected to a cd of easy-listening instrumental covers of Carpenters songs.  And given that Karen Carpenter was never known for her extreme-hatecore metalfest tracks, the overall effect was of being trapped in a lift at the Muzak Convention, even if that lift was proceeding at speeds of up to thirty miles per hour on bumpy roads.


Post a Comment