Hong Kong is truly a concrete jungle. Aside from a few of the outlying islands, Hong Kong consists primary of skinny skyscrapers dotted with a few temples. There is no grass or trees aside from a few highly regulated parks and gardens (needless to say it is not a good place to be a dog). Eating and drinking is prohibited on all public transportation and in most of the gardens. Surprisingly most of the infrastructure, temples and gardens are relatively new.
First stop, Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery, by far our favorite part of Hong Kong. Both were constructed in 2006 to strengthen the people of Hong Kong’s awareness and appreciation of traditional Chinese culture. One of the most notable things about Nan Lian Garden its location. The garden is situated in the heart of town surrounded by massive skyscrapers and partially coved by the bypass, however due to the creative placement of water features, foliage and rocks the garden is quite insulated from noise from the bustling city. We enjoyed watching the gardeners meticulously prune the trees using just two fingers and marveled at the buildings which were all constructed using the bracket system of the Tang Sung Ming and Qing dynasties (no nails or glue required). Connected to the garden is the Chi Lin Nunnery. Set up in the traditional courtyard style the nunnery is enshrined with statues of several Buddha’s (most notably Sakyamuni Buddha) and tended by the nuns who live and worship there. In front of each Buddha the nuns place offerings such as bowls of fruit, separated by type and stacked into pyramids, massive pots of fresh orchards and tall electrical candles. The Buddahs come in many shapes and sizes but are all gold in color and sit atop large thrones. Out of respect for the nuns we honored their requests to only take pictures in designated areas and as a result we do not have any pictures of these beautiful Buddhas.
Next stop was the Ladies Market in Mong Kok Kawloon. The market is full of street vendors selling any and everything from clothes and crafts to food and fortunes. We didn’t run across any must have items but it was certainly fun to look.
In sharp contrast to the tranquil and orderly confines of the Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery, the Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple was a microcosm of excitement and chaos.
Sik Sik was built in 1921 and is claimed to make every wish come true. Upon entering the grounds we were immediately struck by the thick smoke wafting though the air and the sounds of a large drum in the distance. Excited visitors hurried about carrying fistfuls of smoking incense and small red and gold lanterns (both widely available for purchase from one of the vendors along the entrance and throughout the temple). In the center of the courtyard was a large fire pit tended by a single man. A waist high fence separated the crowd from the fire and served as the
central point of the action with long sticks of incense being transferred from the crowd to the fire man who dipped them into the flame and passed back across the rail. Smoking incense in hand, patrons then took off across the courtyard to pay homage to one the many Buddha’s or religious figures positioned throughout the grounds.
One notable figure was Yue Lao. In Chinese mythology Yue Lao, belonging neither to Buddhism nor to Taoism specifically, he was the equivalent to Cupid, tying the knots between people to form couples and marriage. He stood in between two other statues one representing a bride and the other a groom holding a thick red cord that connected the two. The nun tending the statue explained that people looking for love would fasten a red cord to the rope in hopes of finding a mate. She then gave us a cord to take home for continued good fortune in marriage. Upon further exploration of the temple we came across the twelve statues representing the twelve animals on the Chinese Zodiac. Unsure as to which ones represented our birth years we decided to pose for a quick picture with each and made a mental note to Google it when we got to Saigon before posting these pictures on the blog.