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Macyn's Present

Jim has a young friend in California named Macyn, who celebrated her 7th birthday about the time we were visiting Hong Kong. We decided that Hong Kong would be the perfect place to find Macyn a great birthday present, preferably some kind of traditional Chinese handicraft. We had 3 days available, and it took us all 3 days. This is the story of our search for Macyn's Present.

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Hong Kong Harbor.
1. Hong Kong Harbor
Street scene.
2. Street scene
Goldfish for sale.
3. Goldfish for sale
Flower market.
4. Flower market

Hong Kong — Day 1

After checking into our hotel on Nathan Street in Kowloon, we first went down to the harbor to get our bearings. It was a lot of fun watching the great variety of boats, large and small, that transit the harbor. And the views are just plain beautiful. But, we were on a mission and could not spend too much time sightseeing. We had heard that the Mong Kok area of Kowloon might be a good place to find traditional Chinese handicrafts, so we set off on the subway to begin our search for Macyn's Present.

The Hong Kong subways are quite marvelous. The trains are very long and seem to run about every 3 minutes. So, during off-peak hours at least, they are not too crowded. Throughout each train car there are computerized maps telling you where you are and where you are going. They are currently in the process of a subway system expansion. Everywhere we went, the streets were torn up due to the construction.

Once in Mong Kok, we started exploring, looking for the perfect birthday present. Our path took us through the goldfish market. For about 2 blocks on Tung Choi street we passed shop after shop selling pet fish. In addition to the simple goldfish, there were many more exotic offerings. Although some of the fish were in aquariums, most were displayed in plastic bags, ready to take home. Fish cannot survive for too long in these bags, so the shop keepers must take them out of the bags each evening and re-package them the next day. It must be a lot of work. However, although the fish were neat, they would not survive the trip to California; they would need an aquarium; and government import restrictions would surely keep them out of the US. So, we walked on, continuing our search for Macyn's Present.

We next passed the numerous flower shops on Flower Market Road. In an area about 3 blocks long and 2 blocks wide, we saw nothing but flowers. Some were familiar, others were quite different from anything we had ever seen. All of them were beautiful, and they would make a wonderful gift. But, again, transportation to California and government restrictions made flowers an impractical choice. Our search continued.

In Hong Kong, traffic follows the British pattern. Which is to say that they drive on the "wrong" side of the street. This means that pedestrians have to look to the right before crossing. There were signs on the street to help remind us to "look right." As we walked, we kept our eyes open for any possible birthday presents. The streets were full of shops and there were street markets everywhere. But somehow we could never find just the right present.

Soon we found ourselves in the Bird Garden on Yuen Po Street. This is a combination park and market area where small shops sell birds and bird food (in this case live grass hoppers). They also sell very ornate cages. The Bird Garden also provides a place for bird fanciers to gather together and to bring their birds out for some fresh air. For several blocks around the Bird Garden, we passed men bringing their birds to the park.

By this time we were hungry, so we stopped at a Chinese restaurant for noodles. During our stay in Hong Kong, we also ate at Italian, Indian, and American restaurants. Food prices were surprisingly high. Particularly after the very low food prices in the Philippines, we were in sticker shock. But it was getting late, the traffic in the streets seemed more dangerous after dark, and we were getting tired. So we returned to our hotel, promising that we would continue our search for Macyn's Present on Day 2.

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