August 29, 2007
I'm in the Stanley Market, a trolling ground for stolen authentic, or illegally made knock off merchandise, as well as all manner of pottery, Buddha heads, kitanas, postcards, and Bruce Lee shirts as well as all nature of Chairman Mao tchotchkes and merchandise. It's a veritable Chinatown of China. As is much of China.
I took the bus in early, before the shops were really open and it semeed to be mostly the shopkeepers dicking around playing dice, or dominos, or some combination of the two. I strolled tdown to a small shrine on the pier next to the market and looked out onto the water. I was joined by a couple taking a picture as well as a child and his parents.
There was an incense burner there on the platform built in the likeness of a traditional Chinese Pagoda building. I didn't have any matchbox cars or GI Joes, but once the others departed the scene, I decided to have a go of making it look like I was a Godzilla-like monster attacking a city. As I examined my first attempt, teeth bared and arms raised, in my digital cameras view screen, the child came back and in perfect accented English, told me he could help me take my picture. He had not seen me attempting to destroy in comical fashion that which was intended to honor anscesters and worship holy figures, so I just played dumb, let him take a nice picture of me in front of the water and then finished the job once he left.
The shops still not open I went to the beach about 1KM down the road. It downpoured on my way there and wasstill drizzling as I got into the water, raindrops exploding on the surface all around me. I put my head under and could hear the rain punching the surface. It sounded like a fire crackling and popping, Like dry leaves burning. It started to come down harder and the blaze underwater surged to a roar and the surface came to a boil jumping and peeling away. Keeping my ees close to the surface it looked like the drops were trying to escape the sea. The falling dorps an invisible sheet, the spherical heads of millions jumping and falling in the last ditch effort of life to remain free before losing itsef and becoming just one more dilluted part of a much greater whole.
I looked at the St. Stephen's miliatry cemetery across from the beach. It had been in operation since the mid 1800s but the biggest part was dedicated to those who fell in the defense of Hong Kong during WWII. The attack began December 9, 1941 and surrender was given on Christmas day. There were many that died during the four year Japanese occupation as well. But there were rows of stones, mostly belonging to the same division- The Royal Scots. It was a British detail. All killed in the same week of fighting. It was powerful to see.
Stanley market itself was a bit of a bust. I didn't bring much money and that was fine because I'm sure I will be back to spend more later. I had lunch and a beer or two and took the bus back to the City.
Anyway, I nearly left, but it was still a bit early so I walked over to the Stanley Prison Museum. A historic journey through the years of the prison system in Hong Kong. Pretty interesting stuff. Lots about corporal punishment and the Japanese occupation as well. Refugee stuff. There was also a model cell and gallows with an electronic recording of what an execution would be like. A voice described in Chinese about the prisoner getting his final meal, testing the strength of the rope with sandbags, leading the prisoner from his cell- all with sound effects to go along with it. ( I read along in English)
There was a group of young campers on a tour there being lead around by a guide. One of them escaped and came over to where I was looking at the gallows and listened to the recording describe a man's inevitable death. He wore the same expression as most young Hong Kong children who stop and stare odd looking westerners; one of mixed apprehension and some slight confusion. Two looks that seem to cancel each other out somehow, leaving them staring blankly. Trying to be friendly I smiled at the boy and nodded, gave him a slight wave as the sounds of floorboards creaking, a trap door opening, a taut rope swaying gently in a large room played in the air around us on that staged gallows. I only realized later he was probably too young to realize I didn't understand the what was being said and it must have been kind of creepy for me to be friendly and jovial towards him as we stood there listening to a reenactment of a prisoner's demise. But I mean, the guy probably deserved it.
I hit the gift shop and got a package of postcards before I hit the busline again. Something about a prison museum that is unusual and deserves boasting of having attended said place. If they had had a teeshirt for sale, I probably would have bought it. I would wear it proudly back in the states and when asked I would say, "No I didn't have to spend the night in jail, but I did psychologically damage a small child."