Hong Kong Island's flavorful old neighborhoods are fast disappearing into history. On this half day tour, our guide will take you to see some of the quaint remaining sections of Cantonese culture that have managed to dodge the bulldozer into the new century. Even the totally unique Tiger Balm Garden was unceremoniously razed recently to make way for yet another luxury condo, so plan to see the authentic Hong Kong before it vanishes.
An easy half-day tour for any morning or afternoon. First stop is the tiny, unimposing Tai Wong Temple (called Hung Sing by the locals), wedged between a hillside and the busy avenue, and shaded under the canopy of an enormous tree. This dim, diminutive shrine is a microcosm of much larger temples on an intimate human scale. Funerary pictures from past eras glow from dusty frames beneath the light of a single bare bulb, yet incense continues to glow faithfully for the long-departed. Offerings are proffered to the main shrine, barely perceived in the velvety shadows. Negotiate a rickety stairway to view another miniature shrine to the tree in back and then upstairs to the little office of a wizened fortune teller who reads the facial physiognomy of his clients to help dispel their bad luck.
Just down the block or across the street are a number of old traditional shops where life continues at its own pace--a pharmacy with a doctor on duty to take your pulse and dispense hand-made potions to balance your warm and cool elements, a street-side snack stand with its very own built-in merchant shrine, a gold shop where the elderly proprietors giggle oblivious to the passing traffic, colorful street signs layered like geologic strata; pawn shops, blacksmiths, clock repair shops, and more.
Wander through colorful Spring Garden Lane, with its market stalls stuffed with fun and frivolous gifts that appeal to local whimsy. There are endless opportunities for stuffing yourself as well, in a variety of hole-in-the-wall snack shops. Try a bowl of "Supernatural Miracle Tea" or other herbal concoctions guaranteed to "supplement hormones, promote gastrointestinal peristalsis, or get rid of pimples." Tastes good, too! No visit would be complete without a stop at the Refuse Collection Point and Public Toilet where homosexual recyclers can visit the famous "tearoom" at the top of the stairs.
Over in the Western District, take an unstructured walk along Queen's Road to see lots of local shops sporting all manner of dried goods, heaps of sausages, ceramic jars piled with pickles, apothecaries, dripping roast ducks, gold foil-wrapped candies, herbal teas made from flower blossoms, incense and ghost money suppliers. Drop by the Shek Tong Tsui wet market and the food hawker court another floor up. We recommend sipping the local specialty of blended tea AND coffee with sweetened condensed milk! You will certainly be tempted by all the simple and savory snacks that continue to delight local palettes despite the mushrooming McDonalds and Starbucks.