Saturday, March 12, 2011

Let's Shop STANLEY!

“The bus ride to Stanley, a trip in itself due to hair-raising curves and coastal vistas, takes approximately 30 heart-stopping minutes” –Frommer's Guide to Hong Kong 2010

So, last week I went off to Stanley. After I decided to go, I looked up in my tour book how to get there. The above blurb in the book is what greeted me. The bus drivers are crazy enough and now I had to deal with “hair raising curves” and “30 heart stopping minutes.” GREAT.

I have taken a bus tour of the Amalfi Coast in Italy. That was with a bunch of mucky mucks from the United Airlines and VPs of forwarders. On that tour, the bus driver actually CARED about getting us back alive…his tip relied on it. Now THAT ride was crazy. So winding and curving that the road actually only goes one way so cars and buses do not collide or maneuver themselves off of the cliff.

In Hong Kong the bus drivers care nothing about the passengers (see previous post). Their job is to get the bus from point A to point B. If the riders get off alive, well, that is just a bonus (to the rider).

This was my first trip on a bus without Corey checking it out for me. I had to find Exchange Square (exit A from the Central Station. I LOVE how the stations are marked). I exited to a SEA of people. I think it was all of the helpers on their day off. There were thousands of people in a one block area with bags and bags of goods. The noise was deafening with everyone talking at once. I had to cross the walkway to get over to “my” side of Exchange Square to catch my bus. I could not take the stairs b/c of all of the people sitting on them. (grrrr) I just don’t know why they were all there! When I got to the other side there were lines of people sitting on flattened boxes, shoes neatly lined up next to them, having lunch. It was almost like these boxes on the ground were their “houses” and the flat areas their living rooms or kitchens. There was even a cardboard house with a door. This went on for an entire block!

I wove my way through the “houses” to bus 6X, direct to Stanley. I had been told to sit upstairs on the double decker bus to make sure I could see everything on the road. The bus filled and off we went.

I enjoyed the ride because I got to see parts of Hong Kong I had only seen once before, and that was back in October when we were looking at flats. The island is more spacious and green than one would think. We passed the race course (horses), the Rugby club and the Tennis club! As we climbed the mountain, there were those typical show offs, RUNNING up the hill…hate them. They were really moving along.

The ride was twisty, and curvy, and maybe I had a “good” driver, but hair raising it was not. That might have had to do with the amount of traffic there was, and how slow we went. We did do a fair amount of free “tree trimming” on the way.

The one thing about Stanley is that there is only one place to get off. No question. Get off at Stanley!

Stanley itself is a coastal town with a mall (open during reconstruction) and an open market area of ALL different kinds of stores….well, they are more like stalls of varying sizes.

You can buy anything. I went looking for one particular item (I’m not telling, it’s a surprise for a friend in the States). I am pleased to say I found it, and I have been looking here on our side, so the trip was a total success.

There are shoe stores, ”name brand” clothing stores, jewelry, antiques, porcelain, trinkets, and souvenirs. You name it, they’ve got it…and they’ve got it ALL over. My rule is to walk a market, see what there is to see, note prices, and go back. Some places will bargain, some will not. My guess is they all import from the same place….and that place is NOT so far away!

I have taken Mahjong lessons since I have been here, and I got to see four elderly Chinese ladies playing behind one of the stores. I have NEVER seen anything like it. The eight of us who learned together are very measured and careful and SLOW. These ladies played with lightening speed, showing their skill and years of experience. I was just watching and could not follow. I know there was money changing hands and it reinforced NEVER to get into a game with natives. Remember that old poker rule… if you can’t spot the sucker at the table, it’s YOU! (Team Dead Money)

After shopping I went to restaurant row for lunch and a beer. I had a really nice steak sandwich, a Stella and a view. It was lovely. I enjoy people watching and I have no problem having a meal by myself. I do always have my Kindle with me for these times, but I find don’t look at it very much.

After lunch I walked to the end of the pier. I followed a family who had two daughters learning to roller blade. The older daughter had on a Barbie helmet, elbow and knee pads with pink skates. It took me right back to TX and when Kari was learning to roller blade. It made me just a little nostalgic.

The sun peaked out about now…just in time to head back to the city. I took a different bus home. I knew this bus would stop at an MTR station closer to where I needed to get off (saving $2.9 HKD). The ride back was quiet, quicker (an express bus too) and not nerve wracking at all (I am a veteran of the Stanley bus experience now).

I am hoping to go back in the next couple of weeks with a couple of ladies I have met. Dining alone is one thing, but shopping alone is another. There was no one there to “encourage” me. ( I think Corey just removed my bank card from my wallet)


  1. There are mahjong groups here in Seattle. Apparently, it's the "in thing" for the Madison Park/ Rainier Valley cool people. Now, you'll be cool, too!

  2. I've always wanted to be a "cool" kid :) The games are very different by region I guess...East v West, even between Thaiwanese and HK'ese! I just have to get up the nerve to go play "live"!