Monday, January 10, 2011

The country day and the city day

A breathtakingly great day.  My decompression last night seems to have given me a very robust second wind.

I could see the escalator from my hotel room.
I met my colleague (now friend), Tom, at the lobby of Nomura in IFC (because we know all the bank lobbies!) for a trip to Lantau Island.  I got to take the Mid-Levels Escalator down, a direction in which it only runs from 6:00 to 10:00 AM.  Since I am actually in Central already, it was a very short ride.  I was in IFC in four minutes.  What an amazing location my hotel is in. 

Grabbed a Greek yogurt (full fat, oops and yum) and a hot croissant at a cafe, then found Starbucks with comfy chairs and had my tea and breakfast.  The stores of IFC were closed.  It is a beautiful mall, and it was delightfully peaceful.


MTR to Lantau Island and then gondola to the top of the mountain to see the largest outdoor seated Buddha in the world.  Because it was hazy, the views of the South China Sea were not terrific.  At the top, we stopped into a souvenir store, one that was not typical of the souvenir stores we'd seen, and we spent a while there asking a very nice young woman about the music and the paraphernalia.  I bought a CD of someone who is apparently famous singing the Heart Sutra, which is the only CD they had that was in Chinese and not Sanskrit.  I fell in love with the "wooden fish," which, she explained, is just the word for "wooden," but it is also the word for "fish" or something, although it doesn't look like a fish.  It's a percussion instrument that you tap to focus your meditation.

At this store, they had the lots that I drew for my fortune yesterday.  The young woman was impressed that I knew how to shake the jar.  The lots come with a book that tells you your fortune based on the lot you draw.  My fortune was good.  The young woman said that you can do the lots once per day and that my fortune could be good today even if it wasn't yesterday.  Yes, I hear that and feel optimistic -- what is that?  I spent a long time thinking about buying a jar of lots, and I didn't, and I should have, but maybe I can find them (and the wooden fish) in San Francisco.

I appreciate that Tom is an endurance shopper.  We both spent a long time at that store.

We ate at the vegetarian restaurant at the Po Lin Monastery.  We paid a little extra to sit in the "VIP Room" and theoretically had better food.  The food was abundant and delicious.

This was the experience that I did not have at the Wong Tai Sin temple yesterday, only without urban crowds.  Lots of incense (of various sizes, to say the least), lots of places to burn them, people davening.  For the big Buddha, the davening happens on a plaza well below it because it's so big that when you get close you can't take it all in.  It was beautiful.

Tom seems to dither on decisions as much as I do.  So after the Buddha we debated hiking back down the mountain.  We tried to gather information, which is my style of dithering, too.  We looked at maps.  We followed signs.  We decided to visit the Wisdom Path and before making a decision.

The Wisdom Path is a magnificent infinity-symbol of wooden pillars with the Heart Sutra written on them.  Beautiful and peaceful.

Then we looked at more maps, decided to hike in a little circle and then take the bus down.  Halfway through the hike, dithering at a new map (and they reoriented the map at every hiking point, which was incredibly confusing), we chatted with two French guys, who asserted that this particular road would take us back to the subway.  We followed their decisiveness and began walking down the path together.

They went on ahead; luckily, my guidebook had instructions about where to turn, and I believe they are still wandering the hills of Lantau right now, because there are some really obscure turns on that walk.  We got to the bottom and discovered we were not near the subway station (because we could see the gondolas waaaayyyy in the distance) and kept walking.  Near a massive apartment block structure, we saw creatures of some sort.  Urban Tom and I weren't sure what they were.  He said bulls (no udders; but also no bull anatomy); I said yaks.  Either way, they were grazing by the side of a busy road with a bus stop nearby.  We were afraid, and then a local woman just marched right between them, so I got close and took pictures.  I am not sure I've ever been that close to horns.

Much more walking and wandering, and Tom asked for directions, and we found a group of local hikers who were walking back to the MTR station.  All in all, several hours of walking.

Back in Hong Kong, we met Tom's friend, Susannah, and we went to the Manchurian restaurant the rabbi had recommended, the one I had tried to go to last night but found that it was fully reserved.  Another fantastic meal!  Then I found that they were partiers, and we walked around Soho, stopped in a bar called Lotus for a drink (a black pepper-infused vodka pineapple martini -- the best drink I've ever had).  It was 10:00 PM, and they were beginning their night of bar-hopping, and Tom knows some fairly well-hidden late night clubs.  I had committed to myself to get a Shanghai pedicure, which I had googled that morning, so I took my leave of them.

Tom emailed me at 2 AM, when I was also still awake, to say that Hong Kong is dead on a Sunday night.

I went to a reputable place for the Shanghai pedicure, Happy Foot.  There is some strict accreditation around doing this kind of pedicure.  The dead skin was very finely shaved off my feet with a scalpel.  The guy even cut my toenails with a scalpel.  The Mandarin Oriental Hotel here apparently offers this kind of pedicure, which is considered the best in the world.

Since my neck and shoulders had been spasming all week, giving me horrific headaches, I asked for a neck and shoulder massage.  "Full body massage," the pedicurist said.  Neck and shoulders, I gestured.  He directed me to a room.  "Full body massage," he indicated.

A full-body acupressure massage.  What was I thinking?  After hours of hiking in the cold, why wouldn't I want a full-body massage?  At 10:30 at night.  Fantastic.

I walked the three blocks back to my hotel and celebrated my day.