Anaïs Nin, Hong Kong

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It’s late, and I’ve got an early day tomorrow, but these thoughts seem to be swimming in my head like carp in an endless pond.  I recently took a vacation to Hong Kong, and I’ve been flooded with ideas; and the world changed in a day, or maybe it was a day and a night and a day, I honestly don’t know.  We’ve been rocked over here with the disaster in the Philippines and somehow everything is both the same and different.

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I met up with a friend in Hong Kong this past week and was finally afforded the chance to visit a place I had always wanted to go.  And it doesn’t diappoint–the garish neon signs, the crowded night markets, the smell of noodles cooking in the street–it’s like the dirty underbelly of Singapore, international and gaudy and full of alleyways teeming with dealers beckoning tourists into their backrooms of illegal goods.  I made it a point to see the Temple Street Night Market, the Ladies Market, acquire good dim sum, and visit the Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden.

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The Temple Street Night Market is located in Kowloon, where we were staying.  If you take the MTR to Jordan Station you will be very close.  You can buy cheap goods such as watches, sunglasses, t-shirts, scarves, food, antiques, and more.  It’s quite crowded, and a definite MUST is haggling with the dealers; although don’t go too low or they will begin to heckle you.

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The Ladies Market is located in Mong Kok, and is largely the same sort of merchandise.  However, I thought it to be a bit larger and, as the name suggests, a bit more geared toward women (I bought a lovely pashmina scarf and mint skirt).

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Switching gears a bit, we ventured out after experiencing the crowded markets into a more serene part of the city, but not before finding some delicious dim sum.  I did a bit of research beforehand and found Tim Ho Wan restaurant in Mong Kok.   Not only is it Michelin rated, but it’s SUPER cheap!  We ate plates of dim sum for no more than $20 and walked out feeling more than full.  Afterwards, we hopped on the MTR and headed toward Diamond Hill to walk around the Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery.  

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The garden is fairly new, having been commissioned in 2006, and is a nice break from the urban setting.  The Chi Lin Nunnery was founded in 1934 but rebuilt in the 1990s.  The buildings are built in the style of traditional architecture from the Tang Dynasty, which uses the interlocking of the wood to keep the structures in place and contains no iron nails.  One can see statues of the Sakyamuni Buddha (actual Gautama Buddha), Guanyin, and other bodhisattvas.  I recommend for anyone wanting to see a bit of traditional culture and needing a break from the usual hustle-and-bustle of the city.

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I recently discovered writer, Anaïs Nin, who kept journals spanning 60 years, starting at age 11 and up until her death.  I think of the first journal I kept, around age 8, and how I’ve kept them (or these blogs) through the years.  I love looking back and reading through, seeing what my concerns were at the time, seeing who I loved, seeing what I found it worthwhile to write about.  I kept two journals through Japan, writing almost every day.

A few of Nin’s writings strike me particularly:

“You can not save people.  You can only love them.”

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” ― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 7: 1966-1974

“If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.”

Here, There, and Everywhere

So, it’s been some time.

I promise I haven’t been shirking my duties as a writer (well, maybe just a little in terms of journaling), but I have been away from bandwidth large enough to support WordPress for some time.

Work has kept me on an extended business trip of sorts, and that trip took me to Southern China.

I have traveled to Japan, South Korea, and Singapore in terms of Asian countries; China stands out in its own incredible way.

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If you think about it, no other place has truly withstood the test of time like China has; to put things into accurate perspective, Chinese unification took place in 221 BC under the Qin Dynasty.  Called the “Middle Kingdom,” it was believed to be the center of the world, having been given by the gods to the Son of Heaven, the Emperor.  China has essentially stood as is for 2000 years; the Roman Empire collapsed after 500.  The Chinese were aeons beyond the rest of the ancient world in terms of science, technology, trade, and exploration.  China has weathered revolts, invasions, and the rise of the Communists.  It is a remarkable place, rich with history and steeped in tradition.

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It is also a poor place.

I did not learn about China from a hotel room in Beijing or Shanghai or Hong Kong.  I learned about China walking the streets of a place in Guangdong province, where I was stared at, not only because I was white and most of the people had never seen a foreigner before, but because I represented money.

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A woman with her children smiled at me from a dark corridor in this dilapidated city;  her eyes were bright and she was pretty–perhaps no older than 27 or 28.  There was a film of water running over the ground, slimy and tinted green from the constant flow and I wondered if it was indicative of the quality of the water there.  We were told not to drink the water; these people did not have the luxury of that choice.

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There was a family in front of the building they must have lived in; none of the doors or windows had screens, only metal skeletons.  I wish the quality of this shot had been  better; but it was a really lucky one to get:

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There is  way that the candidness can not be recreated.  This was China for me.

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