Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ni hao from Hong Kong

Ni hao! That’s how we say "hello" in Hong Kong. It sounds like "knee how." Many people speak English because Hong Kong was an English colony just like the United States. In 1997 it became part of China, again. Hong Kong is a city of skyscrapers and can be expensive but there are many free things to do. One free place to visit is the Law Uk Folk Museum, which is a 200-year-old house. It gave us an idea what life was like in Hong Kong before it became one of the most modern cities in the world. The original owner, whose last name was Law, moved to the area and built the house in the 1700s when the area was farmland. They would be surprised to see all the tall buildings surrounding their house today. We thought it was interesting that they had some things similar to what we have today like a walker with wheels for toddlers and a cradle hanging from the ceiling that they could swing gently to rock the baby to sleep. There must have been a lot of mosquitoes because they had mosquito netting around the bed. Even though the city is one of tall buildings they have some very nice parks. One of our favorites is Hong Kong Park, which has an aviary, a lily pond, and several waterfalls.

To learn more about life in Hong Kong we went to the Hong Kong Museum of History. On Wednesdays most of the museums are free. We were surprised to learn that before Columbus sailed to America, a Chinese captain, Zheng He, led seven voyages that made it all the way to the Red Sea near Egypt. His ships were much bigger than any other ship at that time. They were called Treasure Ships because they brought back many interesting items. The amazing Treasure Ships were over 400 feet long and 165 feet wide. Zheng’s voyage consisted of 62 vessels and 27,800 sailors. Columbus sailed with three small ships, the largest, the Santa Maria was 90 feet long and 30 feet wide and his entire crew numbered 90. I wonder how the world would be different if the Chinese had "discovered" America. For several reasons after the death of Zheng He the Chinese stopped exploring. The museum had many interesting things to see and learn about Chinese culture. Next to the History Museum is the Science Museum where there were many children enjoying the hands on exhibits. We could have been in any science museum in the United States.
One day we took a free tour called Cantonese Opera Appreciation Class. Cantonese opera is unique Chinese art form that started more than 700 years ago. We learned that the voices are so high pitched because it made it easier for people to hear them in the time before microphones. We love the artistic face makeup on the actors and learned that it made it possible for people in the back of the crowds to see facial expressions. The opera groups would travel by boat from village to village. Thousands of people would come to see their performances.

We love Chinese food, especially dim sum, which means "little hearts." They come in such small portions so we can try many different kinds. Chef Wah at the Peninsula Hotel taught us how to make dim sum. We found making the neat little packages of dim sum more difficult than it looks. Like everything else it takes practice. Chef Wah makes 400 a day and has been doing it for many years. Hong Kong is a amazing with many skyscrapers but it is still possible to experience the heritage of the the people.