Saturday, January 21, 2012

Gung hi fat choy! Happy Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is like our Christmas, New Year, and birthday celebrations all rolled into one. Even though the people in Hong Kong use our western calendar, everyone knows that January 23 is the start of the Year of the Dragon, 4710! Also, people in Hong Kong, which is part of China, know their birth sign. People born in the Year of the Dragon are thought to be interested in the world around them and are said to be brave and love life. A lot of the decorations for Chinese New Year are red because red is a symbol of happiness and good luck.

In Chinese culture things often have more than one meaning. In the Marriott Hotel where we stayed there were no numbers with “4” in them so there is no 4th floor, no 14th floor! The number four in the Chinese language sounds very similar to the word for “death” so they don’t like the number four. However, the Marriott is an American chain hotel so there is no Floor 13 because Americans think 13 is an unlucky number.

Several islands make up Hong Kong. Most parts are very crowded. They have many high-rise apartment buildings with 40 stories high or more. But one of Hong Kong’s islands, Lantau Island, is called “The Lung of Hong Kong” because it is mainly tree covered. There are some huge high-rise buildings in one area but mostly it is covered with trees. One of the reasons we stayed on the island was to visit the largest sitting bronze Buddha. The Buddha with the lotus flower base upon which he is sitting is over 100 feet high. Buddha is holding one hand out to give the blessing of fearlessness. His other hand points down giving the blessing of wisdom. The Buddha is on top of a hill and many people take a trail up the hill. It takes about three hours. However, they have a cable car that has a great view when it is not cloudy and it only takes 25 minutes. We took the cable car. From the hilltop there are 240 steps up the Buddha. Near the Buddha is the Po Lin Monastery. Many people in Asia belong to the Buddhist religion based on the teachings of Buddha. The monastery is very colorful. People bring offerings of flowers and fruit that they put in front of the statue. While we were there a young girl was saying her prayers but first she had lit an incense stick as an offering. It smelled very nice. In some religions people light candles.

We also visited the Tai O fishing village which is similar to the way people lived on Hong Kong a couple hundred years ago. Today Hong Kong is very modern except for a few traditional fishing villages. In the fishing village we walked through the fish market where people were buying fresh fish. There was also a lot of dried fish. Before people had electricity and refrigerators drying fish was the best way to save it. All they had to do was to add water to the fish and they could make soup or other meals from the fish. We like to try new foods. At our hotel they had a special soup on the menu - Seahorse Soup. The broth was very light tasting but it was a bit strange to see the seahorse floating in our soup! There are so many new things to see and to experience when we travel.