Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ocean's Park, Venky, Shopping, etc

Conferences over, today was the first of the two full days that I was going to spend in Hong Kong. And I wasn't in the mood to waste it on shopping. It's not like I do not like shopping; I love it. I am bit selfish here actually; whenever mom and I go out for shopping, I usually shop first for myself and am all so interested in snooping around, painstakingly checking out varieties till I find the right match. But once done- and when it's my mom's turn to buy stuff for herself- I somehow suddenly loose interest! But anyways, when I have just about one or two or very handful days and I get this chance to be at a touristy place, I hate spending time in shopping. Moreover, I feel I have done shopping to my heart's content when I went to US last year. Plus, with the way Rachna was shopping around in HK, I wonder whether she left anything for others to buy. Besides, I was forewarned by several people back home; when shopping in HK, be careful of rip-offs. So my philosophy was quite simple; no cheap goods, shop only from genuine shops and pay a little extra if I have to, but better be safe than sorry.

And Hong Kong isn't cheap, by any standards. I mean, come to think, my hosts joked with visitors and thanked us to "helping the HK economy" by spending there. After checking out items in the pricey IFC (International Finance Centre) Mall, I felt like it was me who needed help and not the HK economy!!! Every conceivable top brand had an outlet there with prices reaching the top floor of the IFC- HK's tallest building! Oh, and another thing. Ask the average HK working executive where you'll find good chocolates. "Buy Godiva", s/he will promptly say, with eyes closed, as a matter of factly. As if I asked a silly question, as if Godiva chocolates are those that you can have everyday. Dude, Godiva to chocolates is what I'd say Armani is to clothes!!!!! But to tell you honestly; anyone who recommends Godiva chocolates is a class by himself / herself. They are really premium chocolates (I love Patchi too) and a piece of heaven; they're one of the best chocolates I've ever had. So did I buy Godiva, then? Yes, but in limited quantity.

Anyways, bits of shopping here and there will keep happening oveer the cou
rse of the trip; for now I went to Ocean's Park. It's an amusement park-cum-conservation centre for Ocean creatures. I took an MTR (Mass Transit Railway) or the Metro from Central to Admiralty, then took a bus from there to Ocean's Park. Ocean's Park is huge, did not check out the roller-coasters; they're boring if you're alone though I'd have loved to check out one of the two, checked out the various ocean's creatures like Sea Lions, Jelly Fish, Goldfish, etc. Also the beautiful birds' Aviary housing rare species as also the Red Panda and the Giant Panda in seperate enclosures. Later in the day when I met Venky, he tells me that there is a 24-hr channel in Hong Kong that only tracks the movements of the Giant Pandas that are living in this Ocean's park. Amazing or crazy? I don't know, you tell me.

The best part of Ocean's Park though is the cable car ride that takes you from one end of the park to another, offering spectacular views of the island and the park en route. The park has several restaurants and off
er great food. It helps if you know how to use chopsticks; for those of us who don't use chopsticks, plastic forks and spoons are quite inadequate to cut the chicken and devour it. One of the things that I now want to learn is to use chopsticks. I feel it's a task eating your food by chopsticks, but I feel there is a certain charm in it. It's graceful and elegant and sort of looks like your fingers are doing a little dance with the food.

After a terribly hot day, I joined Venky, his wife, Ravi (who seemed to be on his own trip- but very content if I may add- right from day one) for a western classic
al show. Now this was a first for me. Bombay has a classical music culture, but I have never bothered to going for one; most of them are held at the NCPA centre and tickets are costly, or so I believe. Anyways, the HK Philharmonic concert, as it turned out, was my first western classical music concert.

The concert was at the City Hall, at Central. Much to my surprise, the audience was quite casually dressed. I saw people wearing floaters, tee-shirts, three-fourth (short pants) or whatever it is that they are called and all such casual wardrobe. In Bombay if you attend a western classical concert dressed in such loose casuals, you'd be frowned upon. And kids and little children; I saw a lot of them too at the concert.

But once the concert started, there was pin-drop silence. All the casualness got swept aside as the audience listened to the orchestra dole out one stunnin
g performance after another. I am not much of a classical music man; give me Madonna or Coldplay anyday and though I am terrible at remembering lyrics, I can still mouth a few of their lyrics at remarkable ease. Yes I have heard of Mozart, but western classical compositions, even the names of instruments, the wind instruments or the other type what's-it-called; I can't tell the difference. But I am a fan of music. Any soulful music. I judge music not by its language, but whether or not I can connect with it. I have to feel music in my heart. Music has to either make me want to dance or make me want to sing alongwith it or transport to another world, even if temporarily. And I think that's where this concert, ably led by conductor Edo de Waart, scored in my books. One composition after another, I felt like I was transported to Salzburg mountains running alongside the Von Trapp family or watching the Gladiator take on man-eaters and cannibals inside the massive coliseums of Greece or to riding on a broom around Hogwarts Castle taking in the scenic beauty of nature or even inside the mind of John Nash as he gets closer to solving the magnificent puzzle that were to turn a new chapter in the study of Economics...

The concert also had a special appearance by Lin Jiang who is only 22 years old and is one of the most sought-after French horn soloists. The guy is mighty talented. After his performance, the conductor escorted him off-stage, came again to a rousing applause, took a bow, went inside again, then came back took a bow, then went inside.....
he kept doing going in & out several times after a few of his compositions. I found that most amusing. I am told that is protocol. What I would really like to know is, why.

We rounded up the day with a lovely Indian dinner at a Indian/Pan-Asian cuisine restaurant at the Lan Kwoi Fang area, HK's pub district that gets very loud in the night and is most famous for its expat clientele. Pubs are so full in this area that people almost spill over on the streets. But great lunch and thanks to Venky and his lovely wife. May God bless their tribe.

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