To wrap up our trip to Asia, we spent a week in Hong Kong, and were able to bring along my Wife’s siblings–two sisters and a brother. We did some sight-seeing and took some excursions as a group (Ocean Park, Stanley Bay, etc.), but on two days, the four of them wanted to shop from sunrise to sunset. Fair enough, Hong Kong is still a shopper’s paradise.

But for my daughters and me, not so much. A whole day of shopping would be too much for them, and I’d rather have a root canal with rusty pliers than shop, so the youngsters and I took off by ourselves in the opposite direction just to explore and play and see what trouble we could get ourselves into.

The big idea was to slowly explore and make our way to Hong Kong Park. We did that, but soon after reaching the park, it began to rain, so–irony alert–we headed back into the shelter of the nearby Pacific Place shopping complex for the rest of the afternoon…which for pre-schoolers can have about the same effect as visiting the park. You know, ride the escalators umpteen times, play hide and seek in Hong Kong Seibu, that sort of thing.

Here are some pictures from that day’s adventure–right up to the point when the rain began.

The girls all ready to hit the pavement on our way out of the hotel room:

Riding the subway from North Point to Central:

On a roof across from the Bank of America Tower:

Just hangin’ out, watchin’ the world go by:

In front of a map outside Hong Kong Park:

At the playground in Hong Kong Park, just as it started to rain:

Next time: Our return trip to Hong Kong Park

I don’t make a regular habit of betting on the ponies, maybe once every five years or so, but during our visit to Hong Kong earlier this year, I decided it was high time to stop by and check out the track action at Sha Tin. I’ve spent more than six months of my life in Hong Kong, spread out over numerous one-week to 30-day visits, but had never visited the race track before.

So this time we went…but because I was either having a pre-senior moment, or because I’d just spent a good spell in mainland China, where this probably wouldn’t have been a problem, it didn’t occur to me that children ages 2 and 4 wouldn’t be allowed into the raceway proper. No one under 18, for that matter. Silly me. What’s the world coming to?

But all was not a total loss. The kindly security guard who intercepted us as we were coming through the entryway turnstiles let us know that there is a public trackside viewing area down to the right of the main stands. From there, you (and your kids) can still catch a decent view of part of the track. You just can’t bet on the ponies down there. At least not using the track’s sanctioned betting system, that is. But if you and some other chap who has also brought his kids along want to wager a few fiveskies between yourselves on the sly, that’s left entirely to your discretion. Just make sure the authorities–and more importantly, your wives–don’t catch you.

On a more serious note, don’t even think of betting with illegal bookmakers in HK. The maximum fine for that is HK$30,000 and nine months in the slammer.

Here are some pics and videos from the outing…

Getting the turf ready:

Checking out the scene:

Horses!:

The crowd goes wild:

I wonder if the people living in those apartment towers across the way can phone in their bets then watch the races with binoculars and telescopes:

A tiny bit of grainy video footage:

For a “What Web Sites Looked Like in 1996” flashback, you might like to visit the race track’s own Web site.

As part of our tour of the Quanzhou Marionette Troupe’s headquarters, we went through storage and display rooms with a collection of marionette designs and characters so vast, it felt like a review of “5,000 Years of Chinese History” (ahem) in puppet form.

Some of the figures represented in marionette form are exactly what you’d expect.

The Tang Dynasty sages and The Monkey King marionettes, sure, no big shock there.

The marionettes representing soldiers in the Chinese revolutionary war, OK, that seemed to make sense after I saw them.

However….

The set depicting a pair of Japanese “Little Barbarian” invaders and their captive Chinese prisoner, well, that was as startling as my 2-year old’s follow-up question: “Daddy, why he got a doggie chain ’round he’s neck?”

Anyway, here’s your visual tour of just some of the Quanzhou Marionette display cases…

This first marionette is a replica of one found in 1979 during the excavation of a West Han Dynasy tomb in Shandong Province. The tomb and marionette were estimated to be over 2000 years old. The original marionette is as tall as me, 193cm/6’5″, but the one on display here is just half that size:

Head case:

The Period of Japanese Occupation:

The Communist Revolution:



Note: If you’d like to plan a visit to the Quanzhou Marionette Troupe Headquarters, Bill and Sue Brown have some additional information–including lots more background on Quanzhou Marionettes–for you over at Amoy Magic.

To visit the Troupe’s own Web site, in Chinese and with embedded midi audio on every page, go to http://www.cnqzmt.com.

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