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The Noonday Gun

Started: 2013-01-14 21:41:00

Submitted: 2013-01-14 22:30:11

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator spends his last full day in Hong Kong picking off the last few sites he missed

After I returned from Guangzhou, we had one full day left in Hong Kong and only a handful of things left that we wanted to do. We took MTR to Causeway Bay and ended up in the basement of the Sogo department store, where we found a little bakery where we bought a snack, then took it down the street to Victoria Park to eat while overlooking the model boat pond, which was notably missing any model boats for Calvin to watch.

I wanted to see the Noonday Gun, which was a few blocks away on a little inlet, surrounded by reclaimed land, that used to be a promontory in the harbor. The gun is fired every day at noon by Jardine Matheson, for ambiguous historical reasons that have been entirely replaced by tradition. I had some trouble actually finding the site; Google Maps on my phone showed what I thought was a pedestrian walkway over a busy road but I couldn't actually find it on the ground and walked an extra hundred meters to an overpass I could see, arriving with only a few minutes to spare. A crowd had assembled to watch the spectacle: a guard loaded an artillery piece mounted on the ground with a blank shell, rang the bell signaling the end of the watch, fired the gun, rang the bell again, and let the spectators back into the site so they could get a closer look at the gun. It was almost anti-climatic, but also amusing, but Calvin was not impressed by the loud noise.

The noonday gun fires
The noonday gun fires
Calvin is not impressed by the noonday gun
Calvin is not impressed by the noonday gun

On our way back I discovered that the pedestrian crossing I saw was an underpass that we'd walked past because the entrance was hidden in a hotel basement with a door that opened into an alley. Had we been coming from the other direction we would have seen the sign but apparently no one expected us to come in the direction we chose.

Despite having recently eaten a snack, we decided to go ahead and eat lunch at Kung Tak Lam Shanghai Vegetarian Cuisine. Finding the place was easier said than done; even given the location and Google Maps on my phone I had trouble figuring out exactly how I was supposed to enter the building and ended up going around the block the long way. Once we were in the building we were confused by the elevator access until we realized that they were double-decker elevators, each stopping on alternate floors, and to get to the tenth floor we had to go down to the ground floor and catch the elevator there. I thought the food was good, and the view of the harbor from the tenth floor was nice, even though we were seated on the opposite side of the dining room.

My plan was to take the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour from Causeway Bay, and then back to Central, so we could get the authentic ferry experience on a clear day, but Calvin thought he'd had enough ferries, so we took MTR instead. I wanted to visit the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Museum, to get a Hong Kong-based perspective on the revolutionary leader, especially after seeing the People's Republic's view in Guangzhou the previous day, so we took MTR to Central and took the covered Mid-Level Escalator high above Central and the harbor on our way to the museum.

Looking down narrow streets to a skyscraper in Central
Looking down narrow streets to a skyscraper in Central

The museum was in a building that was historic in its own right, and the displays went into the history of the building, but Calvin was not especially enthralled by the building or the displays but was amused by watching the animated video (narrated alternatingly in Mandarin and Cantonese, and subtitled in English, but Calvin didn't want me to read the subtitles to him). Kiesa found a children's play room with some coloring materials for him while I looked through the rest of the museum at a somewhat more rapid pace than I might otherwise have preferred. I knew most of the history but the artifacts and other displays were interesting. One gallery was dedicated to Sun's experience in the Chinese community in Singapore, one of the places he found support for his revolutionary ideas.

Jaeger in front of Dr. Sun Yat-sen
Jaeger in front of Dr. Sun Yat-sen

After I finished looking through the museum it was late afternoon. We'd finished my list of things I wanted to see, and we decided we owed Calvin a playground, so we headed over to the playground at the Hong Kong Zoological And Botanical Gardens, walking through a gathering that might have been a religious service or might have been a protest to get there. While Calvin played I took advantage of the free wifi to sync my tablet with the rest of the world.

Calvin plays in Hong Kong
Calvin plays in Hong Kong

Having eaten a large lunch, we didn't feel the need for a large supper but did want a snack of some sort, so we went to Starbucks for drinks and baked goods before heading back to the hotel one last time. I suggested that we take the tram back, and Calvin liked the idea, but Kiesa didn't like the slow street tram and took MTR back instead. Calvin and I walked to the tram stop and waited for a tram to arrive that had enough space that we could actually board it. Several trams later we actually managed to board one, and climbed to the second floor in hopes of getting at least a view if not a seat. After several stops a seat opened up, and the people standing near the seat offered it to Calvin and I since Calvin was a small child. We sat in the seat and looked out at the lights of the city roll by. My first experience on the tram, heading back to the hotel in a jet-lag haze eight days ago, felt like an eternity ago; our time in Hong Kong was almost up, but we still had another four days in East Asia before flying home.

Back at the hotel Calvin went to sleep while Kiesa and I packed to fly to Taipei the next day for the last part of our adventure.

For a parallel account of our last full day in Hong Kong, see The Ninth Day. For more pictures, see Photos on 2012-12-30.
Having rejected DOS, we're paranoid about anything that isn't
"user-friendly," that requires some adjustment on our part and a
commitment to meet the technology halfway. It's as if Henry Ford rigged
a bridle and set of leather reins to his Model T instead of a steering
wheel and clutch, and to this day we were still driving our cars the way
a 19th century groomsman would handle a horse and buggy.
- Jonathon Keats, "'You Send Me' by Patricia T. O'Conner & Stewart
Kellerman", Salon.com