A dog, cigar dangling from lips and teeth slightly bared, seems about to spew “What is the interest for my family?” (‘Godfather’) or some such dialogue from a mafia based movie. His neighbor, a cow in a tie, stares at me with tiny, gleaming eyes. This isn’t some weird dream, though.
I’m at Stanley Market in Hong Kong and these are just harmless creatures painted on canvas. A street market stocked with reasonably priced souvenirs and sundry impulse purchase items like hats, Stanley stands out in my mind because of quirky paintings like these, and that of Tintin and the inimitable Captain Haddock racing down a street in a Ford.
The Tintin painting, and perhaps the presence of a promenade romancing the sea kindle memories – not just of a boy-faced man who barely spent time off turquoise green waters and an assortment of vehicles on adventures that I as a kid longed to join, but also of borrowed books whose pages were turned with the utmost care, and of simple pleasures like sharing ‘imli ki goli’ (tamarind candy balls) with friends.
With e-books in the picture the experience of reading has changed, but a few other pleasures have transcended generations. A man stands at a corner, making rainbow colored soap bubbles humungous enough to wrap a baby, and when a child stops wide-eyed and open-mouthed to watch, you can see a tiny pot at the end of the rainbow for the balloon man. Sure enough, his parents give in to the toddler’s demand.
Older kids of different colors, personal styles and dispositions, accompanied by parents or not, walk around. I’m happy to see they’re not lost in electronic devices which have consumed the life of millions of young adults the world over, a phenomenon that’s also seen on Hong Kong’s MTR every day. Despite warnings against being sucked into their phones as they step on and off trains, several do exactly that. It adds to the impression of Hong Kong being a city perennially on the move, much like Mumbai – it’s a comparison I subconsciously keep making, having lived in the bustling Indian metropolis for many years now.
At cozy cafes and bars lined along the Stanley waterfront, locals and visitors alike chat and relax with a beer or two. The area seems to be a favorite with families. Apart from the main beach at Stanley, the Repulse Bay beach a few miles away is a big draw and the Deep Water Bay beach finds folks grilling their own food over barbecue pits.
It’s not unusual to find kids carrying beach paraphernalia as they excitedly rush to the upper deck of double-decker buses that ply this route. Along the way, trekking enthusiasts disembark and set off on paths that vary in difficulty, ensuring there’s something for each fitness level. I don’t have that much time, though. Visiting Stanley on the day of our departure, I can only join those looking to add a few more things to their backpack apart from memories.
(P.S. – I couldn’t take a photo of the Tintin painting because the shopkeeper didn’t allow it. Not all shops permit photography and in fact, some even display signs prohibiting it, so tread a little carefully on this front)
From street shops to high-end boutiques at Stanley Plaza, there are numerous shopping options
More about Stanley Market and Village and how to get there– click here
For VEGETARIAN food – Lucy’s at 64, Main Street, Stanley Market (Phone no: 852-28139055 ) or Curry Tiffin at 118, Main Street, Stanley Market (Phone no: 852-28990565 ) seem like good bets