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The fisherman's guardian god.

One of the beaches on Lantau Island. People from Hong Kong take the ferry to the island during the summer months every weekend. It becomes very crowded. Many years ago, when fishing became too hard, and farming lost its appeal, the native Tanka people took their land (abandoning farming & cattle-rearing) land and built houses which they now rent out.

The island doesn't have a water source, but does have a large reservoir. There is also a large prison, a few pictographs and what may be a Neolithic stone circle, sort of a really mini-Stonehenge. Most of the rocks are around 6 lbs. which makes it a really "mini" stone circle. Maybe it was a firepit instead?

While we were at the beach, workers were cutting back the trees and trimming the vegetation.

It wasn't as cold as it looks. It was around 65 degrees, actually.

The island is also home to the world's largest sitting Buddha, a Buddhist monastery, as well as a Trappist monastery. One can stay at the monasteries or rent a stilt house in Tai-O village.  The spot where Kurt is standing is considered "the center of the earth." When you stand there & say something it's almost like an echo - the sound waves reverberate thru your feet. Jack thinks it's because the center circle is somewhat convex, while the rest of the circle area is concave (sort of like a forum).

We had a vegetarian lunch at the Buddhist monastery, climbed up inside the Buddha, took lots of pictures, and enjoyed ourselves tremendously.

Kurt was an amazingly informative guide, but he hustled us through Tai-O village way too fast for my preferences. My suspicion is that he had learned what tourists wanted to see and what did not interest them. However, when we were wending our way thru narrow, crooked streets (keep in mind bad spirits travel in straight lines), we saw some masks tacked onto a board outside what appeared to be a dark hovel. I became intrigued with one mask, picked it up and saw it was $190 HK dollars. The very old, toothless man who immediately came out of the house, said something I thought was "lampoo", pointed to a large hunk of bamboo, then put his hand out. Something told me not to try to bargain, so I gave him $200 HK dollars, received my change, and hurried to catch up with Kurt.

Kurt said the man was a famous wood carver named Mr. Hun. His family had been carvers going all the way back to the Ming Dynasty. He also said Mr. Hun was a noted painter & calligrapher who, when he found out one of his paintings had been sold to a Canadian Museum for $100,000 (unknown if Canadian, US or HK dollars), refused to sell any more paintings to tourists. He said the entire 2nd floor of Mr. Hun's house was filled with his art work, just sitting there. He also said the carving we bought was of Tao-ti, a guardian spirit. (When I returned home, I looked up "bamboo." There are so many words to describe the exact type of bamboo! Finally found 2 that seem to describe the kind made into art works: Leng-pu - the mystery of Lampoo was solved!)

This information got Kurt into a lecture about bad spirits. He said the woks we had noticed sitting on balconies and in windows (I figured they were simply drying after being used to make lunch or dinner) were actually attempts to drive away nasty neighbors. If you don't like your neighbor, you aim a wok at him/her, and eventually, s/he will move -- or not. I told Jack we had 2 woks (one electric - would that be more powerful than a regular one?) we immediately needed to set up when we got home, aimed at our nasty neighbor to the south. Take a Wok!

Kurt also mentioned that there was a woman in Tai-O who was a sort of amateur photo archivist, having collected pictures of the village and fisherfolk going back ca. 100 years. Boy! Would I love to digitize those and get her stories!

As we were driving back to Kowloon from Hong Kong (there are now bridges - huge traffic jams), we passed a Catholic cemetery built on terraces. The graves are permanent only for 9 years. After that, the bodies are dug up, and relocated. Space is at an incredible premium! We then trotted over to the tailor who was making Jack his 2 suits, 3 shirts, and 2 ties for a final fitting. Jack never looked so wonderful! The suits, etc. were to be delivered the next day (Tuesday). Jack, ever the sceptic, didn't believe that at all. They were, and he was thrilled!

Our next-to-last day was spent poking around. We had been to the Hong Kong Art Museum to see the jade and gold exhibit (incredible; fabulous; amazing - artifacts dating back to the Neolithic through the Qing Dynasties), to look at the treasures in pottery, ceramic, rhino horn, wood, lacquer, and to check out their modern art. We then walked thru the Peninsula Hotel (very old-world glitz - built in 1904 - lots of gilded capitals, high ceilings), and ended up purchasing some wonderful ceramic vases at deep, deep discount, at the Chinese Arts and Crafts dept. store (finest examples of Chinese art available).

Wended our way down to the Jade Market - a two block area full of jade merchants under tents - It was fun to see the variety of items. However, not all of it was jade & not all of it was as old as claimed. Caveat emptor! We walked up and down Nathan Road, looking at the old Anglican church, the movie theaters, the jewelry stores (windows jammed with 24 K. ormalu animals, and huge, ornate 22 K. East Indian dowery jewelry), and wishing we had a few more days to spend exploring.

Wednesday morning, we flew out - but not with a small hassle - Our tour guide was supposed to reconfirm our flight - assured us it would be taken care of - well, not. Therefore, we were on stand-by for our own seats, on a filled 747! The flight was one where new parents from the US were taking home their adopted daughters - They were all beaming. Somehow, that made the 15 hour flight back (shorter because of tail-winds) more bearable -- but not by much.

Arrived in Chicago, after watching 3 lousy movies, to a sprinkling of snow, and the realization that I needed to go grocery shopping because I had promised to cook Christmas Eve dinner for 11 people! AAACK! Back to the grind...