This year’s ACM SIGCOMM conference took place at the Chinese University of Hong Kong between August 12 and August 16. I gave a talk on our research results at the affiliated workshop on Software Radios and attended the main conference during the subsequent days. I especially enjoyed some talks on wireless communication, which covered a broad range of topics such as full duplex radios, digital backscatter communication, through-the-wall radars and massive MIMO. Between the sessions and during social events such as the banquet, I also got in touch with professionals from various countries. After the conference, I stayed at a hotel on Hong Kong Island for almost another week in order to explore the city.
Hong Kong is a crowded city. When I arrived at my hotel in Sha Tin, I first went to a nearby mall which is called New Town Plaza. Going around this place felt like watching the materialisation of a flood of people. Even though the place was very busy, people seemed calm and relaxed, which for instance found expression in an average pacing speed slower than I was used to.
I later found out that all buildings between my hotel and the MTR station were interconnected which each other by walkways, so that I could walk straight from my hotel to the MTR without the need to get out on the streets and having to expose myself to the warm and humid outdoor air. There were also elevators in the malls which brought people up the towers to their apartments.
The day before the first day of the conference I decided to go to the Ten Thousand Buddha Monastery, which is just a few hundred meters north from the Sha Tin MTR station. I got directions from OSM offline maps on my smartphone and soon I spotted a pagoda up the hill. I crossed a parking area, rode a few escalators and just a few moments later I stood in front of a temple and the pagoda – but no Buddhas in sight. I went some steps further up the hill in the hot Hong Kong sun. Here and there I saw some Chinese people lighting incense sticks and soon I realized that the buildings that I walked around were columbariums. I was on a cemetery, not a monastery. However, this accidental visit to the cemetery gave me a valuable look at an aspect of genuine Chinese culture. Most people went to the columbariums in family groups, they talked to each other audibly, sometimes they laughed, they hugged each other and, naturally, some of them cried and sobbed. Some of them also left food and drinks on the altars as offerings, including fruit, fast food and Coke cans, which I found a bit confusing at first glance. At the top of the cemetery I finally spotted the Ten Thousand Buddha Monastery just above, but there was no walkway up there, so I finally had to return to the entrance and look for the right way.
Just before I reached the entrance to the Ten Thousand Buddha Monastery, two monks emerged in front of me. One of them said, “Good look to you!” He smiled. I responded, “Good luck to you, too.” But as I tried to move on, they blocked my way and even before I could realize, one of them hung a necklace around my neck. Again, he beamed, “Good luck to you!” Then he produced a bowl from his cloak with some banknotes and coins inside and said, “One hundred.” (100 HKD are about ten EUR.) Now it became clear to me that these were fake monks as they were begging for money. As I took the necklace off, he said, “Fifty.” But I put it back into his hands and pushed my way through to the monastery.
The concrete stairway to the monastery complex was lined with lots of man-size golden Buddha statues, expressing a broad array of feelings and emotions. At the top I found the monastery complex with the Ten Thousand Buddhas Hall, a Kwun Yam pavilion and a nine-storey pagoda. The Ten Thousand Buddhas Hall is the main temple. It is lined with a large amount of miniature Buddha statues stacked on shelves on the walls. Thereafter I went up to a terrace with another small temple, even more Buddha statues and a Kwun Yam statue in front of a waterfall.
In the afternoon I went to Sham Shui Po which is the district with the lowest per capita income in Hong Kong. There is a street market in Apliu Street containing electronics, clothes and also a lot of used merchandise. Just a stone’s throw away is the Golden Shopping Centre, which is probably the most prominent place in Hong Kong to get cheap computer hardware and software. As its halls are extremely narrow, this shopping centre was also quite congested.
In the evening, I went to Central by MTR and walked to the Peak Tram station in order to take a ride to the Victoria Peak. However, there was already quite a large queue of people in the street in front of the station. A Chinese guy told me that it might take an hour to get to the tram. So I decided to walk. The peak is 552 meters high, so this was going to be a sporting challenge, especially due to the warm and humid weather conditions. After about an hour, I reached the peak and enjoyed a stunning view over the skyline of Hong Kong.
After SIGCOMM, I had some days left for leisure activities in Hong Kong, so I explored the city. Interestingly, some trade is clustered around specific districts, streets and places in Hong Kong. For instance, you can find dried seafood markets around Des Voeux Road West in Sheung Wan. Around the crossing of Shanghai Street and Man Ming Lane I came across many shops offering kitchen accessories and ironmongery. The Flower Market Road in Mong Kong is the centre of floral shops. Just at its eastern end is the Birds Market. At the north end of the Ladies’ Market in Mong Kok, the Tung Choi Street is lined with shops offering aquatic animals. This place is also known as the Goldfish Market. In Kowloon, there is a Jade Market with many stalls stuffed with charms, pendants and bangles. However, the various street markets in Hong Kong typically trade diverse goods like clothes, belts, shoes, electronics, fruit and second-hand goods.
On another day, I took a ride with the Ngong Ping 360 cable car from Tung Chung to Lantau Island and back. Near Ngong Ping, there is a large Buddha statue, the Tian Tan Buddha. It is a touristic attraction and a religious site and definitely worth a visit if you want to get out of Hong Kong’s hustle and bustle.
All in all, I had a great time in Hong Kong and gathered many interesting impressions. And now, back in Germany, I am on a seafood diet. – I see food, and I eat it. ;-)