I went to Marble Arch again in the afternoon, this time for the Speaker’s Corner. Every Sunday, people come to this small section of Hyde Park to deliver their views and meet crowds who listen, question and heckle. Issues discussed range “from extraterrestrials to abolition of monarchy”, says one guidebook.
To my disappointment, the topics were much less varied when I was there. All of the speakers were preaching their religions, which I’m not interested in and don’t understand. Still, coming from a city where the people are generally more inhibited, I was impressed by the passion of the speakers. Exchanges between speakers and listeners were heated, but civil.
Yet I wonder if the Speaker’s Corner will eventually be replaced by the Internet, which allows individuals to speak to a much bigger audience without a fixed venue. Perhaps the Internet is the NEW Speaker’s Corner, promoting free speech just like that pavement in Hyde Park did in the past, only on a much larger scale.
Covent Garden, Leicester Square, China Town
I then took the tube to Covent Garden. By the time I got there, most of the shops and stalls were already closed. The Whittard shop was still open so I bought loads of tea enough for a whole year (the mango tea is particularly good; I hope they’ll sell it in Hong Kong someday). There were still a few street performers. This man stood like a statue until someone puts money in the box, at which point he would bow and say thank you:
This guy was amazing! He was dancing the whole time!
From Covent Garden I followed Shaftesbury Avenue to Leicester Square. My purpose here was to locate the tkts booth, where I would buy the discount ticket tomorrow. From Leicester Square it was a short walk to China Town. Street names in China Town are bilingual. The Chinese names are quite elegantly translated, and seem to be handwritten on the original nameplates:
First order of business was to get dinner. I quickly located the (in)famous Wong Kei:
Wong Kei used to be known for its rude service, which has been significantly “toned down” in recent years. They even sell T-shirts printed with “Upstairs/Downstairs”, orders that waiters used to shout when seating guests. The service was HK Cha Chaan Teng standard. I had a large plate of Fujian fried price for 6.2 pounds, inexpensive by London standards, and very good. It had dices of roast pork (燒肉) which is not found in HK version of the dish. I was missing HK-style milk tea but they only had soft drinks.
Hearing the waiters speak Cantonese (and especially Cantonese profanity) made me feel at home.
Outside, I saw some locals staring at the roast ducks behind the window. The curiosity on their faces remind me of myself wondering what the Tagalog-named products are in Filipino stores in Hong Kong. Only this time, I was the minority and our things were seen as exotic, if not bizarre.