Peter Nelson’s travels – Mahjong in Hong Kong

by Peter Nelson

The streets of Hong Kong city are corporate-busy — banks, businesses, high-class hotels. The streets of Kowloon are people-busy — markets, bars, dancehalls, cheap hotels. Everywhere is noisy. Everywhere is crowded. But it’s down the side streets where you find the soul of a city, and in Hong Kong, from sunrise to well after midnight, the game of mahjong is alive. Everywhere.

Mahjong is similar to the game of rummy, but it’s played with tiles instead of cards. The nicest sets are made with carved ivory faces with bamboo backs. And you play it with gusto. When it’s your move, you slam your tile down on the table! No languid, listless playing in this game. As a result, every backstreet and alley in Hong Kong is constantly aclatter with the rattling of tiles. Sometimes, it’s so loud you can’t hear the conversation of the person walking beside you!

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A game of mahjong.
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A fishing boat in drydock for repairs, all the work done by hand.
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A man making bathtubs for sale. Beautiful, aren’t they? We would have bought one if we could have figured out how to fit it into our backpacks.
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A street vegetable market.
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Five ladies posing in front of the Kat Wing Hai walled village in the New Territories.
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A village built on stilts out in the bay.