The Big Buddha and the Blockade

Well, that was interesting!

We’d been wandering around one of the night markets, having some street corner dim sum (as you do), when we decided that our feet were tired and it was time to head home. The market was just a couple of blocks off Nathan Road, and we knew that our now-familiar bus went along there, so we made our way back. We window shopped a bit while walking in the general direction of home. There was lots of traffic, in addition to busy sidewalks, so we knew we hadn’t reached the protest area (all the buses detour around the section of road that’s closed). Except, apparently, they’d cleared the protesters earlier in the day, and allowed traffic back through, and we didn’t know it.

Throughout the afternoon and early evening, we’d seen a lot of police on the streets, but as we walked along Nathan Road, it got crazy. First, we saw groups of 5-10 police men and women, walking in the opposite direction. Then, we saw some carrying riot gear (shields, helmets). For the most part, they seemed quite calm, but occasionally, we’d see some of them talking or listening to their radios, and then their energy picked up and there’d be some faster movement. Still, they were all going the opposite direction, so we figured we were going the “right” way (away from whatever they were going to!) Where’s our bus stop?? It’s got to be along here, somewhere. Oh, right. I see it there, where a line of policemen are standing at the edge of the sidewalk and have put up a piece of orange tape. That’s our stop. Great. And no MTR (subway) stop/entrance in sight, either.

Traffic was still moving along the road, so I mentioned to the policeman standing next to the bus stop sign that we were hoping to take the bus, and he indicated that we could, and that we should just wait right there. So we did. As we waited, another couple of people joined us. The crowd walking by was about a 50/50 split of nonchalance (is this the new normal?) and people going nuts taking smartphone photographs. C and I decided to keep our phones tucked away, so we have only mental pictures of when the group of probably 30+ policemen down the block started running and leapt over the median to the other side of the street. We couldn’t see who or what they were chasing. After a minute or so, the policemen must have gotten new instructions, because they took down the orange tape by our bus stop and started walking down the sidewalk. C and I were sorry to see our friendly officer go (and be replaced by someone else), but fortunately it was only another minute or so before our bus arrived. Once on the upper deck of the bus, we took a few pictures. Many of the other passengers were doing the same.

Once we got back to the hotel, we checked online to try and figure out what was going on. That’s when we learned that the protest had in fact been cleared earlier in the day. I’m not sure if the police were chasing protesters trying to re-take that section of road, or what. News is still fuzzy. I’m very glad we made it home safely, and we’ll definitely be keeping a closer eye on events, tomorrow, so we can avoid that kind of excitement!

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Oh yeah, and earlier in the day we had a nice trip to Lantau island, where we took a local bus (instead of the overpriced tourist gondola) up to see the “Big Buddha.”

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