Off to See the Sea Horses
Trip Start Aug 30, 2006
36Trip End Feb 03, 2008
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I lived in Prague for three years without ever hooking up the satellite dish outside my bedroom window.
Here in China, cable TV comes with our apartment, but only two English channels are included without paying extra. Even so, we generally opt to pop in a 10 RMB DVD rather than click on the tube for anything longer than the news and weather report out of Hong Kong.
One day though, not long after we arrived in Foshan last autumn, Dan and I were enjoying some fast food and our airconditioner in front of the box when we saw a show about sea horses.
An aquarium in Hong Kong successfully bred this funny-looking little creature where many other aquariums have failed. Sea horses are indiginous to the south China area, and are prized here for their traditional medicine properties. Sometimes in the supermarket we walk by the traditional medicine part and see their little shriveled carcasses ready to be made into soup. But I hadn't seen a live one since I was six and snorkeling in the Caribbean.
Since we go to Hong Kong almost every month, every trip after we watched the show we talked about going to the aquarium to see the sea horses. Finally, for Dan's birthday in March, we went.
Ocean Park isn't just about looking at fish, even though its literature says it has the largest atoll reef aquarium exhibit in the world. It's also got amusement park rides; a long cable car from the lowlands out to the tip of the small peninsula where the exhibits are; a balloon ride for good weather days; and a venue for watching professional figureskating.
In short, it is a big park. We chose to head for the fish exhibits right away, and were lucky that we had, because by the time we were leaving largish crowds were starting to accumulate for the prime attractions. We skipped all of the rides except the cable car and ferris wheel, and didn't get to the ice skating or performing dolphins, either.
The atoll reef was my favorite part of the park. It's fairly small, width-wise, which was a little surprising for me, as my recollections of atolls in the South Pacific are of hugely wide oblongs of turquoise-water anchorage.
The next best was the jellyfish exhibit, or as it's called in British English, the sea jellies exhibit. Set in narrow, winding corridors, most of this exhibit was a light play. The translucent animals swim up and down in thin tanks while pulsating lights and music change their color and tone.
Next, I liked the sharks. Yes, I have a slight shark phobia. Yes, I refuse to watch any of the Jaws movies. But, they are pretty cool on the other side of that aquarium glass. There was also a plexiglass tunnel with a moving walkway through part of the shark tank, so we could pose with the sharks swimming over us.
The sea lion and seal exhibit was least interesting for me, probably because we left it til last and I've seen plenty of these animals before.
In several places around this tank were signs asserting that the Chinese had discovered America by sailing eastward in long ships years before Columbus had made his way across the Atlantic. Not quite what I was taught in elementary school.
We had also been looking forward to the panda exhibit on the entrance end of the cable car, however, to our dismay, the exhibit was closed in anticipation of two new panda arrivals. Better luck next time.
Ocean Park was a good day out for us, and, at less than 200 Hong Kong dollars each, not too expensive by Hong Kong standards either.
We had wanted to go just to see the sea horses, but all the sea horses shown lived in a small tank on the side of the atoll reef exhibit. I forgot my disappointment in that, though, when I discovered their neighbors the sea dragons.
I had either never known these things existed or had forgotten. They are even funnier-looking than sea horses, and twice as graceful. We spent about twenty minutes plugging up the walkway for the other tourists while trying to photographically capture the dragons and horses. They are gorgeous little things, and, I have yet to check a Traditional Medicine shop for them, undoubtedly good for you too.