Shame on me, I needed serious encouragement to visit this thing... Figured I could just buy whatever I wanted online, because I really don't like crowds.. But my friend really wanted to go so I was Oh well, maybe I'll find something to display impressively on my book shelf. (As everyone knows, this is what books are for.)
I got a kick out of reading the tips before going down, especially the Special Passage To Children's Paradise. (There's a Special Passage? There's a Children's Paradise? HOW big is this thing??) The yearly HK Book Fair, I soon learn, is where many locals buy books in bulk on the cheap. Certainly when I balk at the aged cabbie's, "HK Convention Center, old or new wing?" he volunteers "Book Fair, yes? Then I know where to drop you."
Inside, I hear of "Lang Mo" - Cantonese short form for "pretty" Models, for the first time. Apparently aspiring pretty faces will sell "books" and magazines of themselves at this fair, it's one of the well-known attractions (ay listen up, our Malaysian guy friends who have been going Where Are All The Pretty HK Girls? Don't Have, Don't Have - you know who you are, and so do I - Kings ratted you out.)
On the first day Lang Mo were apparently wearing bikinis and handing out ice creams at their stalls (they so nices they melt ices, geddit?)...
I get so excited I make my companions (who are here to check out the HK political satire and kiddie books) pretty much traipse around the whole massive exhibition looking for Lang Mo booths. I was hoping for a picture (though possibly I wouldn't be able to fight thru the throng of adolescent and nerdy (I'm told) guys pressing forward for... an ice and an autograph? And anyway why would a Lang Mo want to pose with mummy blogger me for a pic?) Still, I want to experience Lang Mo!
After a bit we start asking the HKTDC attendants for directions - at "Where are the Lang Mo?" they break out in embarrassed grins at us girls. The lone (and local) guy with me and my mummy friend attempts valiantly to communicate via body language that the Lang Mo hunt is not for him, it's for us girls (well ok, me).
We pass the family planning booth and my friend explains these are anatomically-correct "sex dolls", for telling kids where people are not supposed to touch. Her colleague shows me a heavily bruised forearm and I learn it can be fairly common to take bloodtests before marriage/having children, to make sure both partners are healthy, or be aware of any other hereditary health problems before they start trying for a child... (I'm not aware of a single Malaysian/ Singaporean acquaintance who's done this, though we did harvest cord blood, also much more common among our friends.)
My friend picks up a chim Chinese-language book which I assume is something HK politics-related for HKD 29 - and later her colleague finds it in a box for HKD 10. (But honestly HKD 29 I thought was already a super price and it was in great condition)... Darn I should've got one too.. Who says books are just for reading?
Then finally... Lang Mo booth!!! Success! They're all pretty big (and wrapped in plastic) and I buy one. In the interest of research of course. (Ok la, I wanted a Look What I Found At HK Book Fair, Did You Know They Pose In Bikinis At "Boring" Old Book Fairs? conversation-starter. I am so not braving the crowds for Lang Mos again unless some other tourist friend wants to see it.)
Also, I'm mildly disappointed no one comes to serve me and my thrilled grin. I walk about with the large book I'm holding, browsing the stall. Seriously, no one looks at me or says anything (as in, no one cares). I could've just run off with it. Mummy Blogger Tries To Shoplift Lang Mo Book in Apple Daily. Why is no one handy to answer any questions I might have about my purchase or encourage me to buy two? Don't they think I have questions? <offended>
Feel bit better when I get a giant free poster and a couple postcards of featured Lang Mo. My companions seem rather surprised I bought it. "I guess you're getting it for Kings?" How come no one thinks I might be getting this for myself? Doesn't anyone want to know what's inside? "Can you not... take it out of the bag?"
Ok. Fortunately he said that, I was going to open up the huge poster. Off to Children's Paradise then...
Except there are way fewer little kids than I expected. You'd hardly know it's "Children's Paradise" but for the Doraemon and Disney and Thomas the Train books - some of em (ok it seems a lot of em) workbooks. But we do pick up some Mr Men, a Bob the Builder I haven't been able to find elsewhere, Thomas the Train numbers and more I Wonder Why (after discovering I loved them from ordering via Rockstar's school) on the cheap.
I spy the exact same Imaginets I was so proud of bulk buying off The Metropolitan Museum of Art online store. Original HKD price is slightly more expensive than The Met one, on offer it's maybe HKD 40 cheaper than what I paid online with subscriber's discount. Then I get a little freaked by the sheer volume of children's workbooks and things...
(In case you were wondering it was booths reading things like "Oxford Path" and "Gifted Child" Group - I was expecting Reading Is Fun-type stuff and maybe a bouncing castle in the shape of books and pencils with smiley faces, maybe a few friendly frogs perched on toadstools reading, and some educational fun fair-type games with lotsa kids having fun...)
No wonder there aren't many little kids having fun (despite the parrot)... I had originally thought to swing back on another day with Rockstar, but the relative crowded-ness (even though I'm assured it's really not a crowded day) and Kumon-y tuition-ey atmostphere change my mind. Not all the booths are like that, to be sure, they've got good educational toys and kiddie books on the cheap that I always thought I could only find online in places like The Met. But I wasn't at all prepared to find tuition-ey stuff and actually start to feel a little stressed.
And so it's time to go...Special thanks to
1) The mummy who gently insisted on showing me this 2) The guy colleague with her who provided us much amusement at his embarrassment over our Lang Mo search (but can still text us when we were in Children's Paradise that he found more Lang Mo booths)