Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hong Kongers or Hong Kongese?

I believe I left you at the cusp of my trip to Hong Kong the other day.  Hong Kong is known worldwide as an international hub of business and travel. I never had a particular fascination with Hong Kong but when a friend contacted me and suggested it I figured "why not?".

My friend Veronica, who is Aussie, flew from Madrid to meet me in Hong Kong on her way to Sydney.  I flew from Home in Seattle to Hong Kong on my way to Jakarta.  Amazing the age we live in.  After some nerves about finding each other in an airport neither of us had seen, without cell phones, Veronica popped up at my side.  Both our flights were delayed and I thought there was a high probability we would have trouble but that wasn't the case.

We stayed on the mainland in Kowloon at a clean hostel with tiny, TINY rooms. Small rooms plus the amount of luggage we had meant we spent lots of time moving things about.  Kowloon felt very commercial with residential bits mixed in above. The word I keep coming back to for Hong Kong is jostling. The volume of people and the people per square meter was astounding. When walking down the sidewalk you have to constantly pay attention to where your walking, the route between people and to your location.  It is a nice walkable city in the sense that the sidewalks are wide and on nearly every street, even small ones. The subway and bus system run well, are cheap and timely.  I would kill to have that system here in Jakarta, but alas, we are stuck with one insufficient public busway system that closes when a bus accidentally hits a kid.  The octopus transport card that works for buses, subway and ferries was brilliant.  The best parts of Kowloon were the ones we saw late in the trip, the botanical garden and a temple relatively close to it. It was nice to get away from the commercialism and hordes of people.
Waiting to cross a main street near the hostel.
Hong Kong island is just across a small straight, a ten minute slow ferry ride.  It has an older downtown, some colonial looking buildings, the financial district and antiques area.  It's hard to walk and the roads begin to head uphill as you move away from the waterfront.  I was fond of an area with loads of restaurants and shops near Hollywood Road.  Hong Kong island is where I went to my first horse races at Happy Valley Racetrack too.  Veronica schooled me through the basics of betting and off we went.  We won about as much as we'd bet but not enough to cover the beer.  Across the street from the racetrack I visited two very interesting cemeteries, one Catholic and the other Muslim.  Existing side by side, as do the temples, mosques and churches in both Hong Kong and Macau.
Looking from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island at night. The night lights/laser show started here and included these buildings.
I really really liked Lamma Island.  It is so small we walked most of its length in about an hour and a half.  The "downtown" area has a small hippie commune kind of feel in a way.  I'd definitely go back for the hiking, the beaches and the solitude.
Lamma Island part way between the two towns.
Lantau Island was brilliant.  It's where the international airport is, Hong Kong Disneyland and most importantly the big Buddha. It's 252 stairs up and worth every one (actually it's worth double that since I had to climb them twice). I guess my religious views are hard to pin down but I do always feel a sense of peace in Buddhist Temples and even amongst throngs of tourists this was true. There was a little walk, The Wisdom Path, that was nice and quiet.
Big Buddha on Lantau Island
Beautiful scenery and a long funicular ride (What is a funicular call in English? An aerial cable car I suppose) was part of the fun.  This is it:
I'm trying to sum up 8 days of travel in a short blog but I'm going to let it spill over to tomorrow.  Tomorrow will be the last of Hong Kong and a review of two days in Macau which were among my favorite days of the trip.  I loved Macau.

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