Posts/December, 2008/

First Two Days in Hong Kong

Monday, December 15th, 2008


Two words: Hong Kong. One more word: Rocks!

Hong Kong is an invigorating mixture of East and West, modern and ancient, natural and artificial. It’s different enough to be interesting and familiar enough to be easy. The scale of the place is huge. There are absolutely massive buildings. The streets are crowded with people, catwalks, endless double decker buses, and trollies. Below ground are packed subways. The city exists on three levels for the pedestrian, each equally packed with activity. The subway stations are vast and full of stores. Tunnels go for city blocks between malls and other subway lines. A person could cross the entire city, while shopping and eating, and never see the light of day. Now that’s progress. Above, malls connect the bases of many buildings. The malls are then joined by elevated walkways above and subways below. This whole city is crazily interconnected like an urban circulatory system.

There are signs everywhere: jutting out from buildings, neon, hand painted, animated, banners, billboards. Add this to the chaotic finish of the buildings, and the street is a dense maze of details. Behind the sheen of the new buildings is an equally dark and dingy maze of pipe filled, dripping, and grimy alleys. Yet everywhere, no matter how hidden, the ground is kept swept and tidy.

People are melting in this hot pot. English is more common, as are many of other languages. Everything is more expensive. Currency is the Hong Kong Dollar at $HK7.75 to the dollar. It’s easy to freak out seeing a $14 pastry before doing the conversion.

J. and I arrived by train on Saturday. We were lucky enough to have our own cabin. Our train arrived at the border in Shenzen. From there, we had to navigate through the massive station to find immigration. Once on the Hong Kong side, we had to make 4 subway transfers to get from Lo Wu to Causeway Bay stations. The subway isn’t as easy when you have to haul all your bags. By the time we got to the hotel, my neck was chafed and back sore. Our $US45 a night room in the Causeway Bay Hotel is tiny, but the owner and night manager are a very friendly elderly pair. They both speak great English.

On Sunday, we had the first of many pastry and coffee breakfasts. The pastries come from numerous delicious bakeries. The coffee comes from McDonalds. All of the McDonalds here are sleek and immaculate. There is no other place to get takeaway coffee for as good or cheap. All Starbucks and similar charge around $US4 for a cup. Preposterous. The former is between 1 and 2.

After breakfast, we began an epic walk all over town. We covered a lot of ground: first heading to Victoria Park, then across town to the Central area, then back. My knees and lower back are sore.

Street traffic: cars, buses, double-decker buses, and double-decker streetcars.

One of many building mounted signs.

Stretching in Victoria Park.

One of the Victoria Park cats eats some meat.

At the children’s playground, a man practices his swordplay. Nope, nothing unusual here.

Inline skating lessons.

Nothing is more heroic than a man and his balls.

Basketball game.

Ladies out on the town, the ground.

Tonics, tinctures, and herbal mixtures.

Saloon doors, aluminum style.

A little lady and her fortune telling enterprise under the highway.

Wan Chai training pool.

Strange, yet wonderful color scheme.

Mysterious plexi panel marked “HKE 237” with affixed battery.

HK Convention and Exhibition Center seen from Wan Chai waterfront promenade.

Not the mark of a quality fence.

Fishermen in the harbor.

Ladder to water, perhaps for when you lean on the fence.

Razor wire on the ferry building.

Man with comb-over casts.

A lady looking at me with skepticism. I complimented her on her perfect Peter Faulk impression.

Tourists round the bend.

Pods and harbor.

The porthole building.

The International Finance building towers over the harbor.

Blossoming tree.

Much of the time as a pedestrian is spent on these.

Gloucester Road looking east.

Art behind bars.

All over town, predatory birds flew amongst the skyscrapers. Must be an ominous sight for the office workers.

Pipe men crossing the street.

Alley.

Man with enormous cleaver cleaves pork.

Orchids for sale.

Wall of windows.

Ladies on the sidewalk preparing vegetables. Cat watching.

Men playing cards.

McDonalds delivery scooter. Service in 30 minutes or your burgers are soggy.

Fountains. Everywhere: fountains.

Marching band music and the ladies: a winning combo.

The “hanging out” ladies taking over a skywalk.

Multiple levels of crowds.

That’sa me, selling you’a Christmas lights!

Central Escalators. This is the longest escalator in the world, spanning 800m from Des Voeux Road Central to Conduit Road along a 20 minute ride.

Another view of the escalators.

Roots clinging to wall.

The impenetrable gates to the former Central District Police Station.

Oh crap! Santa had an accident at the construction site.

The netting of the free, walk-through aviary in Hong Kong Park.

The elevated walkway in the aviary.

The White-Feathered Blue-Eyed Two-Footed Bird of Somewhere.

The rare Balancing Pigeons of Lesser Bongolia.

The I’m Gunna Kill You Crested Bird of Delaware.

Kids playing in a fountain.

Towers built on a hill.

A few units were getting remodeled.

In the evening, we spent a lot of time walking through dense street markets. Some had food; others, merchandise. It felt like an entirely different city than what we’d seen prior: much grittier and crazier than the sparkling malls. For dinner, we went to a restaurant that specialized in hot pot. We ordered two BBQ meat and rice platters that were mixed in provided, smoking stone bowls. Cheap and delicious. And smoking.

Seafood vendor.

Fruit vendor. We bought 3 kilos of mandarin oranges for $HK10($1.25).

Dry snacks for sale.

Creepy doll, purse, and flower vendor.

With a door like that, I’m uncertain why a doorman is necessary.

Shrine.

On Monday, we took the subway to the northern peninsula of Kowloon. We walked around a bit in some worn neighborhoods, Kowloon Park, and near the harbor. Spent some time eating ice cream and browsing Toys’R’Us in a mall built over the water. In the afternoon, we took the Star Ferry back into town. By “town”, I mean Hong Kong Island.

Popular holiday installation in Times Square. We’ve been eating our breakfast here and watching people take photos of each other.

Street.

Street of signs.

Sign montage.

Sign montage.

Large block of aging apartments.

Man tending to his drying clothes.

Small shops.

Machine shop.

Mr. Lee of Man Lee?

Produce Market in Kowloon.

A cucumber big enough for its own shelf.

Lots of time is spent underground in tunnels like this.

Hedge maze in Kowloon Park.

Scary tunnel near a construction wall.

Massive apartment block.

Cruise Ship docked at Harbor City Ocean Terminal.

Inside the Star Ferry.

View of Hong Kong island from our ferry.

J. has been experiencing a worse version of the head-cold I caught earlier in the trip. She’s currently in “snot factory” stage and not in the best form for traipsing through town. But that’s the way we get by. As our 6 month trip is just days away from ending, we’ve been given a second wind to get out there and soak up the new sights.

Two more days left. Crud.

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