Hong Kong, China (March 20 and 21,2012)

Trip Start Jan 07, 2012
Trip End May 09, 2012

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March 20, 2012 - Hong Kong

Our ship continued along the southern China coast before navigating through the shipping channels of Ta Thong into the large natural harbors of Kowloon and Hong Kong to our berth at the China Merchant Wharf located near Kennedy Town on Hong Kong Island.

Hong Kong, which means Fragrant Harbor, was acquired by Britain from China in three stages. The island was gained in the Treaty of Nanking in 1842; the Kowloon Peninsula by the 1860 Convention of Peking; and the New Territories (consisting of the mainland area adjoining Kowloon and 235 adjacent islands) under a 99-year lease by the Second Convention of Peking in 1898.  Aside from the Japanese occupation (1941-45), Hong Kong served as a staging post and entry port for trade between China and the West.  The colony's population, heavily reduced during the Japanese occupation, was rapidly boosted following the communist victory in China in 1949.  More than 1 million refugees fled to Hong Kong in the immediate aftermath of China's civil war.  Since then, Hong Kong has transformed itself from a cheap manufacturing base to a regional service and financial center, while exporting many of its factories across the Chinese border to take advantage of lower costs.

One of the main reasons people visit Hong Kong is to shop in the duty-free capital of the world.  The world’s most spectacular shopping free-for-all reigns supreme with armies of hard-bargaining shopkeepers in more than 50,000 retail outlets crammed with every imaginable untaxed good, including jewelry, watches, optical goods, carpets, china, porcelain, electronics, cameras, antiques, artifacts, every name worth mentioning in the fashion industry and much more.  There are two main shopping areas in Kowloon; Harbour City, a large shopping center with more than 500 shops inside, and Nathan Road, also known as the "Golden Miles" of Hong Kong, with more than 2,000 shops.  We were totally amazed by the number of shops and how crowded everything was.  When people were not shopping, they were eating.  Here, most every cuisine known on earth is offered, as well as some of the best Chinese food prepared anywhere.  Most think the best cuisine of the south is Cantonese.

On July 1, 1997, Hong Kong returned to China’s control with the Sino-British Joint Declaration.  No one knows what lies ahead for the post-British Hong Kong, but predictions are good in that Hong Kong remains a city rushing through the present in anticipation of the future. One thing for sure, the place never sleeps!  With a population estimated at about 8 million, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, with the densest area being Kowloon.  About 98% of the residents are Chinese, with more than half of them being born in Hong Kong.  Most are Cantonese from southern China; hence Cantonese is one of the official languages of the colony.  English is the other.  The currency is the Hong Kong dollar (HKD), though US dollar was widely accepted.  Hong Kong has a sub-tropical climate, with hot, humid summers and cool, dry winters. Winter lasts from January to March, the coldest month being February, with average temperature of 61 degrees and the city cooled by strong, cold winds that blow in from the north.  In summer the wind blows from the south, bringing in warm, humid air and a rainy season that extends from spring through summer with a maximum of around 82 degrees.

We arrived in Hong Kong about 9:00 am and met our friends, John & Linda to take the shuttle bus to Central Pier to see about obtaining our tour tickets that we had booked online.  After some confusion, we got the tickets for Big Bus Tours, which are Hop On-Hop Off buses with many tour options.  John and Linda went to Macau for the day & we had planned to meet them in the evening.  We started the day in Hong Kong with taking the "Red Tour" (Hong Kong Island) with our first stop at Victoria Peak, the highest point on the island at 1805 feet above sea level.  We took a cable car ride up to the summit, which is known for having panoramic views of the island, harbor and Kowloon Peninsula, however it was very foggy and cloudy, so the views certainly were not impressive.  This was quite disappointing, but the site had many shops, restaurants and other buildings to see as well.   After coming back down, we boarded another bus to continue with the city tour.  This tour was 1- hours.  Then, we took the “Green Tour” (Stanley Tour-Hong Kong Island) to other parts of the city and beyond.  Our main stop at Stanley Market, a popular site for bargain hunters that offers everything from clothes to antiques.  We saw many lovely areas along the route, though did not have time to stop in Aberdeen for the sampan boat ride.  The Aberdeen Fishing Village is known as the picturesque village home to thousands of “water people” who live aboard their junks and sampans.  We returned to the Central Pier to meet up with our friends, get a quick bit to eat and board another bus for the “Night Tour” over in Kowloon and the “Symphony of Lights Show”.  We took the tunnel under Victoria Harbour to Kowloon and around the area noting the famous shopping areas of Nathan Road, with all the large and numerous neon lights, Temple Street Night Market, and Ladies Market, and Elements where you could capture the panoramic view of Hong Kong Island skyline and Victoria Harbour.  We enjoyed this 1-1/2 hour tour with so much vibrancy of the lights and excitement of the nightlife just starting to get going, thus being rather impressive.  All of our tours were on double-decker with open-air tops, so that made it great for viewing and picture taking.  After getting off the bus, we walked along with promenade to the “Avenue of the Stars” for the viewing area of the laser light show, “Symphony of Lights”.  Here lights on buildings were illuminated with flashes and beams to music over Victoria Harbour.  Then, we boarded the Star Ferry back to Central Pier on Hong Kong Island & caught the shuttle back to the ship.  We had a full day of abbot 12 hours of site seeing, so were pretty tired.  We grabbed a quick snack in the buffet before calling it a day and to get some rest for another day in Hong Kong!

March 21, 2012 – Hong Kong

We started off our morning by once again taking the shuttle to Central Pier and going to the post office to mail a box and envelope home.  Fortunately, the location was convenient for us.  Then, we took the Star Ferry over to Kowloon and walked over to the Big Bus Tours stop for an approximate one hour “Blue Tour” (Kowloon Tour).  This tour route was quite similar to the “Night Tour’, however quite different seeing it during the day compared to last night with all the lights.  We got off for the Nathan Road shopping area, which was quite amazing.  It seemed like everywhere someone was trying to direct you to a tailor shop or lure you into a jewelry store.  Everywhere you went, there were so many people about and shopping.  The people of Hong Kong take pride in their possessions and status is quite important.  One can definitely see that Kowloon is known as being the most densely populated area.  There are so many extremely tall and crowded high-rise apartments along with the many stores and shops. Hong Kong has more high-rise buildings than any other city in the world, which total about 8,000 and growing; New York has the second most with about 4,000.  We stopped at the Harbour City shopping mall & went to Starbucks to enjoy a good cup of coffee and try some wi-fi, though it only worked on Chris’ phone to download some emails.  On our walk back to Ocean Terminal, we ran into John & Linda, so we took the Star Ferry Harbour Cruise with them and back to Central Pier to take the shuttle to return to the ship.  We enjoyed a rather cold champagne sail away, talking with many passengers about their time in Hong Kong, before going to dinner.

All in all, we were very happy with our experience with Big Bus Tours.  We felt that we were able to see quite a bit of Hong Kong in our two days here and that it was an excellent value for all that we did.  We hope to be able to use this company in future ports.

In general, we found that the people of Hong Kong were friendly and most willing to offer assistance in getting around and in helping to find locations.  Many people do speak English, so that made it easier.  Even those that did not speak English, they still would help with sign language and gestures.

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