Bargain hunting in Hong Kong

Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
Trip End Aug 01, 2007

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Flag of Hong Kong  ,
Monday, March 19, 2007

He Said:

Anyone who has redeemed frequent flyer miles knows that they can save you a ton of money, allow you to go to places you couldn't otherwise afford, but at the same time make you accept flight routings and timing you would never find acceptable if you were actually paying for the ticket. In redeeming miles on Continental to get to the island of Yap in Micronesia we are doing about the most circuitous route imaginable, with three overnight stopovers, two overnight flights, and two daytime layovers of longer than nine hours each! On first leg of our award ticket getting to Hong Kong from Singapore we flew via Tokyo. This would be the equivalent of flying from New York to Las Vegas via Anchorage. But hey, at least the flights were free!

Before I go into what we did, here is the obligatory mini-history lesson: Hong Kong is a bit of a historical anomaly in China. It was part of the Chinese empire until the British took it over in 1841 during the First Opium War. Additional parts of the Kowloon Peninsula were taken in the Second Opium War a few decades later. In the settlement to the conflict in 1898, the Brits were given a 99-year lease on the island and peninsula.  The city grew prosperous as a trading port under a free market economy during the intervening time. As the lease expiration drew near, there was a lot of speculation as to what would happen when communist China received the land back in 1997. They ended up making the territory a SAR (Special Administrative Region) for the next 50 years, where it would keep its own political and economic system while still being part of China (they call it "One country, two systems").  The territory has continued to flourish under its new ruler, and continues to expand and develop at a breakneck pace. In a few months we will be going to China's other SAR, the nearby island of Macau.

I find Hong Kong to be a really fascinating place. Like the other islands we have visited which developed around trade (Zanzibar, Penang, Singapore) it has a really interesting mix of people and cultures that exist and flourish side-by-side. Since we were only here for two days, we didn't have time to do a lot of sightseeing but we did manage to squeeze in a lot of walking around though lively neighborhoods and vibrant commercial districts, as well as catching the tram to the top of Victoria Peak for some million-dollar views. We were able to spend a few frenetic hours doing some shopping and scoring unbelievable bargains, but I'll leave it to Katie to fully narrate the afternoon.

She Said:

Hong Kong is my favorite Asian city so far, and it is like New York City on steroids.  The expansive skyline set right on the water, ferries running back and forth, wide sidewalks, and upscale stores felt like a little touch of home (despite the fact that everything is written in Chinese and 95% of the population is Chinese).  The city is set on several steep hills, and boasts the world's longest covered escalator at more than half a mile long.  There are walking bridges connecting high-rise buildings all over the place, and just when you think you might be lost, a helpful sign appears to point you in the right direction.  The energy of the streets, people rushing all over the place, cute cafes and restaurants on every block and the efficient mass transit systems really solidified that we are definitely "city folk."

Todd graduated from a casual shopper to an all-out bargain hunter.  As soon as we realized that the "factory rejects" from the hundreds of factories making designer clothing for the US and European market just outside of Hong Kong ended up in street markets and tiny nameless stores at absolutely CHEAP prices, we went a little nuts.  We started immediately concocting a plan as to how to get all these purchases home, and soon realized that Guam uses the US Postal Service and shipping back to the US would be quite inexpensive.  We even pondered an EBay scheme for a while for Columbia ski jackets that were tagged for the US market at $380 and selling for the equivalent of $30, but decided that it was too much trouble for the time being.  Regardless, we ended up with lots of new ski clothes that won't really come in handy until next winter, but we couldn't resist.

Hong Kong is definitely a place we could live for a while, and we are thinking of amending our itinerary to make another stop there in the next month or so.  Maybe we can arrange an EBay scheme after all....
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