The bright lights of Hong Kong
Trip Start May 01, 2010
90Trip End Apr 30, 2011
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There is a lot to like about Hong Kong. Firstly, it is so clean almost to the point of being obsessive. There is no litter anywhere and lift buttons and door handles have little notices saying these buttons/handles are disinfected every hour! Toilets are also spotless and all have automatic flushes, soap dispensers and taps so the user doesn't have to touch anything! After India and much of the rest of the world where plastic bottles are casually dropped out of train and bus windows without care or thought, it is refreshing to come somewhere so tidy and spotless.
Secondly, the city is extremely well organised
Thirdly, there is so much to do here. We spent our first day exploring Kowloon, which is across the water from Hong Kong island (only 5 minutes away by MTR) and one of the main tourist and shopping areas. We have never seen so many shopping malls in one place before. And these are not your average shopping malls, they are huge and extremely glitzy, catering to people with plenty of spare cash. Every designer label you have ever heard of is here, from Prada to Gucci to that one that makes those rough looking bags covered in lots of silly little logos that people seem to desire so much. But walk a few blocks away from the glitz and glamour and you can still find a bit of the old Hong Kong, where little shops sell strange Chinese things that you haven't got a clue what they are, and orange coloured cooked chickens hang in the windows of local restaurants where they are serving up all manner of meaty delicacies.
We also visited the Hong Kong Museum of Art which was facsinating
During our second day we did the tourist thing and took the Peak Tram which climbed ridiculously steeply up to The Peak for views down on to the city below. It was cloudy so the views were not as clear as we would have liked but they were stunning nevertheless. At the top we followed a circular walk around Victoria Peak where we found another viewpoint which allowed us to look across to some of the surrounding islands. One of the best surprises about Hong Kong is that a large proportion of the islands are covered in forest and this walk took us through a lovely section of woodland where regular signs explained the different tree species. After the Peak we visited Hong Kong park where there is a large walk-through bird aviary filled with all sorts of colourful birds, lush greenery and a tumbling stream flowing down the centre.
For our last day we picked up our passports complete with Chinese visas from the Chinese Embassy and headed east on the MTR. We got off at Shau Kei Wan, a couple of stops from the end of the line and jumped on bus number 9 which drove us south out of the city and into the countryside
In the afternoon we visited the Hong Kong Botanical and Zoological gardens which were brilliant and also completely free of charge. An oasis of green in the heart of the city, we spent a good few hours exploring the plant filled gardens. Like the aviaries we visited the day before, these housed an impressive collection of beautiful and rare birds from around the world. The mammals section was also home to a number of endangered primate species including gibbons, orangutans and lemurs.
In the evening we walked down to the harbour on Kowloon side from where you can see the amazing skyline of all the skyscrapers on Hong Kong island just across the water
For our last night we went to a nice Chinese restaurant where we had two delicious aubergine and tofu dishes. Being veggie in Hong Kong is difficult as it is such a meat based culture here. Even the aubergine dish contained minced pork!
We have thoroughly enjoyed ourselves in Hong Kong and felt like we could easily have had more time here. After months on the road, it's nice to come somewhere clean and organised although there is a feeling in us that maybe Hong Kong is just a little bit too clean, a bit too clinical. It is also a very rulesy society. There are notices everywhere banning spitting, skateboarding, hawking, breathing etc. There are also many advisory notices such as advising you to cough away from people and hold the handrail when using an escalator etc. Possibly it is becoming the new Singapore, a city where everything is so convenient and where residents are told what to do and how to behave that they stop thinking for themelves. The code seems to be behave yourself and consume as much as possible. After spending a few months in one of the poorest countries on earth, the overconsumption here leaves a nasty taste in your mouth.
Still, as a place to visit it is great and it has certainly recharged our batteries for our final three weeks in Yunnan province China which will undoubtedly be a whole new experience.