Sunday, 22 March 2015

N 22.17.59 E 114.10.03 Hong Kong... and Home

When we were planning this year of travel, on impulse we decided to spend a few days in Hong Kong because we were landing there on the way from Kota Kinabalu to Vancouver.  I’m delighted that we did.  After a year of visiting some interesting and out of the way places and staying in tents, hostels and guest houses, we did a very upscale visit to Hong Kong.  Five star hotel on the Kowloon waterfront, some fascinating tours, some great food and a lot of pampering.

I had reread James Clavell’s novels (Tai Pan and Noble House) before arriving – but the huge reclamation projects in both Hong Kong/Kowloon and Macao meant that many of the places we were exploring didn’t exist before 1990. Hong Kong is still heavily centered on trade and finance and the deep Victoria harbour is still busy with ships of every description and many international companies send goods bound for China through Hong Kong because it gives a financial advantage.

People in Hong Kong describe their city (8 million people) as small by Chinese standards.  They are proud of their British heritage and despite the “One country two rules” slogan see that they are not part of China. We also took a day trip to Macao where the situation was similar but different.  Macao was always part of China, but administered by Portugal, so our guide had a different way of describing her city.  Both places are bilingual but with Cantonese being the language spoken, not Mandarin.  It’s clear that these cities are very affluent and look to the west for their way of living.  Streets are clean, infrastructure is first rate, and the crazy crowds of people we came to expect in Asian cities just weren’t there.  Even on our walking tour into the old part of Hong Kong, the crowds were like I have come to expect in a Canadian city.

Touristing in Hong Kong was different in a lot of ways.  No refreshing hikes through great scenery and no cute photos of animals, bugs and other beasties.  Instead there were colours, sights, textures and people to fascinate the senses.  Most interesting was the thick fog that permeated everything.  In the spring, the hot air meeting the cold gives fog so thick that you will see nearby buildings peeking through but not completely showing themselves.  The locals say that summer (May to October) is much better because it is sunny and hot (+35 not unusual) and humidity is close to 100%.  I’ll take the fog. There were a few things old but mostly new partly because we were in the reclaimed areas of town, but also because of the major destruction of Hong Kong during World War Two.

We thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  If we pass this way again, a few more days in Hong Kong will definitely be part of the plan. 

Fascinating lamp in our room

Dinner in the "not fancy" restaurant included flowers

...tablecloth and fancy setting for utensils

desert plate for those who could not decide.
Wee cup of mango pudding, something jellyish
and a warm sesame ball with chocolate

Very cool warriors guarding the lobby.  The concierges wore
suits and had big smiles, but looked like they could take care
of anything that might happen.

Kowloon skyline

"Beat the Banana" race for cancer research.
This fellow was using an Asian zumba sort of
approach to warm up the crowd

Find the banana

Tourist watching on the avenue of stars

Wherever this is water there will be fishermen
We spent a fascinating couple of hours at the History Museum. Sensory and information overload.
Hong Kong History Museum bathroom doors.

Pretty cool jewellery

Wedding procession.  At the front, are boxes of dowry -
just like we saw on Lombok.

And guardian dragons

Shadow puppet

The fellow who lost the Opium WAr (and thus allowing the
British to claim the island of Hong Kong

Another Singer sewing machine

Uniform of nursing staff.  Prisoner of war camp.  Check out the
many tiny patches of fabric to keep this shirt repaired.

Of course this would be the sign for a hardware store.

Left is the tallest building in Hong Kong (#4 in the world)
In front is a major mall/office tower

Bamboo scaffolding and building wrapped so nothing falls on
those below.  Actually, the bottom three floors were already
in use.
The only problem with our full day tour to Macao was that it wasn't long enough.  Great sights presented by our enthusiastic guide and great food as well.

Macao tour.  Our guide with her pink flag

Graceful bridges from the mainland to the two islands
also part of Macao.

Bilingual Cantonese and Portugese

Taoist temple A Ma - Sailors thought this was the name of the

Some might see this as a tiled sidewalk.
I see it as a great quilty inspiration

Maritime museum had some fantastic artwork

Chinese compass - not sure how it works but it
points south

Macao with its early fortifications.  Land reclamation has
almost doubled the size.

Rope maker that looks just like some of the machines for spinning
cotton or silk threads.

The oldest gate (1600s)

Quilty inspiration

One of the 35 casinos

16th century statue rescued from the fire at St. Peter's church

Original wall

Facade of St. Peter's church.  Unique because of it's Asian
symbols mixed with Christian ones

Looking thoughtful.  Actually, there was a sewing machine
shop around the corner that I was wondering if it also had fabric...

Dutch style building.

The view from the top was fantastic.  Excuse the colour which is
from the thick fog that actually kept us out of the harbour
for more than an hour.

Bungy jumping companies have wicked senses of humour

One falling person

My foot carefully placed on the glass so I could photo
the base of the tower.  The other foot was
carefully planted on real floor.

Another cool statue - this one of dragon boaters - outside
the mall

For perspective, the highest part of the bridge on the right
side is tall enough to let ocean going cargo vesssels
into the inner harbour

The spirit who protects Macao perched
on a lotus flower.

Another casino

Our box of cookies.  Apparently Macao is noted for its cookies.
On our last day, I browsed the area near our hotel taking tourist photos.

Chinese medicine store in the mall under our hotel.
Not sure why the deer with glasses and flowers.
Hong Kong has mastered the art of layering the building
to make maximum use of limited space.  The mall was on the ground
floor and then two floors down.  Under that were three floors of
the ferry terminal to Macao and mainland China.  Our hotel lobby was floor
three, then there were floors of offices and finally the hotel
rooms above that.

Original bedrock integrated into the wall supporthing the
roads above the ground level road

It was fascinating to wander past all these designer label
flagship stores and peek in the windows.

At first I thought this was an interesting sort of suit jacket.
Actually, it's an advertisement for Armani making suits
to measure.

Please look sideways.  Like most cities we visited, Hong Kong uses
bamboo scaffolding to construct buildings, even the tall skyscrapers.
It's a licensed trade and the 57 qualified journeymen are kept very
busy with all the construction happening.

Many of the window displays were more art than sales

This little boy and his dad were walking down
the street sightseeing the windows just
like I was.  Dad would have been taking
his son to school.  Compulsary from age 3 to
end of secondary school (15 years) 

Random flowers

Yes, the sales person in suit and tie is polishing the floor of the
window display.  Other people were washing/polishing the

Genuine penny farthing bike

Traditional toys including a slinky, all of which had been
manufactured in Hong Kong at one time (no longer)

Banyan trees seem to be able to send down roots into and
around anything.

Door knobs to a mall.  Honest.

More bamboo scaffolding.  Artwork IMHO

Our hotel complex

I went in search of "Chinese Arts and Crafts".  Turns out
it was a very pricy store selling original artwork.

Embroidery on the headboard of or bed.
In the afternoon, our guide came and picked us up and we went via the metro over to the Hong Kong side to explore and snack our way around the older areas of town. We ate dim sum with the locals, tasted sugar cane juice and won tons so fresh that the shrimp may have been swimming in the ocean earlier that day. Along the way we discussed what it is like to be living in Hong Kong and how people see themselves compared to Chinese.

This banyan tree was on the wall surrounding the college that
Dr. Sun Yat Sen attended to become a western trained
medical doctor.

Our guide with the market stall that sells sugar cane juice
made fresh while you wait.  Not too sweet, no additives.

Chopsticks and soup spoons in the local cafe where
we had the most perfect wan ton soup. .It's been rated as one of the
five best places to eat in Hong Kong 

On our way back by Star Ferry.  We are looking at where the
ferry dock used to be before land reclamation started.
The dock is now a brisk walk to the left of this photo.

...out past the ferris wheel.

First time in our time here that there was enough sunshine
that the buildings actually showed their colours.

Looking at the Kowloon side from our ferry.

Not a real junk, but you can still ride the harbour in it.

Our ferry.  As an indication of how much land has been reclaimed,
This ferry took 8 minutes to cross the harbour.  It took 20 minutes

From Hong Kong, it was a slow trip home to Grimshaw.  The long plane trip from Hong Kong to Vancouver was made interesting by watching the under plane camera.  The pilot, with North American accent, welcomed us to Vancouver with the weather report – cold and +15 but at least it isn’t raining.  We had our first North American cup of coffee – the very biggest dark roast brewed coffee available.

Take off in Hong Kong.  My enthusiasm for technology even
got the young man in the seat next to me interested.

Getting closer.  My body says time for bed.
The time is about noon

Descending.  We are flying over Nanaimo says my
seat neighbor

Touchdown in Vancouver

Love the artwork in airports.
Just want to say I never was this frazzled

From the Westjet magazine on the way to Edmonton.

Trust me on this.  Some of the white is clouds, but most of
it is snow covered mountains as we fly over the Rockies
into Alberta.
Then it was on to Edmonton, a restless night sleep then off to Vermilion for a visit and to reunite with our vehicle.  Yes, this is how much luggage we carried for most of the trip - under 20 kg in the big checked backpacks and 5 to 7 kg in our carry on.  We also had a bag of sleeping gear for our time from Istanbul to Koltata. Mind you, we are very experienced at finding post offices or courier companies to forward things home.

No comments:

Post a Comment