Let me preface this entry by stating the obvious:
Hong Kong isn’t a city to try to and see in a day.
I knew this when I planned my trip. Originally my flight plan would have included an eight hour layover in Hong Kong, but I decided that was just crazy, so I extended it for a day just to get a chance to walk around a bit. I had no intention of spending the time necessary to really get to know Hong Kong, because it would have extended my trip quite a bit. My logic in the planning phases was something like this: I know I’m only going to be able to get a sample of Australia in six weeks, and just a taste of New Zealand in two, so unless I am going to rethink the trip into a more comprehensive adventure, all I need is a whiff of Hong Kong.
I had toyed with the idea of seeing Viet Nam, and Thailand, and traveling across India, but realized that I hadn’t done nearly enough preparation for anything like that, so this trip wasn’t going to incorporate SE Asia, or the Indian subcontinent. I felt that if I got the chance to walk around a bit in Hong Kong, I could get enough of a feel for it that I could use it as a jumping off point for another trip.
I wandered around for much of the day on foot. During that day, I missed what I regard as one of the better photo opportunities of the trip, just because I was too self-conscious to pull out my camera:
A city worker was watering a hedge that was shoulder high. The light was coming in at just the right angle and the droplets of spray were sparkling in the low morning sunlight against the shaded background, and her face was illuminated under her wide conical hat from the light reflected off of the green wet hedge between us.
I’ve got to learn to just stick the camera in people’s faces if I’m going to get the really good shots…
Incidentally, yes, they still do use bamboo scaffolding for construction. The buildings in the background shrouded in green cloth are entirely covered in bamboo scaffolding as well.
I wandered the streets in search of markets. I had imagined being able to wander through markets that resembled a cross between the old Reading Terminal Market, and the street vendors in Blade Runner, where I could find everything from eel to electronics, but found nothing like that. The closest likenesses were a few scattered alley ways, divided by hanging grids and racks of sequined and rhinestone encrusted T-shirts, huge ugly sunglasses, vinyl hand bags and scarves that I couldn’t imagine going with anything.
I had expected that electronics might prove to be cheaper in Hong Kong, but such was not the case. I wandered into a book store and bought a couple of travel books on Amsterdam and Holland for tomorrow’s plane ride.
I managed to find a small park on my wanderings. It was really more of a path between two places that had a little waterfall, and some greenery, but no where to sit. I had expected to find a city geared towards pedestrian life, but I was mistaken. I mean, there were people walking everywhere, but none of them seemed to ever need a place to sit down, and none were provided.
A very long wait in a very long queue preceded a very short ride up the mountain in Hong Kong’s famous funicular. The floor of tram car was scalloped so that I could stand upright despite the steepness of the slope. The trees and greenery of the island occupy all of the land that is too steep to build, so the funicular made its way up the mountain with trees on either side. Apartment buildings that may have only had enough room for a few apartments on each floor, stood many stories high, and poked up at the sky like pencils.
It’s really amazing. Once you get off of the tram car, you are forced to walk up through several floors of kitschy souvenirs in order to look outside from the roof. Picture a rest stop or airport gift shop anywhere in the world. Out of every 100 items for sale there, what fraction of them are made in China? If anyone can do tacky gift shop merchandise it’s China. The gaudy-meter broke on my camera, so I was unable to photograph the evidence, but rest assured that no one is going to top the shopping experience waiting for you at the top of Hong Kong’s hottest tourist attraction.
There were a couple of restaurants on the outer edges of the gift shops, and I’m sure they had great views when the weather was good.
Once out on the roof I looked down on the city below. It was impressive. The haze from the pollution was incredible. I’m sure the view would have been more impressive if I could have actually seen more of it, but what stuck in my mind was the brown haze. I could see across to the mainland which looked like it was just across the river, but it was like looking through, well, haze.
I decided that I would hang around for a little while and let the sun go down so that I could see the city with its lights ablaze. It definitely got chilly, and windy, and several times I wandered around inside the kitsch mall on the mountain top just to get warm.
A few of the buildings had neon lights on them that changed color, and I did what I could to take a few shots without a tripod. There were photographers with tripods and on-camera flashes charging for pictures of couples against the backdrop of city lights. I wandered around a few of the shops inside again, and came back down the mountain feeling hungry.
I slowly made my way to a restaurant recommended by Roger. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that they were known for their dim sum and that that was traditionally served early in the day. Once I ordered it took about two hours for food to show up. Apparently, they are too accustomed to doing dim sum, and have no sense of bringing food to the table, or service of any kind in fact. If tipping were the custom there I wouldn’t have left one, and I have worked in restaurants for years. After a dessert of squid ink pudding, I wandered around the streets of Hong Kong, and got lost in a maze of malls that seemed to go everywhere, with most of their shops closed up for the night.
Eventually, I did manage to find my way back to my room, and went to bed. (In hindsight, it is possible that I may have been bitten by a spider during the night.)
The next morning I got up and got on the bus to the airport. The airport was not quite as vacant as it was when I went through it headed to Perth, but it still seemed relatively empty.
Upon take off, I had a view of the port from the air. Hong Kong is perhaps the largest port on the planet. There were an impressive amount of shipping containers below. I’ve never really hung out at a port, so I have nothing to compare it to, but it was definitely a large port with LOTS of containers (each the size of a semi- trailer).
I left Hong Kong behind in a trail of jet fumes, headed to Holland; the last leg of the trip.