I’m actually sitting on an airplane as I write this(well, actually, as of now, I’m in front of my computer reading the blog I wrote out on paper on the plane because I felt there’s WAY too much to ‘member in one sitting.)
So Hong Kong. Well, the flight over was fine if you consider a 3 hr flight followed by a 2 1/2 hr delay on a plane followed by a 15 hr flight fine… Got into Hong Kong at 9 or something at night(basically a 24 hr trip). And for all the reading material I brought, I only read(and managed to finish) 2 of the books, both of which I had already started… I know, go me. Don’t ask how I managed to kill 15 hrs past sleeping. And I didn’t sleep that much. *shrugs*
Hong Kong, which in Cantonese i’s pronounced somewhat closer to “Heung Gong”, though white ppl and white languages will never grasp it =), is a super modern, international city. It’s all high rises, offices, appartments, etc. Very crowded, 7 million ppl on a small amount of land I can’t ‘member the numver for. There, land is gold, Apparently on most of the land, it’s illegal to build houses; it must be an appartment or something. Everyone uses public transportation, as only about 10% of the population has cars. But ‘neways, geography lesson.
Hong Kong is made up of primarily 3 parts: Kowloon, Hong Kong Island, and the New Territories. HK in its entirity(sp?) is made up of some 200 islands(can’t ‘member exactly), but only about 10 are named and have public transportation to.
Kowloon is mainland HK, adjacent to China, which it is basically “owned” by(though not run; HK has its own government and everything). It has most of the hotels, residential, entertainment, shopping, etc. The main street, Nathan Road, stretches some 2 miles long, and most of the business centers on this road. Oh, note on how crowded it is: our tour guide kept mentioning how ppl lived in the “rural” areas. “Well Kevin, if HK is so crowded, how are there rural areas?” Well apparently, the “rural” areas are just as built up as the main city with appartments and shops and restaurants and stuff. Mebbe she meant “residential”. *shrugs*
Hong Kong Island is… well, the island. To get there from Kowloon, you can take the famous “Star Ferry”, the subway, or the “No More Excuses Tunnel”. Story ’bout that: so, in the old days(past the 70s or something), the only way across to HK Island from Kowloon(where most lived) was the Star Ferry. Well, it only ran during the day and shut down during Typhoons and stuff. As such, workers and kids could get an excuse from work/school by blaming it on the ferry. After the tunnel was built(working 24-7), ppl no longer had excuses for tardiness or absense. In ‘ne case, on HKI(I’m getting really lazy with these names) is the more industrial/commercial part. Along with the resort-like area. ‘Neways, from Kowloon, you can look across the (body of water which I can’t ‘member the name for) and see the Skyline of HK. It was really incredible with so many buildings and so many lights(see, in HK, there appears to be a big competition for the tallest building, so it keeps getting bigger and bigger and…). In addition, at 8:00 every night is a laser show form the buildings of the skyline. Not so spectacular, but interesting. Elsewhere on the industrial side are Aberdeen and Victoria harbors. In Aberdeen harbor are the boat ppl, fishermen for life. These are ppl who have basically never stepped off their boat. Funny story, some of the elders are so isolated from society, they actually believe if you take their picture that you might steal their soul(OMG, Willie is the devil!). On some of the boats are generators with TVs and fridges and everything. Unfortunately, with all the pollution, the fishermen have to go out farther and farther to fish, several days away. As of the 70s 80s however, HK law has required all kids to go to school, robbing away the youngest generation. Becuase of this, only the elderly are really left on the boats as the kids figure out how much easier life is on land. Apparently, it’s predicted that the boat ppl will die out in some 10 years. Sad.
Continuing, on the otherside of the island, away from the hustle & bustle of life is a resort-like area, mostly left untainted by human influence. Maintained in almost perfect greenery, it was actually pretty spiffy and an incredible contrast to the other side. There, private land can be bought, and there were actually a couple houses and some townhouses there. There were beaches and barbeques too at places like Repulse Bay(not named cuz of the quality of the water, but that pirates were once there was drove out by the British). The place wehre ppl live is called “Stanley Village”, with the famous “Stanley Market”. Nice place.
Up on HKI is Victoria Peak, formerly the highest point, before the government chopped off the top so they could build more tourist stufff up there. To get up there, there is a winding road, or the something-icular tram. Basically, there are 2 trams over 1 track(splits in the middle for a bit) that use each other as counterweights. Genius. Up there is a shopping complex, trails, touristy stuff. You can watch the lights of the HK skyline light up as the sun goes down. Quite nice. It’s also very odd, for you can literally look out one way onto a humongous city(10000X more urbanized than Houston), then walk to the otherside and see greenery and water to the horizon. Crazy.
The final part of HK is the new territories, other islands linked to HKI by a huge suspension bridge, much like the Golden Gate Bridge. There are the airport and the in-the-works Disneyland:Hong Kong.
As I said before, in HK, land is gold, so who doesn’t want to be an alchemist of old? Sort of? If you didn’t niknow, HK is naturally very mountainous. To fix this, the government has gone under the very expensive project at cutting down mountains and pouring it into the water, called “landfill”. Much of this “reclaimed land” is pu to use to build more and more, for HK is still growing and crowded. Harbors(like Aberdeen, Victoria) have shrunk significantly from landfill, and often, hotels with waterside views will often find itself obstructed by another building built in front of it from landfill. Sucks. That’s why living on higher floors is more valuable; the view is valuable, and in some places, truly enchanting.
Another odd part of the growth of HK is “Feng Shui”, literally “Wind Water”, symbolically “Luck Money”. The art is just a way of positioning things for maximum luck and money(Chinese are very superstitious if you can’ tell). Natrually, everything is built to accomodate this art. Some buildings have holes in them for it! Along with other funny designs, it makes architecture in HK truly unique. And don’t screw up, because apparently, 1 building had 1 bad angle, and it never did so well.
Weather in HK is quite similar to Houston, humid and hot, though it rains more.
Well, got your geography lesson, here’s some history. As you probably know, HK was ceded to England during the 19th century as a part of the Opium Wars agreement, only returned to China less than a decade ago. As such, there is a hilariously large British influence there. Double-deckers roam the streets. English words appear above the Chinese translations, not the other way around. They drive on the wrong(nope, it’s not just left, its wrong) side of the road, of which all still have British names like Nathan and Kimberley. Oh, and my favorite, on the subways, whenever you get on or off, a voice says, “Please mind the gap.”
So as for my personal experience, I stayed at the Miramar Hotel on Nathan, the crucial road on Kowloon, right in the middle of “downtown”, in walking distance of everything. Oh, and everyone walks everywhere. That, or public transportation for long distances. The streets are always crowded(except morning; Chinese life seems to go from about 11 to midnight. Most shops and stuff are open really late) with businessmen, vendors, families, etc. Over by us were tons and tons of shops and malls, a shopper’s dream. You could even buy legit(really) VCDs(like DVDs) for about $19 HKD(1-8 against the USD, making it about $2.5US) Everything was cheaper. Even an ice-cream cone at McD’s was about $2HK/a quarter. Food was really cheap too, for a full, real Chinese meal for my entire family could cost mebbe $25US. Oh, and teh food was to die for from buns in the morning(Pineapple custard, BBQ pork, mmm!) to noodles and wonton to fried rice… it was great. I have never had Chinese so good(10000X than in Houston; mebbe 10X better than Toronto, but that’s still a lot). ‘Neways, there were tons of vendors on the street too, wehere you could get curry fishballs on a stick or waffle balls or bubble tea, all something like $1US. Incredible. Open air markets were also plopped down right in the middle of the street with clothes galore. I ended up buying only one thing, but it was worth it. In one of the department stores, we found prescription goggles. Although I wasn’t sure of my exact prescription, I got a pair pretty close for $10-12US.
So there you go. If you want some more personalized answers and experiences, drop me a line; I’ll be sure to ignore you =). Just kidding…
Don’t really want to write right now. Not sure if ‘neone really cares though. Okay, poll.
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