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Published: November 27th 2015
Anyone who travels has struggled with jet-lag, but let me tell you, a 14 hour time shift is something to experience. Its 2:00 a.m., I'm on my second cup of coffee, and it feels like noon .... which ... by the way ... IT IS!
I'm hungry, but I have to wait 5 hours for breakfast, so I thought I would use the time to tell you about my trip so far.
I'm in Hong Kong for a week, and after the first day, I'm prepared to favorably compare the urban vistas in this city against anything I have seen ... ANYWHERE. Take a look at the photos and judge for yourselves.
When I was planning my trip, I was surprised by how little people seemed to know about Hong Kong (like, for example, it's in China), so I thought a brief history lesson would be in order. Now don't panic ... the history lesson is going to last exactly 439 words.
That being said ... to insure you don't skip over the lesson and jump to the cool photos, there WILL be a short quiz at the end of the week. Be warned!
Map of Hong Kong
Hong Kong Island + Kowloon Peninsula + New Territories = Hong Kong
a time, in the 19th century, there was a global empire on which the sun never set. This empire was ruled from a cold and damp island in the North Atlantic named Great Britain.
To fortify themselves against the cold, the British people drank a lot of tea.
Half way around the world, in a place called China, they grew a lot of tea.
The British trading companies transported huge amounts of tea from China to Britain, but made the return trip with largely empty ships (which is not all that profitable). They searched for something to export to China in exchange for the tea they were importing from China. That export turned out to be opium, which was grown in both Britain and in the British Colony of India. You with me so far?
Oddly, the Qing Dynasty resented the Brits for getting the Chinese jacked up on opium, and the tensions lead to .... wait for it ... the First Opium War.
The British won, and the Chinese were forced to cede Hong Kong Island, off the south coast of China to Britain. Hong Kong Island was (and is) valuable because it has
one of the world's great natural harbors.
Several years later, tensions re-ignighted in the Second Opium War. Again the British won, and this time, the Chinese were forced to cede the Kowloon Peninsula, on mainland China, across Hong Kong Harbor from the Island of Hong Kong.
Control of both sides of Hong Kong Harbor was beneficial to the British, but as the colony grew, the Brits came to realize they did not have the natural resources to sustain Hong Kong long-term. To resolve this problem, in 1898, the Chinese leased territories north of Kowloon (and some islands) to the British for 99 years. These territories (and the islands) are called the New Territories.
Hong Kong Island, the Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories are collectively, what we call Hong Kong.
Hong Kong was scheduled to revert back to China in 1997 (1898 + 99 years), but in 1949, a wrench was thrown into the gears when the Commies won the Chinese Civil War and founded the People's Republic of China.
As 1997 approached, the British were understandably reluctant to cede their very capitalist colony back to a communist country. The impasse was ultimately resolved when
the Chinese and British agreed on a new political/economic system for post-reunification Hong Kong. This system, described as "One County, Two Systems," allowed Hong Kong to be part of the People's Republic of China while maintaining its own capitalist economic system and a certain degree of political autonomy.
See ... that wasn't so bad ... historians may quibble a bit on the exact details, but I find it best not to get to bogged down with facts.
So here I am in the Special Administrative District of the People's Republic of China, known as Hong Kong.
On my first day I left my hotel in Kowloon, took the Star Ferry (more on the Star Ferry tomorrow) to Hong Kong Island and rode the historic funicular railway from "Central" to the the top of Victoria Peak, the highest point in Hong Kong. From there you can look down on Hong Kong Harbor and a vast array of some of the world's tallest buildings. After lunch I hiked the Peak Circle Trail ... a heavily forested trail that circles Victoria Peak and provides amazing vistas of the city below.
Surprisingly, for one of the world's most densely populated
cities, only 25% of Hong Kong is developed and 40% is either parkland or nature reserve.
Once my iPhone battery was dead, I hopped the ferry back to Kowloon, had some dim sum and collapsed (it was 6:30 p.m.).
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