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Published: July 31st 2018
I had decided to do another free tour today. This one was For Hong Kong Island and I thought it would be a good contrast to the Kowloon Tour that we had done at the weekend. I headed over to Admiralty and met up with the tour guide. At first, I was the only one there, and I almost had a private tour, but a couple more people turned up and off we set. We headed over to Tamar Park first, this was just a short walk away. I had been to the park the day before, but we had mainly walked along the waterfront and I got to explore more of the park now. We had walked through the big 'open door' of the Government HQ building, which was completed in 2011. The building looked very fancy and modern and our guide speculated on what a joke the symbolism is. Our guide explained a bit about the Umbrella Movement, the pro democracy movement that occupied parts of the city. It was really interesting to hear about this from not only a local perspective, but someone, who had been part of the protests. Our guide definitely seemed frustrated and angry as
he felt that the movement hadn't achieved anything and had been too passive. Our guide also told us about his father's journey to Hong Kong, which was pretty harrowing. It makes me think how lucky I am. From the park we moved on to the People‘s Liberation Army Garrison, the tour guide continued the tour right in front of the CCTV cameras from the garrison. He showed us the travel documents that were given to Hong Kong citizens by the British government just before the Handover, but the documents are pretty useless. I definitely feel that the Hong Kong people were screwed over by the British government and our guide did not seem too hopeful for the future of Hong Kong with the 'one country, two systems' concept was being eroded, so by 2047 when this system will be completely phased out, he didn't think that Hong Kong would be an attractive place to live. Something else, that I found interesting was that all the soldiers in the garrison come from the mainland and have no contact with the people of Hong Kong. They just come to the garrison and then head back to the mainland when on leave.
We headed over to the City Hall building and ou guide told us about why Hong Kong was returned to China by the British. He also explained to us about how easy it was to become a citizen of Hong Kong in the past. Just across the square, we could see the HSBC building and the Bank of China building next to it. The HSBC building was designed using the principles of Feng Shui. The HSBC building is a lot taller than the Bank of China building next door to it, but the Bank of China Tower a little further away is considered to have bad Feng Shui, as the building has two knife edges, one pointed at British Government House and the other at the HSBC building.It is believed that bad things happened at the HSBC building due to the Feng Shui coming from the BOC Tower, so two cannons were installed on the roof, pointing directly at the Bank of China, to ward off the negative energy. We headed over to the HSBC building and took a look at the two lions that guard the entrance to the building. During the Japanese occupation of the area, the lions
were carted off to Japan and were due to be melted down. However, the war ended before this could happen and an American soldier recognised them in the dockyard in Osaka and they were returned to Hong Kong. The Bank of China Building also had two lion statues guarding its entrance on Des Voeux Road. Their design is very different to that of the HSBC lions. The final stop of the tour was St. John's Cathedral. It is the oldest Anglican church in the Far East. It is in a prime real estate spot, just behind all the fancy office blocks and banks in the downtown area. The cathedral had been built in 1847-49. The gardens surrounding the actual building were really nice and peaceful. There were a few people relaxing in the garden. We headed in to the cathedral and had a look around. It was very peaceful and I was surprised to see quite a few people in there praying and reflecting. I had really enjoyed the tour and it was interesting to hear things from a local's perspective. The guides on these tours are not only tour guides but have other jobs, too, so I felt like
they gave a more realistic local perspective. I would definitely reccommend doing the Hong Kong Free Tours, as they are something a little bit different.
I had spied a place that I wanted to try for lunch, but it was back in Kowloon, near where I had been staying, so I headed to the Star Ferry and took that back across the water. The walk to the restaurant took about 15 minutes, it was really close to where I had been staying. New Istanbul Kebab is a tiny little place, which had caught my eye as I really like Turkish/Middle Eastern food and hadn't had it in ages. There were so many delicious looking choices on the menu, that it was hard to pick. In the end, I went for a plate of kebab meat with hummus, a small salad and flat bread. A drink is also included in the price, so although it wasn't the cheapest meal, it was pretty good value. The restaurant doesn't have to many tables and is a little cramped, but it doesn't have any wall, which is great for people watching on the main street and the alleyway to the side of the
restaurant. It didn't take long for the food to be delivered to my table and I happily chowed down on it. It was really nice and so different to what I normally eat. The waiter had also brought three bottles of sauce and I sampled all of them. One was like a garlic mayo and I applied a lot of that to my meal. It was a great meal and I was happy I had chosen that place.
After my my lunch, I headed across to the Hong Kong Museum of History. I saw a large group of schoolchildren as I approached the museum, urgh! I was in luck as they were heading to the Hong Kong Science Museum, which is opposite the history museum. My research online had shown me that there was an entrance fee, not a very big one, to enter the museum. However, for some reason, there was no charge that day. The museum is pretty big, and I followed the I tended route. First, I headed downstairs to look at the exhibits there. The museum is pretty comprehensive as it goes way back to the very start of the area, long before there were
any people. The first gallery covered the natural environment and was divided into two sections, the landform and climate, and the flora and fauna. This isn't really my cup of tea, although I did find the first bit about how the area was formed interesting. The second gallery was dedicated to prehistoric Hong Kong and showed how people lived in primitive times. The third gallery was about the different dynasties that had ruled China and Hong Kong, from the Han Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty. The Han people from Northern China had migrated south and the region had developed. It was interesting to see what developments they had brought and what occurred in the region at the time. The last gallery on the ground floor was all about folk culture in Hong Kong. I definitely found this the most interesting exhibit on this floor. It was a lot more interactive than the others. There was a fishing boat that you could walk on and peek inside to see how the cabin was set up for people living there. The other parts of the exhibit was divided into different culture aspects such as clothing, theatre and customs. I can't remember if
they were general or belonged to different clans or ethnic groups. This section was a lot more colourful and inviting. When I got to the end of the fourth exhibit I was a little confused as it seemed like the end and there were exit signs from the exhibition hall. Surely there was more to the museum than this? Well yes, there was. Out in the hall way there were signs pointing to the escalator to lead you to another four exhibition halls upstairs.
The first exhibition hall upstairs was pretty large and divided into several sections. This exhibit detailed the Opium Wars and the cessation of Hong Kong. I don't know anything about the Opium Wars and while I learnt a little by reading the information, I was overloaded with information in the museum, so I definitely need to read up on it in my free time. This section had quite a few military artefacts on display. The next section was entitled 'Birth and Early Growth of the City', I really liked this section as it displayed more modern history, showing how the city had developed. I loved the displays that were designed like old shop fronts and
showed the different businesses that there had been in Hong Kong. There was also a section that detailed the political structure of Hong Kong. The next exhibition hall was about the Japanese Occupation. I knew nothing about this period, so it was interesting to learn more. The occupation began after surrender on the 25th December 1941, after 18 days of fierce fighting, by the Hong Kong Governor, Sir Mark Young. The occupation lasted for 3 years and eight months. The final gallery chronicled the most recent history of Hong Kong. It showed the rapid development of the territory, especially with regards to finance and trade. There was also a section on the Handover as Hong Kong was passed back from British rule to Chinese rule. I remember watching the Handover on TV as a child and the then Governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten sailing away from Hong Kong on the HMY Britannia. I remember my mam telling me that I was witnessing history in the making. Little did I know that that young girl would end up living in China many, many years later. I found this exhibition interesting. I loved seeing how ordinary people lived their lives, for
me that is more interesting than the other stuff. I love getting glimpses of people's lives in different places.
After the museum, I headed back to the guesthouse to pick up my bag and headed across Nathan Road to check in to my new hostel. I managed to score a free upgrade to a two bed dorm, instead of the 6 or 8 bed dorm I had chosen online. I liked the hostel, it had a very small, cool roof terrace that overlooked the mosque and Kowloon Park. After resting up for a bit, I went for a wander. I had no plan in mind so just let my feet guide me around the streets. After about an hour, I ended up back near the hostel and decided on a small, old school place just along the street for dinner. The place was called Hung Lee, I think. I ordered a bowl of noodles with processed fish balls and slices, along with an iced tea. The food came quickly and was okay. It was pretty bland and not very satisying. I was still hungry when I left, so I headed to a bakery on a nearby street, that I
had visited on previous visits to Hong Kong. I was definitely a lot more naive about food safety back in the day. I saw the sandwiches that were filled with mayo, that I would normally pick, but being a little later in the day and then having be left out unrefrigerated, I decided to skip them, fearing for my stomach and bowels. I went with a small pork bun and an egg tart instead, which I ate back at the hostel.
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