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Published: January 13th 2011
This blog is late. Really late. We went to Hong Kong on a 3 night stay en route to the UK back in August 2010 and I'm writing this in Vietnam in January 2011. Ah well, better late than never...
That was Hanoi
This is Hong Kong
As I mentioned above, we ended up in Hong Kong following the mini-tour of Vietnam with Kate's parents described in the previous blog. We flew to Hong Kong for a connecting flight home but decided that it was too important to miss out on. We flew from Hanoi to Hong Kong and we were wisked between two different worlds. Just the flight into Hong Kong was impressive - with the sea, the islands and the mountains and the view of the skyscrapers from above. It was all very exciting.
We checked into the Marriot of all place. Not my or Kate's usual abode when arriving in a foreign city but we're easily lead....Plus our room had a massive window that took up an entire wall overlooking the city. And the window had electric curtains. And the bathroom had a huge highpowered space-ship like shower. How
have I lived without such things before?
Hong Kong: it's a bit steep
One of our first trips in Hong Kong after wandering around for a while through the streets gawping at the designer shops, was the Peak Tram. This is basically a tram - like the type you get in Blackpool - except it goes up a very steep hill. Now, this is it in a nutshell of course. Few tourist guides to Hong Kong (HK, sorry, get with the acronyms) would likely describe the peak tram as this, but it's sorta true. Anyway, you queue up for your trip (no pushing or jumping the queue please, this is Hong Kong, not Vietnam) then this tram ascends an impossibly steep hill above Hong Kong. You get pushed back in your seat and snatch occasional glipses of glittering skyscrapers as you peer through trees. This anticipation builds as you arrive at the summit....
you step out.....
and you're in a big shopping mall.
Anyway, we wandered around for a bit....
wandered some more.....
finally we found what we were looking for. The view. It was evening and the HK
View from the cable car
who knew Hong Kong was so green?
skyline stretched out in front of us just like we'd imagined, but somehow better. Row upon row of skyscrapers lit up with multicoloured lights. Just stunning.
Buddhas, cable cars and capitalism
After the trip on the peak tram we clearly had a need for heights, because our next trip was on an immence cable car out on Lantau island (Hong Kong is actually made up of several islands - Hong Kong island is just part of it). There was more strictly regimented queueing before we ended up on a cable car and sailed out over rolling green hills and blue sea. Not the image of Hong Kong you have in your head at all.
The last time I was on a cable car was my first, over the Casa de Campo in Madrid. This one in HK was higher and longer and it didn't pipe Phil Collins music into the car. Maybe that's a Spanish thing. Like chorizo.
We arrived in the hills on a beautiful sunny day with more fantastic views. Off in the distance we could see the main attraction - the Tian Tan buddha - the largest sitting Buddha in China
(I think) pearched at the top of a flight of steps. We headed towards it and walked into a strange Disneylandesque village with a Buddha theme. There were souviner shops and restaurants with a Buddha theme, a 'Walking with Buddha' movie show and a great big Starbucks. In a Chinese monestary style building. You could even stick your head through a picture and pretend to be a baby Buddha on Buddha's hand - which Kate promptly did. It's hard to balance the Buddha and the accompanying monestary with the capitalism and coffee shops that surround it, but perhaps Buddha does provide? He certainly provides a huge source of income from tourists.
The Tian Tan Buddha statue was nice though.
The light and sound show
Hong Kong has a nightly 'light and sound' show . where literally, the whole city skyline lights up in time with music like a fancy, skyscraper themed disco. We couldn't miss that so we headed over the harbour to Kowloon island and wandered along the Avenue of Stars. This in itself was pretty exciting when we found impressions on Jackie Chan's hands on the pavement and a statue of Bruce Lee.
Along with the handprints and statues of many other Chinese stars (I must get more into Chinese cinema). Then the 'light and sound show' kicked off. Although it was odd, it was really really impressive. Whole skyscrapers flashed and pulsed with laser lights in time to music to amazing precision. I was impressed and think Sunderland should start one.
The biggest museum in the world
On another day (I forget which cos it was a while ago) we went to the National Museum. It was immense and really interesting. Did you know that the international drug trade was started by the evil British Empire and largely involved those gentlemen sending opium to China? Well it's true. This is related to Hong Kong becoming British. Maybe one day in the not too distant future, as the world power shifts, China will decide to flood England with imports (!) and then they will take over the Isle of Wight. Only time will tell....
"Was it good then?"
Yes, it was! We liked HK a lot. It was obviously a completely different place to our home in Vietnam but still distinctly Asian and Western.
It may have Chinese food, Chinese sights and lots of Chinese heritage - but the buses look just like ones in England and the pubs look like real pubs and serve beer in pints at high prices (actually higher than England). This melage (I know, impressive word, but is it used correctly? I'm not sure) of culture sits well with me.
What you hear about Hong Kong suggests that it's just a big city, but actually it has large green areas, pretty beaches and stunning natural views.
Oh yeah and did I mention the queuing? People seemed to be fine with queuing. It was rather strict in fact. Something you don't get much of in Vietrnam where I am constantly being shoved aside by small ladies like I'm some kind of hairy cattle.
And we got to catch up with Kate's friends from her Master's who we last saw in the Philippines last October. Rich, Eloisa and John - good to see you.
So...a pretty skyline, interesting culture, pints and queues. I reckon that ticks a lot of boxes.
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