Before heading into China we had a few days in Hong Kong. Stepping off the plane into the humidity was a nice first step after the cold Japanese winter. The drive from the airport to Hong Kong Island was past strings of islands and over several bridges, with a frenzy of activity in the surrounding waters - huge cargo terminals supplying massive tankers with hundreds of containers, and speedboats trying to avoid the behemoths.
Our AirBnb was in Central, a tiny apartment typical of Hong Kong (one of the most densely populated places in the world) - a room the size of the bed with a minuscule bathroom attached, so small I couldn't even sit on the toilet straight! My first impression of Hong Kong was of how international it is. Full of young expats dressed in suits and ties, it sometimes almost felt like elements of a Western capital picked up and transplanted into Asia. Especially walking past the Marks and Spencer's! It's real East meets West. Unfortunately though, unlike other Asian cities, it doesn't have the advantage of being particularly cheap (a slight problem for us being on such a long trip!).
There's plenty to do and
see in Hong Kong. Just walking round the backstreets of Central is enough to fill a day. We spent time exploring the antiques markets of Cat Street, full of lovely chess boards, jade carvings, old Chinese propaganda, pocket watches, and all sorts of other trinkets. The curse of the small backpacks hit again and we had to keep our purchases to a limit! Some of the upmarket antiques stores here were really impressive, the most amazing for me were the mammoth tusk carvings, with the most intricate scenes carved into the long curved tusks. There are a few nice temples tucked in amongst the high rises, the most notable being Man Mo, the oldest and most revered in Hong Kong, with its thick plumes of incense rising up amongst the surrounding apartment blocks.
Yuen Po bird market was another great place to visit. Old men roam the park with handmade bamboo cages hung from their fingers, taking their songbirds out for their morning walk. My initial feelings were that it is cruel to keep birds like this. Perhaps it is, but they seem to be well cared for. Songbirds have been kept as pets for centuries in China, and
are seen as a sign of sophistication. They are well trained, able to sing melodies or talk, and are taken to the park in order for them to socialise with other birds. If kept indoors it is said that they become depressed, stop singing and lose their feathers. Still, for me some of the birds were a bit too big for the small cages. Plenty of different types of birds and cages were for sale here, along with trays crawling with grasshoppers and worms to feed them. Nearby is the flower market, with hundreds of shops filled with amazing displays of blooming orchids and greenery. As if this wasn't enough markets for one day, just a short stroll took us to the goldfish market, where various fish are kept on display in plastic bags outside the shops, along with all sorts of other aquatic life.
Some friends of ours from Japan live in Hong Kong, and another couple we were friends with in Japan also happened to be there at the same time, so we organised to meet up. We booked into a staple activity of the Hong Kong expat - a brunch with free flow Veuve Clicquot champagne
and cocktails. The restaurant was called Hutong, set on the 28th floor of one of Kowloon’s skyscrapers, and is supposedly rated as one of the best restaurants in the world. The view was fantastic, as was the 18 course meal, full of Chinese specialities all perfect in their own way. It was some of the best food I've ever had! Needless to say that with champagne and cocktails on tap it was an afternoon to remember (or more accurately one to forget…). They also put on some entertainment, with a traditional Sichuan face changing performance. A man dressed in a colourful cape and a bright, intricately decorated mask, strode around the room, and with the occasional flourish the mask would suddenly change. Even right up close it was impossible to see how it is done - where it comes from and where it goes is still a mystery.
You can't beat the Hong Kong skyline, and there are plenty of good views of it. Whether it's from the top of Victoria Peak (a hot and sweaty walk from behind Central), from the iconic Star Ferries that roam back and forth between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, or from the
Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, it's an impressive sight and one that we didn't get bored of.
For our final day in Hong Kong we headed to our friend's new place over on Lantau Island. Not far from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong itself, Lantau is all jungle and beaches. Cows roam the roads and neighbourhoods like they own it. It couldn't be more different to the centre of Hong Kong yet it is only a stone's throw away, and perhaps why so many expats seem to live there. We were taken by our friends to their favourite wakeboarding spot, where we spent a fun afternoon wakeboarding and wakesurfing (where you surf the wake of the boat without a rope - easier than it looks and really fun). We also explored the nearby colourful Po Lin Monastery and Big Buddha - a huge statue that overlooks the surrounding jungle. In the evening we headed back into town for dim sum and cocktails - what a place to live! It's not often we come across places that we genuinely believe we could live, but Hong Kong seems to be one of them - it's got it all!
here we would be getting the high speed train into China to begin our journey north.
Tot: 3.151s; Tpl: 0.02s; cc: 18; qc: 78; dbt: 0.033s; 3; m:saturn w:www (220.127.116.11); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.6mb