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Published: July 28th 2010
Kristy's on an escalator
goofing off in the Square Mall
We left Hanoi early in the morning headed for the airport, boarded our plane to the amazing city in the south of China and landed at 1pm local time. (Funny note about China, the country has adopted only one time zone. Beijing to Lhasa is all one time. Check out a map of world time-zones and try to figure that one out).
We had been to Hong Kong before, although only for two hours, as we had a layover on our way to Bangkok, so we only got to see the views allowed by plan while flying overhead. We flew through customs and hopped onto the MTR system headed for Kowloon, directly across the harbour from the main downtown center on Hong Kong Island (the financial district). Hong Kong has an impressive subway system that can take you just about anywhere in the city at an amazing pace. It took us just over 20 minutes to reach Kowloon, in an area called Tsim Sha Tsui. The area is a bustling tourist ground, with hotels and shopping malls galore. Our chosen guesthouse was on the 5th and 6th floor of the Mirador Mansion. What, a Mansion you say? No
it wasn’t something you would see Brad Pitt strolling out of or parking his Lexus in. It was a 14 story apartment complex, housing numerous guesthouses, travel agencies, seamstress shops and many other random businesses. The bottom floor had a shopping mall of sorts, with money changers, tailors, and a few stores selling ripped off Ipads and phones. (We weren’t sure if they were real or fell off the back of a truck, but the Ipad doesn’t come out in China until later this month).
Our room cost us about $33 US and was the size of our old master bathroom (we weren’t kings, it was quite small) and a bathroom the size of a hall closet. We did have a window, which I think was a luxury. We settled into our cozy little home away from home before taking on the big city and going for a wander and finding ourselves smack dab across the harbour from the financial center, just in time for the Symphony of Lights show. Some of the bigger buildings in downtown Hong Kong have set up a show using synchronized lights and lasers which blast out across the harbour and all
around, making an amazing free show, every night at 8pm. We showed up about half an hour before the show and sat in complete awe at the skyline created by the looming buildings across the water. While the Symphony of Lights is an amazing show, it was nothing compared to what I felt just gazing out at the city beyond. Neither of us had ever seen anything like it before, it wasn’t that it was beautiful, it was utterly impressive. We then went out for what would be our only meal in a proper restaurant at an Irish Pub. While being an impressive to look at city, Hong Kong is expensive!!! ($6 US for a pint, after being in South East Asia for so long it felt like robbery). We wound up eating a McDonalds, Subway, Pizza Hut and (believe it or not Vancouverites) Triple O’s (White Spot) for the rest of our stay in the city.
Day two started with a wakeup call from the streets below and we headed off for the space and astronomy museum and to catch an IMAX show, very un-eventful and a huge waste of money. We found a travel agent
to purchase tickets to Yangshuo, in mainland China for Saturday, arranged for our Chinese visa’s (one day to process, and 430HK$ got us three months) before heading over to the mid-level escalators, the longest in the world! It took us over 800m in 20 minutes. From here we managed to weave our way through the city to find the Victoria Peak Tram, one of the highlights of a stay in Hong Kong. The two car tram practically defied gravity as it pulled us up to Victoria Peak, and we made our way up to the viewing platform of the oddly shaped building where we were offered one of the most amazing views of Hong Kong. We then wandered around the shopping mall (the city has a mild obsession with putting shopping malls in just about every conceivable location) before finding a similar, and much more free, viewing platform where we watched the sunset, caught some night-time views of Hong Kong and did some window peeping on some typical Hong Kongers’ living rooms from the free binocular viewers. We had to wait almost an hour to catch the tram back down as everyone caught on to our good idea to
head back into the city and passed out after a long day of walking around the amazing city.
The next day we headed back to Lantau Island (home of the airport) in an attempt to make our way up the gondola visible from the airport to another one of Hong Kong’s peaks hoping for more great views. Now as you may or may not know, May to November is Typhoon season in the tropics near the Philippines which after breaking over the islands bring in some interesting storms on the southern coast of China and northern coast of Vietnam. Of course the day we actually plan on going up a massive hill for a view the typhoon decided to break over us and cover the mountain completely in a black cloud while showering us with buckets of rain. We took cover in (you’ll never guess) an outlet shopping mall while the rains subsided before heading to Hong Kong in hopes of heading up to the 43rd floor in the Bank of China tower to check out their free viewing platform (I know, it’s raining and I’m going on about how a storm ruined our view from this
Hong Kong Island
part of the financial district
mountain, but it was free and didn’t force us to get soaked to the bone). Sadly we got there two minutes to late and instead made our way back to our Mansion where we enjoyed a fine dinner of Pizza Hut and cheap beers from 711.
Our last day found us wandering over to the Hong Kong museum of History. It was by far the best museum we had visited since leaving home, and cost only $10HK each (about $1.30 cnd). It started with the landscape and occupation during pre-historic times (Chinese cave-men) and went all the way to modern day. It had excellent exhibits full of useful information!
To get from Hong Kong into mainland China we had to catch the MTR system to the border town of Shenzen, where we crossed through customs and immigration. Our bus was leaving from a terminal just on the other side of the border and we found it with no difficulty, surprising because we saw maybe two English words after being stamped into China. Our first experience is that the people here are very friendly and helpful if you look lost. We didn’t get much English
Massive buildings in the heart of the financial district
they felt like huge looming buildings, with personalities of tight-lipped buisness men and we were small pawns cowering down below.
except from two very nice police men who helped us figure out where our bus was, but it didn’t seem like too much of a problem.
We have an 11 hour journey ahead of us to Yangshuo on a sleeper bus much like the ones from Vietnam. I don’t think we have any idea what to expect, we both keep trying to picture what China will be like, and every time come up with a different idea of how the country will be. I think entering the country with no expectations will give us a more interesting experience. The only worry we have (besides the language barrier) is the floods terrorizing the southern parts of the country, with so much destruction to so many cities across southern China, we’re going to have to keep an eye on the news for the next couple weeks and make sure to have our poncho’s handy. Either way we’re in China now!! I can hardly believe it’s true yet here we are. Tomorrow, Yangshuo!!
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