Day 9: What is Hong Kong?

Trip Start Apr 16, 2009
1
6
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Trip End May 31, 2009


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Saturday, April 25, 2009

After two days in Hong Kong and many distinct and diverse impressions, I asked myself: what is Hong Kong? Lonely Planet starts its Hong Kong chapter with the sentence: "If Hong Kong was a person, she'd be a difficult woman to understand ... constantly changing, without losing touch with her heritage ... superstitious, but scientific when she wanted to be ... love dim sum, and pizza too ...". The bottom line and my view says: there is not just one Hong Kong, but many. Start with the city area itself. What do we think of when we imagine HK? I guess a city, neon lights, a metropolis not sleeping, skyscrapers, wealth in general. Believe it or not, more than 80% of HK's area are green hills. HK Island - what we always imagine as THE Hong Kong - is the economic heart, yes, but only comprises 7% of the total HK land area.
My first day was dedicated to exploring HK Island, with a district called Sheung Wan in the West, and with Central district (the skyscrapers, here we go). There is a double-deck tram which should not be missed, $2 a ride, connecting the northern districts of HK Island. A walk thru Sheung Wan is ... interesting - a deep dive into traditional Chinese culture. You are instantly confronted with all kinds of smells, from spices (nice) to dried seafood (not that nice). Buildings are high here as well, sure, but you see the difference. People are living in a rather poor area, and the few tourists around the back lanes make a superficial contrast to the scene. A lane called "Upper Lascar Row" offers then all kinds of Chinese souvenirs, including portraits, statues and other reminders of Mao. In the middle of this scenery, imagine a temple (the Man Mo temple). The further eastwards I walked, the more expensive it became, also cleaner, and the more business-dressed the people were. I inevitably arrived in SOHO (here: south of Hollywood Road), the lunch spot of HK Island. Quite interesting were the socalled mid-level escalators that help you go up the hill through SOHO. Hill: yes, it is not flat there, instead, it is quite steep. The climax of this hike is Viktoria Peak (still missing to climb up, as the weather was not too good so far).
Two very nice oases within the town invite for a rest: the Zoological and Botanical Gardens, and the Hong Kong Park. The latter also hosts the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware, which I found particularly interesting: apart from the many samples of tea pots and educational videos that show you how to make tea properly, it tells the story of tea in China and all its specifics. Tea can be categorised in many different ways. One popular method is a categorisation based on the procedures used in processing tea and the characteristics of the tea thus made. Doing so, one concludes with six major types of tea: green tea, white tea, yellow tea, oolong tea, black tea and pu'er-type tea. Differences are in pan-firing, withering, rolling, smothering, fermentation, heaping and roasting. I found it pretty interesting there and can recommend to pay a visit.
Apart from the tram, buses, the MTR train (which is a metro), there is also a ferry crossing Victoria Harbour, connecting HK Island with Kowloon peninsula. The Octopus card is valid on these ferries as well, and crossing the harbour is a pleasant ride especially close to sunset and thereafter. My plan was to walk around Kowloon a bit and finally wait at the Avenue of Stars for the "Symphony of Lights". This permanent installation is a light and laser show from the tops of the skyscrapers on HK Island, including some buildings on Kowloon. On that avenue, there is even music played and the whole show is announced via loudspeakers. Starts daily at 8pm, and is a must-see in HK! (before starting the show, Mozart's Little Nightmusic was played, which is in particular very interesting as at the airport when I arrived, a Strauss walz was played in the arrivals/immigration hall. classical music everywhere!).
On my second day, which was today, I visited both the Wong Tai Sin Temple and the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery which comprises a temple with more than 12,000 sitting buddhas lining the walls. Whereas the first temple was rather touristic, which means many Chinese tourists along the way and hardly Westerners, the second one was almost extincted which could  be because the place is further north, outside any touristic area, a bit harder to find, and especially up a hill that one has to climb over 400+ stairs. See the pictures for some impressions! I have been again in Kowloon, near the Harbour, discovering Nathan Road and Temple Street, but to be honest: that's not my area. Much too touristic, and touts on every corner.
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Comments

petra454
petra454 on

Wow!
Hi Peter!
Das ist wirklich ein wunderbares Reisetagebuch! Da wird man ja wieder richtig 'gluschtig', wie man in meiner alten neuen Heimat sagen würde. Asien hat uns ja auch schon immer besonders fasziniert, ich glaub unsere nächste grössere Reise wird wohl wieder dort hin führen, dann, in 20 oder 30 Jahren... Singapur und Hong Kong waren ja sowieso immer schon Ziele auf meiner geheimen Reisewarteliste.

Ich wünsch dir noch ganz viele tolle Erlebnisse auf deiner spannenden Reise und ich freu mich schon auf deinen nächsten Bericht!

Liebe Grüsse aus Innsbruck (ein Mini-Urlaub)!
Petra

wmessner
wmessner on

China-trip
Hi Peter,
Martin and Paeps enjoy your travel report very much. Hope that you have as good times in China as in Hongkong and Singapore.
All the best for the larger partr of your trip.

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