Hong Kong is Beautiful
I was walking through the underground system and asked a police officer, in English, which way I should go to see the Avenue of Stars, a riverfront walkway with views of Hong Kong Island. He gave me a perfect answer with a smile and I was on my way. From the moment I turned the corner and saw the cityscape I fell in love with this city. From the Kowloon side looking toward Hong Kong Island, the city is built onto the side of a mountain. The picture reminded me of SimCity, the computer game where you can build whatever city the mind can imagine. Hong Kong is a SimCity. The tall skyscrapers stretch from one’s periphery, blowing away anyone who walks into the vista without any preconceived expectations. Another fun aspect of the city is its British influence, easily spotted in the form of double decker buses, pub streets, and of course the need to look right, rather than left, when crossing the street. 🙂
Hong Kong is Organized and Convenient
Here is an excerpt from an e-mail I sent home to my parents, edited later to give more detail:
“I spent my first full day in Hong Kong today and absolutely love the city! I did not have any problems finding the Harrison’s house and have a really nice living situation with nice bed on the floor and great bathroom. The public transport can get me into the main part of the city in one hour. The subway is longer and wider than any I have been in, thus more comfortable because it is a lot less crowded. I am about the have dinner with the family now. I walked around Kowloon today and did not even make it to Hong Kong Island yet. There is so much to do. I did not realize how big Hong Kong is. Most people think of the high rises when they think of Hong Kong, but it is also composed of Kowloon, the New Territories, and the outer islands, which must be ten times the size of Hong Kong Island itself. Also, Hong Kong Island is home areas other than the city, which include Repulse Bay and Stanley with the famous Stanley Market. On the first day, I also spent the afternoon at the HK History museum, which was very interesting and gave me a great background to Hong Kong. The city is so modern, and I already think it is better than Singapore. :)”
Hong Kong has Great People
I stayed with the Harrison family, the father of which my father had met on a trip to Hong Kong and China. They were absolutely wonderful and accepted me into their household with wonderful hospitality for one week and only after about one week’s confirmed notice. Having a nice place to stay with a nice family was a great break from the seventeen friends with whom I lived back in Beijing. Mike, Susie, Marie, Elizabeth, Isaac, Will, and Ginger (their shy and talented dog) were such a blessing, as well as Sai Fung, Mike’s good police officer friend and adventure running mate around the region.
I also met up with two friends with whom my father is connected by scholarship at the University of North Carolina, Jason Cox and Alex McMillan. I met up with Jason after church at the YMCA on Sunday and he took me with some friends on his speed boat to Po Toi Island, which has one restaurant, Ming Kee, where we had some awesome seafood. On the way to and from the marina club, I was able to see the famed Jumbo floating restaurant and tried to recreate a photo which my dad had taken in front of it 23 years earlier. Jason and his friends were great, and I really enjoyed hanging out with them. A few nights later, I met up with Alex and his wife for dinner and a drink. I travelled over to Tai Po in the New Territories to meet up with them. We had a wonderful dinner full of Hong Kong delights in the market building, a nice drink at a pub frequented by expats, and hung out on the rooftop of their new house in this New Territory. Both of the these folks and their parties have such great stories, and like most long stays in Asia, they started out here during stays which they thought would be temporary.
One quick side story about how nice everyone is in Asia. I got off the subway and had no idea how to get to the market where I was to meet Alex and his wife. I asked one young lady, who ended up walking me to the market. We had a great conversation and talked about what we were doing in Asia, our respective educations, our friends, and ended up departing have exchanged phone numbers and e-mail. The girl, having graduated with a major in tourism, was now working for the WWF (World Wildlife Foundation, not World Wrestling Federation), and offered to show me or friends around Hong Kong on any return visit. What a nice and spirited young person. This would never happen with the same frequency in the United States, which leads me to the next question. Why? Is it because I am a unique stranger in a foreign land, Asians in Asia are nicer people, or a combination of these two things or many more? I do not know, but I like it. J If it were because they are trying to take advantage of me, then they are in for a surprise as real friendships form. I think it is because it is unique and fun to befriend someone different from you. What may start as a novelty and initially for one’s own enjoyment turns into a pleasant experience for both parties involved. Another why? People who open up and are kind to each other right off the bat have so many interesting things to say, so many things interesting to learn about their similarities and differences, and in a world that only has six degrees of separation between people, so much in common. How much fun!
Hong Kong has Great Things to Do
I spent many hours exploring the markets of Hong Kong, which are often organized around what they sell, with entire streets forming the aisles of a super city store. If you want to buy fish for your aquarium, you go to the Goldfish Market. If you are a lady looking for a good clothing deal, you go to the Ladies Market. If you want Jade, go to the Jade Market. I think you catch my drift.
Hong Kong puts on a laser light show every evening at 8:00 pm that incorporates many of the buildings and choreographed to music. After that I travelled across the harbor on the famous Star Ferry, and made my way to the tram that would take me to the top of Victoria Peak, which boasts beautiful views of the city from above. On the way I met three friends with whom I would spend the rest of the night, Ken, Mandy, and Sally. After the peak, we visited the entertainment districts of Soho and Lan Kwai Fong. We had a great time sipping on Sangria in one Soho bar and walked over to Lan Kwai Fong to see the Halloween Eve festivities. It was crazy! I cannot and do not want to imagine the place on Halloween night itself. I heard it took three hours of waiting in line to get into the bar street, if one was lucky to even make it through police ensuring that the area did not become dangerously overcrowded. I had a great time getting to know these three. Our relationship sparked with a smile from Sally. As a single traveler, you often find opportunities to talk with others and this was such an inviting smile that I started up a conversation. The two girls were from the Chinese mainland and now worked and lived in Hong Kong. Ken met Sally while studying abroad in Victoria, Canada. He was actually on vacation and visiting from his home country of Thailand. He lived and worked in Bangkok (If I end up writing a post on this, I met up with him when I returned to Thailand to meet up with my parents before returning home for Christmas.).
Other fun things I did in Hong Kong included mountain biking in the New Territories, visiting Stanley Market, hanging out with the Harrisons, and eating dim sum. So, what was meant to be a short visa run turned into a week long getaway, and the discovery that Hong Kong is so much more than a big city, it is a country within a country.