Happy Chinese New Year!
01.03.2007 23 °C
Considering my Round the World ticket kind of "hit the skids" somewhere in the South Pacific between Rarotonga and Tahiti, I decided on Hong Kong as my next destination. I have always quite fancied it and figured why not...when am I next going to be in this neck of the woods?
Arriving fresh from Brunei into Hong Kong was a big-time sensory overload. Massive neon signs hang outside every shop, there is heavy traffic everywhere (of both mechanical & human variety) and plenty of noise 24/7 - but this was what I had come to experience afterall.
I spent my first few days in Kowloon on Chungy's recommendation (Chungy is an old Uni pal and Hong Kong native). So I ventured out with my Chungy cheat sheet and the Lonely Planet tucked under my arm to tackle the walking tour. This took me through the caged bird market, flower market, dodgy knock-off threads market, chopstick market and finally the goldfish market (I kid you not). Then I treated myself to a new hairdo (nothing fancy, just a trim) but the old Chinese guy got abit fizzy with the clippers and now I have a Shaolin Monk crop. He seemed exceptionally proud of his efforts and kept asking me "you like, you like?". I didn't have the heart to tell him it was a trifle shorter than I wanted but on the plus side, it has shaved seconds off my morning beauty routine.
Bright lights of Nathan Rd
That evening I went down to the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade to check out the infamous skyline. It didn't disappoint as the whole of Hong Kong Island is lit up in neon. At 8pm each evening they have a Symphony of the Stars performance which is essentially a light and laser show to orchestral music across the harbor. Yes, it's as cheesy & tacky as it sounds but I loved it nonetheless. I then took a saunter down the Avenue of Stars which pays homage to home grown Hong Kong talent such as Jackie Chan and Jet Li.
Hong Kong Skyline
Jet Li - Avenue of the Stars
The following few days were spent taking in the sights. I queued 3 hours to take a cable car up the Ngong Ping Plateau on the outlying island of Lantau to see the Po Lin Buddhist monastery. The cable car trip takes 25 mins and offers some amazing views of Hog Kong but the main draw card is the Tian Tan Buddha. Measuring 34m high and weighing in at a hefty 202 tonnes its a rather impressive sight. I also covered off the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Hong Kong Museum of Art and Kowloon Park - incidentally a lovely place to have a relaxing breakfast whilst watching the olde timers doing their morning Tai Chi.
Tian Tan Buddha
I spent alot of time riding the MTR, Hong Kong's equivalent of London Underground apart from it runs on time, it's ultra speedy, it's squeaky clean, it's dirt cheap and it doesn't stink of piss. It transported me effortlessly across Kowloon to Diamond Hill to see the Chi Lin Nunnery a large Buddhist complex dating back to 1930's. It was a very serene place with lotus ponds, bonsai tree plants and the monks chanting behind big carved screens. With it being Chinese New Year it was absolutely mobbed with locals praying for prosperous 2007 and offering up incense sticks.
Chi Lin Nunnery
Hong Kong Island
Made a move from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island and have been calling Causeway Bay home for the past few days. My first stop on Hong Kong Island was The Peak which is the highest point on the island. I took the tram all the way up to the top of Peak Tower to have a good look at Hong Kong down below. I was relieved to learn that the tower had been specifically designed to withstand winds of up to 270km/h - theoretically more than the maximum velocity of a No. 10 typhoon (apparently). It made for some decent photo's.
The Peak by Day
The Peak by Night
I also had an interesting wander through Hong Kong's business centre to marvel the architectural treasures - it is home to 18 skyscrapers no less (the ones which take part in the aforementioned Symphony of the Stars) including Exchange Square the Bank of China Buildings and Government House.
Central - Skyscrapers
But it was the sheer number of shops which I couldn't get over. I have never seem so many shopping malls, department stores & street vendors ever before. I mean, if anybody from Hong Kong came to visit one of London's main shopping districts like Oxford Street or Covent Garden they would be asking where all the shops were, it's insane! And they are open so late, most of them until around midnight so even late at night you can go and pick up such essentials as the latest Louis Vuitton bag or CD's from HMV. And I suppose with retail being such big business its highly competitive. I went into one gentleman's outfitters for an idle browse and the young lady working there was so friendly and helpful I left 10 mins later having bought a pair of jean, T-Shirts, trainers and jacket - how did that happen..!?
I also made the best discovery in a food outlet called YOSHINOYA. It's like a fast food Japanese style. I became hopelessly addicted, partly because I have been looking for something to fill the massive void Pret A Mange left in my eating habits and also because it is one of the few places in Hong Kong where I understood the menu. So it's been a No. 3 for lunch and a No. 7 for tea for the past 7 days straight. Considering opening a franchise in London, after my water taxi company takes off ofcourse.
Wishing you all a prosperous Year of the Pig!
Next stop - Macau.