Mr East meets Mrs West in Hong Kong

It’s crazy to think that in my lifetime (ie. not long ago!) Hong Kong was owned by Britain! The British influence was evident and it certainly felt more western than Beijing. Most things were written in English as well as Chinese, particularly in the shopping malls and business districts, and there seemed to be lots of western business people about. Some of the buses even looked familiar (same make!). But this created a pleasing mix with the sights and sounds of China! (Although this is technically not China proper, but the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR for short, which is unfortunate as it makes me think of SARS- sorry!)).

We dutifully visited the giant cigar that is the monument to the British rule, and the Golden Bauhinia statue (a flower), which are situated in front of the Convention Centre on the waterfront. However we were soon torn away by the excitement of crossing the harbour on the ferry and marvelling in the famous skyline.

Hong Kong Skyline (night)The buildings are fairly creative, with bizarre geometric shapes. They celebrate the awesome skyline with a laser light display, called the Symphony of Lights, which we enjoyed a couple of times. This is free and starts at 8pm, nightly. Get there early if you want a good view on the opposite side of the harbour as it fills up.

Hong Kong Skyline (day)We explored on foot, using the fantastic and inexpensive Star ferries to cross the harbour each day. There were several endless glossy shopping malls containing designer shops we could never hope to afford. They seemed to stretch on forever. (They also have clean western toilets!)

We walked north to find more affordable Chinese haunts. We ate in a delicious sushi place (although bizarrely they appeared to put squeezy cheese on some of the sushi – I’m not sure if they did that for our benefit, but I found it horrible! Minus the squeezy cheese it was lovely!).  Advertising was rife, with signs and adverts everywhere. We found alleyways with so many signs overhead that they practically blocked out the sunlight!

Signs, HKIt was a delight to wander through the older parts of Hong Kong, marveling at the sights and being hypnotized by the illuminated signs.

Hong Kong streetIt is amazing how such a large population can be crammed onto a small island. Obviously the only way to build is up! Therefore much of Hong Kong island is crammed with high rise flats and hotels.

Flats, Hong KongA real treat was going up The Peak. Unfortunately everyone had the same idea, so there were long queues to get the funicular railway up the mountain. However, it was worth it for the experience. I can only describe it as sitting in a tram and then going vertically upwards! It was like we were taking off, and my body was pressed into my seat by that pesky gravity. I would definitely advise sitting not standing!

The view at the top was amazing. It wasn’t a clear day so visibility wasn’t at its best, but the views over the harbour were still awe-inspiring. We stayed up there until dusk, to see the twinkly lights in the darkness too.

View from The Peak, HK (day)View from The Peak, HK (night)And how could I write about Hong Kong without mentioning the Longest Escalator In the World. This turned out to be The Biggest Disappointment In The World in my view; it’s not one escalator! It is several escalators end to end. This does make more sense, as people can hop on or off at each level. And it is an easy way to get up the hillside. However, it is misleading to call it the longest escalator in the world, if it’s isn’t! Most airports have longer!

I saw a couple of protests which I was pleased about. It’s great that people can freely speak in Hong Kong, and moan about the government if they wish. It’s a right I make good use of at home 😉

In terms of food, we ate at the same types of fast food restaurants as we tried in Beijing. However, when my tummy was fragile from previous food poisoning, I just wanted good pizza. I found it from a tiny takeout-restaurant near the infamous escalator. We found some lovely fresh sushi, and also stumbled upon a fab restaurant called Maks Noodles which was inexpensive and Michelin recommended. I would recommend it!

Tip: There is an airport check-in/bag drop facility in one of the shopping malls, where they take your bag to the airport for you. We didn’t know about this so we left our bags at the hotel and had to go back and get them. It would have been amazing to drop them here in the morning, have a day out, and then collect them at the airport later. I’m not sure how this works, having not used it, so you should look into it yourself, but it sounds excellent!

Overall, I loved Hong Kong. It was a safe and varied city and we had a great time while experiencing another culture.

Next blog: Lantau Island, Hong Kong

Previous blog: How to Travel in Countries with different Alphabets

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