Saturday, December 1, 2007

China - Days 11&12 - Hong Kong

I'm going to blend our 3 days in Hong Kong into one entry as I just now realized I have no itinerary of what we did while there. Not that any one other than Jessica or Jim will realize...however much of what we did in Hong Kong was a blur at this point. I'll save my last entry of the trip for Llama Island, which was by far, the best part of the trip.

We left Youngshou by bus, arrived back in Guilin and immediately boarded a high speed train to Hong Kong. Concluding what was our guided tour in doing so. Hong Kong was only a scheduled stop at the end of the tour for the plane ride back to LAX, lucky for me, Jim and Jessica both wouldn't dare entertain the notion of not enjoying Hong Kong.

I still haven't decided if it is better to end a 2 week tour of China in Hong Kong, or begin there. In case you've been living under a rock for the past 15 years, you should know that Hong Kong was, until '95, a British Commonwealth. It remains, for all intensive purposes, the same today. You even need a separate visa to enter the "city". Everyone there still drives on the left side of the road, they all maintain British accents, and the beer there is second to none. And that means easy traveling for the International Tourist. I'm not sure if I enjoyed the city as much as I did due to the ease of traveling in such an international setting, or if it was due to my previous exposure to the Chinese culture. Anyhow, Hong Kong cannot be missed.

We stayed across the river from the downtown proper of what is known as Hong Kong city, in Kowloon. Although, if it weren't for the gigantic harbor/river the separated the two areas, you wouldn't know they were different. There is more wealth in Hong Kong than imaginable. Every other car is a Maserati, or a butler driven Mercedes. Apparently hotel prices there are no joking matter, and Kowloon is much more affordable.

See Hong Kong in the lower portion of the photo and Kowloon directly across the river, taken from Victoria's Peak in Hong Kong.

What you can't see in that photo are the miles of subway that run underneath the channel and the incredible ferry system that make crossing that distance no trouble at all. The subway system in Hong Kong is one of the most beautiful mass transit systems I have ever been witness. The train schedules leave you never having to wait more than 2 minutes. The stops are immaculate in their maintenance. The trains themselves are not separated, leaving a very long tube like train that sends an incredible whoosh of air across all of the riders faces with every start and stop...perhaps the only chance at catching a real fresh breath of air in China. Anyhow, compared to even New Yorks subway system, Hong Kong is far superior.

The city is also marveled for it's incredible architecture. The building above is by far the tallest in the city, but were it not for that fact, probably one of the most boring. All kinds of shapes, structures, purposes and community are found within the beautiful skyscrapers that fill the Hong Kong cityscape. From buildings made to look like a tree with Koala's ascending the sides, to inverted structures that seems as though the top of the building is the bottom, and vice versa. A sight worth seeing, and one I sadly did not capture, was the Hong Kong cityscape at night from Kowloon. The incredible amounts of colors mixed with the density of the development make for a sight incomparable to any other city in the modern world save maybe Dubai. Oddly, Hong Kong captured so much of my attention I made a very rare decision to leave my camera behind so I could fully take in such a wonderful place.

We spent our days there finding all kinds of fascinating markets to walk through. Pictured above was the fish market where the freshest fowl and fish could be found, most times still living, and were all available to be butchered for you in front of your eyes. I kept wishing I had something like this in Downtown San Diego where I could walk a couple blocks, and pick out today's catch, have it filleted in front of my eyes, and take it home to grill, all before it squeaked out it's last breath. Jessica couldn't stand more than 5 minutes of this place, as the rather ripe odors lofted around her nose and seeped into her skin turning her a pale greenish color. So our stay at the fish market was short lived. We did however find more markets where we could spend a little more time. We found a jade market with every possible trinket and Buddha statuette imaginable. We flashed our newly honed and scary bargaining skills and walked outta that place with more weight in jade than was humanly possible to carry....lucky for us I have superhuman strength and a backpack to suit. We found a goldfish market filled with millions of fish tanks, every species of fish known to man, more coral than the Great Barrier Reefs in Australia all for the long as smuggling was no issue. The odors Jessica loved so much were also omnipresent here and made our trip a little too short, but that was perhaps better for me as my urge to mail myself illegal corals was growing with every tank.

Above is a bird's eye view of a typical market street in the city. Filled with people, store fronts, odors and everything else that comprises the daily grind of a Hong Kong shopper. All of this shopping made me very thirsty and some good beer was in order. Good beer and Hong Kong go hand in hand. Jessica's uncle Joe had mentioned that we must make a trip to Lan Kwai Fong, the greatest bar district the world had to offer. Joe is a brilliant man, and from now on, anything he utters as truth will become testament to both my drinking pallet and soul. We knocked back some great british ales, found some tastey smooth cuban cigars and spent the remaining night hours speaking with fellow world travelers and purveyors of great beers.

There is more energy and life in Hong Kong than I have ever found in my travels. Albeit my travels to this point were primarily stayed within the US, but still...the youth here seem to have purpose and excitement for change. I'm not even sure how I got that sentiment, but I couldn't shake it. Even the "graffiti" spoke more of art than gang turf establishment.

Art is youth, and youth is the future and Hong Kong represents the future civilization of the world. A little presumptuous I know, but this place, this community has a collective energy that even the most apprehensive skeptic can feel. I really feel as though my adult life will find it's way back to Hong Kong in more than one way, the most of which I feel will be in the way Hong Kong is going to effect the rest of the world; that is at least if China doesn't have it's way with the city.

I really loved this place, and could go on ad nauseum about it, but this blog isn't long enough, nor do my fingers have the strength.

Perhaps I'll come back here at some point and update this with the lasting memories that weave their way in and out of my day dreams, until then....

Days 1-2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7 Day 8 Day 9 Day 10 Days 11-12 Day 13


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