Saturday, May 20, 2006

Hong Kong Part I

I visited Hong Kong for the frist time in 1993 on a family trip from India. I was, let's see, 12 and I still remember most of the things and places we went to. This time I bought a pocket-size travel book on Hong Kong, the DK Eye Witness one and it was most helpful. The Lonely Planet guides don't look interesting to read. Much more color, pictures and maps in the Eye Witness books. On the flight over, I tried to plan a quick itinerary so that I could get in as much as possible of the sights and sounds.

I timed my flights so that I would have the maximum amount of time on the ground in Hong Kong, either during transit while on the way to Beijing or during my stay by catching the last flight out. Luck be it that I arrived in the worst month of the year for weather; rainy season. September is supposed to be best in terms of sunshine and low humidity. I got plenty of clouds and mostly rainy days, but that wouldn't dampen my mood.

During my transit to Beijing, I arrived early morning on a Saturday and would be leaving Sunday evening to Beijing. I tried to switch my body clock as soon as I left Chicago, so that I wouldn't be tired during my short stay. I think adrenaline also kept me going.

On my return trip, I managed a visit to the other special region in the area, Macau - a former Portugese colony.

Here are pictures from the first Hong Kong stop over:

Hong Kong's awesome airport terminal building, designed by Sir Norman Foster.

The longest suspension bridge in the world, conneting Lan Tau island, where the airport is located with the main land. I felt they could've jazzed it up a bit, like with some paint. The Golden Gate Bridge looks lot more impressive.

Container City. Hong Kong is known as being one of the busiest freight ports in the world.

One of the many remnants of the 99 years of British rule that ended in 1997; double decker buses.

The Hong Kong territory is littered with tunnels, either under water channels or through mountains. Crossing the harbour from the mainland (Kowloon) and getting to Hong Kong island, where my hotel was.

Hong Kong Dollars. I noticed that there's no 'Federal' bank in Hong Kong, as it's officially part of China, but it has its own currency. So, I think commercial banks stepped up and they print out the currency. Here, Standard Chartered Bank (UK) promises to pay the bearer on demand at its offices the amount on the bill. Very interesting. Other banks in Hong Kong printing money were Bank of China and HSBC.

One of the many markets in Hong Kong. They say the city is truly a mix of East meets West. There are 'wet' markets right next to skyscraper headquarters of banks. 'Wet' referring to meat being slaughtered in the open along with fresh seafood.

Yeah, dont think too much about the hygiene thing. Just cook it properly.

Freshly cut fish. Some still alive...

Talk about some Jumbo Shrimp

Roast Duck

Various kinds of dried fish. I think that's Anchovies in the bottom right.

Considering how expensive land is in Hong Kong, strange to see a full size outdoor Basketball court.

Oh yeah, all the phones that my group works on, being displayed in a store front. USD $1 = HKG $8.

That's one thing I started to notice about the city layout; they really dedicated a lot of space to parks and public areas and then they're reclaiming land out in the harbour to build massive skyscrapers. But, playing soccer on a concrete court. Ouch. I did that as a kid.

Gas station squeezed underneath a building. I think Europe also has stations like this.

Another remnant of British rule.. trams. Hong Kong has the only double decker tram system in the world. Costs about $0.25 to ride it and it goes up and down Hong Kong Island's main throughfare: Gloucester Road.

Lippo Towers. Architecture is very cool in Hong Kong. Someone described this as pandas climbing the outside of the building.

Heading to the South side of the island to the town of Stanley. The island is very hilly and the 30 min ride there is very exciting on the upper deck of a double decker bus. The buses have 4 wheel steering to help them make the tight corners without crossing the center line. The $1 fare was very worth the trip.

Route 66 is the only route that goes over the mountain, the scenic route. The other buses just take the tunnel through the mountain, boring.

An Egyptian cafe at Stanley Market. The atmosphere was very island-like: breezy, people strolling around, having a coffee at an outdoor cafe.. very relaxing.

Stanley Market. Not as cheap as China, but fun to look around for interesting hand-made items, like the few lamps I picked up.

Sort of suprised to see so many wind surfers... and the tire bumper boat...

Murray House. A very old building that was part of a fort complex here.

The view from the Thai restaurant in Murray House.

Lunch: Cucumber salad, Shrimp on celery sticks, Papaya salad, Chicken Satay, Tempura vegatables, Indian curried vegetalbes and oh yeah, a Lichi Martini...

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