Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Hong Kong

Arrived in hong kong at 7am hong kong time. I could not get into my room until 2pm so I decided to go and explore the city.
Before I tell you about my adventures I will tell you a little about the place I am staying. It is located on hong kong island or central hong kong it is sometimes called. Hong kong is divided into two areas Kowloon and hong kong island - they are separated by the Victoria harbour. The place I am staying is called the Helena May it was established in 1916 by Lady Helena May, the wife of the governor of hong kong. The Helena May was established to provide for the physical and moral safety of the newly emancipated women arriving in hong kong at that time. During the war the building was occupied by the Japanese. It now is divided into two areas - one where males can stay and one for females only. It is much like the union club in Victoria but a bit smaller and everything on the main floor is white. The rooms are pretty basic but nice and there are shared washroom facilities which are also quite nice. There is no elevator and I am on the top floor 60 stairs to be exact. The location is perfect as it is in one of the nicest areas of hong kong and is across the street from the US Consulate (I know that may not always be a good place to be). The cost of this accommodation with breakfast included is $65 per nite, considering most decent accommodation in hong kong runs around $200 a nite, this is a very good deal - thank you to my Aussie friend Janice for telling me about this place.

First adventure was to purchase the Big Bus Tour tickets. For less than $50 the ticket includes three different tours, 4 ferry rides between kowloon and hong kong island, a harbour tour, a sampan boat ride and a ride up the Peak Tram.
Before taking the first bus tour I took the ferry over to kowloon where a beautiful waterfront walkway is located. About 15 minutes down the walkway is a Starbucks - this starbucks has a second floor open balcony where you can look across the harbour to hong kong island - a million dollar view.
The walkway is very pleasant and contains a lot of public art including an art exhibition. Some highschool kids were doing a project on tourist and asked to interview me - so we had a picture taken!
Both hong kong island and Kowloon are extremely clean (as clean as Singapore). Much to my surprise the harbour is also very clean- no garbage in sight. The Victoria harbour is one of the few natural harbours in the world.
Hong kong is the home to 7 million people in about 425 sq miles. For this reason you do not see individual homes as people live in apartments or condos. As you can see by the pictures there is no wasted space between these buildings. Hong kong is one of the most densely populated places in the world There are 8000 sky scrapers in hong kong which is more than double the number of skyscrapers in new york.
As per the 99 year agreement the British turned hong kong over to the Chinese on July 1,1997 and it is no longer a British colony. Although china has agreed that its economic and legal system will remain the same for the next 50 years ( guess that is only 35 years now).
Hong kong has three official languages english (which they learn in school) Cantonese and mandarin. Mandarin is the dialect spoken mostly in mainland china.
Although there are numerous modern buildings (an architect's dream) - there are a number of older buildings scattered throughout the city which makes it a really interesting and diverse city. The people have great english skills and I have found everyone to be very helpful.
Getting around the city is quite easy as they have an excellent transportation system which is very reasonably priced There are walkways over roads and pedestrian subways under roads. There is even a series of outdoor escalators that take you up to the midlands on hong kong island - the island is at least as hilly and steep as San Francisco - the Helena may is located up one of those hills and I have climbed it three times today!
Hong kong boasts of more billionaires and rolls Royce's than anywhere else in the world.
The first bus tour I took was of Kowloon. This is the area where The Peninsula hotel and the famous Nathan Road are located. There are many markets in this area including a goldfish market, flower market and ladies market. The streets are full of activity and there are many areas that need to be investigated! You will notice one of the pictures is of bamboo scaffolding - no steel scaffolding here!!!! They also have strict tree preservation for the Chinese Banyon.
Hope they don't get smart meters here as I cannot image how much the power costs will go up because this place lights up like a Christmas tree at night - it is really something to see!

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