Thursday, July 22, 2010

The many flavours of Hong Kong

When Jonathan Swift wrote Gulliver's Travels I wonder had he traveled directly from California - the land of giants (Brobdingnag) to Hong Kong - the land of miniatures (Lilliput).  In Hong Kong everything is scaled down in size except for the heights of the buildings.  Inside them the apartments are smaller, hotel rooms more compact and the electrical appliance shops look as though they could outfit a Wendy house.  It's all adorably cute, but it makes me feel HUGE!  Huge and very visible with my mad blond curly hair - my husband certainly won't lose me in the crowd! 

There is a tipping point to every visit I have to Hong Kong.  I arrive jet lagged and sweaty, cowering beneath the towering sky scrapers that house people by the tens of thousand,  wondering how on earth humans ever came to live on this suffocating plot of land.  Somewhere between arriving and leaving, I find that I have woken up one morning refreshed, jet lag gone, and as I gaze out of the window of the twelfth floor apartment, I begin to see beauty in my surroundings.

The roof tops of some building have gardens on them and down at street level the shops have their lights on to counter the gloom of the approaching typhoon - yes typhoon!

Of course I'm the only one in the vicinity that is excited about this.  The locals are unconcerned, having seen it all before and if anything, view it as an inconvenience.  I still can't get used to warm rain!  Even in California, when it rains it's cold, and of course in Ireland, even though we say you can tell it's summer because the rain is warmer, it's nowhere as warm as this rain.  Nor as heavy.  This is what we call in Ireland "wet" rain.  A somewhat disappointing description from a nation that has as many words for rain as the Inuits have for snow - of course in Ireland we have as much rain as the Inuits have snow too!

Hong Kong has one of the best public transport systems I've ever been on.  More comprehensive even than the London underground, the MTR (Mass Transit Railway) is fast, clean, inexpensive, air-conditioned and above all safe.  Even the integrated bus system is designed with a view to comfort.

Perhaps its because I'm head and shoulders taller than the majority of the throng riding the trains, but I never suffer that same claustrophobia here as I do in other crowded situations.  The following picture is taken in Hong Kong Central - at the tail end of the evening rush hour - luckily we were going in the opposite direction to the rush.

Its orderly, never boisterous and at rush hour there is staff to ensure that there isn't a crush onto trains etc.  In short, it is comfortable.  Westerners who are apprehensive about traveling in Asia should start with Hong Kong (actually, my Husband says start with Singapore, but I haven't been there - I told him that he would have to take me there so I could blog about it - I thought it was worth suggesting on the off-chance he would!).

Hong Kong Island has a lot of tourists and ex-pats, so English is spoken widely.  Prices on the Island are expensive as this is the main tourist/business hub.  My advice is to stay on the peninsula.  Kowloon is my favorite.  You will find hotels along Nathan Road that are better value for money than those on the Island. It a short hop to the Island on either the Star Ferries - a very Hong Kong experience - or on the MTR.

The shopping in Kowloon is off the charts!  You can do the Lady's Market at Mong Kok for bargains and designer copies of nearly anything, or if you have the money to splash out on the real thing, jump on the MTR and go to Tsim Sha Tsui and shop the designer stores at Great Victora Harbour.  And there's everything in between.  I found a Marks and Spencers there.  Living in California, I have missed this British chain store.  Especially its food section.  I nearly wept with joy as I piled packets of "Extremely Chocolatey Milk Chocolate" biscuits into my shopping basket.  As I write this, I'm polishing off said treats! 

For the traveler who wants to experience real Hong Kong living and its friendly natives, I would urge you to venture into the New Territories.  If you have the days to spare, take the MTR and explore some of the towns such as Tuen Mun and its extensive town center.  But be warned - if you are bigger than a UK size 8 (USA 4) not only will you have trouble finding clothes to fit you, the staff in the shops will be reluctant to even let you try on the clothes - I speak from experience!

Lantau Island plays host to Disney land, and the Giant Buddha (located at Po Lin Monastery).

The later is worth a visit.  I've never been to any Disney Park so I can't comment on it.  We did however visit friends who live in the beautiful residential area of Discovery Bay which has a gorgeous view of Hong Kong's skyline in the distance.

It sparkles with lights at night, with a light show visible on the buildings each night, not to mention the daily Disney fireworks display they are treated to each evening - though for me that paled beside the magnificent electrical storm we were treated to when we visited! 

Hong Kong is sprinkled with gorgeous parks.  July is not the best time to visit with its searing heat and smothering humidity, interspersed with typhoons.  Hopefully, we will never have to be here again at this time of year.  Spring or Autumn is better - cool enough to enjoy the parks and the beaches.  I dragged my long suffering husband around the park in Tuen Mun thinking I might get a look at the plants.
 I liked that they warned us about their use of pesticides!

 The gardens had a variety of water features.
I wondered could we get this one for our garden!

The heat brought out the butterflies, though there wasn't a huge choice in blossoms, they seemed happy with this one.

After about an hour the heat beat us.  We stopped for a refreshing drink of Sweat before heading for somewhere with aircon!
Incidentally, the perfect drink to wash down a tasty meal of chicken feet!
And even though, as I pointed out to my in-laws, it was in dire need of a pedicure, I did eat it!  Though one was my limit.  I draw the line at ducks feet though - that flapping webbed bit really turns me!   Though on this occasion our goose was well and truly cooked!
Delicious - I think I'd have to say this was my favorite dish of the entire trip.


I did make sure I had my All Bran for breakfast each morning, even though the crockery and cutlery was a tad unusual!

Feel free to peruse the following slideshow of images of Hong Kong - a place I can only describe as a fascinating feast of people, lifestyle and food.


The photos of the animals were taken at the reptile house in Tuen Mun Park.  They were behind glass so it is cheating a little bit, but I still thought they were pretty cool!

I'd like to thank Nancy for featuring my blog on Leaping Greenly! Please drop by and pay her a visit.

Byddi Lee

6 comments:

  1. WOW. That was a really cool post. I'd love to visit that place, but I have so many places to visit on my list that I'll probably never get there lol.

    Love the pic of you with the chicken foot snack, you're way braver than I am :P

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  2. If you get the chance to - go! I never planned to visit this city but am glad I've had the opportunities to...

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  3. Byddi,
    What a beautiful post. I didn't have any idea how beautiful Hong Kong is. And I'm jealous of all the shopping!
    I'm about to go to our meeting. It won't be the same without you. Come back soon!
    Arlene

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  4. Those are great waterfalls! What a beautiful place!

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  5. I like Hong Kong for about the first two days I'm there; then I just need to get somewhere more sedate!

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  6. I don't think they'd let my size 8 (US), 6ft tall self into the country! Maybe as part of a circus? Love the concrete tiered fountains.

    Christine in Alaska

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