Hong Kong

Monday, August 17, 2009

We arrived in Hong Kong after riding on several buses – you know the drill – followed by an intense experience at the passport control and immigration desk.  We didn’t need to have a visa, but Bing needed one.

Hong Kong has been a British territory since 1842 and it’s food, culture, and identity all reflect that glorious meeting of the east and the west.  Then, in 1997,  it’s sovereignty was transferred from the British to the People’s Republic of China.  After having spent 3 weeks on the  mainland, I found it hard to believe that Hong Kong was actually a part of China.  But Hong Kong enjoys a level of independence that no other “territory” enjoys – example – Tibet.

Under the “one country, two systems” policy, Hong Kong enjoys a high degree of autonomy in all areas with the exception of foreign affairs and defense, which are the responsibility of the PRC Government.  As part of this arrangement, Hong Kong continues to maintain its own currency (the HKD – Hong Kong Dollar), legal system, political system, immigration control (which was why Bing needed a visa and we did not), rule of the road and other aspects that concern its way of life – many of which are distinctly different from those of mainland China.  No kidding.

The city’s population is 95% Chinese and 5% people of other ethnicities.  With a population of 7 million people but a land area of on 428 sq. miles, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. And there you have the most up to date information on Hong Kong via Wikipedia 🙂

We spent a lot of time in the streets and were amazed at the ease of travel – seriously!  Everywhere else in China, you take your life in your hands when crossing streets – the traffic is so bad and so undisciplined!  But here – it’s so civilized.  that would be the British influence, I’m sure.

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A little research let us know that Hong Kong has a highly developed transportation network.  We’d already seen that on the MRT (underground rail).  Over 90% of daily travels (11 million people) are on public transport, making it the highest in the world.  God, it’s so nice.

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It’s cleaner than any other city I’ve been in…hand sanitizers all over!  There is no litter and I’m pretty sure they pump scented air into the underground train, which by the way, is spectacularly clean and very simple to use.  It’s the best way to get around town.

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You’ll find dim sum and duck right next to Seven Eleven

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I’m staying at the Langham – a 5-star hotel that I’m getting for $102 a night!  It may be a little warm outside, but you cannot beat the deals you can get during off season!  They even bumped me up to a room with the glass bathroom and rain shower!  Hot Dawg!

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There’s a McDonalds…happy sigh of anticipation 🙂

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View from my room

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Hong Kong has the world’s greatest number of skyscrapers – 7,650!  There isn’t a lot of space between the harbor front and the steep hills on the other side of the city – only .8 miles.  This has resulted in 36 of the world’s 100 tallest residential buildings being in Hong Kong and more people living and/or working above the 14th floor than anywhere else on Earth.  This is the world’s most vertical city!

Looks a little like Manhattan doesn’t it?

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The streets are the place to be in Hong Kong.  They have food markets, ladies markets, night markets – you name it – they have a market somewhere for it!

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Let me be the first to say – there is nothing here in my size.  The average Chinese woman is a size 4 – maybe when I was 10. Purses – so colorful

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Fish Market

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Fresh food market

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These cherries ROCKED!  We bought a huge bag and ate them as we walked.

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And believe it or not, there was a bird market – which sort of gave us the willies. Felt like there might be some illegal selling going on…

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And there were just too many bugs in one place! Though why I’m even grossed out is beyond me after having spent three weeks searching under every rock for live scorpions.

Grasshoppers

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and worms

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The city has been rated as having the most beautiful skyline in the world and we got to see it in all it’s glory one night for their spectacular neon light show.

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(not my pictures) I just couldn’t capture the excitement with my camera — it is a spectacular display they put on every night!

It’s been fun traveling with a large group of people.  I’ve continued to learn more about the Brits.   I’ve yet to get used to people asking me what I want for tea – dinner in Brit speak.  They speak with a multitude of accents that begs the question “How can you have 20 different accents in a country the size of North Carolina?”  But they do and they like to compare those accents and can’t believe I am unable to hear the clear differences.  The accent apparently tells you quite a bit about a person – their background, job potential, beer tastes, and size of future home.

Wanting to experience the nightlife of Hong Kong, we headed over to the Island via the ferry.  The most well-known spots for foreigners and expats are two areas called Wan Chai and LanKwai Fong.

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There were bars with names like Dublin Jack’s, Stormies and Bulldog’s Bar and Grill.  Bottom’s Up was the girlie bar featured in the movie, The Man with the Golden Gun .

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Budweiser is still King around here!

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A little Ben and Jerry’s before the night begins – never a bad idea!

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This district has over three times the density of New York and there’s a lot happening.  Nightlife in this part of Hong Kong doesn’t reach its stride until midnight.  We started at 9:00 pm and made it home by 3:00 am.

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We knew we were in trouble when the waiter brought over the tequila menu…

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I drank lots of tequila – and it’s not my normal drink of choice. The first shot is rough, the second – still rough – the third one starts to taste like wine:-) And we’re off to the races folks!It’s been a while since I’ve had a hangover like this one…my last night at Lion Encounter actually…4 months ago.

It’s been a while since I’ve had a hangover like this one – oh yea – my last night at Lion Encounter 4 months ago.

But after this one – instead of getting on an airplane – I went to the Four Seasons for High Tea.  Now THIS is a tea that I can get into!

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I had been an innocent when it came to high tea and to the wonder of clotted cream and scones.  Our high tea consisted of an assortment of finger sandwiches – cucumber, egg and smoked salmon.  Then there were the scones with clotted cream instead of butter with fresh jam – delish!  Then plates of sweets and savories – so many that we couldn’t finish them!  Now that’s a hangover cure!

Just as an aside and a reminder — I did not carry a hairdryer with me on this trip – so my hair just never looked in one picture – this one is particularly horrible. Ack!

But wait! Here I am in a very sophisticated city – why not do what is so obviously overdue – get my hair highlighted?  WAY Overdue. So, I’m off to Salon Esprit, recommended by my concierge.  A smart and sophisticated salon that swears they know how to highlight blondes – in a city of women with black hair.

Well, I should have known this wouldn’t go smoothly.

Day One:  I’ve become a brunette.  Though not in tears – the look on my face let the young man know that I might not be happy with the job he’d done.  I had pulled a picture out of a magazine to show him what color blonde highlights I wanted streaking through my hair – BEFORE – the process began.  We both agreed that I should come back again the next day to get it fixed.

We both agreed that I should come back again the next day to get it fixed.

Day Two:  I’m a platinum blonde . There are no longer any hairs on my head that resemble my natural color.  You could get a sunburn off my head – it’s that bright.  We both looked at the picture and back at me – agreeing that something wasn’t quite right yet.  Ladies – you all know that my hair is now officially “fried”and it’s not over yet.  The concierge who has been helping me through this attempt to highlight my hair – blanched when I walked off the elevator this afternoon. Well, that’s not good. I raised my eyebrow at him and kept walking.

Day Three:  My own hair color is permanently gone and in its place is a caramel colored blonde.  We had to completely color over my entire head to get rid of the platinum.  Whatever highlights I had originally wanted are gone – but so is the brown – and the whitish/silver/platinum.  It’s a soft color and has hidden all the little gray hairs that I’ve been finding recently.  I actually sort of like it. It’s growing on me.  Like I have a choice. Time to get on another plane.

I’m off to Chiang Mai to play with the elephants.  And they don’t care if I have highlights or not!  See you in Thailand.

 

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