April 23, 2007

Hong Kong: I don't even like Rolex

We've just ended our two-day sojourn in Hong Kong and we're at the moment waiting for our plane to Amsterdam.
Hong Kong is both a fascinating and an infuriating place and we'd find it quite challenging if we ever had to live here.
As an Asian city it does get a bit of getting used to, especially the massive crowds and quite unfamiliar smells wafting out in every street, be it from roadside eating places or the open drain in some non-touristy places.
We spent the first day exploring Hong Kong Island, which is slightly smaller in area than Waiheke but with 1.3 million people living along a narrow corridor next to the northern coastline.
We did the touristy things but also some off the beaten track areas.
It's quite a sight to see those millions of people all crammed into huge towerblock estates, jostling each other for space, light, air and a view - and you'd not wish your dearest enemy to be forced to live in one of those pokey flats, in the tropical temperatures with the associated high humidity.
But for all that lack of space, there is a surprising amount of public square space and green areas dotted around which makes it quite pleasant and easy to escape the crowds and the fumes.
The botanical garden and the zoological garden were a highlight, and so was the famous Peak Tram up the steepest gradient you will encounter. And what a view too despite it being rather overcast.
We took the easy way back down using an 800 metre long escalator system which functions as a public free walkway as an alternative to public transport up the steep hills.
If they could transfer the diesel buses into hybrid or electric they could cut out at least half of the pollution! We took the tram which trundles along 15 km to the eastern end of the island, which took about two hours return - an all for NZ$0.70 each. The cheapest two hours of entertainment you can get here.
We found a street full of expat bars and Europeans. It must be quite challenging for expats to live here.
Every night at 8pm the Hong Kong Tourism Board puts on a light show involving all the high rise buildings in the CBD, which we viewed from Kowloon across the harbour. A bit ho-hum compared to fireworks, but hey, it's on every day and it's free.
There was very little gay stuff on show. What was remarkable was the prevalence and presence of some "boy books" on the news stands. All very tame and the models on the covers looked more like girls than boys. This despite the fact that gay sex is legal in Hong Kong, unlike on the mainland.

Today we stayed on the Kowloon side, where our hotel was and went to the bird market, the flower market and the goldfish market. A veritable tourist trap if you can't escape the fake Rolex peddlers.
And also some culture in the HK Museum of Art and the HK Museum of History. Great exhibitions of classical and contemporary HK art and history, some of which interactive (see picture: an empty room with a camera pointing at you reconfigures your movements in a screen projection using Chinese characters following all your movements in a ballet of language)

No comments: