72 Hours in Hong Kong
About 12 days ago I woke up to a text message from Victor saying, “What if I came to Asia?” I smiled and thought it was highly unlikely and then went about the rest of my day. I guess I should never underestimate the power of an idea and an amazing price on round trip tickets from New York to Hong Kong. After working seven days in a row, so that I wouldn’t have to take vacation time, I got on a Garuda Indonesia flight from Jakarta to Hong Kong. A little over four hours later I was in Hong Kong and an hour after that (the transportation, metro and airport link are both fast and very clean in HK) I was sitting in the W Hotel (very, very nice) looking at the incredible view of Hong Kong:
Hong Kong is a dynamic, interesting city that made me drool over all the parks and sidewalks (and a waterfront promenade with Bruce Lee statue) — how I wish Jakarta was a walkable city. Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. This former British colony’s relationship with China confuses me a bit. I think it was too far gone for China to try and change this capitalist loving cosmopolitan center, so Hong Kong has its own currency, flag (with an orchid, the one pictured above that only grows in HK), and Americans don’t need any visas to enter!
Victor and I stayed across from Hong Kong island in Kowloon. So to get over to Hong Kong island we paid a little less than 40 US cents and got on a Star Ferry to cross Victoria Harbor.
The lights at night make Hong Kong so attractive and the reflection on the water was phenomenal.
Several of the big buildings had light displays for Chinese New Year. It was interesting to see a city decked out for a holiday to the extent of Christmas that wasn’t Christmas.
To get a great view of Hong Kong we took the tram up to the Peak. The tram ride is a vertical shot straight up. This area was a favorite of the British colonials and still has the most expensive homes in Hong Kong (and some of the most expensive in the world).
When we reached the top there were lots of restaurants and several malls. Once getting past all of this, we were able to take in the views.
Besides New York, and of course Paris, Hong Kong is now on my list of favorite cities to see at night. Many of the buildings change colors and with weather in the mid-60s during our trip, walking around at night was really pleasant.
I think Hong Kong was designed really well. With so many skyscrapers dominating the skyline, down below them are plenty of parks. We wandered through Kowloon Park one morning and saw people practicing tai chi. The flamingos and parrots were also a plus.
At the same time, the old mixes with the new in a way that gives character to Hong Kong, character that I fear may disappear from Jakarta if more is not done to preserve historic buildings. Although there are plenty of Starbucks all over Hong Kong, Chinese medicine shops with plenty of beautiful boxes and dried seahorses and other animals are the perfect reminder that you are in fact in Asia.
We wandered around the Kowloon area one afternoon and street signs with placard maps were easy enough to find and then follow to historic sites including the Tin Hau Temple (sadly no photos allowed inside) and to the Jade Market on Kansu and Battery Streets. Over the past six months I have acquired a new skill, somewhat begrudingly, the art of haggling. In Indonesia I’ll ask what the price of something is and then I laugh and smile and immediately cut the price in half. And then ladies and gentlemen the game beings. I think I may slowly be starting to enjoy bargaining. At first I really disliked it and when comparing most things to American prices it seems that the effort is a waste, but in a culture that bargains, you bargain too. And if I can make a vendor laugh by saying in Indonesian, “I may be a foreigner, but I know that is too much” (thank you Chloe for that phrase), then things tend to go somewhat my way.
Victor decided to buy several gifts at the Jade Market so I employed my bargaining skills. I asked the first vendor I saw for her prices on things to get a ballpark and then we walked deeper into the market. It was funny watching Victor because he seemed fine with most of the prices that were asked, much like I was at first in Indonesia, but I would immediately jump in and start haggling with the ladies even when they handed me signs in English saying they don’t bargain — they do. Maybe I have changed a little.
A view of Hong Kong from the promenande which also features a walk of fame with hand prints (like in Hollywood) except unless you follow Hong Kong/Chinese cinema, don’t expect to know any of the names besides Jackie Chan.
One of the top priorities on Victor’s itinerary was to get a suit custom-made. I may have been talked into a gray pink pin-striped blazer with a bright fuschia lining that pops when I roll the sleeves. If you are looking for a tailor, we went to Charms Tailor in the Mirror Building across from the Shangri-La Hotel in Kowloon.
I would love to go back to Hong Kong and spend a few more days there because 72 hours wasn’t enough, especially with a day trip to Macau that I will post about soon (oh and don’t worry, food post coming as well). And who knows maybe another wild idea will strike at some point?
P.S. Thanks Mom and Dad for the new DSLR camera, enjoy the photos as much as I am enjoying the camera.