Not my favorite place
01/27/2013 - 01/27/2013 68 °F
This is my second time in Hongkong. My first time was last May when I brought a group of American students. I thought Hongkong would offer an easier entry for American students for many reasons. Hongkong was a British colony from 1842 to 1997. It was not until 1997 that Hongkong became a special administrative region of China, enjoying high level of self-governance and economic freedom. English is widely understood, utilized and spoken in Hongkong, with westerners commonly seen on the streets. Hongkong ranked number eight among the world's most wealthy countries and regions in terms of per capita GDP. It is known as "oriental pearl", "food heaven" and "shopping paradise". I have to admit all this glamour gave Hongkong a very mysterious veil that made it attractive before my initial visit. Maybe my expectations were too high, because I was quite disappointed when we actually spent two nights there last time. This visit only confirmed my initial impression, especially in contrast to Shenzhen. Hongkong is definitely NOT my favorite.
Streets in Hongkong are narrow and crowded, with little green space. Being the most densely packed city in the world, expect to be surrounded by people everywhere you go. Buildings lining the streets are old and have a run-down look. I peered into those dark windows and tried to imagine what it would be like for the residents to live there. ABC News reported Hongkong as the most expensive real estate in the world, which is unimaginable to me. I wonder what makes people want to live in a place like this? What bugs me most is the attitude from some natives that they are somehow better. The enormous amount of ego that is evident even from the cleaning lady in the subway station who refused to answer my question about the location of the restroom. I have encountered friendly and open people in Hongkong, but they seem to be a definite minority. I don't understand how being a colony that gave people a somewhat different identity can make them feel so privileged over the mandarin-speaking Chinese population, yet at the same time, so friendly towards the English speaking people? Do they possibly want to continue to be a British colony??
To be fair, the self-governance of Hongkong seems to be effective. The streets seem orderly, as narrow and crowded as they are. I have not seen a traffic jam in Hongkong yet. Furthermore, Hongkong residents enjoy much more freedom of speech in comparison to mainland Chinese. Here is a picture we took at Victoria Harbor where you can find massive amounts of banners and signs of both supporters and opposers of Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline that is strictly forbidden and suppressed by the central Chinese government.
After we crossed the border into Hongkong, we got on a bus and then a subway for our first destination: the Avenue of Stars. Ave. of Stars is a walkway along the waterfront of Victoria Harbor, modeled on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It has a series of floor plaques that pay tribute to eminent film workers of Hongkong, some of which with handprints and signatures of the person being featured. Here is Skyler fitting his hand into Jet Li's handprint.
There were also multiple bronze sculptures on the Ave. The most popular one is Bruce Li's life size sculpture that everybody seemed to want to have a photo with. Here is my favorite one.
The Avenue of Stars also offers outstanding and unobstructed views of Hong Kong Island across the Victoria harbor. It was a cloudy day when we were there, and it was too hazy for us to see the other side well. The Philips Headquarters building definitely brought memories back for my dad though. He used to be a senior engineer for Philips before he retired. Almost twenty five years ago, he attended a two-week long training program in the Philips building in this picture before heading to work for Philips in Germany for six months.
We took the Star Ferry to go to Hongkong island. The Star Ferry is a Hong Kong icon and has been plying the route across the Victoria harbor between Kowloon Peninsula and Hongkong Island for over 100 years. We were heading to the Victoria Peak.
In search of a restroom for Skyler, we stumbled into a Hongkong park with a wedding registry inside. The not-so-big park felt like a paradise with the obvious man made waterfalls, beautiful plants and flowers. The entrance was nicely dressed up in preparation for the Chinese New Year. We came across a newly-wed couple taking pictures in the park after their official ceremony. They were in western-style wedding dress with the bridesmaid, best men, the whole nine yards. What was the most unique were their wedding vehicles. They had an old pink Volkswagen beetle for the new couple and an old yellow VW bus for the rest of the party. I would say their parked vehicles definitely got more attention from people in the park than themselves. Ellie fell in love with the pink beetle on the first sight. Several days later, she asked me if she could have a pink beetle for her wedding when she grew up!
We took the tram to go to the top of Victoria Peak. Built over 100 years ago, the tram climbs at an improbable angle, but affords some excellent views over the city below. Here is a picture taken from the tram.
Thanks to its height the peak was the residence of choice for many of the city's early colonial administrators, who were trying to escape the oppressive humidity and persistent mosquitoes in the city below. Nowadays, rock stars, politicians and the city's playboys call the Peak home. Property up here is the most expensive real estate in the world, a sale of 12 Mount Kellet in 2006 went for a very reasonable $5,417 per square foot. The Peak has continued to be attractive thanks to the lack of humidity, stunning views of the city and it's greenness. (about.com)
Despite the stunning view even on a hazy day, my kids seemed to be more interested in simply running around and getting into fights with each other. I honestly was too busy being a policeman to make my visit even worth my while this time. I have decided that for the next visit to the peak, I would come at night time and without children under age 10.