• Day67

    Hong Kong

    February 22, 2015, South China Sea ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    February 22 and 23.
    I think that Hong Kong was the part of the trip that both Jeff and I were expecting to be one of the highlights of the whole cruise - it did not disappoint. Hong Kong is at once modern, ancient, pristine and grimy. The shear mass of humanity is impressive, but the demeanor of the masses is remarkably polite, considerate and helpful.
    The sail-in to the harbor was quite foggy, but it lent a bit of a mystical air to the morning.
    When we got off the ship, the port building itself dumped you right into Hong Kong in that it housed 300+ stores, 50 restaurants, etc. We quickly learned that much of Hong Kong is based of consumerism. We were stunned by the high-end shopping that was available. For example, there are 50 Chanel stores in Hong Kong, but there is one particularly favorite location. At that location, people will line up outside the store for hours for the privilege of shopping there. Also, the line outside the Apple store is unbelievable and it is like that whenever the store is open.
    Our approximately 40 hour visit seemed to break into sections. The first section was getting through the very cosmopolitan, high-end shopping district. We saw every high-end brand we’d ever heard of. After that, we took the 8 minute ferry ride to Hong Kong Island and began to wander up (Hong Kong goes from waterfront to hillsides), turning down any street that looked interesting. We got into a district called Soho, which was not unlike NewYork’s Soho in that it had a funky, young vibe with many art galleries and small restaurants.
    Our next adventure was to get a taxi to a market on the other side of Hong Kong island called Stanley Market. This was a fun shopping experience that was the polar opposite of what we had seen that morning. Silk bags for $1 and scarves for $8 were more our speed of shopping. Our taxi driver had taken us there through a tunnel, but suggested that we could take the double-decker public bus back for $1. It was a stunning ride up over the mountain and above the beach.
    We had planned to take a walking tour with a British guide that evening, but since it was pouring rain, we postponed it to the next day and had him drop us at his favorite restaurant. We proceeded to have food, which you would call “Chinese food” :-). It was a real treat, and since we were the only non-Asians there, we simply looked at the other diner’s plates and ordered based on that.
    The next day was a 7 hour walking tour (the 4 of us plus another couple we met on the ship). The British guide had lived in Hong Kong for 40 years and was a wealth of information. He discussed the daily lives of people in Hong Kong as compared to people in China. We learned about the heavy influence of Feng Shui in the placement of everything from small items in the house to skyscrapers. We were also surprised to learn the pervasive nature of numerology - there are no 4th(death), 14th, or 44th floors. And in business, nothing happens in April (the 4th month). You would never have a car license plate with a 4! However, you will see 8’s(wealth) everywhere! In any case, every number has a meaning.
    We were there during Chinese New Year, so our guide brought us to a non-denominational temple that was packed with people walking with lighted incense and kneeling with offerings of food and number sticks that they would shake and spill out, hoping for a lucky number for the new year. There were many statues and we rubbed so many bronze feet, noses and backs that I think we will have good luck forever.
    We finished up with our guide at a very traditional dim sum restaurant. There was a large lazy susan in the middle and things just kept appearing. About 75% of it was unidentifiable, but all pretty tasty. We might not want to know what it was - sometimes ignorance is bliss.
    We spent our last evening in Hong Kong by discovering what we all agreed what we thought was the definition of the city. Lots of locals eating at open-air, tiny restaurants with live seafood outside to choose, the night market, families gathering for meals at tables on the sidewalks and hundreds of lighted signs in Chinese characters. The tall apartment buildings were well-worn and displayed the universal sign of life - drying laundry hanging out the windows.
    I believe that Hong Kong has placed on my list of my top 5 favorite big cities. It had an exuberance and liveliness that left you wanting more.
    The first photo is the visit to the temple - the haze is incense.
    The second photo is what we felt was a typical street scene(it's true, McDonalds is everywhere).
    The third photo is the beautiful Hong Kong skyline at night as seen from our ship.
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