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Taking the road less traveled Spending a year in five continents to embrace my "inner turtle", to live simply, and to avoid being shark bait!

Two continents down, three to go!

HONG KONG | Wednesday, 28 March 2012 | Views [445]

It was very convenient to use Hong Kong as my pit stop in between trips to Australia and within Asia.  Better yet, I've been able to spend a lot of time with my family, totaling over a month, the most ever since the family spread out.  It was amazing to see my nephews grew in just the month I was in Thailand; they were taller, smarter, and maturing right in front of my eyes.

For those of you who have never been to HK, I cannot even begin to describe the conveniences and speed of this metropolitan city.  Public transportation, especially the metro system, are amazingly fast and efficient; I never wait more than 5 minutes for the metro, less than 2 minutes during rush hour.  The payment system, Octopus card, is accepted by all public transportation, so you add money into the card and you can use it on the bus, metro, railroad, tram, and mini-bus; moreover, Octopus card can be used for payment in many chain stores and fast food restaurants, cinemas, even the post office.  Cash is rarely used as a result, which also means kids really have no concept of money; they just know somehow this card buys them stuff and lets them onto the subway and buses.

My home in HK is in an older apartment complex or "garden" as known here, but it is super convenient.  There are a large shopping center, supermarket, cinema, banks, and medical offices within, as well as a metro station.  It takes me less than 10 minutes to walk from the flat to the station, and along the way I can buy all sorts of things:  pastries, coffee, newspaper, magazines, shampoo, birthday cake, egg McMuffin, you name it.  It's very hard for me not to buy something along the way, the detour takes literally a minute, and I don't even need to dig for cash.  There are also numerous restaurants, clothing stores, mobile phone stores, jewelry stores, electronics store, furniture store, even an Apple reseller.  So after dinner at home, I can shop there until almost 11 PM.  It's a city that doesn't sleep much.

HK is very crowded and personal space is a premium, so I do have to make that mind-switch when I'm here.  The city has done a decent job of educating the citizens about environmental issues and reducing carbon footprint.  Plastic bag usage in major supermarkets and stores has been dramatically decreased since a fee was levied for each plastic bag a customer used, so now almost all shoppers bring their own reusable bags for groceries or  forego for small items.  However, food places still have ways to go to reduce usage.  Takeaway is very common, and for every cup of coffee or milk tea I order as a takeaway, I get a paper cup with plastic lid, a plastic stir, two bags of sugar, all placed in a plastic bag.  It's even worse at bread store: if I buy two buns, both are first placed in one plastic bag, then that bag is placed in another bag with a handle for convenience.  Really?  I started bringing my own bag to the bread store, and the cashier looked at me with despise, probably less because of the bag but because that would disrupt her rhythm of bagging and cash register ringing, slowing her down (remember HK'ers like to move fast).  I didn't care, it probably delayed her by no more than 5 seconds to take my bag than to grab a new one.  The government also has not done a good job of building recycling facilities, nor enforce offices to recycle.  HK produces the highest amount of garbage per resident, yet recycling effort is abysmal.  Less than 3% of glass are recycled in HK, compared to over 60% in the EU.  Even if one does recycle, you can't be sure they are taken to recycling facilities and sorted properly.  Many office buildings lack recycling bins, so office workers cannot easily do so; my sister's office is one such office, so instead she puts her office recycling items in a bag, and when full, brings it to the metro station where recycling bins exist.  Thanks sis!  

Due to its proximity and ease of travel to Shenzhen, it's common for HK'ers to go there for the day (some people even commute there weekly for work).  I went to Shenzhen for a day with my family during my last pit stop.  Getting there from HK is simply a metro ride to a station that connects to the railroad station, and then take the train which goes right to the border.  I've been to Shenzhen several times and am not a huge fan; it's massive but air quality is horrible (although HK is catching up, sadly).  I almost didn't recognize the city when we arrived; the railroad station has grown in size, and a metro system exists now (just like HK's).  There are loads of expressways and highways, reducing drive times for distant cities.  We had a late lunch there and one thing  struck me:  there are a lot of employees, but many of them just stood around and did nothing.  Afterwards,  guess where we ended up shopping of all places?  Walmart!  It is very common to see global brands in Shenzhen:  Zara, Body Shop, H&M, Nine West, and of course all the high end brands like LV, Zegna, Armani, and Gucci.  I asked my 4-year-old nephew what he thought was different between Shenzhen and HK, and he said nothing except the driver sits on the left side of the car (China drives on the right side of the road, while HK drives on the left).  After shopping we took the metro back to the railroad station, and then back to HK on the train.  Quick trip, and probably all I could handle!

Best things about this last pit stop?  Doing laundry and all the eating!  My sis and mom made sure I had loads of good food, so there were many home-cooked meals from mom and great meals out too.  I have no idea what to expect in terms of food once in Mozambique, so better pig out now!

Tags: hong kong, octopus card, recycle, shenzhen

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