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Escalator to Heaven

HONG KONG | Thursday, 7 April 2011 | Views [854]

Eleven hours and five movies later we arrived at the Hong Kong airport. Having been here in November at the very beginning of our trip everything looked familiar and we knew a few things about how to get around but having been in a serious sleep-deprived state five months ago, we didn't feel like we had much of an edge if any on the city. We were however, doing much better this time sleep-wise and were ready to go.

For just a few dollars we hopped aboard a bus and got off at the 6th stop as the lady at the information counter had instructed. After walking for 30 minutes in the wrong direction we finally got our bearings and made our way to our hotel. Turns out duffle bags that can "turn into backpacks" are good duffle bags but crap backpacks. Should have known (or packed less). Sore shoulders and all we were very excited to find our hotel, it having been one of the first few words of English we had seen since getting off the bus an hour before. We ended up on the 19th floor of our hotel with a big view of the city. Pretty good so far. We didn't make it very far that night since we were still on NZ time which put us well into the middle of the night HK time.

Fortunately for us, the HK public transport system was easy for us tourists to figure out so we hopped onto the nearest subway and rode to the end of Kowloon. We were staying in the part of HK that is connected to mainland China so it is not one of the islands, but water was all around. We walked through Kowloon park, a sanctuary in the bustling city, with an aviary complete with flamingos, a sculpture garden, and the worst Chinese garden we have ever seen, but who knows, maybe this is what they really are supposed to look like. Guess we will never know. We ran into swarms of little munchkins in their matching school uniforms of matching sweatpants with tucked in sweatshirts and matching white sneakers. Talk about taking away any form of personal identity. Oh well, they looked pretty cute!

Down by the waterfront we walked past designer store after designer store. Shopping is the primary pastime for people here and brand names are very important. On an island where there is nowhere to drive we saw dozens of Porches and other fancy cars. Totally unnecessary but very important to have for status reasons.

We took in the HK History museum to learn a little bit more about how and why they are separate and so different fron their neighbor China. Unbenonced to us, HK was occupied by Japan for nearly 4 years during WWII. During that time the Japanese thought the island too crowded and shipped half of the population off the island to dwindle their numbers down to 600,000 people. Little good that did them since they now have over 7 million living there! We also learned that it was only in 1997 that HK finally separated from England and got their own rights so to speak. They describe their relationship with China as "one country, two laws." Just to give you an idea of how different their two laws are, we waltzed into HK with no visa and were accepted in for 90 days while China has one of the most difficult visas to acquire with a very thurough process. They also use different currency and as far as we can tell though we haven't been to China yet, seem to be a bit more relaxed. We will see...

We hopped back on the subway and rode it underwater between Kowloon and the main island of HK. We went in search of a big view up on the 43rd floor of the China Bank tower and boy was that cool. To fit 7 million people on such a tiny piece of land you are forced to build up and up and up and that is just what they have done. The island is one skyscraper after another smooshed together on the parts of the island that aren't too steep to build on. Between the skyscrapers and the hilly jungle, it is quite a site from above. What a place this is. One of the other cool features that allows so many people to get about is their above ground walkways. They have a whole system of walkyways for pedestrians so you don't have to cross a single street going to and from work and home. The walkways lead to the real pedestrian "highway" which is the worlds longest escalator. It is like an HOV lane in that it goes one way in the morning and another in the afternoon and transports roughly 30,000 people a day. Crazy! We rode it uphill and were probably on it for 15-20 minutes looking into window shops and scoping out dinner options for our walk down. We did have one minor sidtrack to a Ben & Jerry's that we spotted from the escalator but after trying their new Dulce Almond, delicious by the way, we were back on and still heading up.

After finding our way back down we joined the throngs of people enjoying happy hour on a Friday afternoon. In the area we were in you could have been in any city back home. There were far more Westerneres than Chinese, and the restaurants ranged from Mexiacan to Italian to Greek to almost anything but Chinese. It was really something else. Another reason we guessed China would be a bit different.

We ended the night on the ferry from the main island back to Kowloon with the light show going on both sides of us. Buildings shine, blink and flash for 10 minutes each night after dark. It was almost too smoggy to see from one side to the other but the lights broke through the smog enough for us to get a good show. Pretty cool stuff.

The next day we decided to escape the tall buildings and took a ferry to one of the outer islands. Very few people live out here and even though we were still very close to the main island, we couldn't see it because the smog was so thick. Our escape plan had worked better than we thought. We walked along the sandy beach and continued on a path that led us up. For the first time in a while it felt like we were in Coloraod again; it was hot and dry but we savored it knowing this would be our last day for a little while. As we sweat our way up the hill we got a better view of HK Disney Land but that was about it. The island was far from developed unlike its neighbors and was one dry deserty hill that looked nothing like the jungles of HK we had seen yesterday.

We had both remembered our 12 hour layover in HK fondly and now we rememberd why. It is a very easy place to be which surely is the draw for all the other Westerners we saw who live and work here, beaches are no more than a 40 minute ferry ride away, the only traffic is that of other people, and there are plenty of big green open space to enjoy ouside of the huge highrises. Definately a unique place that we will likely come back to but they need to do something about the smog for sure. Now off to the real deal. China.

Here are some pictures to enjoy:

https://picasaweb.google.com/ttitus23/HongKong#

T&V

 

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