I’m not sure what possessed me to spend an entire week in Hong Kong (香港 – fragrant harbor). After staying almost three months in Taiwan, I needed to get out and renew my visa, and so chose to visit Hong Kong. As a regular tourist, HK is chock-full of shopping. As an expat, HK is full of business opportunities, bars, and money to be made. But as a backpacking traveler, HK is expensive and somewhat lacking in places to visit. Great city to explore, just that there’s not quite enough of it. After three days in Hong Kong (and one day in Macau), I had basically seen the entire city.
It constantly surprises me, how little I know about the world. Before actually arriving in Hong Kong, I did not know that Hong Kong is not a single island, but actually a collection of territories – HK Island, Kowloon, Lantou Island, New Territories, and assorted Outer Islands. Whereas HK Island and Kowloon are quite urbanized, there’s a bit more wildlife on Lantou Island, New Territories, and the Out Islands. Most of the interesting stuff, however, is concentrated in HK Island and Kowloon.
At the top of Victoria Peak, there is a wax museum, with an assortment of famous people sculpted in wax. Admission was a bit more than I wanted to pay, so I just snapped a photo with Bruce Lee, Hong Kong’s favorite son. Yes, I know my stance is horrendous.
Also on Hong Kong Island, I took a ride on the world’s largest outdoor escalator! It’s not one escalator path but a connection of shorter escalators, but from one end to the other, it takes 17 minutes to traverse the entire length without walking on the escalator.
Symphony of Lights: according to the marketing kool-aid, it’s a nightly light show set alongside amazing music, view-able from the shores of Kowloon opposite Hong Kong Island. In reality, it’s decidedly mediocre: middling elevator music, a skyline filled with Times Square-esque advertisements (I’m looking at you, H&M), and unremarkable lasers. I’ve seen better light shows out of car dealerships. Ten minutes in, when the show had finished, I was wondering when the prologue would end and the real would begin.
Avenue of Stars: Hong Kong’s answer to Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, a waterfront path featuring the names and hand prints of famous HK movie stars. I only recognized three:
Can you guess what type of Hong Kong movies I watch?
Hong Kong Museum of History: a very informative museum that narrates the Hong Kong Story, of how HK and its culture came to be.
Proceeds to early settlers from mainland China:
Covers Chinese culture in Hong Kong:
I learned that like Singapore, Kong Kong has a history of building public housing skyscrapers. And it’s really interesting, to see how times have changed – in 1950, public housing was allotted at 2 square meters per person, a number that has risen to 13 square meters for the newest skyscrapers. They’re not slums, either – just publicly built housing, to accommodate Hong Kong’s huge population. Chances are, if you see a bunch of the same skyscraper buildings built together anywhere in Hong Kong, they are public housing!
Kowloon Bell Tower: not actually a bell tower, but quite picturesque:
Kong Kong Island Trolley: It’s a trolley that takes you alongside all of Hong Kong Island, where you can see the transition from old HK to new HK. I got bored and got off halfway through.
Kowloon Park: kind of like Central Park, but smaller and better. It’s got ponds, great sights, and an aviary!
Within Kowloon Park, there’s the Avenue of Comic Stars (which I misread to be ‘cosmic stars’), showing off famous comic book characters. I only recognized these two: Bruce Lee (of course) and the Master:
Kowloon Walled City Park: the former sit of the Kowloon walled city, slum extraordinaire, this is now a relaxing park, filled with waterfalls, pagodas, and rocks commemorating famous people from the Kowloon Walled City:
Chungking Mansions: it’s not a mansion. In fact it’s pretty much the opposite – it’s a slum, jam packed with dirty hostels, guesthouses, and miscellaneous stores. It’s also India central – when I visited, basically everyone working inside was Indian.
On a related note, ‘mansion’ is a word thrown around a lot in Hong Kong, and it doesn’t have the same meaning as in the West. In HK, ‘mansion’ just means a large multi-story building, filled with a variety of residences and businesses. Seriously – on the same floor, you could have a hostel, private residences, and a doctor’s private practice.
I tried visiting the Ping An heritage trail in the Outer Territories, but it was quite boring (as well as very badly marked) – it’s just a bunch of old buildings. I did get to see a walled city – an entire block of buildings occupied by one clan – so it wasn’t a complete loss. Oh, and I also met my first Mormon missionaries here! While sitting around enjoying the weather after finding that the Ping An trail was so boring, a pair of Mormon missionaries stumbled across me, tried to greet me in Cantonese, and were very surprised to find an English-speaking American in Hong Kong. They did not convert me, but we had a nice chat on religion. I quite enjoyed the experience.
Temple Street Night Market: Sells tchotchkes. The same trinkets, paintings, and souvenirs, over and over and over. Somehow still famous.
– This dish. THIS dish. Organ soup. Unlike most weird Chinese food dishes, which have some weird ingredients mixed in, this dish is 100% weirdness – hearts, livers, lungs, and other non-standard animal parts. The texture of lugs were especially weird – spongey, with a taste like crab juice.
– Miscellaneous photos:
– On Sundays, all the domestic helpers in Hong Kong have the day off, and so they sit around in all the public spaces, chatting and having picnics. Headscarves, headscarves everywhere:
– This sign at the Hong Kong airport amuses me – due to the tainted baby formula scandal in mainland China, desperate parents raided HK’s supplies, driving up prices and forcing officials to limit exports from HK. Amusing, but also depressing.