Travelogue: Hong Kong

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.
Hong Kong - Victoria peak panorama 1

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.

Victoria Peak: the premier tourist destination on Hong Kong, Victoria Peak is a lookout point on HK Island, accessible by tram, from which you get commanding views of HK Island, as well as Kowloon.
Hong Kong - Victoria peak panorama 4

The tram is pretty unremarkable – it’s a tram! Interestingly, it seems like this is a single car system, not using a pulley to reduce energy consumption.
Hong Kong - Victoria peak trolley

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.

The view from the top is pretty awesome:
Hong Kong - Victoria peak panorama 2

Hong Kong - Victoria peak panorama 3

Once the sun sets, you get a pretty good night view – but my phone camera isn’t quite good enough to capture all the details:
Hong Kong - Victoria peak night view

Hong Kong never gets any snow, why is there a snow Christmas display on Victoria Peak?
Hong Kong - Victoria peak Christmas display

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.
Hong Kong - worlds largest escalator 1 Hong Kong - worlds largest escalator 2

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.
Hong Kong - Symphony of Lights view

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?

A statue of Bruce Lee watches over Hong Kong from the Kowloon shoreline. Check out those amazing muscles and abs!
Hong Kong - Avenue of Stars Bruce Lee statue Hong Kong - Avenue of Stars at night

Hong Kong Museum of History: a very informative museum that narrates the Hong Kong Story, of how HK and its culture came to be.

The museum starts from Hong Kong’s geological origins:
Hong Kong - Museum of History forest

Proceeds to early settlers from mainland China:

Covers Chinese culture in Hong Kong:

And narrates the British takeover of Hong Kong, complete with a model showing the destruction of opium in Hong Kong:
Hong Kong - Museum of History opium

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!

Outside of the museum, it’s a dinosaur! Rawr! The Museum of History is right next to the Hong Kong Science Museum.
Hong Kong - HK Science Museum

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.

Victoria Park: nature + modern civilization. An escalator in a park, what is next?
Hong Kong - Victoria Park 1

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:
Hong Kong - comic hero Bruce Lee Hong Kong - comic hero 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:

A model of the Kowloon Walled City:
Hong Kong - Kowloon walled city model 1 Hong Kong - Kowloon walled city model 2

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.
Hong Kong - Chungking Mansions

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.

Ladies Market: Sells ladies apparel, among other goods. Like a Taiwanese night market, except during the day, and with no food. In other words, not worth visiting.
Hong Kong - Ladies market

Fish market street: Sells fishes. Duh. I’m not sure how all these fish are getting oxygen.
Hong Kong - fish market

Bird market street: Sells birds. Duh.
Hong Kong - bird market

Flower market street: Surprisingly, sells shrubs as well as flowers.
Hong Kong - flower market

– 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.
Hong Kong - organ soup

– Dim Sum! And congee! Delicious.
Hong Kong - congee and cha shao bao

– Clay pot rice:
Hong Kong - baked rice

– Hong Kong Waffles? Delicious.
Hong Kong - HK waffle

– Chicken and rice. Not as good as Singapore’s.
Hong Kong - chicken and rice 1 Hong Kong - chicken and rice 2

– Milk egg custard:
Hong Kong - milk egg custard

– Fish balls!
Hong Kong - fish balls

Cheese noodles:
Hong Kong - cheese noodles and milk tea

Tomato noodles:
Hong Kong - tomato noodles

Bits and Bobs:
– Apples stores are the same, no matter where you go. That is a humongous line.
Hong Kong - apple store

– Polar power??!?
Hong Kong - polar power

– 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:

– While walking on my way from Victoria Peak to the Central on HK Island, of all things, I saw a porcupine!  Who would have thought?
Hong Kong - porcupine

– 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.
Hong Kong - baby powder export restriction

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