Exchange rate at time of travel: 7.76 Hongkong Dollar to 1 dollar
Decided to walk to the Airport from Hat Nai Yang and flew to Hongkong. Nothing really interesting to report until I arrived at Intercontinental Hongkong (the hotel where my dad was staying. He was organising the conference there). When I came up to the lobby (at about 10.30 pm), I rather felt as if I was standing out. Although I had already put on my best clothes, the best clothes of a backpacker are usually the ones that are not permanently stained and do not stink quite as bad as the other ones... Everyone was dressed a lot more formal than me. The receptionist took it in stride though and told me that they accomodate a lot of backpackers in this 5 star hotel... My ass...
After finally having checked in , I had a nice WARM shower (first warm one 2 months). Meanwhile, dad came back and we went for a nice meal at the restaurant of the hotel.
What is also worth mentioning is the view that could be seen from the bedroom. The hotel was located directly at the harbor side and the view was of the skyline of Hongkong (a city that never goes dark…). It was really beautiful. The photos that I shot show the awesomness of the view more perfectly than I could describe it here.
Dad had to get up early while I still stayed a bit in bed. At 9.30, Dad came back and we went to have breakfast at the hotel. I am not ashamed to admit that this was the most luxurious breakfast that I ever had. The buffet presented all sorts of different breakfast types (English, German, French, Asian) and had a cold buffet (cheese, honey (the bee thing (wabe in German) was actually hanging right above the honey bowl and was steadily dripping into it), different kind of breads, nutella, cream, whipped cream (what for?) and all kind of other stuff that I wouldn’t eat in the morning…) a hot buffet (including fried rice, stirred egg, Japanese stuff (rather unusual steamed egg, cod roe, pickled fruits, discolored eggs…), sausages, salmon, soups, 4 or 5 different kinds of dumplings etc etc…, a fruit buffet (grapes, strawberries, rose apples, papaya, water melon, honey dew melon, dragon fruit and some fruit that I could not identify) and a juice buffet (kiwi juice, guava juice, strawberry, watermelon, mixed fruit, mango, pine apple and orange juice).
Since it was the first time in ages that I had food as much as I wanted, I nearly cleaned up the whole buffet the first time I ate there (Just imagine... I lost nearly 7 kilos during my travels because I did not have enough money to buy enough food... and then that)… After breakfast, Dad had to leave for the conference and I went to explore Hongkong on my own. I took the star ferry from Kowloon (where the hotel was) to Hongkong main island (costs only 2.50 Hongkong dollars, equivalent to 0.30 $ roughly) and then made my way slowly across to the convention center. I was, and am still (time of writing is 5 days after it happened), impressed by the style of living that is present in Hongkong island. Every tower (Hongkong only consists of skyscrapers) has a very fashionable lobby and usually a very fashionable shopping mall as well. Seeing all the marble, the chic and the boutiques made me think of Bex (a very classy girl that I got to know during my University) who would really have fitted right into here and would have loved the city.
The traffic in Hongkong is also disastrous (like in any big city), however, unlike places like Bangkok, a lot of people are also on foot and it is possible to walk across the city without having the fear of getting killed at any moment by a car driving on the wrong side of the road, or of someone speeding at neck breaking speed down the main road (or of tuk-tuk drivers careening through corners on only two wheels, motorbikes driving on the pavement, cars shooting out of corners without looking etc…). To some up, the impression I got was that it is a very western city populated by Chinese.
However, that impression changed when I met up with Dad and went to a computer center. Instead of it beinig relatively organized like in Europe, it turned out to be one single building crammed full with tiny shops selling absolutely every kind of electronic equipment. It was built up confusingly without any real plan nor without any indication where the customer could find what. In two words: complete chaos. This showed that Hongkong, although very western, still did not lose the Asian feel to it. That evening Dad and me went to a really nice restaurant and ate proper Chinese (roasted duck! Heaven on earth…)
Dad had to get up early again but came back for breakfast at 9.30. Afterwards I decided to explore Kowloon (a part of Hongkong). I especially wanted to see the bird market and to get there I had to take the metro. The metro station was directly next to the hotel and, like pretty much anywhere in Hongkong, it was an oversized freezer. The metro in itself is very modern and very big (ie has a lot of capacity). I got out at Mong Kong station, which turned out to be one station too soon, but it allowed me to have a good look around Mong Kong, which is the main residential area of Hongkong. It was very very crowded and very Chinese. The pictures will show more than I can explain here. There I went into a computer center which again was structured according to the asian “tradition” of chaos. Not having found what I was looking for (a charger for my mp3 player), I asked someone where to find the bird market. Disbelieving their answer (most asian persons, when they don’t know something, will point into any random direction or say anything that comes to their mind in order not lose face by not knowing something. Usually, the words “I don’t know” are pretty rare.) Finally after the third answer, I finally conceded that I had gotten out again a station too early.
When arriving at the bird market, I found the bird market rather horrible. Birds were kept in absolutely tiny cages and it rather looked like animal cruelty to me (it is considered as lucky to buy these birds and then set them free). It was time then for me to meet Dad so I took the metro back home. We went out to one of the best Japanese restaurants in town, which happened to be in the hotel. Dad had saga beef, coming apparently from a cow that lives high up in the mountains in Japan. The cow even gets massaged for the beef to be tender. I tried a little bit as well and it was indeed superb. I had some other beef dish which name I cannot remember. It was also very good.
In the afternoon, I had a look at Hongkong again, trying to find back the shopping center to buy the stuff that I still needed. Same chaos…
In the afternoon, me and Dad took a metro and a taxi to the new horseracing course (Horse racing seems to be a bit of a national sport in Hongkong with loads and loads of space secluded to horse racing on an island that has anyway too little space). It is a massive thing that fits 88.000 people. The best way to properly appreciate the size of it is to look at the photos I have taken.
Dad came back from the conference which had started really early to meet me for breakfast. From there, we decided to go to the other side of Hongkong island to a place called Aberdeen. Aberdeen in itself was Chinese to the bone and I doubt that it had seen many tourists. We ate in a small and cheap restaurant with the characteristic plastic chairs. We were probably the highlight of the day in this part of town. Then we went to a so-called wet market where they sold live fish, poultry, hunks of beef. It looked very like the markets I had visited previously during my travel through third world countries in south east asia.
The other remarkable thing was that, unlike in Hongkong, the residential towers were all quite decrepit and run down. This town constituted the other side of Hongkong that is not presented to the outside world. So much for façade work…
Afterwards, Dad had to go back to work and I slept a little and then realized that I did not have the time anymore to go THE touristy spot of Hongkong, Victoria peak, a view platform with apparently amazing views over Hongkong. I tried going there but it cost something like 10 $ just to go up... Money that I did not have. I should have known that you can take the worlds longest escalator up to it in the evening.
In the evening, I met up with friends from my old boarding school. 3 friends showed up (Alex Chu and Chi Ho (who were both from my boarding house) and Victoria Tan (who was from the girl boarding house in Sevenoaks in my year). It was a really nice evening.
Got ill and stayed in bed.
In the evening, I was sufficiently recovered to watch the lightshow that illuminates the harbor every evening. This is a thing organized by the tourism office of HK and involves the neons of all buildings on each side of the harbor to produce a gigantesque lighting show. Although I have seen lighting shows beforehand and created several myself, it was interesting how the show used the different possibilities of the neon (or rather LEDs nowadays) to work concertively together to fit to the music. However, it is also a very touristy thing to do and I was part of a crowd a couple of hundreds strong that were standing and blotting out the Avenue of Stars (kind of the same thing as the Avenue of stars in Hollywood (or rather how I imagine it, seeing that I have never been there). The evening was then spent relaxing and sleeping next to the luxurious swimming pool in the hotel.
Travelling to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.
Click on the travel guide to Malaysia to read on!