Day 14 and 15: Off to Hong Kong
|Bryce on Star Ferry|
Day 14 was a travel day, starting with the bullet train from Suzhou to Shanghai. This train had a monitor on it that showed us the speed on our 20 minute journey; it quickly climbed to 299 km. and stayed there until we approached our destination; amazing! Between travelling to the train, waiting for the train, taking the train trip, travelling to the airport, waiting at the airport, and flying to Hong Kong, we didn’t have a chance to do much else! If we were to do this part of our journey again, we would have skipped the plane ride and just taken the bullet train to Hong Kong, with all the waiting around and getting to the airport, we could have taken the overnight train for a lot less money and a lot less hassle!
As we approached Hong Kong late at night, it was a dazzling sight, with high rises and ships in the harbor as far as the eye could see. We are staying about 20 minutes out of the downtown area, in Kowloon. Our hotel, the Royal Garden, is absolutely beautiful, with a rooftop outside pool and state of the art gym and spa. I have gotten so lazy on this trip that I will be lucky if I do more than look at all that exercise gear! Why work out when you can shop, eat and sightsee?
Our hotel has a free shuttle service into the downtown area, so after a fantastic breakfast buffet, we set off to take the Star Ferry. This ferry service has been a part of the Hong Kong scene since 1898, and is considered to be one of the must see places in Hong Kong. It is a popular, cheap and fun way to see Hong Kong from the water, as well as a great way to get from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon and back again. Once we were in Kowloon, we jumped on the Big Red Bus, a double decker bus, which allows for off/on service to all the main attractions, along with ear phones that allow you to tune in to a recorded commentary on all the interesting sights. We used this same service in Shanghai and found it to be an excellent way to see and learn about the city.
|Cable car ride|
We jumped off the bus at the Victoria Tram, which travels up Victoria Hill, a steep climb, 368 meters high, travelling a distance of 1.4 kilometers. Coolies used to carry rich people up this steep hill in a sedan chair in the 1800s. I guess it was easier for them, than to walk up by themselves; ya gotta feel for the poor coolies, though! On the way down, I noticed that there are stairs along the tram tracks. It was definitely too much work for us to make that climb all by ourselves! The tram has been in operation since 1888
The view from the top was breathtaking, although the marine fog was heavy over the city. We were so thrilled that we were taking this historic trip that we didn’t allow the fog to dampen our spirits!
After supper, we headed to the night market, which sells every possible thing a person could imagine for super cheap prices. I know it’s hard to believe, but we are actually starting to feel shopped out! We were pretty tired after our very full day and not really in the mood, so we just looked and didn’t buy a thing!
We got to see the convention center, which has a huge gold plated bauhinia flower in front of it, marking the spot where Hong Kong was returned to the Chinese. The bauhinia flower is the symbol of Hong Kong, and the huge gold statue was given to Hong Kong by the central Chinese government as a symbol of the 1997 handover. As President Jiang of China at the time said to Prince Charles and Tony Blair, “Finally we are masters of our own house.”
Remembering how nervous the western world was with the handover, it is truly impressive to see how successful the transition has been, and to note the very different atmosphere between mainland China and Hong Kong.
First, there are no motorcycles or bicycles! We did see a few parked, but none driving, which makes us think that there must be some restriction to them in Hong Kong.
Second, we didn’t see a single person spitting, or horking up lung cookies. (I must say that I was getting tired of both of these habits!!)
Third, while a lot of men smoke on the mainland, and smoking is allowed inside public buildings, there seems to be a lot of women smoking in Hong Kong. We didn’t see a single woman smoking on the mainland!
Fourth, there just seems to be a much more relaxed feel in Hong Kong. Maybe it was just our own prejudice about being in a communist country, and it could be our imagination, but people seem friendlier and much happier in Hong Kong.
|View from Victoria hill|
Fifth, a lot more of the people speak at least some English in Hong Kong, while few people do on the mainland. This has made a significant difference in our ability to communicate and has helped us to relax a little more.
Sixth, Hong Kong is cosmopolitan, with people living here from all over the world. This brings a wonderful diversity that makes us think of home! With this richness comes……every kind of food imaginable. We went out for a fantastic dinner at a cute little restaurant looking over the city called “Milan”. Bryce had a steak and stuffed crab and I had seafood risotto…..with salad and tomato soup! I had no idea how much I was missing western cooking!
Seven: We can drink the water and brush our teeth with water right out of the tap. I got to give my toothbrush a really good cleaning!
Seventh, I can finally read my blog! Wow! Thanks, Bailee; you have done a great job in putting all this together for me!