Hong Kong Highlights
I woke up to a view of a helicopter landing on the helipad of some tall towering building. A light drizzle blocked my view. With few hours at hand to see beautiful HongKong, I stepped out of my hotel – Holiday Inn Express, Soho located at Jervois Street, Sheung Wan.
A Ride in Ding Ding and Wobbling Octopus
Riding the largest double-deck tram system in the world gives you a glimpse of the Hong Kong’s street life. The locals affectionately call the 111 year old trams “Ding Ding” due to the constant noise chiming along the way. Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway is called Octopus. I almost laughed when I read the Don’t instructions on the card : “Hold your octopus too quickly over a reader 😀 “. A ride in the wobbling octopus is no comparison to the smooth MRT ride in Singapore. Although packed and crowded, Octopus was seamless and fast.
Man Mo Temple
One of the oldest temples in Hong Kong is dedicated to Man Cheong (God of Literature) and Mo Tai (God of Martial Arts). The giant incense coils hang from the ceiling of the temple with red papers containing wishes of the devotees. The spiral incense coils adds a unique appeal to the beauty of the temple. The temple was built by Taoists during the colonial era in 1847.
Vibrant Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Skyline
When I reached Victoria Harbour, I was impressed by the amazing skyline offered by the city. The place was full of hustle and bustle with ferries shuttling back and forth from Kowloon bay and nearby islands. The Skyline looked equally good during the day or night!
Symphony of Lights
I sat along the skyline waiting for the much talked about Symphony of Lights Show – in which the Hong Kong skyline gets lit up with lasers and lights in an eclectic display of colors. My eyes followed the beautiful traditional junk boats that sailed in the harbour. Originally owned and manned by Chinese fishermen, the beautiful red Chinese Junk – Dukling is used to crisscross the Hong Kong waterways. The Symphony of Lights however did not match up to my expectations and I sat there waiting for the jaw dropping moment that never arrived. Till date, some of my best memories of watching and walking along a city’s skyline is in The Bund, Shanghai.
Another highlight of the trip was the 45 degree incline ride to the Peak. At 552 m above the sea level, the Peak is the highest mountain on Hong Kong island. Between 1904 to 1947, the Peak was designated as an exclusive designated residential area for Caucasians. They thought that the tram route will boost the business to the elite Peak Hotel and would be helpful for the wealthy foreigners and their domestic workers. Today the peak tram is popular to provide spectacular views of the city and harbour. The only time the Peak Tram service was closed to the public was during the Japanese occupation. Then, the trams were used to transport arms to barracks located on the Peak.
The sky terrace “Victoria Peak” stands at 428 m above the sea level. It is the highest viewing platform of Hong Kong offering 360 degree panoramic views of the city.
Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car
One of the popular attractions of Hong Kong is to visit the Big Buddha in the Lantau Island. The shortest and the most worthiest way to reach there is by Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car. The 5.7 km cable car journey gives fascinating views of misty mountains blended with the concrete jungle. It was by far the best cable car ride I had till now!
Tian Tan Buddha
Once you step out of the cable car, you enter into the cultural themed village – Ngong Ping. The village is designed to reflect the cultural and spiritual integrity of Ngong Ping village. From the village, you can see the 34 m tall statue of Buddha perched on the hilltop. I climbed the 268 steps to reach the foot of the Tian Tan Buddha.
People of Hong Kong
Hong Kong has been a British Colony for 156 years from 1842 till the handover to China in 1997 – with the brief Japanese occupation of 1941-45. Due to this, Hong Kong has developed an identity that is unique and different from its current parent – China. For starters, the Chinese spoken on the island is Cantonese – and not Mandarin. This fact makes foreigners of their fellow mainland Mandarin speaking Chinese brethren as well. I felt that the people of Hong Kong consider themselves part of a modern world – thereby harboring a slightly elitist attitude towards the mainland Chinese. A conversation with my fellow Chinese colleague from Singapore reaffirmed this perception ! By and large, interactions with the local people (request for directions, buying things) were brusque and ruder than expected.
However, one interaction stands above the rest. As I sat along the skyline waiting for dusk to fall, I noticed a very elderly gentleman clicking photographs of the harbour. After clicking few photographs, he packed up and sat down beside me – curiously enquiring my nationality and country of origin. He shared that he has been a Hong Kong resident all his life. Work has taken him around the world, but he calls this place home. He told us about how Hong Kong has an unusually high amount of forestation for an inhabited developed island. Then he lamented about the decline in Hong Kong’s infrastructure, administration and transparency courtesy the Red Dragon (China). He believes that life under British rule and administration was much better. Now Mainland Chinese has systematically penetrated all key levels of decision-making local government bodies, wresting control of the legacy of Hong Kong. As it appears, Hong Kong was not liberated from colonial rule – only the masters have changed. And as some opine – for the worse.
Hong Kong has a diversity of landscapes – mountains, water, forests and naturally undulating land formations. The city is built around the existing natural resources making it a great blend of many different geographic variations. Hong Kong has a vibrant, natural feel – in contrast to the staid, almost colorless predictability of Singapore. The cab drivers drive without Google Maps and often consult other cab drivers via cellular phones for direction. The roads are not always clean, the people not always polite , the trains and rains not always predictable. It just feels far more real and alive this way ! And I carried back the memory of that vibrant energy from Hong Kong.
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