The first impression anyone would get from Hong Kong is that it is very clean. That might be a cultural thing, or it might be the severe penalties for littering. After India, it was a different planet. The people even the kids are quite orderly. They queue up for busses and everything else. They do not shove or cut line. Except for me. The school kids are well behaved when you see them on a field trip, they are even quietly respectful.
Another wonderful difference between HK and all the other third world cities I have been in, no one uses their car horns. The people are so polite that I do not think they would blow their horn to warn you that they were about to run you down. Also, the only motorcycles I saw in HK were driven by the police. Instead of every person over twelve having a Vespa, in HK there is a great usage of busses, the metro, trolleys and ferries. At rush hour they get really crowded. Even then there is a respectful sense about things. Instead of the people crushing each other on the Metro, there are workers with signs on the boarding platform that say “full” when the metro gets crowded, and people respect that and wait for the next train. Except for me. They run about 90 seconds apart, so the wait is acceptable. The metro and busses are also very economical. Gas prices looked about “normal” for a country that must import all of its petrol. Parking is truly expensive. The combination of these last two economic indicators lead to the extensive use of public transport. The only place I saw any reliance on motorcycles was in Macau. I did not notice much in the way of public transportation there, so motorcycles are the consequence.
Hong Kong is the most expensive city I have visited in my last year of extensive travel. Due to lack of time, and the fact that is not a place to consider retiring, I did not explore the supermarkets to figure out what my weekly grocery bill would be, so I cannot comment on that. I will say however that I perused many outdoor markets and found new fruits, and absolutely bizarre seafood. I hope these photos make you say “uh uh” as much as I did when I took them.
Hong Kong is a very tall city. Just about everyone lives and works in skyscrapers. I had the fantasy that someday, all these skyscrapers would be connected by Sky bridges from building to building to building and the people of Hong Kong would never have to touch the ground. The bridges could have convenience stores, dry cleaners, book stores and restaurants built in them, and with people movers a person could get from their home to their office quicker than taking an elevator 30 flights down, doing the cross city traffic dance, then another elevator 30 floors up to the office. I know that sounds rather “Jetson” but it would work. It would also leave the streets to us tourists!
So what about us tourists? Hong Kong is a tourist friendly place. It starts at the airport. I said this before, but I truly appreciate the immigration line which is a single snake type line so you never feel as if you got in the slow line. It went truly fast. The next nice surprise was the luggage carousel. There is a man there who receives each bag as it is spit off the conveyer, and lines the bags up nice and neat and orderly. I have never seen that done anywhere. Nobody shoves their way to the front to get to their bag. Except me of course.
The airport is a fair distance from the hotels, no matter which hotel you are in. If you go, book a tour agency bus ride, the cost of the taxi would be the difference between your economy fair and business class. Well, maybe not. The taxis are metered and regulated. The first two K’s are 18 HK $’s but after that they meter starts spinning like the wheels on a slot machine. We only took cabs when we got lost. And WOW, did we ever get lost a few times. Hong Kong streets are laid out like a Salvador Dali depiction of a nightmare. To get from point A to point B you will box the compass and change from ground level to elevated lanes at least three times. It makes you dizzy.
We stayed in a mid range hotel which was reasonably priced except for our last two nights. The reason for in increase is because of the “Rugby Sevens”. I never heard of this before but it is a series of international Rugby tournaments with a following of Jet Setters. The entire British commonwealth, and even the USA sends a team.
Our hotel had everything you want. I stashed away enough travel sized shampoos and soaps so that when we go on our next trip I do not have to worry if our hotel is not as generous.
I mentioned before that Mary Ann was determined to have a Hong Kong tailor made suit. Here she is with the tailor.
The experience was nowhere near as pampering as the tailor in Bangkok. There we were in a plush room with tea and beer. Here it was measure and move on. Also, the suits were cheaper in Thailand, and probably better tailored. So, if you have the urge to have a tailor made suit, go to Thailand!
I never wore jewelry before I started travelling. Now I have a ring from all the countries I have been to. I wanted a jade ring from HK. Have you got any idea what top of the line jade costs? We went to the Jade Market in Kowloon. I bought Mary Ann a jade necklace, which killed my budget. So I bought myself a nice looking jade ring. It looks like one I saw at an expensive jewelry store for 5,000 dollars, AMERICAN. This one cast me 50 dollars, Hong Kong. I know it is low grade crap, but I like it and I do not have to worry about losing it.
Another souvenir we purchase everywhere we go is a Starbucks coffee mug. Now we have a collection of them in our kitchen. Cairo, Beirut, Katmandu, Delhi, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hong Kong and Macau. I am not even a big fan of Starbucks, BUT it is a reliable place for a good cup of coffee. Every one of the hundred or so Starbucks in HK is just like the thousands of Starbucks anywhere. People do not go there for a cup of coffee as much as they go there to camp. They get a comfy chair, open their notebook computers, magazines or novels and make an overpriced latte last for hours.
Then of course T shirts. I have T shirts that I have never worn, but I always find one too cool to pass up, like this one.
Our last night in HK we had to experience the Hong Kong Symphony of Lights. You could say that every night in HK is like NYE. Besides all the high rise buildings lit up with decorative lighting, they have a half hour laser light show from the tops of most of the buildings. Every night!
On the harbor cruise to view the lights, Mary Ann made friends with a young couple from Beijing. They promised to become pen pals. The guy told Mary Ann she was his first foreign friend.
I wrote in an earlier post about the Hong Kong currency. The strangest thing is that three banks (HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank and one other) each print their own paper money. The only thing consistent is the color for each denomination. Here are the 20’s.
In short, I must say that I am glad I visited Hong Kong. I have nothing bad to say about it. Really, if you know me that is fairly astonishing. The people of Hong Kong are making the most out of the years before they become part of communist China. They treat tourists, and each other, really well. We only scratched the surface of things to do. For instance I never found the great camera store I hoped to find. I know it exists, but your dedication to finding anything at all in HK must be absolute. I think the best advice I can give a tourist is go ahead and get lost, the stuff you find will be amazing enough.
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