Hong Kong: Don’t Spit Here





One of the first words that comes to mind as an impression of Hong Kong is “manageable.” Good public transportation, relatively clean, safe, moderately priced (if you avoid the hardcore glitzy/tourist restaurants and such), and arguably one of the best skylines I’ve ever seen at night. On Saturdays, in fact, the city celebrates that horizon with a lightshow that incorporates the lights of at least a couple dozen entire buildings. This Saturday’s display was foreshortened by a dense fog settling in over everything. Hong Kong was the shooting location of the recent film “Push” and I recognized the tallest building here from a scene in the latest Batman film.

Kowloon is easily reached from the airport by express train for about $12 and the island portion of Hong Kong is just another stop after that as the line passes under the narrow strait. A free shuttle connects stations to major hotels and passes every 24 minutes or so. Trains are every 12. AND, you can check in at the train station downtown thus dumping your big suitcase long before you even reach the airport. (The train I assume also handles the luggage. We’ll know if that actually works if I have a bag when I arrive in Beijing!)

Central Hong Kong is heavy on high-end shops/malls, luxury hotels, bars and restaurants, which frankly bores me, breaks my bank, and is too similar to everywhere else. Kowloon, which has a bit of that itself, is the best bet for a more local experience of small noodle shops, bustling street markets, and a few temples.

I stayed at the Anne Black YWCA in Mong Kok area. Cheap and certainly not fancy, it is also one part dormitory for students. I appreciated the simple restaurant with free wifi just off the lobby. (The public library next door also had computers and wifi.) Upon moving to the fancy business hotel Royal Plaza, internet became a luxury at nearly $20 for the day. No problem. Head to the public park in the middle of a busy neighborhood and sure enough someone has unsecured wifi. Thank you, Mr. Chui… whoever you are.

Peung and two friends joined me for the weekend before I had to work at an education agent workshop. We took advantage of the great public transportation and went to the south side of Hong Kong island to Stanley Market, which really wasn’t anything different than the cheaper markets in Kowloon, though some of the local artwork was impressive, especially some painting. The small bay and its promenade of restaurants was charming but even a beer was about $10 USD for HALF a pint. Take a photo and leave it to the wealthy. We did not climb the Peak for a view of the entire city, and I regret that.

Chi Lin Monastery was quite nice and a collection of gardens, lotus flower pools, and various Buddhist shrines that unfortunately were off limits for shutterbugs. Occasionally I will “steal” an image as the no photo policy seems selfish (unless it is a flash issue as for damaging artwork) but this time I refrained.

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