We’re in Hong Kong – it’s just amazing. You wouldn’t believe the size of the buildings here, they are incredible. It is overcast, possibly rain later in the day 🙁
We were docked at Victoria Terminal by 7am this morning. Pat did a quick workout as she knew the gym would be fairly free given 1000 or more passengers were disembarking the ship today. Bad news was that 1000 or more passengers were embarking the ship today.
About Hong Kong: You won’t be surprised to learn that this showpiece of human industry was founded on opium trade. Most people think only of Hong Kong Island and a small portion of the Kowloon peninsula, but the territory includes many other islands like Cheung Chau, Lantau and Lamma – more than 266 islands in all. The first settlers probably arrived in the 3rd millennium BC but for the early part of its history Hong Kong hosted only nomadic peoples. There was no impetus to create a port in the absence of trade networks and exports and no ships for pirates to attack. (I’d like to see the Somali pirates try to take a ship belonging to this port – NOT).
During the period of Imperial China, Hong Kong prospered and trade began to boom. Like many sea ports it eventually became a lair for pirates and various ethnic groups congregated in the region. Opium flowed freely at first – the poppy crop was mostly harvested in India. In an incriminating act of crass colonialism, a concerted effort was actually made to promote addiction among the populace so there would be a dire need for continued foreign presence.
Reunification was in 1997 when Britain handed Hong Kong back to the Chinese. Hong Kong has been part of a Special Zone, operated according to a “one country, two systems policy” to help ease transition and to keep the city’s economy thriving. Some residents who had made their fortunes fled – most notably to Canada, the US, Australia and Great Britain when the change came. Others, more confident in the future, stayed and adapted in true Hong Kong style. Our guide advised us that Hong Kong will continue to be left as is for at least another 40 years.
The highest point on Hong Kong Island can be seen from the ship but we visited the 1800 foot Victoria Peak. It’s a MUST for all visitors. We all proceeded aboard the Funicular tram, which was built in 1888, to the summit. The Peak Tower was renovated in 2005. We took a short walk around the Peak for some spectacular views or at least it would have been if the cloud wasn’t coming in (an early indication of bad weather). But it was beautiful anyway. There’s lots of vendors selling all sorts of souvenirs and a huge indoor mall with a ton of stores selling everything from electronics to clothing and nick knacks.
I should mention here about the huge contradiction in buildings. The office buildings are just out of this world. Many are 80+ floors, glass monuments and the art work and design are amazing. Next we have the “living” or apartments of the workers. These are also 30-50 floors but are much older (and it shows in many instances). Housing is very expensive, to buy a condo or house, prices go up to $1000 per square foot in better areas. Subsidized housing is available but the entry salary is very low. A more typical price is $300/sq ft. in the less desirable areas (aka further from downtown).
Our next stop was to Stanley Market. We got off the bus to spend an hour here and the sky’s opened. However, we didn’t let that deter us. There must be several hundred little stalls offering all sorts of things: knock off purses (2 for price of 1); lots of clothes; souvenirs; material; books; food – it’s just an amazing place. To me it was what I’d envisioned Hong Kong to be :-).
No visit would be complete without a sampan ride in the harbour. This typical tourist attraction is rapidly disappearing though. Each year there are fewer people living on boats in the harbour. The floating restaurant is apparently not great anymore, they seem to have become complacent with all he reviews from the past. But the outside is still fabulous to behold.
Our final stop was to a jewellery factory, where again Gert purchased me a pair of Pearl earrings; a little pin and a bracelet (I’m spoiled :-)). After our tour we went back into the shopping area next to Victoria Pier. Upscale, there were no bargains but due to the departure time we didn’t want to risk walking further into town.
Made, our good friend and dining steward left the ship today. He was to stay onto Vancouver, but he got to see his little son Krishna in Bali and his heart got left behind. So he got off the ship today and travelled back to Bali. We’re keeping in touch. We’ve changed our evening meal time from 8pm to 7pm. This is a much better time for us enabling us to go to more evening entertainment. This leads me to tell you about Gert’s debut on stage :-).
We’d gone to have cocktails and watch the ship depart from Hong Kong when one of the entertainment staff approached Gert. She asked if he’d give them a hand that night on stage in the theatre. When the curtain opened, Gert was dressed as a Scottish Golfer and was handed a huge blown up club; he was to hit the club against a football and see how far it went. Well I guess you had to be there, it was hysterical.
Well a very busy day in Hong Kong and 1 day certainly was not enough. We’ll be back next year to spend a week or two here before going to Bali.
Some more photos for you to enjoy: