Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Hong Kong: Contrasts

Modern, sleek, incredibly well developed - Hong Kong is very much all of these, but, like any city, contrasts exist and they always make a place a bit more interesting. Here are just a few I came across. 

Construction workers undoubtedly building something cool, but also employing a traditional form of sun protection to their modern construction gear. They had cut out the middle of traditional straw hats you see all over rural Asia and affixed them over their helmets. 

Straw hat helmet guy.

Most of the scaffolding I saw in Hong Kong was bamboo, from small jobs repairing the facade of a store front to large skyscraper construction. Lite, durable, flexible, strong, cheap, versatile, and being used more and more as a building material around the world - good stuff - unless your a panda.

While the girls were busy shopping the promenade in Kowloon, I popped into the entrance ways to an apartment building. Kowloon has lots of older complexes that we would refer to as tenement buildings. Mailboxes and meter boxes - not so sleek and modern.

Hong Kong: Kowloon

Hong Kong is a huge metropolitan area and is made up of more than 200 islands, but the main parts are Hong Kong city - the island, and across the bay Kowloon, which is on mainland China. Up until 1997, these territories belonged to Britain. While now part of China, Hong Kong does enjoy some special economic and political privileges due to its recent history as a British dominion and its unique status as an international trade and finance center. Its location, with a great harbor and proximity to the massive market and labor pool that is mainland China, explains why the city continues to boom. According to the guide book we used to get around, there exists a bit of rivalry between Hong Kong islanders and Kowlooners across the bay. The guide said something like ask a Hong Konger what there is to do in Kowloon and they will say turn around and look back across the bay to Hong Kong. The areas are certainly unique and give off rather different vibes. Hong Kong is sleek and aesthetically impressive as it sprawls horizontally along the harbor and rises majestically into its vertical setting with an impressive skyline and backdrop of verdant green hills. Kowloon has a grittier feel to it and an energy that I enjoyed while walking down its frenetic streets. It has a lot more contrasts than its glitzy twin across the harbor. We took the subway over to Kowloon in the morning, made our way up Nathan Road (the Golden Mile), one of the main thoroughfares jam packed with holiday shoppers, restaurant goers and people just out and about.  I did lead us off on a random tangent that took us into Kings Park which was neat. The park was actually built up a lot like the city of Hong Kong - vertically up a steep hill. It had all sorts of cool walkways and recreational areas built into terraces here and there and was topped by a grassy field with various exercise options including a running track. The girls wanted to eat dim sum - actually just dumplings and we found a little hole in the wall eatery. I ordered several options but the waitress kept inclining that they were not available. She didn't speak English and my attempts at asking for certain items was not getting across. Eventually, she pointed to a few items and I agreed - bit of excitement when the dishes came out. Several dumpling dishes and two noodle dishes - neither of which I had tried before. One was a cold noodle dish with wide, rice noodles cooked quite al dente - they had an almost chewy texture to them - and a kind of peanut sauce with shredded chicken. The other was hot and a bit spicy with glass noodles and ground pork. We put some serious mileage on our feet after lunch as Alicia took us on a walking tour of various areas around Nathan Road, including the flower market, fish (as in aquarium) street, bird (as in parrots for sale) street and a shopping promenade that extended for several blocks. Our day ended in a German biergarten for a beer before boarding the ferry back to Hong Kong. We didn't time our departure for the sunset and the lit up skyline of HK . I thought there would be a wait for the ferry and alloted for this in the timing but there was no wait so we crossed the bay just before the sunset and thus no lit up skyline shots of HK.

Swinging in the King's Park.

Posing at the top of the park. Lots of owners walking their dogs. One guy had brought a bag of treats for the dogs and soon had all the dogs around him excitedly jockeying for position. Two of the dogs were beautiful malamutes - and of course reminded me of Puk. When he began dolling out the snacks I saw that they were rice balls of some sort! Funny to think of pets in other countries and how different their experiences must be - pet culture - theres a fun topic will have to delve into one of these days.

Guy doing Tai Chi in the exercise area at the top of the park.

One of the sides of the park - all sorts of walkways winding their way up the hillside. Parts, like this, were cemented to keep things in place.

Residence built into the hillside of King's Park.

Walkway from the residence down to street level.

From the street looking up.

Nathan Road the main shopping thoroughfare - fun street to walk down.

Nathan Road

Flower district.

Fish in a bag store - the fish district - 100's of aquarium shops.

Apparently there exists a demand in HK for aquarium related items.

More fish in a bag.

Shopping promenade with everything you don't need.

Star Ferry back to Hong Kong city.

Hong Kong: Cultural and Physical Landscapes

Hong Kong Getting Around

Bentley, how some get around in HK, we preferred other options.

My girls with the Central Pier in the background.

Colorful ferry plying the waters of HK harbor, Kowloon in the background.

The tram that takes passengers up to the Peak.

View going down the tramway from the Peak.

My favorite mode of transport in HK - the escalator. The escalators ran up the hillside from around Queens St down on the flatlands up to "the Midlevels" the name for an area up the hill a ways - about a 1/2 mile or so. Our hotel, the Bishop Lei, was on Robinson St up in the Midlevels. A 5 minute walk would place us at the escalators which would take us down the hill. The area the escalator traveled thru is called Soho and is very Sohoish. The escalators run down in the a.m. and then switch to running uphill around 10 a.m.

Stairs run the length of the escalator, seen here to the right of the girls, for pedestrians going in the opposite direction the escalators are running.

MRT/subway/train station. I believe this was Central Station where we got a train over to Tsim Sha Tsui station on Kowloon. Great system - very well used.

Walkway going down from King's Park in Kowloon to street level.

Star Ferry crossing the harbor from Kowloon back to HK city. The ferries are cheap and very well used.

HK city at dusk, just starting its edificial light show.

Convention center in the foreground.

A "junk" - traditional fishing boats. Now a style many of the harbor tour boats have appropriated.