One Day in Hong Kong
Because of my tight schedule, I only had one full day to explore Hong Kong before heading into mainland China. I woke up way earlier than I wanted to thanks to a combination of jetlag and this guy screeching on my windowsill.
I took this as a message to go see the aviary in Hong Kong Park later that day. I got ready and grabbed a quick breakfast before walking down to the Star Ferry to take a ride across Victoria Harbour. It was here I realized that public transportation in Hong Kong is extremely cheap. It costs less that $0.50 to cross the harbor, and it was well worth it. The view of the skyline was stunning, even given the smog that followed me throughout my trip.
After docking, I used the walkways above the streets to make my way to the Peak Tram, which takes you from ground level to the top of Victoria Peak, where you can admire a panoramic view of the city.
The ascent was so steep that it had me and the Australian ladies to my right wondering whether this were a Disney ride and speculating about when the drop was coming. True to the Disney hypothesis, we exited the tram into a tacky gift shop.
I barely resisted the the shop's allure and made my way up to the viewing area.
It was here I realized that I am a horrendous photsmographer (How are there no Google hits for this?), so I went looking for some pointers online using my Handy phone. Apparently, an anonymous Chinese journalist last year posted a tongue-in-cheek article with some suggestions, such as "Don't forget to find a splash of color!", "Express the smog, don't conceal it.", and "Capture subtle shifts in the smog by using a longer exposure time." I resolved to apply these techniques as I continued on my journey.
I took the tram back down and strolled to nearby Hong Kong Park. I had the same confused feeling I have when I walk through Central Park, of being simultaneously at one with nature and part of a bustling metropolis. In my opinion, the best part of the park was the aviary, but I happen to love birds. It had a wide range of species, some more social than others. Its dome was so large that I wondered if it might have been considered as the setting for one of the Hunger Games movies, though I was unsuccessful in my search for a Mockingjay.
Next came the zoo, which was pretty standard, though it did have an extensive collection of lemurs. Momo was not present, but this guy was, and only half of his tail fit in the photo!
After the zoo was lunch time, and I chose a place called Veggie SF, a vegetarian, San Francisco, 50s-era diner on the 10th floor of an office building on Hong Kong island. I'm all about bizarre restaurant themes, and it turned out to be a good choice, complete with the I Love Lucy playing on the television near the counter. I now realize I should have stolen a menu. It would prove useful when asked the unavoidable "Why are you a vegetarian?" question.
After promising I would be gone within the hour (I had to make a similar promise at dinner), I ordered a thai iced tea and a lentil beet burger which came with hunks of pumpkin and potato, all delicious. After my meal, the host recommended a public garden near Diamond Hill that had a vegetarian restaurant within. I would later take her advice.
After my meal I went shopping...and purchased absolutely nothing except an occasional iced tea. Clothes were exhorbitantly priced, especially western brands. I was ecstatic when I came across a Munsingwear store which had lots of my favorite Original Penguin clothes, but despite eyeing some styles I'd never seen before, I hightailed it out of there when I saw that the polos were $200.00.
Just as the Seoul airport was a giant mall, so were all the parts of Hong Kong that I visited. In keeping with the theme of rides ending in gift shops, it seemed that every subway stop exited into a mall. There were street exits as well, but they seemed intentionally indistinguishable from the mall ones. At my favorite mall, Langham, I took a couple of lengthy escalators which carried me up fifteen stories. I then walked down, descending in a spiral, passing shops along the way.
At one of the malls, there was a display honoring the twentieth anniversary of my new favorite cartoon character, and I decided we need some better veggie propaganda for the kiddies in the US.
The Hong Kong subway system is cheap and efficient, and I used it to go all over town. A ride for just a few stops was usually under a dollar. The efficiency is aided by the fact that the doors to the cars do not seem to care at all if there is anything in their way. They are heavy-duty, close extremely fast with little warning, and will squash you between them without apology. I witnessed several riders get stuck and have to wriggle in or out of the car before the train departed. I should also mention the escalators. Because the subway has to move so many people every day, its escalators move at least twice as fast as ours in the US. If you are not paying attention, they will knock you on your ass. It almost happened to me. I also continually looked the wrong way when crossing the street, as my tired brain could not seem to adjust to the fact that people drive on the left side in Hong Kong. This proved dangerous.
For dinner, I headed to the Nan Lian Garden near Diamond Hill. Both the garden and the restaurant validated the recommendation I had received earlier. I arrived just after sunset, and this was the perfect time to appreciate the beauty of the garden.
The restaurant was located under a waterfall, and the food was fantastic. I had to agree to be out of there within a half hour because the next shift of diners would be arriving, but I didn't feel rushed. There was a minimum of about $20, which got me two entrees and a dessert. I ended up eating some noodles, sweet and sour wheat gluten with pineapple, and pumpkin pudding.
After dinner, I was lacking in energy, so I briefly wandered around Kowloon before heading back to my hotel. I wanted to check out the nightlife, but I just wasn't up to it. Besides, I would be back the following Friday on my birthday and could check it out then.
After waking, I grabbed breakfast at the hotel and headed for Lo Wu, one of the border crossings into mainland China, excited to see Jianhua get married!