Saturday, November 26, 2005

The sights of Hong Kong

Amazing place, Hong Kong.  It's billed as all "East Meets West"-y, and while that's true, it is wholly inaccurate to convey the scope of what we're dealing with here.

If there was a video game about cities, and you just finished playing "New York," "Hong Kong" would be the next level.  Like New York, it has a skyline of tall, closely-packed buildings, but the skyline is longer -- it goes on forever.  And, at night, while other cities' buildings merely light up, Hong Kong's buildings decorate themselves.  (They have exterior lights that make shapes and patterns -- each one looks like someone built a perfectly good skyscraper, and then hired someone else to build some colorful evening wear for it.)  And, as mentioned in the last entry, while other cities have pedestrian tunnels to deal with foot traffic congestion, Hong Kong has actually put high-end shopping down there.

In places, it is immaculate.  I went for a walk along "Avenue of the Stars," a pathway all along the harbor across which you can see the Hong Kong skyline.  Avenue of the Stars is a Hong Kong version of Hollywood's walk of fame, with stars (and handprints) on little plaques in the ground celebrating Hong Kong's cinema stars.  But it's also a lovely place just to hang out.  There's silly-shaped carts (they look like they came out of Toontown at Disneyland) selling popcorn and cotton candy.  There are stages set up at fixed intervals along the way for musical performances.  The place is beautiful -- signs informing you of a fine (over $200 US) for littering (or spitting, or not cleaning up your dog poo) have the desired effect.  I passed three different wedding parties along the way, who were stopping to take pictures with the harbor behind.  (Also what appeared to be some graduating students -- in academic gowns.)  But there were also some old men fishing, some tourists taking pictures of the stars in the ground, and ... my personal favorite ... a few schoolkids who asked to briefly interview me for a school project on English speaking.  ("Have you seen any sights here?" "Do you enjoy Hong Kong?" "Have you been to Hong Kong Disneyland?")  It was just this lovely, open, free, beautiful, clean, safe place -- and there must have been thousands of people enjoying it.  I adored it.

At night, if you go there, you can see what just this week was certified by the people at Guinness as the Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show -- as the lights on the buildings on the other side of the harbor dance in synchronization.  They've even got big laser-ish beacons on the tops of the buildings, that wave about simultaneously.  (We were viewing from what we'd thought was a fairly decent vantage point, until some cruise party boat decided to dock right in front of us and completely block the view of the hundred or so people watching there -- just as the grand finale was getting going.  In the spirit of international cooperation, the entire crowd booed the boat, but itdidn't move.)

We also took the tram up to Victoria Peak.  (I have some vague recollection that the Guinness people said something about that one, too, but I can't seem to find it online).  It is one steep funicular, hauling two cars up to the top of a mountain where gorgeous view of the city are to be had.  Although not necessarily by me.  The building at the top of the peak was closed for massive renovations (much like the National Palace museum in Taipei -- I apparently have renovation karma this trip).  And it was pretty foggy, so we didn't get the bestest possible view (much like at Taipei 101 -- I also apparently have foggy view karma).  Still, I took loads and loads of photos.

The students questioning me at Avenue of the Stars asked if I will come back to Hong Kong.  Absolutely.


annalisa135 said...

it sounds so very beautiful, NZ.  wish I was a little fly stuck to your coat, so I could see it too.  :-)  thank you for describing everything.  it sounds like a wonderful place to visit.

memes121 said...

I caan't wait to see photos! You are putting up photos aren't you? Please don't make me cry.

swibirun said...

I never knew most of this.  It was very interesting and I loved the video game analogy:)  Thanks for sharing.