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Hong Kong

David and Noel Coory

  Middle East Trip

July 2005

An impressive view of Hong Kong by night.

Impressions of Hong Kong

Teeming crowds of people.

Many malnourished, over-thin and bow legged.

Many people with malformed teeth.

Lack of Calcium in diet perhaps?

Most of the elderly frail and shrunken with sparse hair.

Very little grey hair however on older people.

Hardly any children and we saw no babies.

Lovely, clear complexions on the young.

Numerous very tall apartments and hotels, and no houses.

• Noisy buses and clanking trams.

Locals speak in a clucking-like language, Cantonese.

Smell of drying fish in the streets and many other unusual smells.

Hot streets, especially in the open sun, cooler near the sea.

Thousands of shops.

About 1/3rd of the people wear glasses.

Optician shops everywhere.

Intelligent and highly efficient people.

No hardware or car accessory shops.

Very few furniture shops.

Every conceivable food, much of it unrecognisable to us.


Wednesday 13 July  Hong Kong

Overnight flight to Hong Kong

I nod off to sleep and awake about a hundred times on this flight to Hong Kong. There’s just not enough leg room to get comfortable.

There are also noisy children behind us and they keep bumping the seat. Noel gets even less sleep.

My PlaneQuiet headphones are very good in these situations. They blot out about 60-70% of the noise and sound quality is high, especially from my Ipod. Noel has decided to buy himself a pair also.

This is a short night as we are travelling eastward. It will only be dark for about six hours.

We finally land at Hong Kong Airport.

As we get off the plane we walk past the business class seats. I am rather jealous when I see their ample leg room, after my cramped night.

The huge new Hong Kong airport

As we file through to customs we have to use an escalator stairway. I’ve never seen so many people on one escalator.

Huge crowd on the escalator.

This is a new airport and is huge, and very clean and crowded with people. It is located on reclaimed land on an off-shore island, not on Hong Kong Island itself.

Actually it is two islands away from mainland China. Hong Kong city is located on a third island, linked by an underground tunnel to the mainland.

Not as hot as we expected, outside the airport terminal building. However it is only mid-morning.

Bus ride to Hong Kong Island

We board a clean bus which has been organised for us by a very efficient travel rep to take us to our hotel on Hong Kong Island. None of the porters seem to expect tips.

It takes us about half an hour to drive across the two huge bridges that link the airport island, and an intermediate island, with mainland China.

The first of two long bridges to the Chinese mainland.

Looking back at the first bridge we crossed.

As we cross the long bridges and look out at sea we see numerous islands in the distance. The sea looks a brownish green colour despite the blue sky. Many ferry boats churning up wakes.

Looking out to sea, numerous other islands.

As the bus drives towards Hong Kong, just about everywhere we look we see huge, high rise apartments.

Yet we also see bush-clad hills that could have come right out of the New Zealand countryside.

High rise apartments with NZ-like hills in background.

These apartments are mind boggling in number,
 especially to us Kiwis used to a single house
 on a large section.

More apartments. How would you ever
 make yours stand out from the crowd?

Even more apartments, everybody lives in apartments.

As we drive on the mainland and near Hong Kong Island, the road goes down into a tunnel under the sea to the island.

This coastal city area on mainland China is also called Hong Kong. There is also a nearby city called Kowloon.

The former China border is behind us to the north.

Approaching the Hong Kong tunnel entrance.

Inside the Hong Kong tunnel under the sea.

Our Hong Kong hotel

We are dropped off outside our Hong Kong hotel in a middle of a teeming, busy street. It is just as I imagined Hong Kong to be. Apartments and hotels tower up high on either side of the street.

As a teenager I remember seeing a film set in Hong Kong called “The World of Suzie Wong.”

Our Hong Kong hotel street.

Our 28 story ‘small’ Hong Kong hotel.

They are doing road works outside the hotel. I’m impressed with a footpath sign politely saying, "We apologise for the inconvenience caused" and giving the start date and anticipated finish date of the works.

Polite works sign. We could take a leaf out of their book.

Our hotel has 28 floors. “Just small hotel,” the porter says. There is a swimming pool on the roof. We have a very small room, with rock firm beds.

Our small Hong Kong hotel room.

Our hotel window has a back view of apartments with washing hanging out the windows. Like most hotels nowadays, you cannot open the windows.

View from our window.

All the time we are here we have long waits for the three lifts. The lifts are mirror-lined, probably to make them look less claustrophobic.

The hotel lobby.

Out for a walk and to buy lunch

After we settle in, it is near mid-day, so we go out for a walk and to buy ourselves a fruit lunch. We have tried to have one all fruit meal every day.

The streets all around our hotel look the same. Apartments towering above and shops at floor level.

Street behind our hotel.

There are numerous jewellery and chemist shops, also clothes and food shops.

We enter a supermarket to buy some fruit. This is the first supermarket we have been in on our trip. The food selection is enormous, compared to what’s available in a typical NZ supermarket. Much of it exotic and mysterious, and highly suspect to our untrained eyes. We see tray after tray of strange foods and realise how little we know about Asian foods. Some of it is mind boggling, live eels and other fish, live toads.

Our first supermarket.

Much of the food is exotic and mysterious.

Live eels and fish.

Live toads.

Noel also buys himself a Braun electric toothbrush. The price here seem a little cheaper than elsewhere.

The exotic fruits

For lunch we buy a largish exotic red fruit with black pips and triangular leaves of rind, some red bananas, and a conventional pineapple.

We explore a little more then return to our hotel to eat our fruit.

The strange red fruit with black pips tastes OK, like a blackberry flavoured water melon, but is not very sweet except in the centre. The juice has a strong red dye that was still on Noel’s fingers 24 hours later.

The exotic red fruit with black pips
 and triangular leaves of rind.

The red bananas are so unripe as to be inedible. We eat the whole pineapple between us.

The most tasty fruit on our trip has been that of Singapore, and Jericho in Israel.

(I find out when I get back home to Tauranga, that the exotic red fruit above is called a Pitaya or Dragon Fruit. There is also a white-fleshed variety with a green skin. They are grown in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand in glasshouses.) 

The exterior view of two varieties of Pitaya
 or Dragon Fruit grown in New Zealand.

Interior views. They taste similar to water melons.

A long afternoon and evening
 walk around Hong Kong

After lunch we go out for a long walk that extends into the evening.

Most of the people here in Hong Kong are a foot shorter than Noel and I, especially the elderly. However some of the young men are my height, 5’ 10”.

There are not many attractive young women, though they do have lovely skin.

We notice that the people in the streets are very chatty to each other, but not to strangers. They do not often make eye contact when they speak and there is never any touching, nor any talking with the hands as in the Middle East. Most of the locals speak some English.

Lots of bare arms up to the shoulders, unlike the Middle East where they are usually covered.

There are red and white taxis everywhere, and some luxury limos also used as cabs. These are Mercedes S models, Lexus LS430’s and BMW 7 Series.

Typical daytime street scene, red and white taxis everywhere, and bare arms.

Buses and clanking, double decker trams are also everywhere. Private cars are not allowed in Hong Kong Island.

Some of the red and white taxis have an extra roof fitted on top of the other one, with a space in between to cut down the heat.

Taxi with extra roof.

Hong Kong has the highest per-capita income of any major city in the world.

During the afternoon we stop at a ATM to draw out some Hong Kong dollars. There are eight Hong Kong dollars to one US dollar. As we are working out how to obtain $160 HK dollars, I accidentally brush the ATM screen with the tip of my fingernail over the Hong Kong $1500 dollar option. Too late! It activates the computer, and as Noel has already put his card in, we get HK$1500 dollars (about NZ$250) out of the ATM machine instead of HK$160. As it turns out, this is exactly the amount we will need here in Hong Kong.

Many Hong Kong streets are densely signed overhead, much of them neon. Marie my wife would love it.

Densely signed streets.

Noel and I walk many kilometres. We see lots of seafood shops, nearly all of them selling shark fins.

Shark fins for sale.

A massive hairy one. I didn't think sharks grew hair.

Also there is always dry, brown wrinkled stuff for sale, about the size of a dinner plate and looks rather like giant cornflakes. I ask a little lady fish shop keeper what it is. She replies, “Made from stomach of fish,” and holds her tummy as she speaks.

Fish stomach. You can get an idea of the size from the standard size paving stones on the footpath.

There are all kinds of smells that constantly change as we walk along the different streets. The strongest and most common smell is that of fish, laid out on the footpath drying.

Dried fish on the footpaths.

We see some strange fruit that look like brown plums.

Brown plum-like fruit.

We also see raw ginger and ginseng on sale.

Raw ginger.

In many of the shop windows are porcelain and brass icons of Chinese gods for sale, both male and female. Some shops also have little shrine areas set aside, with an icon god. The one below is being tended by a young, jean-clad Hong Kong shop assistant.

Porcelain and brass icons of Chinese gods.

Typical shop shrine (being cleaned).

And of course, everywhere are the huge apartment blocks, in all shapes, sizes and standards.

 Apartment blocks.

More apartment blocks.

It is now mid-afternoon and very hot in the sun. Some women use umbrellas.

Woman with umbrella.

New glasses ordered

My old glasses, that I sometimes wear, are unfashionably large and heavy. Noel thinks I should upgrade and I agree. As Hong Kong is noted for excellent prices for optician products, we stop at one of the many optician shops.

The owner is a middle aged, sincere, alert on-the-ball type person. He tells me exactly my eye situation by just looking at my old glasses.

He says I can have a new pair competed for me by ten o’clock tomorrow morning.

He also gives me a free eye examination on the spot, (normally $45 to $60 dollars extra in New Zealand) and confirms that there is no change to my present prescription.

Noel and I then look at some frames. Noel thinks I suit an oval frame better than the square type I usually wear. So I choose an oval, gold metal rim frame. They are extremely light weight and look to be of high quality.

The optician quotes me NZ$130. Normally prescription glasses are about $600 in New Zealand. I decide to order two pair.

We carry on exploring

After leaving the optician, we look around some of the other electrical shops for some PlaneQuiet headphones for Noel, but they only have the Philips brand.

We then carry on with our exploring. We find a shop selling classy, stainless steel and glass exterior doors. Noel thinks they could be ideal for New Zealand. I thought we took a photo but can't find one.

We also make our way to the waterfront and look across the harbour to the city of Kowloon, on mainland China. We find it much cooler near the sea with a fresh breeze coming off the water.

Looking across to mainland China.

We come across the local TAB (racehorse betting shop). It’s called The Hong Kong Jockey Club.

 The Hong Kong Jockey Club.

Hong Kong after dark

As dusk falls, the streets become even more busier. It cools down a little once the sun sets, but only a little. The temperature this afternoon has been in the mid 30’s and quite humid. It does not feel as hot and clammy as Singapore, or perhaps we have become acclimatised.

It has become so crowded we are now constantly dodging people on the footpaths.

Some of the shops here are quite exceptional, Marie would have a field day. Probably Rana also.

Marie would love this gift shop.

Porcelain goods shop.

It is now dark and the city gets busier than ever.

Hong Kong after dark.

Some of the central city buildings are quite spectacular. Noel and I stopped for a short rest in this beautiful exterior foyer of an elegant hotel.

Elegant hotel exterior foyer.

Some of the gardens are beautifully done.

We now make our way back to our hotel. We go to the top floor swimming pool area to have a look and Noel takes a photo of the city lights from the window.

A view of Hong Kong at night is spectacular. We are not high enough to get a particularly good photo, but at the top of this web page you would have seen a photo of Hong Kong taken at night from "The Peak" hilltop that we will visit tomorrow. We did not take the photo ourselves as tonight is our last night in Hong Kong. Most of the buildings you see lit up are apartment buildings where people live.

View from the top floor of our hotel at night.

Next day Thursday 14th July

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