Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hong Kong Travelogue

So, I just returned from a trip to China and Hong Kong.  (Edit 12/1: this was a total lie, I was in China, then I was in Mexico but I'm already back in Hong Kong.)  I fell in love with it much more than I was expecting.  There's so much color and life in Hong Kong (and China), it's hard not to find something to fascinating and amazing at every turn.  I'm only covering my top 10 favorite things, because if I covered every awesome dumpling, I could ramble on forever.

Top Ten Things That I Love About Hong Kong:
1.) Victoria Peak Tram
2.) The Star Ferry
3.) Markets!  Temple Street Night Market, Jade Market, Graham Street Market, Cat St. Market, random street markets
4.) Fashion
5.) Flamingos
6.) High Tea at the Peninsula Hotel
7.) The Light Show over Victoria Harbor
8.) Temples
9.) Christmas Decor
10.) Pastries
11.) Motorscooter Umbrellas
(I just had to turn it up to 11.  And the last one is actually something I love about China, not Hong Kong, so I figure it doesn't count.)

#1: Victoria Peak Tram
OK, this was one of the most touristy things that I did, but it was worth it, it's incredible.  This tram runs from downtown Hong Kong to the top of Victoria Peak, in about five minutes.  It was originally built in 1888 and has been in operation more or less ever since, with some disruptions for things like natural disasters and invasion by the Japanese.
(courtesy of Wikipedia)
Both retro, charming, and a little scary, the ascension angle goes from 4 to 27 degrees.  That doesn't sound like a lot but at one point you feel absolutely sure that the car is about to peel straight off the tracks and go bouncing down the hill behind you.  Your back gets pressed hard into your seat and you feel sure that the end of your life is near.  However, once you get to the top:
Yay!  I didn't die!  Time to eat an Egglette, see #10.

#2: Star Ferry
One of the most awesome things about Hong Kong is how easy it is to get around the city.  I was staying on the Kowloon Side, near the Nathan Road subway stop.  However, even better, I was only about six blocks away from the Star Ferry dock.  The Star Ferry is an antique double-decker ferry that runs across Victoria Harbor.
Fares are something near $2 and ferries leave every five minutes.  Best of all, the views from the boat are unparalleled.
I loved all the vintage and antique touches.  Perhaps most of all, the sailors wear actual sailor suits, navy with white piping and white stars, and the seats are wood and iron with stars punched in the seats.  The backs are ingeniously designed so they can be flipped back and forth, enabling big groups to sit facing each other.  Wicked smaaaaht. 

#3: Markets
Markets are everywhere in Hong Kong.  "I'm going to the market" is a wonderful and magical phrase that could mean that you're going in one of a dozen different directions and you're shopping for live toads/socks/dragonfruit/jade bracelets/remote control helicopters/a purse or basil. 

I went to four or five different markets.  The Temple Street Night Market was amazing, with tons of clothes and other tchotchkes.  I stocked up on cute umbrellas and travel-sized mahjongg for the in-laws, but I was so excited by the shopping I forgot to take pictures, sorry!  I also hit up the Jade Market, the Graham Street Market, the Cat Street Market but my favorite was perhaps a market in a random alley where I selected a particularly adorable handbag.  However, the alley was much less photogenic than some of the more famous markets, like for example, the Jade Market:
Where I actually bought pearls, not jade. 
Oooh, shiny!

I also went to the Graham Street Market, which is a "wet" fish market, which also has plenty of other things, including fruit, spices, and home decor.
I loved this lantern store:
But the fruit sellers are probably my favorite:
And the most gorgeous fruit of all was the dragonfruit.  So beautiful and perfectly in my color scheme!
The markets are so vibrant and alive, they really embody the spirit of Hong Kong to me.  The swirl of people, colors and shopping, that's what Hong Kong is all about.

#4: Fashion
This goes hand-in-hand with all the markets in Hong Kong, but the fashion in Hong Kong was incredible.  I wanted to photograph all of it but it was hard to be inconspicuous and get good photos.  However, I spotted this girl standing on one of the "ladder streets" (stepped pedestrian streets), who is clearly epitome of Hong Kong cool:
Black and white striped sweatshirt, black and white striped Adidas and red t-shirt matching the RED BOWS on her Adidas?  Gah!  Hipster perfection.

Another amazing phenomenon of Asian fashion is the couple look-alikes.  I saw more of these in the airport in Korea, but it appears to be quite the rage for young couples to wear precisely matching outfits.  I was hustling after this couple at the ferry terminal and trying not to be too creepy, so the picture is a little blurred:
Unbelievably enough, this couple was setting a low bar by not having either matching jeans or matching shoes.  I saw another couple later where the girl was wearing a shirt that said (in English) "Will You Love Me Forever?" and the guy's shirt said "I Will Love You Forever!"  Awesome.

#5: Flamingos
This was my favorite part of the trip.  I went for a run on my first morning in Hong Kong, in the park across from my hotel.  I'm running along through the park, minding my own business when BAM!  I come across a pond with probably 200 flamingos in it!  Amazing, amazing pink pink PINK birds!  I love everything about them, their pinkness, their delicate swan necks that can rotate every direction, their improbably spindly legs that are a darker shade of salmon, their odd eating habits where they tap their heads upside down, their impressive wingspans lit with shots of black and dark pink feathers.  What a color scheme! 
They were truly a gorgeous sight to see.  I then went past them every chance I got, on my Sunday run as well as on my way to the ferry dock on Monday.  So great!  On Monday, my colleague Andrew told me that in the bird flu all of the flamingos got bird flu and died so they had to get a whole new batch of flamingos.  Poor things!  I hope the new batch enjoys a long and happy life in Kowloon Park.

OK, that is enough fabulousness for one post!  Stay tuned for items #6-10!

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