Hong Kong (the VIP tour)


Honk Kong Island skyline by night

standing on the shores of Kowloon at night peering across the great harbor toward the lit up skyline of Hong Kong Island, it’s hard not to stare and then keep on staring.  the eye carefully follows the outline of building tops from right to left then changes focus to the many ferries and junks that cart passengers back and forth across the harbor at regular intervals.  then onto the harbor itself when the florescent glow of the water distracts from everything else.  a scan of the water’s surface – this time from left to right reveals the fluent transition from each color to the next.  the skyscrapers shine exactly as we intend them to but the water below drinks their shine, obscures it and serves it back up as if to voice its own take on the matter.

zooming in now at mid-level as night turns to day, we see the compact lives of the million+ people who inhabit this ten kilometer long strip of land mostly made up of tall skinny buildings either built into the steep hillside or on newly created land that was once the harbor itself.

hk_roark19 hk_roark18 hk_roark22

hk_p_roark7

at ground level, the streetcars even mimic the building’s tall and slender physique.

hk_roark2

facing north now back across the harbor in the direction of Kowloon you can see the many ferries loading and unloading passengers. if you want to visit the beautiful islands of Honk Kong, this is your jumping off point.

hk_p_roark5 hk_roark8

zoom out again on a clear day, this time from the other side atop the island’s peak just in case you need hard proof that the city looks good from all angles.

hk_roark12

but what am i doing here?… and more importantly, what is Hong Kong doing here?

these are all fair questions…

what is Hong Kong doing here?

what exactly is this collection of small steep hilly islands covered with random patches of skyscrapers doing on China’s doorstep?  a trip back to Kowloon to visit the Hong Kong History Museum will surely shed some light on this matter.  please enjoy this slightly embellished recap of historical events…

during the good ole’ imperial days, several different ethnic groups across China flocked to these lands mostly to seek solace from war and famine.  they co-inhabited these lands generally in peace while sticking to their own kind until one day the very curious Portuguese landed on their shores and opened their harbor to world trade.  it didn’t take long for the British to catch wind of this and open up their own trade routes with China especially after discovering that they had tea!  by the early 19th century, the British Empire became heavily dependent on the import of Chinese tea among other goods and in return they could trade with them their… well actually that’s a sore subject you see because as it turns out, the Chinese had no real interest in any British made goods whatsoever, so instead they just asked for silver, lots and lots and lots and lots of silver.  not quite able to say no to tea, the British moved forward with this arrangement and caused themselves a huge trade imbalance in the process until eventually the dire dilemma on everyone’s mind had to be solved – “seriously Brits, there has to be SOMEthing you have that China wants besides silver.”  and sure enough the answer had been right there staring them in their faces all along.  Opium!  fields and fields of sweet sweet opium.  so the Brits loaded up their ships with crates upon crates filled with opium globs the size the cannon balls, sailed to Hong Kong and hand delivered it to the Chinese where it spread like wildfire.  now, finally the British could sip their tea in peace knowing that their economy wont tank while they were very rapidly turning China’s citizens into drug addicts.  more than unsatisfied with its newfound opium den culture, China attempted to nip the matter in the bud by outlawing the drug, dumping all of its opium into the Hong Kong harbor and asking the British nicely to cease future import of the drug to which they both agreed to and ignored at the same time.  this caused a bit of animosity which then lead to a series of battles known as the Opium Wars which China struggled to defend itself against.  by the time the war dust had settled, the British had claimed both Hong Kong Island and Kowloon for its own and then proceeded to grow the territory into a prosperous British city-state.  then in the interest of expansion, they convinced the Chinese to lease them the surrounding lands known as the New Territories thus defining the boundaries of what we know as Hong Kong today.  Hong Kong remained under British rule (except for a brief occupation by those pesky Japanese during World War 2) until 1997 when their lease was up and the British had to fork it all back over to the People’s Republic of China.

(and they all lived happily ever after)

What am i doing here?

hk_roark1

Catherine vs. Hong Kong

the answer to this question is simple.  i am here to visit Catherine.  Catherine is a British born world traveler, attorney, philanthropist and long time friend of the family.  my parents met her some years ago during one of their crazy world traveling expeditions and then quickly adopted her as their own (or was it the other way around?).  she has been living in Hong Kong for many years and knows the place better than most.  and since i was in the neighborhood (now that the world *is* my neighborhood), i could not pass up an opportunity to see Hong Kong through the eyes of Catherine.  in the ten short days i was there, Catherine made sure that every moment was jam packed with exciting things including ferry boat adventures to near by islands, hiking along scenic trails, visits to temples and monuments and of course, tasting some of the best Chinese food in the world.

here are a some highlights of my Hong Kong VIP tour:

at least one day was spent on Lantau Island – home of the famous Tian Tan Buddha (aka. “Big Buddha”). this is actually the world’s tallest outdoor bronze seated Buddha. from there one can take a breathtaking cable car ride through the hills and down into the bay that overlooks the airport.

hk_roark20 hk_roark4

later that evening a duck feast was in order. that’s right… one entire duck!

hk_roark5

another day was spent on beautiful Lamma Island for a full circumnavigation followed by a fish-face-feast

hk_p_roark8 hk_roark14 hk_roark16

any return ferry ride to Hong Kong island is a production in of itself as that suddenly skyscrapers/sea spray combo gets you every time.

hk_roark17

hk_catherine17

courtesy of Catherine

posh Dim Sum brunch at City Hall anyone?

hk_posh_brunch1-c

and finally, the dinner to end all dinners took place at the fabulous Hutong restaurant across the harbor and atop one very tall building in Kowloon.  here, the specialty is spicy mouthwatering soft-shell crabs with a side of panoramic Hong Kong skyline by night.

hk_roark10

Catherine also liked to exhibit her organized and sentimental side by creating cute scrapbook-style collages of each day’s events.  each of which document the above mentioned and more but my favorite ones cover the more random events…

like that day i got my shorts mended then drank a Hendrix gin martini…
hk_c_catherine1

or that time i drank red wine out of a coffee mug instead of a wine glass…

hk_c_catherine3

and lets not forget that shave i got at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on my last day right before catching my flight…
hk_catherine10 hk_catherine11

thanks for everything Catherine!  you have made my last days in Asia truly unique, enjoyable and memorable.

courtesy of Catherine

courtesy of Catherine

  1. No comments yet.
(will not be published)