It’s my last night in Hong Kong and as I’ve said before it has surprised me by how much I like it. Part of that must be down to Chow Yin Tang who was an excellent guide to the city, even if she took me places she had never been herself before. Thanks again to her for the places she took me and the others she recommended I head to.
The place itself is unreal, wherever it is possible build anything they build high rise buildings because land is at a premium. Even then you see a huge area of land recovered from the sea (the old airport, the new airport, the container port, the whole north end of Hong Kong Island) as well as towerblocks rising from unbelievably steep hillsides. Despite this, the ruggedness of the land means that much of the territory’s area is still unspoiled. Underpinning all this is an efficient public transport network so you can get to it all. This network includes an escalator chain that rises from the central business district to the residential area on the hill behind it. To go the entire length takes 20 – 30 min (I know as I did it). Nowhere else has anything like it.
Hong Kong’s favourite sport, pursuit and pastime has to be shopping. The density of shopping centres, department stores and malls has no equal anywhere else I’ve ever been. Only in markets, where Bangkok is king, does it not live up to expectation. If you are a shopaholic then Hong Kong is a fantasy destination, Disneyworld for those with empty goldcards.
Food and drink for all nations can be found here though its not cheap. Fairly cheap are little alleyway stalls but these present a problem. Through south-east asia most menus provided phonetic translations from their characters to the western alphabet. From this you could learn to recognise and pronounce (badly) dishes you like. Chinese restaurants don’t do this. It’s a problem as it seriously retards your learning of the language and no phrase book translates from characters to english (what order would you put them in??). A menu written entirely in characters (as most are) is entirely meaningless to foreigners (or more to the point, me). As it happens, any chinese I’ve learnt here isn’t much use later as they speak Cantonese here and use the complex character set, whilst most of China speaks mandarin and uses the simplified character set. Any attempts I have made to speak the lingo are met with questions as to whether I realise there are 5 tones in Chinese. I realise, I’m just bad at making them, plus two of them sound exactly the same to my ear. No problem Edith says, they’ll get the meaning when you make them part of a sentence. A sentence!!!! I’m struggling to say a few unrelated words here.
Hong Kong is a place seriously worth seeing. If you pass through the airport, extend your stopover for a couple of days. The place is busy, dramatic and different. The food is good and varied and an alright pub can be found with a little effort. I highly recommend the Lonely Planet for the area. Many travellers like the idea of being a travel book author but this is one of those that is so full of detail and so accurate that it intimidates you away from that career option.
What did I have as my last dinner here… a curry as they’re good here, I’ll have plenty of chances to eat Chinese over the next few weeks and I doubt I’ll come across another good Indian restaurant before Blighty.