hong kong - backpacking around the world in 333 days
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around the world in 333 days

REPORT 8 - Nov. 2000

Hong Kong

The skyscrapers that soar into the Hong Kong skyline dominate the landscape for miles around; yet at street level the mysterious allure of the orient merges with the technology of the West to produce one of the world's most fascinating melting pots. The Union Jack may have been lowered for the final time some three years ago, but despite the pessimists, life still goes on. The streets still pulsate with energy and the smell of money continues to float through the thick, humid air.

Arriving straight from India, we found Hong Kong's staggering technology all the more shocking. The train that sped us from the airport into the city centre was clean, deadly silent and amazingly quick. Efficiency however comes at a price and it was immediately evident that Hong Kong was going to be a challenging city to see on a budget.

Jet lagged we stumbled out of our hotel room in the early evening and, in order to find our bearings within the jungle of skyscrapers, we decided to head to Victoria Peak where astonishing views across the City's harbour were promised. We took the Star Ferry from Kowloon, where we were staying, across to Hong Kong island and then jumped aboard the funicular railway up the steep sided hill face. Like every other visitor to Hong Kong, we stood hypnotised at the bewildering night view of the cityscape. Developers have, rather predictably, decided to build a shopping complex at the peak but the view from the rooftop across the harbour was sensational, we could see for miles. Every light from the whole city stood before us pin sharp; it was undoubtedly one of the highlights of our trip so far.

The next day, in search of cheap entertainment, we headed for the Yuen Po St Bird Garden passing Flower Market Road where florists line the street and the pavements are totally awash with blooms. At the bird market we saw that the Chinese have long favoured birds as pets. Housed in intricately woven bamboo cages, the birds were hand fed live grasshoppers using chopsticks (what else!) We saw every type of bird imaginable, all of which can be purchased from the countless stalls and shops that cram the markets narrow streets. If singing ability is any sign of good health then all the birds were well looked after.

A short ride away on the impressive MRT underground system stands the Wong Tai Sin temple. Wong Tai Sin was a Sheppard who, legend has it, was apprenticed to an immortal and, among other things, found a cure for all illness. Unsurprisingly, Hong Kong's ill flock there in droves to pray for redemption. As we entered, the smell was intense, as all around worshipers offered smouldering bundles of incense to the Gods. Other people were using chim sticks to predict their fortunes by shaking a box until one of the bamboo sticks fell out. Written on each stick is a different prediction so after the process is repeated a few times you can map out your futures path! The colour was almost as vivid as the smell, with bright green and red pillars making this Taoist shrine a haven of colour amid the urban grey.

We only had a few days to spend in Hong Kong and before we knew it was time to pack those rucksacks again and head to the airport. Our short stay in Hong Kong was not long enough to see all we had wanted to, but for the sake of our wallets, a few days was enough. We enjoyed trying the strange cuisine in the noodle bars and seeing old men practicing Tai Chi in the parks. It has given us a small taster of travelling in China. On the surface, Hong Kong is as westernised as any other major financial centre but lurking at the foot of the skyscrapers are the temples, noodle bars and statues of the Gods that give Hong Kong its spice, its charm and its undying longevity. For the traveller on a tight budget however, bring on the third world!

Jon & liz
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The Beginning 14 - THAILAND Bangkok
01 - INDIA Delhi 15 - THAILAND Bridge Over the River Kwai
02 - INDIA Agra Taj Mahal 16 - THAILAND Chang Mai - The Long Necks
03 - INDIA Jaipur 17 - AUSTRALIA Kakadu National Park
04 - INDIA Camel Safari 18 - AUSTRALIA Ayers Rock
05 - INDIA Mount Abu 19 - AUSTRALIA Great barrier Reef
06 - INDIA Goa 20 - AUSTRALIA Fraser Island
07 - INDIA Mumbai (Bombay) 21 - AUSTRALIA Sydney
08 - HONG KONG 22 - NEW ZEALAND South Island
09 - PHILIPPINES Boracay & Panglao Island 23 - NEW ZEALAND North Island
10 - PHILIPPINES Bohol Chocolate Hills 24 - USA Hawaii Oahu Island
11 - PHILIPPINES Banaue Rice Terraces 25 - USA San Francisco
12 - MALAYSIA Kuala Lumpur 26 - USA Washington DC
13 - MALAYSIA Penang, Georgetown 27 - USA New York
  28 - UK - THE END
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