Adam Bird

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Thursday, 8 July 2010

Hong Kong

Hong Kong at Night

You're given a list, it could be any list, a list of crisp flavours for example, one always stands out. You love all the other flavours, but it stand out because it’s different, or a little more exciting than the others. When Mum sent me a list of places that Stephanie and I could potentially be visiting on our honeymoon, Hong Kong was the stand out choice.

I must state right from the off. Just because Hong Kong stands out the most, doesn’t mean that there will be any disappointment when we finally find out. Mum and Dad have carefully constructed a list that removes any possibility of that from happening.

But Hong Kong exudes a sense of the exotic, not exotic in a paradise beach kind of way, but a sensual melting pot that defies the very fabric of a living, breathing European being. The humidity of a tropical climate, the hustle and bustle of one of the most densely populated cities on earth, coupled with dramatic scenery on the backdrop of one of the worlds most iconic skylines. All this, with the floating, aromatic smells of far-eastern cuisine and harbour traffic that makes London seem fairly pedestrian by comparison.

Hong Kong was one of the first places that I remember hearing about as a kid, purely because we had family living and working out there. My grandmother went to visit my cousin Nicky and I remember the stresses she faced about flying so far on her own at such a late age. As a kid, the very name of the place was enough to evoke a chuckle, what kind of name was that?

In fact, it comes from it’s meaning, “Fragrant Harbour” and is situated on the south coast of China, whom it now belongs to as, along with nearby Macau, one of two special “administration regions”. Sovereignty was only handed back over to the Chinese after much ceremony and fanfare on the 1st of July 1997. Before that it had been under British rule under the terms of a 99 year lease.

Historical facts aside, for Hong Kong is rich with it and has continually evolved under different governance and economical circumstances. Even now, in a world of economic downturn, Hong Kong, as a key economic hub continues to thrive. For two honeymooners, whose furthest trips east have barely reached the end of Europe there is lot to fit in and plenty to do.

Having spent my last few weeks crawling Google for barrel loads of information I decided to change tact this time around. With my cousin Nicky now repatriated I decided who better to find information on Hong Kong than a former Hong Konger?

He suggested that a week would be more than adequate to fit in all the sites and sounds with plenty to see and do. The Big Buddha came highly recommended along with “The Peak” and catching the Star Ferry across the harbour. All of which sounded right up our street.

The Big Buddha Nicky referred to is actually the Tian Tan Buddha, a statue that supposedly symbolises the harmonious relationship between man and nature, although a quick internet search reveals a more striking image. The statue itself stands at 34m tall, which when placed on top of a mountain gives it a somewhat larger feel! Only downside is, that you either have to catch a cable car to get there or walk up a million steps. Ok if you fit, which we’re not, leaves me hoping that Stephanie doesn’t suffer from vertigo!

The main central business district of Hong Kong Island sits in the lowlands at the bottom of a mountain range which gives it such photographic presence and makes it so iconic. The mountains are easily accessible by tram, a funicular railway which used to serve the rich residents of “the peak”. If the city from street level and out across the harbour is spectacular, then the view from above is something else. Most of Hong Kong’s best photography is taken from the top of the peak and it is another something that Stephanie and I would be fools to miss out on.

Finally, Nicky’s last suggestion, the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour, looks like another sure fire hit. Sailing on a vessel from a fleet of replica ships based upon those found from the 1920’s around the harbour providing an alternative commute from one part of Hong Kong to another, or just a relaxing sail admiring the high rise skyscrapers from afar.

Two other sites which I know of that Nicky hadn’t mentioned, Ocean Park and Hong Kong Disney are both places that would make up a full weeks itinerary, providing we were obviously Hong Kong bound. Ocean Park is probably one of those most randomly located theme parks in the world, situated once again within the many surrounding hills of Hong Kong Island. With rides sitting precariously on the edge of cliff faces offering unenviable views it would seem like good training for the upcoming rollercoaster of married life ahead.

Disneyland of course needs no introduction, the Hong Kong franchise being the newest collection to the Disney portfolio, built on land reclaimed from the sea, similarly to the work carried out in Dubai. It would be a rather romantic bookend to the whole engagement chapter of our lives as it was indeed at Disneyland Paris that I fatefully bent down on one knee and popped the dreaded question. Stephanie need not worry this time around as I won’t be planning on making that mistake again in a hurry!

With so much to see and do, I’m sure that we will have more than enough to allay Nicky’s fears of getting bored. If all else fails I could quite easily walk the streets sampling all of, or as much of the Hong Kong street food as I possibly can! It’s what travelling and holidays are all about. Whenever you come back, after the weather, people always ask about the food,

I have recently developed a strong culinary bond with Wagamama’s and so the chance to experience authentic, fresh oriental cuisine is something I’d be really looking forward to! The famed >dai pai dong’s appear all over the list of “must see’s” and some come very highly recommended. I’m sure we’d fit in more than a few!

And so, another tantalizing glimpse of what maybe, half way through a list of could be places! The ironic thing though, as I head back west across the geographical interweb landing at our next destination, a place itself that’s only half of something else.

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