Friday, 2 April 2010

Hong Kong 31.03.10 - 02.04.10

Hong Kong is a major culture shock to us arriving from Hanoi. It's so much more affluent. It's so clean and ordered. We're picked up at the airport by a limo Greg's sister Alex has put on for us. She's organised for us to stay in an aparthotel designed by Philippe Stark as a birthday gift to us. The drive into town is smooth and there are no random moto drivers parked up by the sides of the carriageway or ladies selling fruit by the side of the road. Everything's clean and the legacy of British influence is evident; you drive on the left here and the roadsigns are of the same design as the UK. We have views across the harbour to the lines of apartment blocks in the distance and we notice even the cranes that lift the crates are lined up perfectly. Our hotel is in the Causeway Bay area to the east of central district. Our room is full of luxuries including a 180 degree revolving flat screen TV so we can watch our DVDs on the couch or from the bedroom! Very cool, thanks Alex. The skyline is the most impressive sight in Hong Kong and it's best appreciated from across the water in Kowloon Bay. We take the very efficient MTR metro and find ourselves in yet another mall as we try to find the exit to get out. It's similar to Singapore here in the obsession for shopping. There must be as many shops as people!- well, maybe not quite that many, but there are a lot. We enjoy the nightly illumination display that the main skycrapers put on for the tourists every night at 8pm.
They are synched with a music soundtrack which is pumped through speakers on the waterfront where we're standing and across the radio. My favourite building is the Bank of China with it's friendly facets in triangular form which are lit on each edge by bright white lights.
We're impressed by the cleverness of architectural design here and town planning. It's a difficult terrain to build on being made up of steep hills and rocky mountains.
They've put in the longest outdoor escalator in the world to aid the people in their hike up the levels of the city. In the morning it only runs downhill, to cope with the commuter traffic and thereafter it runs upwards. It's quite a nice sensation, to be floating above the level of the street.
There are many walkways running separately to the road flyovers which accommodate pedestrians getting from A to B easily. As a pedestrian it's nice to be adequately catered for, rather than having to hug precariously to the side of carriageways while lorries woosh past. We notice however that we have to be careful crossing the roads because, if there's a marked crossing you must use it only when there's a green man. We find it odd that people wait at the crossing even if they can see that there's nothing coming. And we put it down to, there must be a fine system if you cross when it's red. There's a sense of decorum here, of being self diligent and not doing anything stupid or that would cause offence to others. There are little notices in the park to not lie on the benches, not to feed the birds in case of dirtying the surroundings, and certainly not to litter, which incurs a large fine. When we innocently park ourselves on a ledge in a shopping mall while I tuck into a danish I've just bought, we're told by the guard there's to be no sitting here in this mall. It's good that they want to keep everywhere clean and ordered, but you feel a little controlled by it. It's also interesting that plastic bags are a big no no here. They don't give them out at any shop. You have to buy them wherever you go if you want one. This is so different to Vietnam and the other South East Asian countries. They'll give you a bag, then another bag, then straws if you've bought drinks and napkins too. They believe they're giving good service by doing this and are not aware of the repercussions of using too much plastic. It's just another reminder of the differences in levels of development and education in the different countries.
You definitely get the sense that Hong Kong is trying hard to be the financial and commercial capital of the world. It's doing everything right. Although it's one of the most densely populated areas in the world and there are high levels of pollution, they are attempting to combat this by increasing their green areas in the city and promoting their fabulous parks and gardens.