Saturday, January 6, 2007

Hong Kong - Day 1

Hong Kong is an overload for the senses, from the sites (many huge buildings and A LOT of people), to the smells (not all good) to the tastes (Hong Kong is truly a global city when it comes to cuisine). We spent our first full day in Hong Kong on a guided tour on board of a coach bus with our tour guides Winnie and Glory and the other 30 or so PM MBA students (and the other 4 guests like me).

But first, since our bodies were still a little messed up from the 15 hour plane ride and 14 hour time change, we had time to walk across the street to Victoria Park to eat our breakfast (Chris wanted McDonald's...go figure) and watch the Hong Kongnese in their morning rituals: Tai Chi, running, walking and walking on rocks (Chris really wants to try this). We met up with the group to first go to Victoria Peak, where we took a tram up the mountain (see picture from the top). The top of the Peak is about 1,800 feet above sea level. The tram was first built in 1888 and travels at a 45 degree angle for part of the journey. From the top of the Peak you can see across Victoria Harbor to the island of Kowloon and also the South China Sea.

The next stop on our journey was to the town of Aberdeen. Aberdeen is a harbor town that is home to fisherman, many of who still live on fishing junks. We took a ride on a sampan boat (which translates to "three pieces of wood", which is how they were made). Aberdeen is a very poor area of Hong Kong Island, and is also where a lot of government subsidized housing in located.

Next we went to the shopping district of Stanley Market. This is an area for Chinese souvenirs and some clothing. Chris and I purchased a couple of water colors.

We were finally able to eat lunch after the Stanley Market. We drove across (or actually under) Victoria Harbor to the island of Kowloon and had a traditional dim sum lunch. It included pork, beef and shrimp dumplings, fried rice, noodles, bok choi and custards. It was all pretty good! After lunch we went to the shopping area in Kowloon called Tsim Shan Tsui. We did some damage there! We went to the pearl wholesaler and I got a beautiful set of black South Sea Pearl earrings and a pendant...and we also got some gifts. And Chris got fitted for a custom made sport coat and pants at a Chinese tailor (which will be ALL HAND MADE). He'll go back on Sunday to have his first fitting.

Friday was a very packed day of sight seeing. Friday night we took the subway to an area called Central, where a lot of Ex-Pats hang out we found. We had dinner at a Malaysian restaurant and then had drinks at an ice bar (which I was disappointed to find out was only really cold, not actually made of ice) and a Mexican bar.

Some interesting facts about Hong Kong include:
  • Hong Kong was transferred back to China control in 1997. They are now considered a Special Administrative Region of China, but they still hold all of their same rights they held prior to the handover from the British (for at least the next 50 years).
  • Hong Kong is made up of four major islands - Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, Lantau (where the airport is located) and the New Territories (the suburbs).
  • Hong Kong has approximately 7 million inhabitants, who call themselves Hong Kongnese. The majority of people speak English (and everything is translated to English), but they also speak Cantonese as their official language. This is different than what China speaks, they speak Mandarin.

Check out all of our pictures!

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