Not exactly China!

Hong Kong, Pearl of the Orient, City of Life, Asia’s World City – so many names for one city.  A large busy city with impeccable public transportation and quite possibly one of the most vertical cities built.  The center of trade of hundreds of years, a major harbor, and history dating back to nearly 40,000 years ago, and people from every part of the world, Hong Kong is most definitely a sight to see.

First off, before I can even get to Hong Kong I have to leave Vietnam.  Up to this point I have not had any issues on my trip, but now as I am going through Vietnam’s immigration to EXIT the country, they decide to give me a hard time saying that my passport is not me.  Yea I have been travelling and now have a longer beard, but I’m travelling and haven’t trimmed it down! (plus my passport is 5 years old and I look much younger).  The officer calls his buddy over and they have a talk about it and spend a few minutes EACH looking at my passport and looking at me and back at my passport, all the while Im just smiling and not saying much – the less you talk and the more fear you show the worse it gets.  Many officers push for bribes and call them “processing fees” to move people on.  I had a feeling this is what these two were trying to do because they kept conversing back and forth and trying to scare me to not let me leave the country.  Eventually they said its ok and to move on, stamped my passport and let me through.  Good thing I wasn’t in a hurry to get to my plane!  You would think that leaving a country is easy and entering is hard!

IMG_4677 Not exactly China!

The great Vietnam Immigration station!

IMG_4678 Not exactly China!

Hong Kong Airlines – some of the roomiest airplanes I have ever seen for economy class!

After landing at the Hong Kong International Airport I am immediately greeted by a long line of people waiting to go to the main terminal.  Hong Kong has a great transportation system in place and I expected the same thing at the airport.  But apparently when my plane landed, the bus that was supposed to move us to the main immigration terminal was “in a traffic jam” – at the airport.  There was three planes that had landed within 10 minutes of mine – all requiring bus transportation.  What a few other passengers and I all concluded was that the lady who was supposed to call the busses ahead of time for the passengers has neglected to do so and thus it created a 25 minute wait time for the busses to show up and a congestion to pile up.  Like everything however, a bottle neck is only a bottle neck – it will eventually clear up and move on!

IMG_4687 Not exactly China!

Off the plane, on to security!

Immigration at Hong Kong was so easy.  No visa required, just a simple Passport for me to get in…and I guess for the American Passport they don’t stamp it – I was given a small 1″ square piece a paper to put into the passport, a loose leaflet paper!  Good for 90 days and easy to lose, how exciting!  If it were to get lost then maybe I will have to stay in Hong Kong!

Welcomed into the country and legally entered, its time to go to my accommodations for my time in Hong Kong.  The backpacker headquarters, the curry central, the “made in china” mountain, the grunge pit – you decide what you want to call it, but Chungking Mansion is one crazy, busy, active, flavorful, spicy, dusty, dirty and exciting place to see and stay.  Immediately upon disembarking from the bus I am literally attacked by guesthouse hawkers trying to get me to stay at their location.  At least 10 people shoved their cards into my face offering their location – all at once – all trying to get a sale, each saying how theirs is better, and continually following you until you either straight up ignore them or get up into their face and tell them no!  Quite the interesting greeting!  I was lucky I had a reservation so I navigated my way through the hoard and found the elevators.  My guesthouse was on floor 17 – the elevators only went to 16, and in addition there are 5 different sections; section A, B, C, D and E PLUS two elevators for each section, one for even floors and the other for odd floors – and none of these elevators have floor 17!  I am beginning to think I am in the wrong place – or worse, my reservation doesn’t exist!  Thankfully one of the vendors asked me where I was going and I told him.  I learned I had to take the elevator to the 16th floor and take the stairs to the 17th floor, whew, the place exists!

IMG_4691 Not exactly China!

These are all over, double decker busses move locals and travellers from point to point and do it on time!

IMG_4709 Not exactly China!

The Chungking Mansions bathroom – so small I cant extend my arms fully.  Sink, toilet and shower are all crammed into a small location and share one small space.  Use the toilet, brush your teeth and shower all at the same time! Efficient! After the first shower it dawned on me I should probably have checked for electrical outlets with water flying all over the walls – I guess the builders thought of this as well because there were none!

Rested up and ready to explore, I decide to just wander around and see what is in the surroundings.  First thing I realize is that if you don’t know the roads they can be challenging to navigate on foot, especially if you want to cross a road because there are guard rails everywhere and many intersections do not have cross walks.  Time to improvise and break some rules – cross where there are no cross walks!  I do not advise people to do this and I will not take responsibility for breaking rules!

Outside one of the malls there was a “Where’s Wally” promotion going on with a partnership between Mini and Wally (in America we know him as Waldo!).  I found Wally in Hong Kong!  He can no longer hide!  Along with his dog and the Wizard, I found them all!

IMG_4720 Not exactly China!

So many Waldos!

IMG_4779 Not exactly China!

Waldo (Wally) and his pup!

A very interesting thing that I noticed in Hong Kong was that all scaffolding was built out of bamboo and tied together with wire ties!  They go all the way up to the top of buildings on scaffolding designed from bamboo – a surprising thing especially for a country that is very modern.  Another thing I saw in the malls was motivation to skip elevators and use the stairs as excercise, America should add some of these signs to their malls!

IMG_4763 Not exactly China!

Take the stairs!  12 steps done, keep going!

IMG_4759 Not exactly China!

All bamboo, tied with wire ties, and its everywhere!

IMG_4725 Not exactly China!

The island waterline and opera house

IMG_4731 Not exactly China!

I tried fried rice rolls, they actually were good! I took the picture before I tried them, I was worried I wouldn’t like them.

As I continue my exploration of Hong Kong, I read about the “Big Buddha” which is considered the worlds biggest Buddha statue.  It is 112 feet tall and over 250 metric tons in weight and on top of 268 steps which need to be climbed!  I had to figure out how to get there to see it – Jump on the train, make one train switch and it goes to the station that you can switch to a cable car or take a bus the rest of the way.  I was going to take the cable car, but with my luck on this day it was raining and the cable car was closed because of the chance of lightning.  So I hopped on the bus and rode the rest of the way.  It is still raining – the first time I really got rained on this whole trip.  I got a rain coat and tried to stay dry, but I quickly learned of the unfortunate fate my shoes faced.  I have worn a hole through the sole of my shoe and it was taking in water to fast!  My shoe quickly became full of water and extremely squishy with each step.  I felt like I was wearing a sponge!  Being it was the only pair of shoes I had, I had no choice but to keep wearing them and to dry them out as quickly as possible.  I get to walk around the rest of the day in a squishy shoe…Exciting!

IMG_4803 Not exactly China!

Tian Tan Buddha, So big!

IMG_4826 Not exactly China!

It rained, it poured and my shoes got soaked

IMG_47581 Not exactly China!

I found this park in the middle of Hong Kong – old men playing board games

IMG_4757 Not exactly China!

This is the board they were playing – felt like New York where you see people playing chess in the park!

Leaving the Buddha to is simple and easy – two options, return to the main terminal to take the train back to the city, or take another bus to the ferry terminal to take a ferry to the island – I chose this option and took a 45 minute ferry ride to Hong Kong Island.  This is where the majority of expats live and work, a lot of english speakers and influence.  Locals dont even beat an eye and westerners anymore.  This is also the home to Victoria’s Peak – one of the tallest points in Hong Kong to see a beautiful panorama of the city and waterways.  Take a bus up the hill or ride the tram car to the top!  The tram was put in to make the trip to the top very fast and efficient.  At points on the way up you feel like the car is nearly vertical on its climb!  It gets very steep so you better hold on tight!  At the top of course you are greeted with commercialized products and restaurants for visitors, and a wax museum if you are so inclined to see wax replicas of famous people.

IMG_4845 Not exactly China!

Route Map on ferry – took about 45 minutes

IMG_4856 Not exactly China!

The Tram to the top of Victoria Peak!  A long line of tourist and all were crammed in!

IMG_4870 Not exactly China!

The view of Hong Kong from the Peak

IMG_4874 Not exactly China!

I found a contender and we fought.  He got a couple jabs in but I was left standing!

IMG_4881 Not exactly China!

The tallest building in Hong Kong – over 118 stories!

By this time I have been on the road for a long time and the holy month of Ramadan has started and now has concluded.  I found a small muslim community that was having their Eid event/celebration and went to attend.  The organizer/coordinator of the mosque met me and guided me to the location so I dont get lost and met some great people.  Lots of families and individuals from India and Pakistan and came to Hong Kong in search of better opportunities than what was offered in their home countries.  With as many mixed cultures, religions and races are in the country it is a great place to explore new opportunities!

IMG_4927 Not exactly China!

Great food, great people, and a great event!

IMG_4938 Not exactly China!

The left is brother Shaja and the right is their first chinese/Hong Kongese convert named Ahmad.  Br. Shaja is the main coordinator of the facility and was the one who I had contacted to find the place.

A final place that I had time to visit was the Avenue of the Stars.  This is a walk along the river front at the harbor and has some of the most famous actors from the Asian film scene.  With the likes of Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, Jet Li and so many others, it reminded me of Hollywood and the stars you see on the sidewalk there as well.  With live music, food stands and every evening that has a light show over the bay, it is a fun place to visit and experience.  The light show was cool but way over hyped.  It was a show that used lasers on the top of buildings and shined some designs into the air as music played, but the light show felt slow and wasn’t as spectacular as I had expected.  It lasts only 10 minutes so it isn’t an extremely time consuming thing to watch.

IMG_4981 Not exactly China!

Bruce Lee statue at the Avenue of Stars

IMG_4995 Not exactly China!

Hong Kong Island view from the mainland at night!

IMG_5033 Not exactly China!

This guy was full of character and resourceful.  He was making horses out of straw paper and selling them.  Hand made in front of you!

4 days in Hong Kong and ran all over the city.  Rode the bus from end to end, rode the train from top to bottom and jumped on the ferry from mainland to island.  Even with all this running around I only touched the tip of everything in Hong Kong.  There is still kayaking in Soi Kung, Hiking in the national parks and many museums that I did not get a chance to explore.  A great quote I saw in the subway system sums up travelling very well:

IMG_4953 Not exactly China!

Now I have to travel more.  We are told to keep reading, so why stop at one page?

Hong Kong has been completed for right now, I’m jumping countries to Japan now.  I have some cousins visiting their homeland and I will go join them and say hi! Next stop, Tokyo!

One comment

  1. Hey Majid, I did see a snap of you at the airport in Tokyo. Did you have much time there. You have been to some giant cities. Give me a call. 651.644.5582 or the cell. Curious Aunt Helen

Leave a Reply