Travels with Dick and Karen

CHINA Spring 2012

Part 1
Hong Kong

china detail map
We left Seattle on a mid-February afternoon, allowing spectacular views along the British Columbia coast and these fjords in Alaska AK fjords

Hong Kong Airport sees millions of tourists per year. They gather at their assigned posts, waiting for their pennant-carrying guides.

The food at the Crystal Jade dumpling house is really good.

HK Airport
Hong Kong's weather was gray with low clouds and poor visiblity the whole time we were there.

HK is the second busiest container port in the world. These are a tiny tiny fraction of the hundreds of container cranes and storage yards on the New Territories' coast.

Through, we rented a spare room in Hong Kong Island's Wan Chai district in an American teacher's apartment. A typical Hong Kong flat (small and designed for efficiency), it was fairly high up in a small tower tucked behind some storefronts. By craning our necks, we could overlook the tram line and a small soccer field. room view
Traffic on Hong Kong Island is multi-level. And so are the pedestrian walkways (the darker gray structure beyond the road). Every sightline was a wall of high-rise buildings. street view
At various days and nights throughout the city, some streets became pedestrian-only street markets. Karen wondered what the normal storefronts *behind* the stalls thought of this. night market
Hong Kong is constantly rebuilding itself, with a few gestures to its history and terrain. Here an old temple is wedged between high-rises and pressed hard against the island's sloping terrain with an ancient banyan tree. temple

Among the high-rises, more high-rises are growing. Many smaller buildings' owners become "instant millionaires" when they sell their spot to developers.

This picture was taken from the Hopewell Centre, a building whose ground floor faces Queen's Road below, but whose rear "door" is on the 17th floor, facing the hill behind it. The tower continues on up to 64 floors.

Periodically we'd look up and see eagles soaring between the buildings. eagles soaring

One of the icons of Hong Kong is the Star Ferry system, plying between Hong Kong Island and the mainland Kowloon district since 1888. For about 30 cents (old folks like Dick travel free!) you're treated to a 10 minute experience crossing one of the busiest straits in the world. 70,000 people a day ride the two ferry routes.

We spent the day sightseeing in Kowloon, partly to allow Dick to see what had happened to places he had visited 30 years ago.

star ferry
On the Kowloon peninsula stands the 17 story ChungKing Mansion. It has 5 towers and is a complex warren of tiny apartments, most of which are renting themselves out to form the cheapest high-density short-term accomondations in the area. The lowest two floors are a maze of crammed-together shops with uncommonly aggressive (for Hong Kong) merchants. chunking mansions
Majestic trees and colonial-style buildings are spotted throughout Hong Kong. This tree is notable since it's "potted" on the third floor above the surrounding street level. 3rd floor tree
Looking back across the harbor to Hong Kong Island from a pedestrian walkway in Kowloon. Victoria Peak is lost in the mists. Endless construction creating new shore-front buildings. The hole in the ground is the entry to one of the many cross-channel tunnels. harbor view
Another Chinese icon is the sailing junk. 30 years ago there were hundreds in the harbor. The "Duk Ling" is the last one bearing a sail. The hull-shape lives on in countless gas or diesel powered work boats. sailing junk
Over in Kowloon was a fanciful display of Chinese Zodiac creatures, featuring this year's Dragon. dragon in plaza
But the business of Hong Kong is *selling*. Karen gets into the spirit of things (with occasional panic attacks when forced to bargain). HK shopping
Wedged between highrises and roadway ramps are gems such as the Hong Kong Park, which included a tea museum, conservatory, aviary, water features and a restaurant. park
We of course visited the Forsgate plant conservatory... conservatory
... along with its properly regimented exotic plants. regimented cactus
One of the Things To Do is to visit 1800-foot Victoria Peak, the central mountain of Hong Kong Island... and the Way To Do It is via the cable-drawn tramway. The trip starts in a station that is now encased in a surrounding high-rise building's ground floor. peak
Then it's a steep climb up the slope, with the single line splitting to pass the down-cars along the way. There are (now unused) stops along the climb, since this used to be the primary passage to the upper crust's homes arrayed along the peak. peak tram
At the top, the tram dissappears into the base of this, um, towering structure. Victoria peak
During our total ten days in Hong Kong, the clouds lifted above the peak only once and the haze receded a bit. So we were treated to decent views of the Central district of Hong Kong Island, with tantalizing glimpses of Kowloon and the New Territories peninsula. Victoria peak
The roads and some of the donated properties arrayed around the peak provide walking paths. more Victoria peak
We could gaze in the haze off to the east. more peak
From the base of the tram, we take an exterior escalator down to a mid-level of Pacific Place. From there we have a fine view of one of the typically adventurous architectured buildings, the Lippo tower. It's been likened to Koala bears climbing a tree. Lippo Bldg.
You can walk many blocks without touching the ground... buildings interconnect with pedestrian walkways, giving views of the bus and taxi-choked streets. city
Karen was continuously fascinated by the banyan trees' tenacious grip on their part of Hong Kong. banyan
Some of the steeper portions of the Central district have covered exterior escalators. One is a half mile long broken into 20 escalators and 3 moving sidewalks providing a 450 foot elevation gain. It runs downhill from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. and uphill from 10:30am to midnight. mid levels escalator
We spent our days simply wandering throughout a fraction of Hong Kong... one day we sought out the zoo. zoo
The Zoo's fountain (and surrounding high-rise environment). A free-flying flock of bright white Australian sulphur-crested cockatoos lurked in the trees. fountain
Bamboo is used throughout China and Hong Kong as scaffolding.. with gymnastic workers setting it up. bamboo scafolding

..but finally it was time to fly to Kunming in China. To save a hundred dollars per seat, we took a two hour direct bus to the airport in Shenzhen China, rather than flying from Hong Kong. Here we are at 6:30am trying to buy a ticket. The obvious booth was *not* what we needed. Karen is standing in front of the under-stairs card table that would magically become a ticket counter in a few minutes (stairs are on the water side of the "Great Eagle Building").

bus to shenzhen

Next Stop: Kunming

Hong Kong Kunming Shilin Menglun Jinghong Yangshuo Hong Kong (again)


all text and images copyright Karen and Dick Seymour 2012,
and may not be reproduced without written permission

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