Bucket List #29- Hong Kong: Where East Really Meets West
We used to say we only want to live on an island (doing that now), on a ranch (Costa Rica- check), or near some amazing river (did that in the indigenous village while meditating for 7 weeks in the jungles of Ecuador). But, what really shocked us is that we love New York (though we were pretty miserable), that we adored Houston, Texas, lived in Lima, Peru for 3 1/2 months, and in Siem Reap, Cambodia for 5 months. So, why not Hong Kong? Right? Why not taste and see and feel what it would be like to live in any place in the world. We find that in the big cities, though we eat more junk, we walk tons, and the kids and Kobi get to enjoy cool stuff like bowling, movies, ice cream shops, and Kobi and I get to go out dancing more.
So here’s what we found about a place we’ve never been to but, who knows, we may very well end up calling it home. The small island of Hong Kong is one of the world’s most important financial business centers, yet there is much more to it that simply a bunch of offices. It is in fact one of the most interesting and unusual places on earth, and should be towards the top of any traveler’s list of prospective destinations.
What makes Hong Kong such as curious place? It is one of the best examples of East-meets-West that you’re likely to find anywhere on Earth. Although it still retains political autonomy, Hong Kong is now part of China, as it had been for many centuries. However, between 1842 and 1997 it was part of the British Empire, and many of the structures, institutions and customs which developed during the 20th century were British in style. This Chinese take on British culture – although changing slightly – is still in evidence.
Another thing that strikes you about Hong Kong is just how crowded it is. Squeezing over seven million people onto an area measuring just 426 square miles makes it the fourth most densely-populated state in the world, and this of course has to be reflected in the architecture, with high-rise buildings aplenty looming over the tranquil bays.
Because of the nature of Hong Kong, there are a wide variety of hotels to suit any budget all very close to each other, so you’re should to find the ideal place to base your stay. As for what to see and do, we have a few tips:
Climb the Peak
When the claustrophobic nature of Hong Kong got too much for some, those with money moved up to the cleaner, cooler air offered by the highest point on Hong Kong Island. While still an exclusive neighborhood, it also offers visitors the best vantage point out over the bay and the skyscrapers that stand over it. A specially-constructed viewing platform is complemented by restaurants and shops, meaning you could spend all day here! That’s not actually a bad idea, because when the bright lights of the city start flickering in the twilight, it creates a stunning sight on the water.
Off Hong Kong Island and onto the territories on the mainland is Kowloon, but don’t think it will be more sedate because the skyline is less intimidating. Kowloon is a shopper’s paradise; when it comes to retail outlets it has one of everything and a little bit more.
Avenue of the Stars
Asia’s answer to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Avenue of the Stars highlights the role Hong Kong has played in Asian – and world – cinema, with tributes to local luminaries such as Bruce Lee, Jacky Chan and Chow Yun Fat.
It’s also worth taking a day to island-hop across the 260-or-so small islands which surround Hong Kong – the quiet fishing villages are a world away from Hong Kong Island, and the perfect way to get a break from the sensory overload and hustle and bustle!
So, will we go to Hong Kong tomorrow? Not yet, but I have a crazy little story to tell you. Did you know we almost ended up in Moscow for 6 months? We posted that we were looking for a hostel job and this really nice guy named Antonio almost hired us for a 6 months front desk job, with room and breakfast for the five of us. We almost, almost, almost took it and would have loved to learn Russian for 6 m0nths, but in the end calculated that with the cost of airfare and cost of living for the five of us we wouldn’t even break even. So, we may end up in Hong Kong. Gotta good job to offer us? Ever been in Hong Kong? Even been in an environment that you swore you’d hate and you found that you loved it beyond words? Tell me.
Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net (Hong Kong Skyscraper At Night)
Image courtesy of think4photop at FreeDigitalPhotos.net (Hong Kong City At Night)
Image courtesy of kenfotos at FreeDigitalPhotos.net (Hong Kong High City)
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net (Hong Kong Busy Taxi Queue)