China – Part 8 – Hong Kong

November 20 to 22, 2009

Hong Kong is well… Hong Kong.  It was over the top when I was here 20 years ago and it is still over the top.  But I kind of like it, and I am not sure why. It seems odd for a country girl like me.  

We all took the train down from Guangzhou.  We booked our rooms a few days in advance, but even so, we had difficulty finding a place that had 3 rooms available.  We couldn’t get two nights in a row at the same hotel.  That was a bit of a blessing because the Casa Hotel in Kowloon was a step down from the luxury we had become used to on the mainland, and was more expensive! It was very claustrophobic with tiny, tiny rooms. Lily and I could barely fit with our bags. 

Lily, Stephen and Warren headed off to Malaysia for a family visit on November 21, so Bill and I were left with a day and a half to explore Hong Kong.  The first night, we walked around the famous Tsim Sha Tsui area of Kowloon, walking down various side streets to Salisbury Avenue, then past the palatial Peninsula Hotel over to the Star Ferry dock and then back up Nathan Road.  Everything is people, people, people and neon, neon, neon and shopping, shopping, shopping.  Since the last time I was here the entire waterfront area has been developed with great public spaces, Museum of Art, Cultural Centre, Space Museum, etc.  

Our timing was perfect because just as we arrived at the waterfront and were looking across to the lit up buildings over on Hong Kong Island an amazing  sound and light show started.  The lights on the buildings across the harbour were amazing enough but now they started to flash on and off, change colour, and laser beams swept across the sky.  This spectacle involved probably 35 buildings from Causeway Bay to Central which would be well over a mile apart.  We did wonder if the lights were LED.  Hong Kong must be one of the worlds largest energy consumers.  It was, however, an amazing display of technology.

The next day we moved our digs to the Excelsior Hotel in Causeway Bay on Hong Kong Island, (which I highly recommend), grabbed the Metro over to ‘Central’, the area where the antique shops and markets are.  Bill considered purchasing an opium pipe for the Barkerville collection because we only have partial examples, but decided against it.  Things were quite expensive.  We had a very interesting conversation with a carpet dealer.  It seems that many antiques that have been sold in the shops along Hollywood Road for years are becoming scarce in China.  Many examples have been bought by tourists from all over the world.  Now antique dealers are finding that often the best source of these items is in North America and Europe at things like estate sales.  After looking at ceramics again, Bill is convinced that the Chinese things we find in garage sales here are quite valuable in China.

When we returned to the hotel, we found that the area around , which had been relatively quiet by Hong Kong standards during the day, had been transformed into a neon jungle.   Hong Kong  is a vertical city of tall buildings, built on the side of a mountain.  Shopping malls do not stretch over acres of land like they do in North America, they extend up many stories, linked by escalators.  Bill board sized TV screens barrage passerbys with a constant stream of commercials, cartoons and short news clips. Marketing signs are everywhere. 

Tomorrow we leave early for the long flight home — 3 1/2 hours to Beijing and another 12 hours to Vancouver.  It has been an extremely worthwhile trip for Barkerville, but personally I am ready for some fresh air and some skiing.