Episode 24 - A quick tour of Hong Kong
Episode 24 - A quick tour of Hong Kong
SBweekly.tv Episode 24
A quick tour of Hong Kong
Officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.
In a time when we can’t travel, we can at least dream a bit - and - lock back to where we’ve been and - of course - look forward to where we’ll go, when the restrictions are finally lifted. Australians are not recommended to leave the country at all. As a Swiss national, I could travel, however, I wouldn’t be allowed back into the country, even though I have two Australian children.
Until we get back to normal, let’s jump onto the history train - well - plane - and we’re off to Hong Kong. I must admit - even though I fly around the world for work - I don’t like flying. One thing I do enjoy however is looking out of the window and seeing the clouds pass by. It’s funny, I’ve seen it so many times, but I still take a video of it every time, there’s just something majestic about it.
And what I also love is when planes have onboard cameras - especially on landings. It’s silly, I know, but I feel somewhat safer if I can see what's happening. So - we’re on approach to Hong Kong. What to expect?
Like New York or Tokyo, you’d expect a ton of people in the streets, and - yep - there are, even though, I must say, it doesn’t feel rushed, it’s all quite relaxed.
Hong Kong is known for its shopping, and you find tons of it, from the high-end labels, of course, you find them in every large city, to smaller boutique stores, it’s a paradise if you want to get rid of your money quickly.
In this video, I’ll show you a few hand-held impressions I filmed, mostly on my iPhone, sprinkled in with photos, after all, I am a photographer. I always have to remind myself to take some more video, sometimes however I just love to wander around, without a real plan in mind, and just suck it all in. That’s - at least for me - the best way to get the vibe of a place. Just walk, talk to strangers, getting a feel of it.
As you can see, there are groups of women everywhere, sitting on cardboard boxes, made into little cubicles. If you visit HK for the first time, you probably wondering what is going on. You see them mostly on Sundays, these are the housemaids, foreign domestic helpers, mostly from Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. They work 6 days a week, pretty much 24 hours a day, cooking, washing, looking after children of HK families, often living in tiny apartments, IF they even have their own room. On their day off - which is usually Sunday - they meet their friends, chat, cut hair, play, dance, eat together, it’s their way to keep a certain level of sanity. In 2019, there were roughly 400,000 such workers in the city.
As mentioned, I generally walk everywhere, it’s the best way to explore a new place. And - by pure chance - you run into interesting situations, be it festivals, interesting street scenes, or even a dance-off. These snippets, by the way, are filmed with an insta360, not the best video quality, but a good way to capture everything around you.
Talking about dance-off and the 360 - it’s hilarious when you see what happens in front of you, and afterwards looking at the recording, you see how the people behind you react. A bit like an all-seeing spy with a hundred eyes, hehe.
Now, the other way to get around and see a lot is by using public transport. Whenever I can, I take busses, trains and use the subway system. Like all big cities, you have to keep your wallet in a safe place, but generally speaking, I must say, I felt very safe. The public transport system is brilliant, you get to every corner of Hong Kong with ease - that said, you better not be shy of large crowds, because there are millions of others going the same way. But that’s part of the fun.
So - let’s do some touristy things. One of the first things you’ll find in any tourist guide is “Victoria Peak”, high up, overlooking the city. To get there is a journey by itself.
Step 1 is to find the “Peak Tram”, a cable car. I assume you start your journey at “Central”, the business district and where most of the high-end shops are - and make your way up the hills of Soho. Talking about hills - better get your best walking shoes out in this city, with all the stairs, you’ll walk off any lunch or dinner in no time. Anyway - I’d suggest to take your time getting there, take the mid-level escalator, and explore the little side streets, they are gorgeous.
Then, you sit back and take the tram up to Victoria Peak. You can wonder around, go up to the viewing platform of the Peak Tower and take your official snaps, best around sunset, of course. And while everyone is looking down to Victoria Harbour, don’t miss to turn around and take a few photos of the cool curved architecture.
On the way back, just around the corner from our hotel, I just had to take a few impressions from the fruit and fish market. With COVID, there’s a lot of talk about the wet markets in China, but let’s face it, you’ll find these throughout Asia. Good or bad, it’s colourful and full of life. Pun intended.
And - in front of the hotel, they prepared a car for a local wedding. Not just any car, a purple VW beetle. Teddy bears mounted on the hud, a few photos taken, it’s time for a few video stunts. Nope, not good enough, let’s do this again. Good, let’s move on.
Next on the toury-list is “The Big Buddha”. This is - at least to start with - a relaxing ride in the Cable Car, which takes about 25 minutes or so. We were told to expect massive cues, however, when we arrived, we could walk straight in. I believe this is because of the ongoing demonstrations when we visited Hong Kong, which kept many tourists away. Quite honestly, we didn’t see any demonstrations at all. Now, with the new security law in effect, I would assume that most demonstrations have stopped, as the China government can now arrest, detain and deport people at will. A scary thought for sure.
Anyway, let’s leave politics out of this and enjoy the Big Buddha. Well - first we have to climb another gazillions steps, but I guess we’re already used to this by now. Also up there, you’ll find the Po Ling Monastery. It’s not as old as I expected, it was founded just over a hundred years ago. Where I grew up, in Wettingen Switzerland, the local monastery was founded 790 years ago, so I guess, I somehow automatically expected that monasteries are quite old. Anyway, it’s beautiful and worth a visit. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t stop taking photos of those burning incense sticks, it just looks beautiful.
Back in the city, there is - of course - more shopping to do. This time in one of the many markets, where you find every brand your heart desires, at a bargain price. Fake - of course. By the way, if you pay the first asking price, you’re a fool, you probably get it at least at half the price. Also, if you ever shop in such markets, be it here or in Bangkok or Saigon, know that there are different levels of quality for the exact same product. Of course - still fake - but a better fake.
And if you enjoy Fish or Gold more than Gucci - Hong Kong has just the right place for you: The Gold Fish Market. Personally, I found this a bit strange - but - it was packed of people, very colourful and - of course - I had to take a few snaps of it as well.
Another stop for most tourists will be the Avenue of the stars, quite a nice stroll along the harbour, reading the little plugs of famous Hong Kong personalities, the Jacky Chan’s and Bruce Lee’s. And yes, there’s also the somewhat famous statue of Bruce Lee - very unfortunate - but maybe fitting - right in front of a Starbucks.
Somehow I remembered, in one of the films, Lee visited his fathers grave, in Hong Kong, and from memory, it looked quite incredible. So - me being me, I decided I’ll go and find the filming location.
In other words, I’m on the bus again, for quite the journey. It took me about an hour to get there and when I arrived at the cemetery, I realised that I clearly underestimating the sheer size of it - and the many stairs. But I must say: It was impressive. I’ve never seen a cemetery of this size, and - I must admit - very calming and beautiful. I counted rows and sections, eventually to admit defeat - I didn’t find it. I might have gone to the wrong place altogether. Nevertheless, disregarding the boiling heat and the many stairs - the journey was exciting and worth it.
And - because I seem to be a sucker for punishment, I thought: While I’m on this mystical journey, let’s go to this other place - the Monastery of the 10 Thousand Buddhas. Of course, it’s at the far other end of Hong Kong, so - I’m in the bus again, a tiny one first, then onto a larger one, followed by a train ride. Quite a nice journey actually, especially if you get the front seat of the double-decker bus, you explore the city in yet another way.
After a few days on foot in this city - I should have known by now what awaits me when I arrive: More stairs. But - I’m here, so I may as well go for it - Insta360 in hand, up we go. Along the entire way, every single buddha statue is different, you could stop and take pictures every two steps, it’s awesome - and worth it. maybe not for the legs, but certainly for your eyes and mind.
Of course, there is so much more to see, experience and photograph in Hong Kong. Quirky street corners, entire building complexes like these - after all, this is one of the most populated cities in the world. If you’re into food, people, architecture, you’ll find a ton of interesting situations all throughout this megacity. And before I forget - if you want to find out more, I put links to many of the places I mentioned in the description below.
So - what’s next? From Hong Kong, I flew to India, a completely different experience altogether. Dirty, exciting, colourful and mysterious. Maybe, we’ll talk about this another day.
Find links to Places & Locations below.
VICTORIA PEAK (太平山)
NGONG PING 360 (昂坪360)
TIAN TAN BUDDHA (天壇大佛)
PO LIN MONASTERY (寶蓮禪寺)
GOLDFISH MARKET (金魚街)
AVENUE OF STARS
HONG KONG CHINESE CHRISTIAN CHURCHES UNION POKFULAM ROAD CEMETERY (香港華人基督教聯會薄扶林道墳場)
K11 MUSEA / TSIM SHA TSUI / KOWLOON (尖沙咀)
TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS MONASTERY (萬佛寺)
HONG KONG CULTURAL CENTRE (香港文化中心)
XIQU CENTRE (戲曲中心)
YICK FAT BUILDING / 1048-1056 King's Rd Quarry Bay
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