Balu's trip to Hong Kong

February 2004

I divided my trip into three pages to keep them to a managable size: my experiences in Hong Kong, a one-day trip to Macao, and Belinda and Andras' wedding. To get an idea of the layout of Hong Kong, click the map above for a larger version. We were staying in Kowloon, across the bay from Hong Kong island, where downtown is located.

Hong Kong

Here's the very colorful HK$10 bill:

There is a very tall hill right behind downtown that offers and amazing view of downtown and the straight between Hong Kong island and Kowloon. Here are a few glimses:

To get to the top of the mountain, we took a small train that was pulled up the mountain by a cable between the rails:

Even while climbing, one can admire the panorama through windows in the roof of the train:

Once on top, there is a classical Chinese viewing platform:

Yours truly on this platform:

A daytime and a nightime picture of downtown Hong Kong taken from Kowloon, across the straight. The straight is always full of all kinds of ships. The most bizarre are the motorized junks like the one on the daytime picture. The HK Convention and Exhibition Centre can be seen on the left in both pics.

A bigger picture of the Centre:

In fact, not much remains of old Hong Kong. This tower is the only part that remains of the old train station:

An interesting bit of architecture:

Here are a few pics of the typical HK streets. The local 7-Elevens don't sport any gas pumps, they are just convenience stores:

Gyula is standing next to a bunch of chicken pens - live chicken are sold right in the middle of a bustling metropolis!

All construction scaffolding, like the one around this sign, was constructed from bamboo, not metal piping!

As far as transportation, I really loved the double-decker trams that move through downtown, here are some pics taken from the top front window of one of them:

In general public transportation, including trams, underground, large buses, small buses and ferries, is very well organized. One can buy a debit card that works on all modes of transport, and needs to be touched to a sensor upon entering the vehicle (or the station, in case of the metro), and the fare is withdrawn, the remaining balance displays on the reader. Neat.
On the inside the trams are sized for the locals, not for tall Caucasians like Andras (Andras and Gyula's Mom is sitting on the left):

The double-decker ferry that runs between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon (the electronic debit cards worked on these, too), and a junk:

A few street scenes with plenty of signage:

Here I am standing to mini altar on the sidewalk:

Exotic flowers growing on the street:

The streets around the markets were quite full:

The crew exploring Hong Kong with Belinda's leadership:

We explored the fish market. Just like everything else, this was also very clean and organized.

As well as the street with all the flower shops. Interestingly, there are streets where one kind of shops are concentrated, so if one is shopping for a particular item, one can easily see the different selection and prices. On the other hand, I presume this means that there is less available in each specific neighborhood, and one must travel to the specialized street to get a good deal.

We also visited a bird market. I was surprised how big it was, but I assume in the 30-story apartment buildings this is the one pet that is easy to keep.

One of the most interesting experiences was a visit to a Taoist temple. This one is in the middle of Kowloon, amid skyscraper apartment houses, and was built about 30 years ago. The building below is the first one that greets the visitor, and my guess is that it houses the monks, as it was closed to the public. The place is really a campus with various smaller and larger altarts sprinkled throughout, with many quiet places for rest and meditation.

People pray in different ways: some kneel, some stand, but it usually involves bowing repeatedly toward the altar, sometimes with burning incense sticks clasped to one's forehead.

Front and side view of the main altar:

Adjacent to the temple there was a long row of these miniature shops, all housing fortune tellers. Business seemed to be pretty slow on this weekday afternoon.

I spent one evening walking on the promenade in Kowloon. There were two dance groups performing at some distance from each other. One was dancing to classical pieces (the Ode of Joy, among others), the other to traditional Chinese music. In this latter, the participants were also dressed up in traditional costumes (sorry, those pics didn't turn out).

The nighttime view of downtown from the promenade:

I realized that there are alternatives to the ferry: this decrepit ship just pushed its bow against the dock, a bunch of people jumped off by climbing over the ship's railing, and then the ship was off. All said and done in less than 2 minutes!

The view of the residential towers in Kowloon, with the mountains in the background:

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