Monday, April 30, 2012

Hong Kong Adventures

General Ideas
Our overall conclusion about Hong Kong is that it's kind of like a mix of Tokyo and New York City. Like Tokyo, there are a lot of Asian design elements, a contrast of Old and New in everything you see, Chinese writing is predominant, and I didn't understand a lot of the language around me. Also like Tokyo, there were a lot of bright lights and visually overwhelming signs, but unlike Tokyo they were all concentrated on the first couple of floors of a building, instead of all the way up the side. It gives an overall impression of horizontal instead of vertical.

On the other hand, it feels more like New York. Like NYC, there is a great mix of cultures and ethnicities and you can get around pretty easily with English. It's approximately the same in terms of overall cleanliness and litter in the street, too.

Husband rotated kind of quickly, but this should give you an idea of what it's like on the average street.

(Yes, Husband feels the need to start and/or end every video with me. Some I edited, some I didn't.)

In a different area:

And in yet another area:

Hong Kong has lots of shopping, some areas with a higher concentration of shopping malls and jewelry stores than others. One mall was about eight floors tall and had a roller coaster at the top!
It wan't running. Sad face.

Money in new countries is always interesting. The surprising thing here is that different banks put out their own versions of the money, so the $20 bill from one bank is blue with a vertical bar, while the other  has different dimensions, a green color scheme, and a different placement of the lion's head.

We went to see some improv comedy shows at Takeout Comedy as part of a comedy festival. We got to see our home team, the Pirates of Tokyo Bay, which was awesome. They were great!

Because I'm partial to the Pirates, click this link to see my favorite game. It was a show in Tokyo at their usual venue, and I laughed so hard I thought I was going to throw up.

There were several teams from several places, but I think the strongest acts were the Pirates and SPIT (Silly People's Improve Theater) from Manila, Philippines. Sadly, I can't find any videos of SPIT at that event.

The area around Takeout Comedy is on the side of a mountain, with narrow and incredibly steep roads.  In a brilliant move that alleviates traffic and removes the need for sherpas and pack animals to bring groceries home, they installed a series of escalators.

The Central-Mid-Levels escalator is the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world. Cool, huh?

The part I don't understand is this sign:

I don't mean the advice to hold the rail and stand still. I mean this:
Never leave your chicken on the escalator unattended?

Along the bay is the Avenue of Stars, sort of the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Hong Kong. Jet Li, Chow Yun Fat, Jackie Chan, and a ton of others have stars and hand prints there. Bruce Lee even has a statue.

And just about everyone strikes that pose when they get their picture taken with it. It's not really surprising, but the older the person is, the funnier it is.

Random sign in a park:
No smoking, no lying. Take your vices elsewhere!

We visited a couple of temples. Both are beautiful in different ways. The Chi Lin Nunnery is subdued and serene, and people here seem to take Buddhism much more seriously here than in Japan. In Japan, people go to pray or give thanks, but it's pretty casual. Here, there are small padded stools for people to kneel on as they move around the structure and pray to each deity in turn. (Pictures weren't allowed in those areas.)

Across the street from the temple is the Nan Lian Garden.

There's a restaurant under that waterfall!

The Wong Tai Sin temple was much more lively and colorful.

Rub for good luck!

Remember Haw Par Villa? More animal headed gods! I wish I knew what they were about. Note to self: study more Asian mythology.

There were little vendor booths spread around the edges of the temple selling incense. In the main temple area the people gather with their incense in a cylindrical container and shake them while praying. It didn't feel right to take pictures of people while they were praying, but the sound of a hundred people shaking essentially a large box of matches lends something extra to the atmosphere.

Even the carvings on the columns are detailed and awesome.

Behind the main area were a series of walkways with gardens and ponds.
Do not feed the dragon turtles.

Street Markets
Hong Kong has more street markets than any place I've been before. Some span a dozen blocks, some only a few. One of the larger ones is the Ladies' Market, although I'm not sure why it's called that.

In one direction:

From a slightly different angle:
It extended just as far in the opposite direction, too.

It might be a place to look for bargains, but be careful. We bought a suitcase we knew wasn't a name brand, but we were hoping it would hold up moderately well. It didn't even make it back to the hotel before the handle fell off, and the telescoping handle broke shortly after that.

At a different booth, I was looking at shirts, and the woman started taking some out of the packages and urging me to try them on. When I realized a medium size was too small and a large size was too large and I decided I didn't want to get one after all, she actually got angry and yelled at me. In Chinese, of course, so I don't know what she said, but I'm sure it wasn't flattering.

The Peak
The Peak is a fancy area accessible almost exclusively by tram. I figured it would be a little adventure, we take the tram up the hill, snap a few pictures of the view, and that's it.

The station at the top is a multi-level shopping center. We had lunch, then went up several escalators.
Then we went up some more.

At the roof level, we had a pretty good look at the city.

On the other side, we could look down on the rest of the shopping center. This whole community is much more developed and commercial than I had expected.

The Light Show
The Hong Kong Tourism Bureau advertises a light show along the bay every night. The weather had been overcast and rainy the entire time, and a light show loses something in heavy fog.

On the last night we were there, the weather cleared and we got on a last-minute boat trip around the harbor.

Honestly, the show itself was somewhat anticlimactic. Music played and some buildings had spotlights dancing around or flashed the window lights in patterns, but there wasn't as much coordination between the buildings as I thought there might be. Still, it was nice to do it once.

The boat was nice, with a lounge area and snack bar, plus an illuminated map to show our path.

Complimentary pound cake and soft drink!

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