First place on our trip was Hong Kong. I didn't get to see a whole lot of it because there was an avian flu scare in Kowloon and for obvious reasons, we decided to stay on the Hong Kong Island side of things.
Things that I have learned from this trip:
- Hong Kong is super commercialized (at least the parts of it that I saw, which granted, wasn't that much). The tourist attractions are malls, the hotels are malls, the subway stations are malls, and the malls are malls. I mean, people complain about how the US is becoming one giant mall these days, but the parts of Hong Kong that I saw pretty much blew anything I have seen in the US out of the water.
- It's pretty easy to tell that Hong Kong was originally set up as a tiny little port city, but then it started expanding like crazycakes, and now they are figuring out to handle that whole mountain that's right there, getting in their way. (We will revisit this concept on Day 3.) This makes navigating some of Hong Kong's pedestrian walkways feel like some kind of bizarro 3D platformer/maze thing, where you'll be looking at the map, and then looking at the road you want to get to, and then there's these stairs, and this elevated road, but there should be an intersection, but really, it's just a bunch of loops that may connect to each other or may not and they may have pedestrian sidewalks and they may not, and you have to figure out how to use all of these things to get to where you're going. I don't think I can ever complain about Boston's roads ever again.
Being built into the side of a mountain means that the Hong Kong government has to monitor all slopes in case erosion does enough damage to them to actually make them dangerous. I find this strangely amusing and also logical.
This also means that there's these famous escalators to get from Central to the Mid-levels easily. That was the first thing we did on the first day, and it wasn't as awesome as expected. It's a commuter path, not really an aesthetic choice, and so you don't get a great view of Hong Kong. You're mostly just standing on an escalator for a while staring at the sides of buildings.
- Hong Kong has a zoological and botanical garden that is open to the public. We went there after the escalators, and it was pretty excellent. There were a lot of monkeys! Who liked swinging on the bars of their cages! And there were a lot of birds, a lot of turtles, some snakes. Hong Kong Garden (right next door) also has a walk-in aviary, which was pretty damn neat.
- Hong Kong is also, on occasion, a nerd paradise (more to be explicated later).
- The food is very delicious. I think I will miss the food most of all.
We ended up visiting Macau on the second day, which used to be a Portuguese colony. These days, it is known for being full of casinos and it's sort of in that weird legal area that Hong Kong is in, as it is part of China, but you still need to go through immigration if you are coming from Hong Kong or mainland China. We took a ferry from Hong Kong Island, and it was only about an hour trip. Not bad. But then we also had to stand in line for an hour for said immigration. Not fun.
I probably would have liked to have gone visiting the old Portuguese churches, just to see the stamp of colonization and to see whether there was a strong mixing of cultures at all, but we ended up going to Taipa, one of the islands, because my dad wanted to visit a casino. Unsurprisingly, they have free buses from the ferry to any casino you would like to visit, and inside the casinos they look exactly like the ones in Las Vegas. There are three bridges that link the island to the mainland, and they are very long.
There's something about casino towns that is just depressing though. Even outside, it reminded me very much of Las Vegas: a barren wasteland dotted with humongous casinos. merisunshine36 said that it's because they smell like desperation. I think it might be that there's something so inherently fake and soulless about casinos that they suck all the soul out of the surrounding areas.
We didn't end up doing any gambling, though I did get carded for looking like I'm under 18. I really enjoyed that.
Not my favorite day.
We only took the tram up to the peak (which isn't really the peak-peak, but whatever). It was pretty steep getting up there (as you can sort of see)
but the view at the top was gorgeous
The main building of the peak is pretty much a mall with a tourist attraction attached, but what I really loved was the trail that circled the peak. It gave you a spectacular view without having to do significant amounts of climbing, and you got to see things like giant rubber plants hanging over the trail:
After lunch, we went and visited computer nerd paradise: the Wan Chai Computer Center (or Centre. WHATEVER, BRITISH SPELLING.).
You might think that it's basically a giant department store for computers, sort of like a Best Buy crammed into a smaller space, but no, that is not what it is. It is basically a bazaar for computer equipment and other assorted gadgets, like iPods, video games, audio equipment, and other peripherals. There are these tiny stores crammed full of product, a lot of it duplicating what exists in other stores with different prices. The hallways are really narrow, and they're usually packed. I didn't buy anything, and it wasn't really comfortable for just browsing because omg so many peoplepeople, but it was pretty amazing to see. Everything I love! All in one place!
Day 4 (now with bonus food porn)
On Day 4, we took the subway to Lantau Island to see the giant Buddha statue at Ngong Ping, because really, if you're going to visit something, it might as well be a giant Buddha statue, amirite? It's all of, um, 18 years old, and it is a site of an amazing amount of tourism. There's a monastery(/restaurant) right next to the Buddha as well as a few small Disney-like movie-things.
Anyway, the subway only takes you as far as Tung Chung, and after that you have to take a cable car up to the top of the mountain.
The Buddha is so big you can see it from the cable car easily.
After that, you wander through the gift shop (seriously, the gift shop happens before and after you visit.), through this road made up to look like a traditional Chinese village lined with tourist shops and, um, Subway.
Then you can get to the Buddha, which is really freaking big, and there are a lot of steps. A lot a lot of steps.
When we got back to Hong Kong proper, I got to eat this:
It was delicious.
And on the fifth day, we went to Taiwan. It was really funny, because we were traveling on Christmas day, and when we got to my aunt and uncle's apartment, my mom was Santa Claus, handing out all these gifts for everyone. Jackets! Socks! Ramen (yes really)! Giant Coleman coolers! It was kind of hilarious.
We also went to Ye Liu to see the awesome rock formations formed by wind and water. They get called 'mushroom head' rocks. The tops are dotted with holes, and they have these necks that have been smoothed over over time. I kind of loved wandering through it all. The red lines are there to prevent you from going too far and accidentally falling into the ocean.
Also, no one can seem to agree on the proper Romanization of that location's name, which makes things really difficult to google. Thanks a lot, you guys!
After that trip, we went to the Raohe St. Night Market by crossing over the Rainbow Bridge, which is for pedestrians/cyclists only.
Then we ate things. It was super busy because it was a Sunday, really crammed full of people. But we got to eat what we showed up for: night market food!
This day was mostly boring, but here's a picture of hot and sour soup in a bag! We got to watch them make the soup. It took all of about 10 minutes. I was seriously impressed by it. The soup was delicious.
This entry was originally posted at http://thedeadparrot.dreamwidth.org/505105.html. You can comment there using OpenID or you can comment here if you prefer. :) comments there