Today after class, we went south to the Kowlung side of Hong Kong Bay. The view from this side was spectacular–its the first skyline I’ve seen that can compare to Chicago. It stretches for what seems like forever along the water, with towering skyscrapers that make thirty floor buildings look small. We continued walking along the waterfront until we came across the Avenus of the Stars, which is Hong Kong’s version of our Walk of Fame in Hollywood. All along the walkway were stars with the names of famous Chinese actors and their handprints. The only two I was able to recognize were Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, but the hundreds of names were a testament to the extensiveness of Chinese cinema.
While on the Avenue, three of the girls in our group were attacked by a little old lady. The three of them were sitting on a bench, and this lady runs over with a camera, sits between them (basically on top of them), and puts her arms around them. She was pretty excited to get her picture taken with the white girls. Although this incident was hilarious, it confused me-unlike Taipei or Matsuyama, Europeans and Americans aren’t too uncommon here, wo shy were we so special? If I were to guess, the two ladies were just as foreign as we were to Hong Kong; they were speaking Mandarin (Cantonese dialect is used in HK) and hanging out in a touristy area of the city.
We had a relaxing evening along the bay, spending our time at a bar with a view of the city. I know I’ve already mentioned this, but the amount of Westerners makes this feel like home. I haven’t felt this comfortable in a place since Matsuyama.
On our first free day in Hong Kong a group of fifteen or so students tagged along with Marsha to Stanley Market, which is about an hour’s bus ride through the mountains outside of downtown Hong Kong. I could tell right away that this was an…extremely upscale suburb of Hong Kong. The area is surrounded by mountains overlooking a bay, with beaches and even a little golf course. Along the road were gigantic mansions that you’d see in West Palm Beach or Southern California. Most of the area seemed to be swarming with white people. Granted, most were tourists, but I met many Europeans and Australians that live in Stanley.
Despite the touristy nature, I had a blast. The shops all catered well to English speakers, which is always nice. My personal favorite was Kitty Lee, a shopowner who makes her own Jade jewelery. After buying something from her, she was very interested in my continued business. She has a gmail account, accepts money through PayPal, and ships internationally for free if you spend over $100 USD. I was shocked that such small, local establishments have the ability and drive to go global.
I continued my shopping spree in the Ladies Market, which is located near our hotel. Don’t let the name fool you…It’s not just for women. The market most likely gets its name from the fake designer bags you can buy, but you can also find knockoff watches, little arts and crafts, and even electronics. A group of us bought Dr. Dre Beats headphones from a little shack for just under $20 each. These guys go for $190 according to their website, so we felt like it was a steal. To this day I can’t tell if they’re a knockoff or the real thing…But if I can’t figure it out, what’s the difference?
We finished our day at yet another shopping complex, a fifteen story mall. Watertower Place on Michigan Avenus is a street stall in comparison. We didn’t do any shopping, but instead went to the Ozone on the 15th floor for food-a hollowed out pinepple filled with pineapple fried rice. What I did get out of the mall experience was the insane population density here. I have never seen so many people going about their business outside of a special event. The subway system was even more crowded than Tokyo…Goodbye personal space!
Despite a lower cost of living in Hong Kong, many residents of Hong Kong resort to public housing because of the high price of private apartments. We went to the public housing showroom to see a presentation the program here in Hong Kong. The most striking figure I got out of the presentation was $200 USD. A single person can live in an apartment for $200 a month in one of the densist cities in the world. We can’t even get that in Rock Island…You could argue that its just a poorly run government run complex like “the projects” that we encounter in the US, but there are actually competant governments in the world with such attributes as foresight and intelligence! The goevernment frequently cleans, upgrades, and repairs the apartments, all the while maintaining only 8000 employees to minimize the cost. The program doesn’t recieve money from the government, so they say they’re “self sufficient,” despite the fact they’re going to need money at some point soon-ish down the road. Regardless, the Hong Kong public housing system is a model that we could probably learn from.
Afterwards, half of us hustled to the Bay to take a fairy boat tour of the harbor and a boat ride to a little restaurant tha tNorm knows about for a seafood dinner. We got a great view of the skyline, and got to see containerization up close. Containerization is the phenomenon started in the 20th century that modernized transportation. A container can be loaded onto a boat, unloaded onto a train, and moved onto a truck, without unpacking the original container. Although I had learned about it previously, the sheer volume of containers surprised me. The meal itself was delicious, but the boat ride made the experience…Photos to come!
Today, on our last day in Hong Kong, we went to Cheung Chau. We heard much about the island, and we were excited to see an island so close to Hong Kong functioning without cars. I was expecting a rustic island like Macinac Island in northern Michigan, where you can take a horse drawn carriage down the main street.
Instead I found free wi-fi spots, a 7-11, and a Mickey D’s within sight of the fairy landing. Although the island didn’t have cars, the island seemed like a normal community-locals going about their daily routines, and only very few tourists wandering.
After getting off the boat, we started following a suggested hiking trail, and eventually found ourselves along a rocky shore, sitting and laying on the rocks while journaling and getting ready for Bob’s midterm. It was definitely my favorite homework spot ever. I was surprised that we didn’t see another soul when we were on the rocks…Cheun Chau seemed a world away from the overcrowded Hong Kong I saw earlier in the week.
For dinner, we ate at a local seafood place on the water, that a lot of people earn their living from the sea here, because there were 100 or so fishing boats anchored right off shore, and we noticed many men carrying home freshly caught fish for what was presumably their dinner.
Overall Cheung Chau was a wonderful last day in Hong Kong. The change of pace to a quiet and quant, but not boring fishing village from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong’s Central Island. It just shows you how much there is to see in this little corner of China.