Seeing Hong Kong Through a Tourist’s Eyes

Hong Kong is one of those cities that, when I visit it, I feel more like an insider than an outsider.  That may be a bit presumptuous of me, but then who is to judge another person’s feelings about these matters?  I lived in Hong Kong for just over three months in 1998-99 and I made it a point to get out and explore with every free moment I had.  Since then, I’ve been back to Hong Kong a dozen times visiting friends and retracing my old stomping grounds.

On this visit, though, I had an opportunity to spend a day seeing the city once again through the eyes of a first-time visitor.  Another American expat who lives in Bangkok timed his first visit to Hong Kong to coincide with mine, and I offered to play tour guide on Friday.

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This is Vic.  If you think he’s cute and would like to date him, let me know!  (Ha ha…)  We started our day at his hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui and walked along the harbour front to the Star Ferry terminal, taking the ferry across to Central.  Of all the things you can do and see in Hong Kong, I think the Star Ferry is the best value.  Eight minutes for less than US$1.00 to cross one of the most scenic harbours in the world.

From Central we took our time walking along the elevated pedestrian paths, taking in the significant infrastructure development going on near the waterfront.  In a few years, the entire waterfront from Central to Causeway Bay will be open to pedestrians, a wonderful improvement.  We then continued to the Mid-Levels for a late breakfast at Tsui Wah on Wellington Street.

Afterwards, we walked back downhill and caught a ride on one of the island trams.  These trams are over 100 years old and in addition to providing transportation for nearly one-quarter of a million passengers each day, they are an inexpensive and very effective way to take in life in Hong Kong as you slowly make your way down major thoroughfares and into various neighborhoods.  Some of the sights that caught my eye:

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A serpentine staircase works its way up a steep hillside with the retaining wall painted an interesting checkerboard pattern.

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Bamboo scaffolding, which is much stronger and more flexible than metal scaffolding, perfect for a city that is often buffeted by typhoons.  In fact, one blew ashore a week after I departed.  Despite knowing that the bamboo is much sturdier, I have a hard time reconciling that fact with the flimsy appearance of the structure.

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A colorful side street.  Most buildings in Hong Kong are very drab, painted once in their lifetime and rarely repainted.  This small street, though, had a lot of color going on.

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Our destination was North Point, a neighborhood in the Eastern District of Hong Kong Island.  Primarily a residential and retail area, the island tram terminates in the midst of a crowded market street.  We walked around for a bit, taking in the sights and heading to the waterfront to see the view.

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Among the interesting sights was a truck full of slaughtered pigs.  While I was standing there, this bundle of guts fell to the floor of the truck.  The man kicked them towards the door before picking them up and resecuing them.

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After lunch at Pacific Place mall in Admiralty, we caught the #15 bus to Victoria Peak.  Sure, you can take the Peak Tram to the summit but it is pricey and touristy.  Better to take the inexpensive bus which spends an hour winding its way up the mountains, giving you fantastic views of Happy Valley and other parts of the city.  I was tickled by this construction fence that was built to hide some work being done alongside the road.  Located directly across the street from an international school, the fence has a vista painted on it that is incongruous with the view that lays beyond it.  Just above the fence you can see the end of the Happy Valley Racecourse.

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Atop the Peak we walked a short way away from the masses of tourists and schoolchildren and took some pictures.  It was a hazy day (which are never in short supply here) but managed to get a few good pictures.

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I’m tempted to use this one to replace my current profile photo.  Thoughts?

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After the Peak, I turned Vic loose on the city as I had an appointment with an old friend for dinner in Mongkok.  Above, the chaos that is Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station at about 7pm on a Friday night.  Madness, I tell you!  I shot some video and may get it edited together to share with you.

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After walking for a little bit, Edward decided on a Cantonese restaurant just off Nathan Road.  I didn’t get the name and while the food was good, it wasn’t so good as to recommend you to visit it.  Above, Edward, whom I met when I lived here in Hong Kong.

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Braised eggplant with minced pork, served with bok choy.

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Crispy roast chicken.

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Steamed dumplings.

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Baked rice.

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The meal was fine but the company was definitely better than the food.  Afterwards, we strolled around the neighborhood, remarking how much this part of Kowloon has changed in the past decade.  When I lived here, this area had a lot of red light activity and was always featured in police and gangster movies.  Nowadays, thanks to the clean-up effort brought about by the Langham Place Mall, it is much nicer and the illicit activity has moved a block or two to the west.

We wandered through the wholesale fruit market and over to Olympic MTR Station, another area that is radically different than a decade ago when it was the initial stages of landfill.  This is a city that is always changing.

 

0 thoughts on “Seeing Hong Kong Through a Tourist’s Eyes

  1. FOOD PORN!!!! I always enjoy touring a city. I have never been to the Orient. I don’t know that I will make it so taking little tours with those who have, like you, really encourage me to keep it on my plate. Oh, the photos of you – I like the one you have in your profile at present.

  2. That’s a nice day trip of Hong Kong and Kowloon! You have covered a lot in one day! Now, I can’t wait to fly over there and order a dish of crispy roast chicken. *nom nom*

  3. You could put any old picture of yours up for a profile pic, and you would stop the traffic my friend. ANY picture! Neat post as usual. You did cover a lot for a border run Chris.Ok. We will come there to visit you. May be arrive one day and leave the next? I will check with me nephew who goes to Bangkok often I think. Let me know some days that would be convenient for both of you. I WOULD LOVE TO EAT AT YOUR PLACE. omg! bUT, I would hate for you to go to too much trouble. Really. May be we can go out and eat or something.  I will let you know the dates closer to the time. I think I may have your phone # in my documents still.

  4. I remember the first time I saw meat just hanging in the market and some guy waving the flies away. I wasn’t totally surprised but after years of being exposed to supermarket shopping it still had an impact. I remember exploring a lot of the nooks and crannies of HKG. My uncle couldn’t figure out why and thought I would have been better off at the big stores or places like Stanley.

  5. The picture of the slaughtered pigs brings me back to my first visit to HK in 93. A man was pulling the carcass out of the truck, but it was so heavy it rolled to the ground and down the alley. I was so traumatized by the whole ordeal that this memory is permanently etched in my mind forever, and in my little brother’s too (who was 10 at the time).

  6. @lil_squirrel4ever – @ElusiveWords – No kidding about the trauma of seeing a carcass being turned into “meat”.  We get so used to just seeing the plastic-wrapped styrofoam trays of meat in the market that we don’t associate it with a previously living being.  I always wonder about the relative healthiness of meat in one environment versus the other.  I guess it works out okay otherwise there would be mass food poisoning, right?@Curlyquilter – Oh, thank you.  (blush)@CurryPuffy – I’m a go-getter when it comes to touring.  Hong Kong in a day!@Fatcat723 – I’m glad you enjoy these trips.  One of the nice things about blogging is that we can share experiences with others and enjoy experiences we might otherwise not have the opportunity to have first-hand.@puella_sapiens216 – I hope you have the opportunity, too.  Travel abroad has been so eye-opening for me.

  7. @ZSA_MD – It would depend on when you arrive in the day, but if you could arrange for a full twenty-four hours in Bangkok, that would give us a chance to show you around a bit and also have you over for a meal.  We’ve very flexible in terms of days of the week, although of course a weekend would be easier.

  8. Oh how this makes me miss HK. I think that would make a good profile picture. If you want, I can turn you into a supernatural creature using the picture that’s above it. I got a new app I’m messing with =D

  9. @puella_sapiens216 –  Sounds like you are making some progress on that corner of the world. Better than me, who’s only been to London, Paris, and a few cities in Italy. Would love to explore Europe more, though.@Roadlesstaken –  Your question implies that I’m not already a supernatural creature, Alex. =D@agmhkg –  It was a bit of a comic exercise finding him food that would suit him. Picky.@Shades_of_Athena –  The dim sum is good and I did get some at a place on Hollywood Road that is a nightclub in the evenings, but I didn’t take pictures. @TheCheshireGrins –  Yeah, it is less rigid so can bend in the breeze. If I recall, there was an incident a few years ago where metal scaffolding was used for some modern high-rise and it collapsed in a typhoon, proving the point.@rhapsodymuse –  Thanks, Matt.@stepaside_loser –  Glad you enjoyed them. I hope your visits to campuses are going well.

  10. there are 2 pics here that quickly became my favorite: a butcher carrying the entrails of a pig and a great shot of HK night lights (u must’ve used a slow shutter speed). well, a black and white close up of your face is not bad either 🙂 yeah, it’s a good choice for your profile pic.

  11. You certainly have an eye for taking good photos. I was in HK last November  and my photos were so boring. The photo which you want to use to replace the current profile pic..yes. Good choice.

  12. @rudyhou – The camera I have has full manual control despite being a point and shoot, so I was able to experiment with a variety of settings to come up wtih one that captured Mangkok nicely.  Sadly, no tripod so I had to rest it on a guard rail alongside the footpath.  I’m glad you like the pictures.@icepearlz – Thank you, very nice of you to say.  When I used to shoot with 35mm back in the day I was so conservative and shot very few shots.  Now that I have digital, I’ll shoot a ton a shots and play around with settings knowing that I can dispose all of those that don’t turn out.

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