27.12.2005 - 29.12.2005
Hong Kong is not all about bargain shopping and transit stopovers, a vibrant and proud culture has developed on the many islands and new territories which comprise Hong Kong, amid the rich spirit of the Cantonese background which abounds on every main street and down every shadowy alley in equal measure.
Any stay in Hong Kong naturally revolves around the hectic metropolis of Tsim Sha Tsui; bordered by Chatham Road to the East and Canton Road to the West, the district is intersected by Nathan Road - the lifeblood of Kowloon.
Known as the golden mile and famed for its high rents and ability to suck money from the pockets of tourists, this thoroughfare with it’s heady mix of high-end boutiques and billboards is the vein which pumps life all the way from the New Territories in the North, through the Kowloon Peninsula, to the Star Ferry terminal linking the mainland with the island of Hong Kong.
Head down any number of the hidden alley ways to find vendors selling fresh goods and going about their daily lives seemingly unaware of the thousands of unsuspecting tourists holed up in hotels all over the tiny peninsula. Such is the sheer volume of pedestrian and vehicle traffic circulating and crammed into this tight area, that one could be forgiven for being unaware of anything happening farther than 10 feet away.
The handover of Hong Kong to China in the late 90's did not produce the monumental changes the world had awaited, although it did create an environment of uncertainty and insecurity for those who wished to see Hong Kong remain the independent economic power it had become over the years.
Since then many hundreds of thousands have come out onto the streets in solid shows of solidarity and protest to demonstrate to those in Beijing's central government and their appointed local officials in Hong Kong their desire to retain the democracy they had come to enjoy for many decades.
One can gain a glimpse of Hong Hong’s colonial past in the Wanchai port area nestled aboard the waters of Causeway Bay on Hong Kong island. This portside district famous for its trams, which cruise laboriously along Gloucester Road to central, looks more to the past and former glories than its modern cousin Kowloon across the water which stares defiantly into the future with an air of Eastern sophistication.
Wanchai contains old - and in some instances rather derelict residential buildings - jostling for limited real estate with daunting office blocks from the Central Business District, all overlooked by the imposing Victoria Peak, which can be reached by a steep ten minute tram ride from Garden Road.
The extremely efficient and convenient MTR provides a simple means of traversing Hong Kong and discovering the many and varied areas of this unique region. Being one of the busiest and surprisingly, cleanest, underground systems in the world it is a must for any visitor to Hong Kong, the eight colour-coded lines certainly make life easy.
Experiencing the bustling street markets around Sai Yeung Choi; Tung Choi; and Fa Yuen streets in Mong Kok is a must for any avid bargain hunter. Haggle for a deal on anything from counterfeit bags to electronics, as your senses are bombarded with the familiar sights of modern capitalism and the sometimes unusual scents of Asian sidewalk cuisine.
One can only stand in utter bewilderment as the whole scene coalesces into a mélange of unrestrained excitement and utter disorientation at the frantic pace of life on the crowded streets.
Further on from Mong Kok toward the lower tip of Kowloon in Jordan, the temple street night markets can be found, enclosed by Kansu street on the border of Ya Ma Tei and the busy Jordan road which divides the peninsula in two as it heads toward To Kwa Wan and Ma Tau Kok in the North East.
A more secluded and slower paced market than those of Mong Kok, come here to find oriental ornaments, miniature statues of the Buddha and other objects of interest.
If all the shopping and commerce possibilities presented by this tiny region become too overwhelming, perhaps consider escaping to one of the many temples dotted throughout Hong Kong for dose of calm and serenity amid the chaos and confusion.
Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island – one of Hong Kong’s largest outlying islands – forms part of the culturally-themed Ning Pong village, focused around a 40-metre high giant bronze Buddha and the wisdom path, which replicates the Heart Sutra one of Buddhism’s most famous prayers, the Heart Sutra.
Visitors can take a soul-cleansing walking tour around the tranquil natural park area, while enjoying stunning views of the South China Sea, before heading down to the airport.
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