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Friday, March 28, 2014

Hari in Hong Kong

The Airasia flight from kuala Lumpur took to skies gracefully   ,it was a balmy morning and the air was thick with news of the missing Malaysian airlines plane .
we all prayed for them .
In the two and a half hour flight I could tuck in a spicy Bukhara biriyani while watching a movie in my pad 
we were off to Hong kong ,
The pilots clear voice was informing us that we would be cruising at an altitude of 35000 feet and Hong Kong was expected to be a bit foggy and cold .
that was an understatement as we knew later  no not the cruising or the foggy part but the cold bit !
Hong Kong was frigidly cold as we hurried up  in the line  to  the immigration counter .
India being one of the many countries Hong kong would let in with an on  arrival tourist visa it was over fast.
 it was the trademark of Hong kong as a  hassle free tax free tourist haven over the last century while the British had colonised and perfected this label
soon after the first opium wars between Britain and China in 1939 to 1942 
( because China refused to buy opium from Britain ! Oh these English  )
Hong kong was leased to Britain in perpetuity after treaty of Nanking in 1842
 later came kowloon peninsula in 1860 after China lost to Britain in the second Opium war and new territories in 1898 as lease for 99 years this included Lantau island where the present International airport is situated .
 it was occupied by Japan between 1941 and 1945 .
Growing from a humble fishing village this group of islands would grow into a massive metropolis ticking like a dynamite almost fiery in nature .
After the 100 year lease a reluctant  Chriss patten Hongkongs poster boy Governor had to part with his beloved city country nestled between the South China sea and the Pearl river delta  and hand it over legally to China in 1997
 this was a time of fear for the residents as they did not know their status anymore .
China played thier   trump card by making Hong kong  a   specially administered region within  China under the principle of one country two systems the other SAR was Macau which was liberated from the Portugese in 1999.
I would visit Macau too .

New York ,London and Hong kong are  being three cities in the world that matter ,it is also the worlds most vertical city .
on July 1 1997 Hong kong was handed over to china after 156 years of existence as a  British colony .
As a specially administered region it had a law based on English law ,a parliament but defence was by China

 I leaned on the window expecting an  aerial view of scintillating skyscrapers but all I saw was water ,the plane glided into a runway abutting  the sea .
The International Airport Hong kong  in Lantau island was actually near Hong kong city  away from the bustle and hustle though  .it was well connected by all sorts of transport by  high speed trains ,ferries ,buses and MRT and cabs .
Caritas biachi hotel in Yumatai kowloon where I had booked my room online was to pick me up as I had requested for the same .

The immigration and baggage reclaim was smooth and in minutes I was out and bought a local sim card for my phone and an octopus card which is a smart card that could be swiped in all modes of transport and also in convenience stores and eateries like Mcdonalds .It cost 150 HK Dollars of which  50 dollars was deposit it could be topped up and it was valid for three years .
I scanned the faces with welcoming boards and I could fine none with my name on it so I finally called the hotel  the receptionist informed me that no pick up was arranged as they had not received any such message to my consternation but he was kind enough to tell me that bus no 21 A would bring me  near the  hotel ,so  my daughter and myself  towed our  luggage and got into 21 A 
the trip was smooth the climate cool the bus comfortable and the view amazing We looked forwards to Hong kong .
There was some confusion as we got down one stop ahead on instruction of our misguiding receptionist and dragged our luggage through crowded pavements  two youngsters taking pity on our predicament unfolded a map to tell us we just had to walk another 300 meters to our hotel .
I vented my anger on reaching the hotel and the receptionist  knew that day how an angry Indian would look like !
After this initial outburst Hong kong never again gave me the opportunity to lose my cool .
After freshening up we once again asked the receptionist our way to the Victoria peak 
This time he made upby giving us all details and the maps needed ,it was just a matter of time when my  daughter got the hang of things and became an expert using the MRT map and navigating me for the rest of my Hong kong days as I was congenitally navigation  challenged !

We alighted in Yumatai station in Tseun Wan line and changed in central station to the Island line to get down at Admiralty station from there it was a five minute walk to the Peak Tram station to go up the Victoria peak ,on the way we passed the  beautiful St Johns  cathedral 

We also saw the thin and tall Hong Kong city trams plying in slow non nonchalance

The peak tram itself is  a funicular railway to go up the victoria peak ,there also were  roads and escalators !
Peak Tram was opened in 1881 to cover a distance of 1.4 km each way and a height of 1200 feet.
it had six stations in between the lower Garden road to the Peak on top
it was very cold on top and the winds made it freezing but the view was stunning ,as dusk gathered the fairy tale neon lit behemoth of a city with the blue seas the sailing ships and the yatches and the mountains in the far horizon rising  like a specter in front of us .
 our cameras clicked furiously to capture the images for posterity

There was a Madam Tussaud's version of a wax museum but this was a much watered down version one which did not excite us much .
We huddled into the huge shopping complex cum food court cum lookout multistory building for some warmth 
souvenir hunters and tourists thronged like flocks of migrating birds jostling and shouldering their way ahead to ascend and descend the relentless escalators that carried the human ants .

After some time of this hustle we joined a line to get down in the tram the line being in the exposed roadside was chilly and people ached to get into the warm station by the winding que finally we got into the tram and descended in unabashed silence ruminating on the endless capabilities of humans
We took the Metro  from Admiralty back to central station  and changed our trains to Yumatai ,refreshed ourselves in our hotel.
we then walked down to the nearby temple or the night market where anything from pins to pistols ( toy of course  ) were sold by Chinese merchants ,As Indians who love to bargain we successfully did our bit to buy handfuls of USB discs of different shapes ,seeing its images in FaceBook  my cousin Balan warned me that they were likely to be useless ,later he proved right as not one of them worked ,so its a warning for anyone venturing to Hongkong not to buy these from street markets cheap they may be .
Browsing in the brightly lit street market in the frigid evening was a nice experience ,we returned back tired to get  into the warmth of our hotel rooms and for a much needed slumber .

Next day we decided to go to  the Ocean park 
This Hong kongs marine theme park opened in 1977
and  has received several prestigious awards over the years

The Twelfth most visited marine park in the world receiving more than 10 million visitors so far
the design and concept of the park is aimed on ocean and animal conservation for ,education along with entertainment .there are so many aquariums one for the Artic region with polar bears  in temperature controlled facilities ,the Antartica wing had  walruses and penguins ,Dolphinariums ,all types of fishes in huge aquariums with excellent interactive viewing modes were present .
 special shows and movies are staged often
The old Hongkong area is a classic representation of how Hongkong was in its past  with its old buses trams and boats

The ocean park was spread over two huge hills and water with  a cable car connecting  them
 there were a lot of rides including hair  raising roller coasters ,360 degrees swings 
 people who get their thrill from these were really in their elements ans that did not include me !

By the time we were back from Ocean park it was evening and it was turning dark and colder so we took a bus from Metro station  to the Avenue of stars waterfront ,modeled after the famous LA version  here the stars were mostly Chinese and the only two we knew were Bruce LEE and Jackie Chan
The waterfront was like a freezer with gusty winds driving people to huddle behind convenient buildings nearby
We waited for the famous light and sound show to begin at 8pm
 this a 365 day affair and one of the longest running shows in the world ,at 8pm sharp the already well lit waterfront with gaily lit cruises and yatches came alive as a coordinated computerized laser lights  were emitted in myriad co lours from buildings across
 a sight to behold indeed and a great photo opportunity

Day three Hong kong we were off to see the other well known landmark Disneyland 
Hongkong Disneyland was much smaller than the original in Orlando USA
We took a cab in the morning to Lantau island and got off at Sunny bay Metro   station ,

We had booked a hotel in Discovery Bay near Disneyland for this day and we sped there in the hotel shuttle from sunny Bay .
Discovery bay was a quiet and scenic neighborhood , the long neat road lined by flowers wound its way through two tunnels and picturesque sceneries    more like an European town rather than a Hongkong suburb .
The Auberge ,Discovery Bay was a towering but cosy hotel facing the lapping bay and the small town in front ,its huge lobby had friendly receptionists and a helpful  concierge who got us our rooms well before the check in time and arranged for us to be shuttled to Disneyland itself around 10 km from there .
We had booked the tickets online and at 350 HongKong Dollars 
( 3000 INR )each which would include all rides and shows 
it was we felt reasonable ,
We had brought no confirmation slip but all we needed was to key in  our confirmation numbers stored  in my mobile to get a ticket popping out and in we went after the mandatory checking of our bags and selves ,there was no fuss about food or water being taken in like we see in Indian amusement parks or even some newbie cinema theaters in Chennai where they literally did a cavity search in the name of security !
Disneyland opened in front of us with the legendary Mickey surfing over a fountain and we clicked away photos 

The classic USA city part had early 19th century buildings old automobiles and parked buses for photo opportunities Mickey and Minnie ,the Donald ducks  Cindrella and several other Disney characters floated around ,there were big ques to get photographed with these smiling antic filled characters ,all of them are permanent employees of Disneyland and take part in the evening parade and some shows .
there were a twins pair of  cleaning boys who suddenly converted their bins into drums and gave an enthralling drum ensemble grinning all along and suddenly they put all back and said they had to get back to cleaning which was their act .
Disney pavilion showed how comic characters came to life by fast movements and the painstaking works involved in creating those moments in the days where there were no computer graphics there even was a class to learn some quick drawing in the true Disney spirit .
we then went to the future city which was full of roller coaster rides into space and its fantasies ,the chuggy steam boat ride took us to deep Africa with near living elephants and rhinos and revolting snakes as we were made wet with spraying water from the elephants tusk ,Mystic house took us into a fairyland of treasures collected by its owner and his monkey
the Disney show itself was a big success and we waited with bated breath to see the enthralling parade of all the characters as lively as a Brazilian carnival
it was chilly as we waited for the 8 pm fireworks to begin  it was worth the wait as a thousand suns lit the sky and threw flowers in myriad colors against the backdrop of sleeping beauty castle the best spectacle in Disneyland ,we moved our tired legs back to our shuttle to reach our hotel for a deep slumber as we dreamed mickey mouses .

Morning we went for a slow walk around the Auberge ,the place was quite elegant with lovely cottages neat pavements cute bus stops and people walking with their dogs very relaxed ,
All these people had to do to reach Hongkong was just to drive to Sunny bay MRT by bus or car  park their cars and take a train to the downtown areas to reach in 10 minutes which shows how satellite planned cities can be created with efficient transportation .

We wanted to go to see the big Buddha temple in NongPing which needed us to take metro from sunny bay to Nongping and walk to cable car station ,run by private network the cable was expensive at around 150 HK dollars which is around 1200 INR each but took almost 45 minutes to reach its destination ,it went over the city the airport the sea and towering hills ,this by itself was a a sight seeing trip .

We reached the tourist village hungry and coldand stepped into an Indian restaurant where among other things Tandoori chicken Biryani and Gulab jamuns gave us some much needed warmth 
The fog shrouded Lord Buddha perched in the pinnacle of a hill in a mystic mirage and strangely this  made him look more alive .

We had no time or strength to go up the hill as we had to return back by afternoon ,back in the cable car and the metro and the shuttle we reached Auberge to bid goodbye to the hospitable staff and to Honkong for now as we were off by ferry to Macau which is another story by itself and that's  for another day .

1 comment:

Maddy said...

great that you enjoyed it. reading your blog made it seem like we were there. actually our visit to HK was just as it was being handed over back to the Chinese...

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