A Travellerspoint blog

Hong Kong

Zaijian China

sunny 22 °C

The sun has come out to welcome us back to Hong Kong as we make our way home...
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While Hong Kong may have officially been part of China for the past 20 years there's still plenty of reminders of its days in the British Empire. There is a Marks & Spencer's store in every mall; ancient trams bearing ads for Holland & Barrett rattle along the streets ; and you can take a double-decker to the seaside at Aberdeen or Stanley...
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Hong Kong is bursting with deep-pocketed tourists and wealthy Chinese who've slipped over the border in search of genuine luxury goods. However, in this part of the world you can't be certain that anything is the real McCoy. One Hong Kong retailer very seriously offered James a “Genuine handmade fake Rolex.”

As this is our last blog of this trip we thought we would mention a few things that might really surprise you about China.

Unlike one recently elected president, most Chinese are very environmentally conscious and are well aware of the need to improve air and water quality. Electric cars, scooters and bikes are fast becoming the norm...
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China's public toilets, which used to be as sanitary as typhoid fever, are now spotlessly clean, easily found and always free. The Guangzhou Metro service even posts maps showing where to find the loo at each underground station...
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All transportation is fairly inexpensive in China. There are thousands of miles of multi-lane toll highways with impressive bridges and tunnels, but don't expect anyone to stop for you at a pedestrian crossing. The cars and buses are as good as anywhere in the West, although some of the farmers' vehicles were kicking around in the days of Mao...
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The vast network of high speed rail lines is truly impressive, with world class stations and sleek bullet trains – be prepared to be wowed at more than 300 kilometres an hour.

China is generally a very clean country with an army of roadsweepers and garbage collectors keeping public spaces spotless. As for hygiene: The food isn't always appealing to us westerners, but the food handlers certainly are. Plastic gloves, hairnets and sneeze-guards are the norm and the chefs' uniforms are usually spotless...
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While some food prices are lower than in the west they have increased considerably since our last visit. You might still get a bowl of noodles or some dumplings for a couple of bucks in a local cafe, but you can easily pay upwards of fifty dollars a head for dinner in a classy restaurant...
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China isn't cheap today, (unless you are willing to rough it), and hundreds of millions of nouveau-riche Chinese have embraced the soft life. Hotel rooms and beds are huge and very comfy and the luxurious bed linens the envy of all. But when it comes to coffee the Chinese are getting hosed. The smallest Starbucks drip coffee will set you back some $7 Cdn and local coffee shops aren't much cheaper.

Despite English language being mandatory in schools most folk aren't willing to give it a go in public. Luckily for us Sheila had enough Mandarin to get us through, but almost all Chinese have a smartphone with a translate app so communication is rarely a problem today – although the results can sometimes be a little confusing...
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In short: today's China is clean, easily navigated and a fascinating country populated with friendly, helpful locals who will almost certainly want to be pictured with you. The Chinese are, in general, a happy, noisy, fun loving bunch who adore their families and are kind to strangers and want nothing more than world peace and a comfortable life. In short – the Chinese are just like us.

So, zaijian to China. We will be back. And goodbye to our friend Christine and to you dear blog reader. We look forward to your company next time on Blissful Adventures when we hope to introduce you to yet more beautiful and amazing places in our wonderful world.
Farewell for now from us and from our many Chinese friends...
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See you soon.

Posted by Hawkson 21:33 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (13)

Happy Days in Hong Kong

semi-overcast 21 °C

What a difference a day makes...
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Our Friday began in the Canadian snows as a rare blizzard blanketed Vancouver airport and delayed our midday departure. We eventually left ten hours late and arrived in Hong Kong at five am on Sunday morning. But what had happened to Saturday? Had we slipped through a time warp?
But it wasn't just the time. The temperature had jumped 22 degrees, the skies had cleared and we had waltzed into a balmy spring day...
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Hong Kong is in many ways similar to Vancouver. It is a shining city of highrise apartments and office towers on the rim of the Pacific Ocean. But at ground level it is another world. While Vancouver sprawls leisurely along its many waterfronts and gently eases its way into the surrounding valleys and mountains, Hong Kong is crammed into a dense jungle of concrete and glass towers that reveal only fragments of sky. However, when the skies clear and we step back a little from the bustle the soaring buildings are a testament to the builders of this city...
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...although watching the construction workers balancing on the flimsy bamboo scaffolding can be vertigo inducing...
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The cluttered twisting lanes and alleys of Hong Kong are in sharp contrast to the wide clean streets of its Canadian cousin. But it is the constant bustle and the exotic sights, scents and sounds of Hong Kong that makes it such a vibrant city and draws us back here...
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Hong Kong is at the crossroads between East and West and is truly cosmopolitan in all respects. While the majority of people are Chinese, the streets are thronged with people of every colour, race and creed and no one seems out of place. We receive no special attention here, although James is certainly a target for the many tailors' touts who promise inexpensive handmade suits, shirts and ties at every turn. And then there are the restaurants where Peking Duck is a staple...
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When it comes to food, Hong Kong can be as cheap or expensive as you make it. Five dollars will get you a decent breakfast including coffee, but the same five dollars will barely get you a medium Starbucks. Whereas, at this street cafe, five dollars will get you enough boiled pigs intestine for a family of four – the choice is yours...
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Local foods will play quite a part on this trip as we travel across southern Asia, but we are on the trail of tea. Our next stop will be Colombo in Sri Lanka, the capital of the island once known as Ceylon, the tea capital of the world. In the meantime – we will start with some Chinese green tea here in Hong Kong...
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Posted by Hawkson 22:04 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (8)

Hong Kong Reflections

overcast 23 °C

When a vibrant and bustling Hong Kong was handed back to China exactly 15 years ago everyone in the West worried that the ex-British colony would quickly lose its shine under communist rule. But nothing could be further from the truth. The world still comes here to shop, and there’s no shortage of upmarket global stores willing to help that happen. But the continual rise in the value of the Hong Kong dollar, and the huge numbers of mainland Chinese pouring in with cash in their pockets, means that prices have soared. Expensive skyscrapers are being jammed into every nook and cranny so the best way to see one is to look at its reflection in another…
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We only have three days in Hong Kong so we sprung for this glitzy waterfront hotelP1180147.jpg ...especially as they offered a great pre-paid promo rate.

However, some things haven’t changed in Hong Kong. The Star ferries that trundle back and forth across the harbour still offer a cheap view of Hong Kong’s famous skyscrapers…
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… and the iconic trams that have been running since 1904 still rattle around the island’s crystal canyons for about 25 cents a ride…
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Antique trams can even be rented for parties or weddings.
Everywhere we have been, from St. Petersburg to Moscow and Mongolia, and now Hong Kong, we have been beset with couples tying the knot in the most ostentatious, (and expensive), way imaginable. Here’s the happy group from just one of the ten weddings taking place at our hotel today…
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…But will they look this happy when they get the bill?
Here’s someone who happily paid the bill for our fabulous lunch in Hong Kong…
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This is our friend Innez whom James got to know in Toronto many years ago. Innez runs the PAL English Language school in Hong Kong and she is celebrating her 7th successful year of teaching kids, from toddlers to teens, how to learn while they play…
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While we love travelling the globe we also love meeting up with friends old and new on the way. We also discover many things as we travel so, in a way, we are following Innez’s philosophy – we learn as we play. Now we are off to play in Thailand – see you in Bangkok.

Posted by Hawkson 02:21 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (4)

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