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HONGKONG
Submitted by Tanja Hill March 2004

So, where to start... Sunday was just chaos trying to get everything ready before Lena & Ocia picked me up and took me to Heathrow. I can't thank you enough girls, for giving up a nice Sunday afternoon! The drive was very exciting too, not because of the speed, but rather the lack of it! The North Circular Road was not shifting! I made the flight though without problems and with time to spare, but with more adrenalin in my veins than would have been necessary!

Boeing 747's are so magnificent, aren't they? I secretly wish I could be the pilot... but then I would miss out on the in-flight movies. Hard choice! This flight was a "Baby Flight". There were two of them on board, and one sat across the isle from me. I have to say, that thankfully the little lad slept soundly through the night in his flight cot, but once in a while the London-Auckland journey got the better of him, and he gave a full display of rapid colour changes, a bit like a cuttlefish, ranging from pink to beetroot. The latter came with the unmistakable sound effects one sometimes hears at Tesco's - and some perhaps hear them even at home (!!!) (for the benefit of those not familiar with the UK grocery shopping, Tesco is a large supermarket chain).

Finally the plane landed smoothly over the sky scrapers and harbour in Hong Kong. With a big tired grin on my face and Hong Kong arrivals stamp on my passport, I was ready for some rest at the hotel. ("20th Floor, madam!" - can't quite get used to how tall the buildings here are!)

So what is Hong Kong like? This city is so alive! There are garish neon signs everywhere with incomprehensible Chinese writing (good luck, Lisa for learning it!!). The smell of Peking duck is mixed with the rather asphyxiating fumes from the countless double-decker buses and taxis. Streets are buzzing with thousands of Chinese faces, and double the number of Chinese elbows to go with it. There are some European faces too, with European elbows - in fact there are faces and elbows from around the world - and they are probably in your way when you're in a hurry....

If you're a shoppaholic, Hong Kong is the place to be! The shopping centres are a sight in themselves. Streets are spotlessly clean, but they would be with a fixed penalty of HK$1500 for littering or spitting (1 GBP = 14 HK$). MTR (metro) is very easy to use, with stations marked with flashing lights on the route map that even tells you on which side to exit. Hong Kong people are almost addicted to technology, they love both natural remedies and smoking (the latter a lot!), and young people spend their time in smoky cyber cafes (the noise from constant battle between superheros and villains is unbearable - horrible places!!); in bars drinking heavily promoted Blue Girl beer, and singing at box karaoke clubs (where people hire a little room to sing in so they don't have to do it in front of people - what's the point though?).

Apart from a few very persistent touts for tailors or shops selling fake Louis Vuitton and Gucci goods, the Hong Kong Chinese are very courteous and respectful people when doing business. (A tip: remember always to give and receive with BOTH hands, whether it is credit or business card, a receipt or whatever!).

You can sample local delicacies in little cafes, where you order something and get delivered something hopefully close enough. There are dishes where you literally do not know whether you are eating fish, animal or vegetable. I worked out after a while that the square bits in my red curry were probably just potato after all. Pearl milk tea is one of my favourites. It comes with different flavours, like ginger, green tea (delicious) and tea/coffee mixture (not as awful as it sounds). They all have black round pearls of tapioca on the bottom. Lovely! However, I gave the popular chicken feet salad a miss this time...

And what did I do?:
I visited the Embassy of Indonesia (three times in fact, to get my visa for Bali, which I didn't have time to do in London having found out about the regulation changes last minute). I also took the Peak Tram, which runs to the top of the "peak" at 4-27 degree angle, and from there, on a clear day, you get a breathtaking view of Hong Kong. Well, it just wasn't a clear day when I went up.... I would have needed a compass to find which direction Hong Kong was, as the impressive skyscrapers and the ever such a busy harbour area had vanished in the cloud. I took a picture though - to prove I was there (and made a mental note to return, with hopefully a better weather). I cannot complain about the weather: the drizzly rain was welcome after +30 degree temperature on arrival, as it cooled the air and lowered the pollution levels. On that note, you can probably buy some really snazzy pollution masks here.

Lazer Show:
The most spectacular event to witness is the laser show 8pm every night. Around the harbour area, most of the skyscrapers put on their disco lights and there are light beams and green laser beams illuminating the clouds above! The HSBC building put up a very impressive display too, and the show was particularly spectacular viewed from the ferry terminal in Kowloon near Trim Sha Tsui to Hong Kong Island (where the business district is). I managed to get some pictures, which I may be able to send if I find a place with CD-rom drives.

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery:
I decided to get out of the centre of Hong Kong to find some more oxygen and serenity at the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. This place has to be seen to be believed! There are hundreds of life size Buddha images with hilarious expressions on their faces lining up the steps to the monastery. For whoever, who has created this delightful humorous retreat in the name of religion, Thank You! The world needs more places like this! At the temple on the top, there were literally 10,000 Buddhas lining the walls of the inside of the temple! The name is certainly no understatement.
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