Saturday, April 4, 2009

Day One-Hong Kong, PRC

Day One-Hong Kong

Waking up is always easy the first morning of a port and this day was no different. I knew I had the SAS “City Orientation” trip with Becca and was quite excited to have everything planned for me ahead of time. Brittany had a FDP (Field Directed Practica-which are basically school related field trips) so she went off exploring with Nathan before her trip.

We were ported right across the river from Hong Kong Island on Kowloon. We had an AMAZING view! Brittany and I headed out to the 6th floor deck and took some great pictures with the skyline.

It took quite a while for the ship to get cleared so we didn’t have time to head out to the mall that we were ported at (literally, you had to walk into the mall to get a bus or what not) before boarding the bus for our trip.

I took my seat next to Becca and stared out at the plethora of skyscrapers. Hong Kong is the financial capital of Southeast Asia and it certainly looked the part. Unlike mainland china Hong Kong had been a British colony for around 100 years (it was also occupied by Japan during WWII). However, in 1997 Britain’s “99-year lease” on HK ended and they returned it to mainland china under a one country-two systems idea. That basically means that the very commercialized and capitalistic city maintains its British Common law but does not get to have control in foreign affairs or defense. They also maintain their own currency: the Hong Kong Dollar.

Our first stop was the Sampan Tour Point where we took a riverboat cruise. It was kind of hoaky but we got to see “boat people” who spend their whole lives on the water. At various points the government tried to kick them our of their boats but they couldn’t sleep on land because they were so used to the movement of the ocean. Very Interesting. We also passed giant dinner restaurant boats.

From there the bus drove up a tall mountain known as Victoria’s Peak太平山, which is over 1,800 feet high. It was a pretty hazy day, so the view was not quite as magnificent as it could have been, but one could still see the sweeping skyscrapers and even our ship!

After viewing the scene Becca and I headed into a small mall on the mountain and had Hong Kong cuisine which has been internationally flavored (it is different than Chinese food). It was THE best curry chicken I have ever had. After scarfing down our fast food style meal (again it was delicious) we headed back outside and low and behold the haze had lightened! We had a MUCH better view!

We then headed back to the meeting place where we walked to the funicular train station. When we got inside I was perplexed by the fact that every row of backed benches faced the peak of the mountain so that we were going backwards on the seat UNTIL we started to descend. Let me tell you, the angle was pretty intense! If not for the seatbacks we would have flown!

We walked out of the station and began our walking tour. We viewed the oldest church in Hong Kong which was established by the British. What struck me was the scaffolding which was made of bamboo!! Cheaper and more limber than steel, I guess.

We walked around for a little while before stopping near a railway station which was flooded with people picnicking. It was kind of odd since they were literally picnicking under a skyscraper, but whatever lol. Money make the world go round, but it seemed to particular make Hong Kong go round. It seemed like every story our guide told us centered around money. He even pointed out two huge lion statues, one with its mouth open and the other with it closed, and went on to explain that one was to catch the money, while the other was to keep it.

Our guide gave us a little free time and after exploring the mall (the city is basically NYC on steroids, its all malls and skyscrapers) we headed into Starbucks where I was able to use my starbucks card from home. Globalization, gotta love it!

Our last stop was to the Man Mo Temple 文武廟, which is Taoist. It was created in worship of the God of Literature(Man) and the God of War (Wo). It was build during the Qing Dynasty in 1847. The interior of the temple was painted red with gold molding. It was filled to the brim with incense and adornments. There were conically shaped incense burning on the ceiling in the center of the temple, which held a red tag with Chinese writing on it. The whole place smelled strongly of it. A man was praying on an alter of sorts, holding incense. When he was done I politely asked him if it was appropriate if I said a little prayer while doing the same thing. He happily said yes and handed me some incense which after some thoughts I placed in a large gold bowl with many other burning incenses. I took quite a few pictures.

It was almost five by the time we returned to the ship and Becca really wanted to explore the mall sense a lot of her cloths got tie-dyed in the laundry (it really bites). So we walked around for a while. She picked up a few tops at Zara but I didn’t get anything because the exchange rate wasn’t favorable for international brands and frankly they didn’t have many authentic or boutiquey shops.

We had heard that there was going to be a skyscraper light show at 8 and that there would be a great view from the ship. When we glanced at our watches we realized that it was 7 so we ended up eating some yummy pizza at, believe it or not, California Pizza Kitchen. It was actually quite a nice change to eat familiar food!

Becca stayed at the mall to use wifi while I walked the 20 feet (lol) to the boat to see the light show. It was actually kind of cool. The buildings each lit up in a choreographed skit of sorts. I would recommend it if you stay in Kowloon, but its not worth crossing the river for.

After that I headed back to the room to pack and sleep and to hear about Brittany’s day.

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