Hong Kong Crazy

‘A city is a place where there is no need to wait for next week to get the answer to a question, to taste the food of any country, to find new voices to listen to and familiar ones to listen to again’ – Margaret Mead.Following my previous post about South Korea, I also visited Hong Kong during Chinese New Year. I have heard so many wonderful things about this place and while I am still living in China and only a couple of hours flight away I was eager to visit. Hong Kong was mayhem throughout my four days there as it was the popular lunar holiday so the city was full of Chinese and western tourists. Queue’s went on for hours (particularly the one for the ladies toilets), the streets were rammed and our money seemed to deplete on a daily basis. Despite this I absolutely loved it. Hong Kong is a breath of fresh air in comparison to Beijing. Whilst still technically China it is like a home away from home. It has its own currency, English is spoken everywhere, it is super multi-cultural, has a significantly warmer climate and people are friendly and approachable. Though the city is dense and tall, it does not take long to escape from it into the mountains or alongside the sea. The city reminded my boyfriend of New York whilst I could see elements of London and Milan.Our first day was spent exploring the centre of Hong Kong island, which was full of people socialising and picnicking on the street, a surprising notion though I was in full support of it. The modern buildings towered above us though you could still catch glimpses of the mountains behind the glass windows. After a brief exploration we took a taxi to Victoria Peak, this was busy beyond belief but we managed to avoid the density of the crowds by choosing a walkway winding round the mountain as oppose to climbing the popular tower. The views were the same, if not better as you caught the lush green of the mountains too. The city is vast and tall and the sparkle of the sun, sea and glass buildings really make it a pleasure to look at. That evening we enjoyed a nice Thai dinner (there was such a variety for food we avoided Korean and Chinese when we could!) and walked up Nathan Road, the main street in Kowloon and where our hotel was situated. The street was packed with tourists that evening enjoying a Chinese New Year parade set with dragons and dancers. It was wonderful to be a part of the festive atmosphere.Day number two consisted of a more chilled day exploring Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery, a wonderful walk through beautifully trimmed trees, miniature lakes and bright pagodas. It was beautiful to see the dense buildings in the background of such a variety of colours and nature. I loved the city-nature ratio in Hong Kong. That evening we went to the pier to watch the symphony of lights across in Hong Kong island. Though enjoyable the 8 minutes of flashing lights accompanied with music was a little underwhelming. Even so, I enjoyed watching the variety of tourists cling together in the evening chill and the variety of colours mingle before our eyes.Our third day began early, we caught the ferry (first class!) to Macau and first of all headed to the old town across the bridge. This had an extremely European look and feel to it as it was a former Portuguese colony. Even signs were written in both Chinese and Portuguese. Once again, tourists littered the streets however we were able to find quieter side alleys to roam down and explore. We visited the old city walls where we could see a wonderful view across the old town, we also visited the ruins of St Paul’s, Senado Square and multiple gardens. All this scenic spots were accompanied with Chinese New Year decorations, a lovely reminder of the country I was in. After a few hours of exploring we returned to Taipa Island where 10 of the 38 casino’s Macau has are located. Gambling in Macau has been legal since the 1850s, it is the only place in China where casinos are legal and has become known worldwide as the ‘gambling capital of the world’. The biggest casino is The Venetian Macao, this came with its own streets of water and gondolas. The Parisian, the casino next door, was accompanied with a miniature Eiffel tower. The shopping centre was set up like Paris streets and there was even a French singer and accordion player. As a Chinese resident, you need never go to Europe with these so close! The casino’s were crazy, minimum bets ranged from £10 to £200. There was a high betting section we were not allowed in but you could almost see the millions being lost and won (mainly lost). I made a single bet of £10, lost it within seconds and vowed not to gamble again. With the lack of windows, clocks and everything you require within walking distance inside – restaurants, shops and hotel – it is easy to see how people can get stuck there for days. Both The Venetian and The Parisian however were sensational in terms of décor, with the money they make in the casino’s they can certainly afford it. The ceilings were high and coated in grand colours, the marble floors were smooth and gleamed and posh paper fabricated the walls. I even felt like I needed to dress up for the reception area of the hotel. Though expensive, it was fascinating to explore Macau and all its glory.On day number four, our final day, we took a trip to Tian Tan Buddha, also known as the Big Buddha. This is a large bronze statue of Buddha Shakyamuni completed in 1993. It stands at 112 feet and sited near Po Lin Monastery which we also explored, it symbolises the harmonious relationship between people and faith, man and nature. We climbed 268 steps to reach this magnificent statue, surrounded by six smaller bronze statues known as ‘The Offering of the Six Devas’. Once returned safely to the bottom, we explored the monastery then followed a Path of Wisdom, a trial through the mountains that led to stunning views and multiple standing logs with the Heart Sutra inscribed on them. This is often cited as the best known and most popular of Buddhist scripture and can be translated as ‘The Heart of the Perfection of Wisdom’.It was a real joy and privilege to explore Hong Kong over Chinese New Year, it is a wonderful, bustling, bright city that feels warm and welcoming. If you find yourself in this part of Asia, I recommend you take at least a couple of days to visit!

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