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Hong Kong

Hong Kong - A Superpower City

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View Karl & Paula's Adventure (so far...) on karlnpaula's travel map.

They say the world’s top five ‘Global Cities’ are New York, London, Pairs, Tokyo and Hong Kong. This statement is obviously controversial and I’m sure will get anyone’s back up if their favourite city (or Nations Capital) is not included above or within these top 30 global ratings (see Wikipedia). Edinburgh for example does not even make the top 30 but in my view is one of the world’s most inspirationally mystical cities due to the history, culture and architecture. It is also considered as one of the most picturesque cities in Europe, and has been voted by backpackers’ as their favourite European destination, so why doesn’t it make the list? Well, Edinburgh like many other great cities we have discussed in this blog such as Brisbane, George Town, Glasgow, Hanoi, Kota Kinabalu and Melbourne lack the political, economic and infrastructural edge that is required to qualify to the global-city superpower league. Having spent the past five days immersed in the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong I can confidentially say that I have visited a true superpower city.

Probably the biggest impression that will stay with me about Hong Kong is its 24 hour city vibe. You can literally do anything at any time of the day. Our final day was a busy one and an example of why Hong Kong operates on this 24/7 policy. During the day we decided to head to Lantau Island by train which is Hong Kong’s largest island. Here there are plentiful tourist activities such as Hong Kong Disneyland, beautiful beaches and a Giant Buddha. Wait a second I hear you say, ‘Beautiful beaches when there is a population of 7 million in a land space half the size of London, I don’t believe it!’...well it’s true. Hong Kong has some great beaches and they are all within a 1 hour train ride from the Central business district. This is something the other ‘Global Cities’ can certainly not compete with. So we decided to check out Cheung Sha beach which is located in Southern Lantau and we literally had the place to ourselves on a sleepy Tuesday afternoon. We then headed back to Tung Chung which is one of the MTR stations and took the cable car up to see the world’s biggest Giant Buddha. At the backdrop of the Giant Buddha you have sweeping views of Lantau Island and you literally feel that you are in a mystical Chinese mountain range with not a skyscraper in sight. I then realised that anything is possible in Hong Kong and it will never be more than an hour away whether it be mountaineering, sailing, surfing, shopping, gambling, eating or partying. Incidentally, if you tried, you could potentially do all of these activities all within the one day.


In the evening we then met with Jules and Winnie for a final meal. This time they decided to take us for an all you can eat and drink Korean BBQ for under £10. This is where you can select and cook your own food. Again being with Jules, this meant that I felt compelled to try certain meats such as pig cheek and various types of indistinguishable shell-fish and seafood. Even though it was 11pm on a sleepy Tuesday evening, we decided to walk around Causeway Bay to discover a bustling district of shops, bars and restaurants which were just packed. To put it in perspective, it was so busy we were unable to sit down in an ice-cream shop as there were no available tables. This then made me think how on earth anyone in the working world manages to get any sleep here as there is just so much to do. We then said our goodbyes to Jules and Winnie with Paula and I taking a taxi back to our hotel. On our way back to our hotel I gazed out the cab window looking at the central district buildings such as the architecturally immense HSBC Main Building designed by Sir Norman Foster and the International Finance Centre (IFC) building, or otherwise known as the hair clipper, which both grace Hong Kong’s skyline. I then realised as we sadly headed back to the hotel as our Asian trip was drawing to a close, that Hong Kong has been one of the most memorable moments of my travel career and we had experienced in my view, what the world’s ‘Global City’ is really all about.



Hong Kong, China

Posted by karlnpaula 07:02 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (0)

An Epic Day in Hong Kong!!!

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View Karl & Paula's Adventure (so far...) on karlnpaula's travel map.

It may sound cheesy but I have dreamt for years about the day I would visit Hong Kong. I have only been here for a day but it still feels like a dream. Hong Kong is an epic city on all proportions. Home to 7 million people, Hong Kong is the third most densely populated area in the world with 6200 people per every km² (...so pretty dense, but by no means as dense as the denser Tokyo). It is also regarded as the ‘World’s International City’ where ‘East meets West’ meaning that everyone from all walks of life can be comfortable here in a hybrid culture that is founded on traditional Chinese heritage but explicitly borrows the best bits from British colonialism. But with that all said, is it any good...?

Getting to Hong Kong was by no stretch an easy ride and if it was not intentional we would have never made it here due to cost and time. Our original plan was to take the night train from Hanoi through mainland China to arrive in Hong Kong over the space of three days. This in itself sounds an epic trip (and one we desperately wanted to do), but not realising the technicalities of trying to get a Chinese visa in Vietnam proved too ambitious and problematic given our time constraints. Instead we opted to do a killer budget airline route. We flew from Hoi Ann to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), then to Singapore, then onward to Hong Kong. Unbelievably, this route was still cheaper than flying Hanoi-Hong Kong (which is a 90 minute flight) on Vietnam Airlines, the only flight carrier to offer a direct route. Overall, the whole transit journey totalled 35 hours which was very tiring but it was immediately clear it was certainly worth it once we landed on Chinese territorial soil.

When we arrived in Hong Kong our first taste of the city was the sprawling consumerist monster airport. The airport was massive and if you like shopping you could make an immediate start here. It was also clear the transportation and accommodation systems were incredibly efficient. As Paula and I like to pride ourselves on being the disorganised traveller, we decided to rock up (at 9pm) with no booked accommodation and see what we could muster up. Thankfully, we managed to book a last minute four star hotel on Kowloon for half cost of what it would normally cost if you were to book in advance – great! We then proceeded to catch a double-decker bus into the city centre and we almost felt a slight taste of déjà vu as we hadn’t been on one of these buses in over a year. What was even freakier was the motorway network looks very similar to the UK’s and at some points I could have been in Glasgow. Also having spent two weeks immersed in the chaos of Vietnam, it felt somewhat settling to be back in civilised normality. The fact that we felt the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong was ‘normal’ perhaps suggests how chaotic Vietnam really was. When we arrived at our destination we checked into our plush hotel and slept!


Our first day was an intensely busy as we met my ex Australian house mate Julian. In 2005 I lived with Jules in Brisbane and we hadn’t seen each other in over 5 years, so there was a lot of catching up to do. Jules is Malaysian born, but has lived in Hong Kong for the majority of his life and is now working as an architect. I was especially excited to meet him as I’ve heard from sources that he offers ‘The Best Guided Tour of HK’ so I was sure it was going to be a busy few days. As soon as we met him at ‘Fife Street’ (yes Fife St, my hometown’s county) at the MTR subway station there was no time spared as we rushed around the Mong Kok district on Argyle Street (also one of Glasgow’s main shopping streets) which is renowned for Chinatown, clothes and technology. Here you can buy any mobile phone, computer or camera imaginable and you could easily spend a whole day here just taking it all in.


Jules then made a real effort to give us a real insight into the luxurious side of Hong Kong. He decided that we should meet his girlfriend Winnie in the lobby of the oldest surviving hotel, The Peninsula Hong Kong. Opened in 1928, The Peninsula has been voted as the world’s best hotel on several occasions and it was easy to see why. As we squeezed past the fleet of parked Rolls-Royce Extended Wheelbase Phantoms, we were then greeted by a dorky bell-boy who welcomed us to the hotel lobby which was a blinding parade of classical grandeur and elegance which is absolutely world-class. As an elegance barometer I decided to take it on myself to use the guest toilette facilities where there was a concierge on call who would probably take care of any pressing needs. To freshen up from the previous days Vietnamese market stall curry, I opted for a free scoosh of Eau de Toilette and a golden stitched heated towel. The whole experience was very pleasant. It was then clear we had come a very long way since Borneo Global Backpackers on the start of our South East Asian tour!


Once we met with Winnie we then explored Tsim Sha Tsui or TST. TST is located on the cape of Kowloon Peninsula which is home to Victoria Harbour which is the gateway to Hong Kong Island. Like visiting Sydney harbour for the first time, Victoria Harbour had a similar impact on me as the sprawling view of the Hong Kong Island skyline is simply incredible and unforgettable. We then decided to watch the nightly ‘light show’ which could be best described as very ecologically inefficient and something you would most likely see in a kid’s amusement park. It was amusing nonetheless and we then immediately proceeded to a Japanese restaurant which was a real local secret and real delight. For Paula and I, this was our first ever experience of eating at an authentic Japanese restaurant and Jules and Winnie certainly took us out of our comfort zones. They introduced us to an eclectic range of new foods such as a rice cheese bake to goose liver and the whole experience was just fantastic.


To finish off the evening, we all headed back to our plush hotel, got kitted out in our new Vietnamese tailor made clothes and then hit Hong Kong’s bustling ‘24 hour night-life’. Unlike other big cities I have visited, Hong Kong really does not sleep – the city is too busy to sleep. There are plentiful restaurants, bars and clubs which are open 24 hours and we took full advantage of the fact. This included hitting up an ice-bar, buying beer from the Seven Eleven and drinking outside the pub because it was too expensive inside (which is frowned upon but perfectly legitimate) and trying various shots which were strong and large enough to kill a horse. By 6AM we decided to omit the English fry-up idea and call it the fantastic end to a superb day in my view, one of the world’s greatest cities.



Hong Kong, China

Posted by karlnpaula 04:34 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (0)

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