Sat 4 Sep 2010 - Sun 12 Sep 2010
Toby and I really didn't need another reason to visit Hong Kong, but we sure had a good one. Four of Toby's aunts, two cousins and two spouses still live there, so we were excited to visit them and reconnect with his roots.
We had a fantastic week visiting popular attractions, catching up with a university friend, and spending time with family doing what family does best - eating at some amazing restaurants. It is a completely different experience travelling to a city where you have local connections to show you around and recommend unadvertised hot spots. For a week we felt as though Hong Kong was a second home.
We focused our sightseeing on Kowloon, Repluse Bay, Lantau Island, Victoria Peak, the Piers, and retracing locations from Toby's grandparents' past. Many fond memories were triggered, and new ones were made. We were amazed that one city could have it all - a booming metropolis, sandy beaches, mountains, tropical forests, entertainment, an amazing variety of food, and character to boot. We also did some shopping in the many unique districts.
Hong Kong is noticeably different than mainland China. I remarked to our uni friend that I didn't think Hong Kong and China had anything in common. He laughed, and agreed. Then after further thought he added, "We share the same history."
Hong Kong was under British rule until 1997, and the major differences are quite obvious. The language is Cantonese (with many more English speakers than in Mainland), the currency is Hong Kong Dollars, and the side of the road driven on is the left. Media, including magazines, television shows and advertisements, are more open, with obvious Western influences. The line of products available in stores looked different, as did the stores themselves. Beyond that, the culture feels different. Rules and sanitation are strongly valued and the city runs efficiently without the chaos that accompanies many Chinese cities. There is even a "no spitting in the garbage can - it spreads germs" sign in Metro stations. There was also antibacterial coating on elevator buttons and hand rails. Queues were the norm, and traffic flowed in an orderly fashion without honking.
Hong Kong was one of our favourite cities to visit so far and we will definitely be back!