Happy New Year everyone! For my last post of the year I'm writing about the beginnings of my visit to China a week ago. I flew into Hong Kong from Singapore and spent a very short day and a half there getting to know the city. Hong Kong draws many interesting parallels to Singapore, both being large port cities situated on a drop of land, a blend of East and West, dominated by the finance and services industry, fairly modern with high standards of living.
Yet I found Hong Kong to have more of a historic feel (obviously, as it has a much longer history compared to Singapore's five decades), and an almost old-New-York atmosphere throughout its narrow streets and markets.
I arrived in the Kowloon area early evening after taking a shuttle from the airport. One difference I noticed immediately - Hong Kong may still be in a tropical area, but it gets much colder than Singapore! The December damp and chill had settled onto the island - it was around 40 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to the high 80s I experienced only a few hours ago.
We began walking around, looking for dinner. The streets were packed full of people doing last minute holiday shopping. I noticed that the colors in the scenes all around me were so vibrant, from the bright neon lights to diverse colors of umbrellas to the deep red of the meats sold by shops along the streets.
We eventually ducked into a hole-in-the-wall noodle shop along one of the quieter side streets which appeared mostly frequented by locals. I ordered a tofu and vegetable noodle soup that came with one of my favorite foods, woodear mushroom.
After we ate we continued wandering along the streets and alleyways, taking in the sights, smells, and sounds. Hong Kong has a slightly grittier feel than Singapore, with more older, dilapidated buildings, and a confusing array of streets and languages. Unlike Singapore, where you can expect people to use English as the default, in Hong Kong there many people speak Cantonese, though they usually can understand Mandarin and to some extent English. I never knew how to respond when people began speaking to me in Cantonese - Mandarin or English?
The next day we decided to take a bus tour of the city. The main pick-off and drop-off point offered a view of the harbor, crisp and clear in the morning cold.
We picked Rickshaw Tours, which I do not recommend! There were hardly any other people on the bus, and the audio was not functioning for most of the time. Additionally, the bus driver was extremely unfriendly and did not drive very smoothly. I felt as if I were taking a public bus - which might have been even more interesting, in that I could observe people.
We got off at the Times Square, where there were many shopping options. Most of our short trip unfortunately consisted of only shopping and eating, as I had not done too much research and did not really know what else to do. I was also with my elderly grandparents, so we wanted to take it easy and not do too many strenuous activities.
We ended up eating lunch at Crystal Jade in the basement, a restaurant known for its noodles and dim sum. I ordered a wonton soup as well as some steamed bread. At the time my stomach had still not fully recovered from the food poisoning I got in Myanmar, so I wanted to err on the cautious side.
That afternoon, we headed into mainland China! To be continued...