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Strictly speaking, Hong Kong is part of China, but by agreement with Britain when it was handed over in 1997, it will be a semi-autonomous region for another 40 years.
Because of its history, Hong Kong feels like another world. This feeling is enhanced by its geography. It is a mountainous island. The city itself sits on the northern coast, where there are tall high rises right up along the water and climbing a ways up the hill behind them. Then the buildings stop and the woods begins! Quite an effect. Unlike other cities in the hills, where the city is built in spite of the incline or around it, Hong Kong seems to have been built in harmony with the hills. There are magical parks and walkways winding their way around the city. There are a series of additional islands which are connected with Hong Kong, such as the one the new airport is on. Across the water from Hong Kong Island is Kowloon, which is on the mainland.
Both Kowloon and Hong Kong Island were ceded to the British in perpetuity back in the early 1800s. When Hong Kong needed more space, China leased the New Territories to the British for 100 years. Ultimately, when the New Territories lease expired in 1997, the Chinese and the British agreed that the whole of Hong Kong needed to stay together, and thus Britain returned all of Hong Kong to the Chinese.
The symbol of Hong Kong - the Hong Kong Orchid.
After all of the time we spent in China, it was interesting to see that things worked differently here. For example, when the pedestrian crossing signal was green, the cross traffic actually stopped and pedestrians had the right-of-way. It was several days before we could trust that this would happen, after nearly being run over several times in Shanghai, Xi'an and especially Beijing! There were also queue lines drawn on the sidewalks and platforms. As people arrived, they queued in the line for their desired transport. And then when the tram or bus or train arrived, they got on in an orderly fashion, without pushing or butting into line. This is so very British and so very un-Chinese, where the rule is everyone for him- or herself, and pushing is the norm! I must say, these were welcome changes!
Hong Kong Island
Hong Kong Park
Like everything on Hong Kong Island, this park is built on the side of a hill. There is a 6 level playground, and a wonderful aviary! (Okay, admit it...you knew we would be drawn to an aviary!)
The Peak is the mountain right behind the central business district on Hong Kong Island. Everything seemed against us going to the Peak. The weather was gloomy and the Peak Tram was out of service (but only for the days that we were in Hong Kong!) - darn the luck! We took a double decked bus instead of the tram and we really enjoyed our picnic and walk on the Peak nonetheless!
The Mid-Levels Escalator
Since Hong Kong island is a series of peaks, the city itself is built right into the side of the mountain. From the downtown area, there are a series of escalators that take you up! It appears that people use the escalator to commute as they do reverse the direction after the morning rush! We visited a bookshop a few escalators up - the Organic Flow Book Shop. Then we decided it would be fun to just keep going up, so we did. It takes about 20 minutes from the bottom to the top - probably a lot longer if you're walking up hill. Once we got to the top we thought we'd wander back down. We took a series of walkways and tunnels, snuck through the zoo and a park and just as we were wondering where we were, we found ourselves at the US embassy!
China has gone Olympics crazy. Hong Kong is the venue for the equestrian events. This stairway might come in handy for your next round of Trivial Pursuit! Lastly, with a name like that (see rightmost photo), we thought we'd better head in, but the Wing Kee Noodle shops must be good since on a Saturday afternoon the line is rather long!
This must be the city with the most
fun options for getting around. There are buses and trams, both double-decker!
There is a subway, and an airport express train. There are ferries, too.
We liked the double-decker trams the best - 2HK$ each - so a quarter per person, and half
price for Anika.
The Dog Park
Anika loves taking pictures with Yannis' camera. She says she likes the sound of the shutter. She took a lot of dog photos! Want to see some? Dog Photos
Hong Kong has very strict littering laws. You can be fined for
littering with a gum
wrapper. I watched a woman walking her dog by our hotel. She had
trained the dog to signal his intent to defecate. She then placed a
piece of newspaper on the sidewalk, he did his business upon it and she
picked up the paper and threw it away! Needless to say, Hong
Kong was very neat and orderly.
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