Day 1, on the plane
Iím not really sure what to expect out of this trip. I like to go exploring a lot, especially on my own, but my dad has always been one of the best tour guides I've ever known and Hong Kong is a city that he knows well. Iím also looking forward to spending the time with him. He will be leaving on Thursday and then Iíll be staying in HongKong through Saturday or Sunday at a hostel, provided I find one that I like. I also think its going to be rather helpful having a guide in such an unfamiliar setting. There was something that was still similar about European cities, especially the fact that in most places, as long as I didnít try to speak, I could walk around the cities and blend in pretty well.
A little note about first class, or actually, business class on this 747. If I stretch my legs as far as they go AND point my toes, I cannot touch the seat in front of me. Theres a phone in the arm rest, and I could plug the laptop in to it if I so desired. Iíll pass, thanks. ? There also a monitor that comes out of the armrest. I have my choice of something like 6 channels. Mostly movies. I can also press the button that says map and it displays: Time of day in current zone, time at where you departed, time at where youíre arriving, projected arrival time, total time left, a overhead view of our flight path with the planes position indicated, current speed, wind conditions, temp, and a few other little tidbits
The flight is a non-stop 15-hour flight from Chicago to Hong Kong. Its exactly 12 hours time difference, meaning that itís about on the exact opposite side of the world from where I live. The other weird thing about this flight is that we go against the earthís rotation, so we chase the daylight all the way. Its daylight from the time I wake up in DC, to about 26 hours later when I go to bed in HongKong.
The airport was rather nice. Itís only a couple of years old. HongKong used to use an airport called KaiTak airport. It was right in the heart of downtown. It was built before things started getting real congested in the city. Itís still there, just not used. When you see it, itís hard to imagine planes used to land there. Big ones. Itís like trying to imagine someone landing a 747 down Broadway in Manhattan.
My dad and I took a shuttle bus to the Excelsior hotel, which I would say would be up there as one of the nicer hotels in HongKong. We settled in, and decided to go out and about, so as to not let jetlag take us over.
First night out/ First impressions
I think the first thing that you notice about the people of HongKong, is that everyone seems so much shorter. That, and the fact that no one has facial hair. Its just one of those things that you notice.
My dad and I went walking around for a good bit. The city is very overwhelming at first. So much so, that I have a hard time remembering exactly what my first impressions were. It was definitely crowded. You canít really find a street anywhere within the city that doesnít have a lot of people on it. I liken it to rush hour traffic in the morning. Thereís people on all roads. Even the back roads that are shortcuts.
Another thing you notice is the total lack of graffiti. I didnít see one bit of spraypaint or marker the whole time I was there, and it didnít matter where you went. Thatís one thing that HongKongíers are very proud of. There is very little crime in the city all together. There is a mafia like organization, called the TRIAD. From what I understand, a very powerful organization, but not one that goes around causing trouble at every chance. Regardless, I was able to walk anywhere at any hour of the night, and not really worry about anything, it is a very safe city.
As far as the appearance of the city, its architecture is very unique. Some traditional style buildings, and many newer hi-rise buildings. Each hi-rise had a different style to it, and each was more interesting than the next. None of them looked as though they had traditional designs, like youíd see in other cities.
We took the subway to most of the places that we went. The subway (called the MTR), is real nice. Itís rather new, only being 10 years old or so. The passcards are actually pretty neat. You get a card with a dollar amount on it, and then just waive it over the sensor, and it passes you through. You donít even have to take it out of your wallet. A few times, I had mine in my wallet, in my bag, and it still worked. Pretty cool gizmo. Kept people moving pretty fast, which was necessary.
The city reminded me of New York City a little bit. Very crowded, lots of shops, and lots of neon. My dad and I walked around some of the shopping areas around Central for a little bit, and then caught the ďStarĒ ferry for Tsim Sha Tsui. The ferry ride was awesome. Leaving Central, you can see the entire city, which at night is just an incredible sight to see. Every building tries to outdo the next with its lighting and design. There was even one building that had an ever changing fiberoptic lighting system that ran up all four sides.
MacLehose Trail / Monkeys