HONG KONG & KOWLOON PARK
Hong Kong is an unusual mish-mash of cultures and people. Not quite Chinese, definitely not British, but an interesting hybrid place. Not surprising considering its colourful and unique past.
I try to respect and not pass judgement on other cultures I may not understand. The first thing that I notice is different as I walk around with my partner is that people are not shy about staring. In Australia people glance or even sometimes do a double take, however in Hong Kong they full on stare. They will even turn their heads and continue to stare over their shoulder as we walk past each other. It happens in the street, on the train or on trams. In Australia it would be considered rude, but in Hong Kong, I am not sure if it is or not, as everyone seems to do it. More often than not, it is my girl they looking at not me, so not sure if it’s a ‘pretty girl’ perv or what? It made me a bit mad at first, but have to keep telling myself I am in a foreign land with different acceptable practices.
Lots of people and advertising in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Spitting is another social convention that seems to be fine in Hong Kong. I saw many locals just spit wherever they were, in a mall, on a bus, it didn’t matter. Some men were really clearing their throats, and as we would say in Australia, ‘hocking a loogie’. Some of the more polite locals would spit in a bin. I didn’t see a handkerchief and surely they all can’t be sick. Still not sure why there is that much phlegm floating around? The smog?
The Hong Kong locals like to talk loud, especially on their mobiles. More than once I encountered men talking on their phones to the point of shouting, and it didn’t matter they were a foot away from you on a train.
These things were not overly bad as such, just a few differences that I noticed in my time there. Most of the people were friendly enough, offering their seat to my partner on a train or giving me my change with a warm ‘thank you’. More often than not we were left to our devices and no social interaction was attempted, probably because it was not necessary, or their English was not the best.
Hong Kong Island frpm Tsim Sha Tsui
The city itself is quite nice, located on a harbour; it is a SAR (Special Administration Region) of China. In 1839, refusal of the Qing Dynasty to sell Opium to the British resulted in the first Opium War between China and Britain, and Hong Kong Island was occupied by the British in 1841. In 1898, Britain obtained a 99 year lease of Hong Kong, which expired in 1997 when the territory was given back to the Chinese. I don’t know how much has changed over the years as this is my first visit. First impressions are that it is a very clean city. They drive on the left and most of the cars are late models, with plenty of Mercedes, Porsches or Audi and Nissan sports cars rolling past. There is a lot of money in this city. Even though Hong Kong is a territory of China, it is still very autonomous in all areas but defence and foreign affairs. There is a declaration that stipulates that the region maintain its capitalist economic system and guarantees the rights and freedoms of its people for at least 50 years beyond the 1997 handover.
99 playing around in front of a statue
I wander around town looking for one of the street food vendors, but fail terribly. All I manage to find are shops like Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and Chanel; I must be in the high end part of town. Food prices are much more expensive that what I have become accustomed to in the Philippines and are on par with Australia, about $10 – $20 Australian for lunch.
We stumble upon Kowloon Park. It’s a well-manicured park in the Kowloon part of Hong Kong, not on Hong Kong Island itself, but looks across the harbour at it. The park is rather large and full of birds and animals. As I wander up a small incline I come to a pond and surprised to find it full of Turtles or Tortoises. There are at least a hundred from what I can estimate. I wonder how there is so many, but I don’t wonder for too long. A group of local ladies and their children, a group of about ten, start to unpack plastic bags filled with baby turtles in and begin to throw them in the water. Quite a sight. They are about the same size as a computer mouse and the group don’t seem to worry about the signs saying that depositing of animals into the pond is prohibited. They also start to empty bags of small fish into the pond. After about ten minutes a security guard, who has missed all the action, approaches them and says something, I assume it was don’t put anything in the pond, as the locals nod and leave.
In another part of the park there are ponds full of Koi, a type of Carp, Water fowl and even Flamingos. The park has an Aviary as well. You can visit these all for free. The temperature is quite hot and I stop to have a drink and discover that the government has Free Wi-Fi in the park. Very nice and post a few pictures to Instagram.
A lady puts some small fish in Kowloon Park Pond
The park leads to a bridge that can take you to the Kowloon Ferry terminal, where you can catch a Ferry to Macau, Hong Kong Island or other areas. A Ferry to Macau, about an hours’ journey will set you back about $160 Hong Kong Dollars. (About $20 Australian)
I wander back through the park and notice there is a section devoted to sculptures. Big sculptures made out of metal. Hong Kong showing its artistic side. The Park also seems to be a place for people to sleep and there is a section where people are just asleep on the park benches.
Out of the park we are back in the frenetic pace of the city. The city has about seven million people in it. It is quite busy and the people all seem to have somewhere to go and something to do rather than meander about.
Striking a pose on the Ferry Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui
If you visit Kowloon a trip to the park can be just the relaxing outing you need, as well as easy on the wallet.