Thursday, November 24, 2011

#16: Star Ferry to Kowloon!

The final stop on my 15 day tour of China:  Hong Kong!  Like Macau, Hong Kong used to be under European control.  After over 150 years of British rule, the queen handed back control of the area to China in 1997.  But, just like Macau, the European influence remains.  Most people speak at least some English and a ton of westerners still live in the city.  If it weren’t for all of the signs being in English and Cantonese, you’d hardly think you were in China.  Take this for example:

People actually let you exit the subway before getting on.  We can’t possibly still be in China!

Hong Kong proper sits on a large island off the coast, though the whole Hong Kong area includes a chunk of peninsular mainland and various other islands.  Hong Kong’s hilly terrain mixed with the mass of tall buildings makes for some stunning views, like this one from atop Victoria Peak:

Or this one, taken from across the harbor that separates Hong Kong Island from Kowloon on the peninsula:

During the day, it looks like this:

And there’s no better way to take in the view than from the Star Ferry between Hong Kong and Kowloon!

And another item checked off the list!  10 down.  93 to go.  I’ll get there…

Aside from taking in all the scenery, Hong Kong is notorious for shopping.  Clothes weren’t as affordable as I was hoping for.  Levi’s were still twice the price of the US and Calvin Klein was not offering any discounts.  The shopping scene seems to be dominated by the high end stores:

Coach, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Hermes, Gucci, Chanel, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, and more dotted the main shopping area in Kowloon.  I obviously don’t go for any of those, but luckily there was something for me just a few doors down:

Yay!  H&M!  Fun socks here I come!

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I didn’t just shop at H&M, because, you know, when in Rome… I managed to find a Coach store just for men.  I didn’t even know that Coach made men’s bags.  I was stoked that they had a whole store!  And since I’ve always said that I’d love a Coach bag if only they made men’s bags, I decided that I absolutely needed to buy a goddamn bag or I’d never forgive myself.  So, out I walked with a fancy schmancy Coach messenger bag.  Woohoo!  And I’ve earned my gay card.  If you see me wearing it around Sydney, please complement it so I feel like the money spent was worth it.  I also bumped into a Bose store and accidentally purchased some fancy schmancy noise cancelling headphones for a few hundred dollars.  Ooops.

It wasn’t all western brands in western stores as I quickly found out when turning a corner.

I guess I was still in China.  Luckily I had already eaten.  Imagine this just around the corner from Fendi.  What is this strange city???

For a little local shopping, I dipped into the touristy Ladies Markets.

But after my other purchases, nothing here looked as good.  Also, it’s a misnomer as there were no ladies for sale.  Not that I wanted to buy any, but it would have been cool to tap on the glass… like in Amsterdam…

Finally, I spent my last day in Hong Kong on nearby Lantau Island – home to the Giant Buddha!

The Giant Buddha was built less than 20 years ago and is pretty much a massive tourist attraction.  It is the world’s largest outdoor seated bronze Buddha.  That’s a pretty particular title, but I’ll give it to them.  Just know that somewhere else on Earth there’s a larger seated bronze Buddha indoors and a larger outdoor standing bronze Buddha.  Or maybe a bigger outdoor seated Buddha made of something else like stone or pewter or lollipops.  Oh a lollipop Buddha would be incredible!

Ok, enough of my crazy ideas.  There was a small tourist village atop the hill where the Buddha sits and they had one of those signs that points to every famous landmark around the world and tells you how far away it is.  Of course, I had to get a photo with this one:

There are a few ways to get up the hill to see the Buddha and the tourist village.  You can trek – but that was obviously out of the question for me – or you can rent a car or take a bus.  Alternatively, you can take the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car up to the top.

This cable car – the very last thing I did in China (seriously, I went straight from here to the airport) – ended up being probably the coolest thing I did the entire trip.  Seriously.  This cable car is up there in the rankings with the Great Wall and the Terracotta Warriors.  Why?  Because it’s fucking awesome.  That’s why.

The first reason why it’s awesome:  you get a fantastic view of the Giant Buddha as you arrive.

The second reason why it’s awesome:  the landscape is stunning.  You go over valleys and hills:

And over water:

The third reason why it’s awesome:  the floor of the cable car is glass, so you can see below as well.  Look, there are waders crabbing or fishing or getting pearls out of the water or something below!

The fourth reason why it’s awesome:  it’s not a short ride so the bang for your buck is fantastic.  Based on the timestamp on my photos, the ride is approximately 25 minutes each direction.  Sweet.

The fifth and most important reason for me:  the cable car goes right by the airport.  You can see the entire airport from the air.  Planes landing, planes taking off, planes taxiing, and all.

You may not think that’s totally crazy amazing, but it is.  And here is my nerd moment:  I used to love airports when I was a kid and my grandparents would often take me to the airport to watch the planes land and takeoff, so this was just right up my alley.  This cable car takes you so close that you can see which airlines all the planes are.  Look, there’s a Qantas plane right in the middle!

That could have been my flight!  (But it wasn’t, because I was on a 747… but still, they could have switched the plane for some reason.)  Either way, it was a sign.  Off to Hong Kong International Airport I went and back to the land of Oz.  I do believe that was a very successful first trip to Asia.

And now, back to the Aussie blogs…

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