Saturday, 26 April 2014

Fragrant Harbour

Hong Kong is my favourite city outside the UK and I worked out recently that I have spent well over a year of my life there.

My first visit was in the mid 1990’s with work and at first I hated the place, mainly because the project I was working on was very intense and extremely stressful, so much so that I felt physical symptoms, awakening the hypochondriac within me. It was a wake up call and became a bit of a turning point in my life.

I was making several trips to the city every year for around four years and I gradually grew to love the place, particularly because that was where Mrs PM and I got together.

Now, it holds a very special place in my heart, and if I ever win the lottery I will aim to visit there as often as I can. In fact, whenever I head east on a holiday, I always try to squeeze in a visit, even if it is slightly out of the way.

More recently, we popped in on our way to Australia in 2005, on our way to Thailand in 2008 and last year on our way to Japan. I have already made a rough plan to go back to Japan, probably in 2018 and, of course I shall visit Hong Kong as part of the itinerary.

I feel it is like visiting an old friend.

Here are some of my favourite memories of the city.

(1) Top of the list is of course, Mrs PM and I starting out on our relationship way back in 1998. Being a blind fool I had no idea that she was interested in a man like me, so effectively she had to make it obvious. I can be so dense sometimes – particularly when it comes to women.

(2) The view from Victoria Peak is arguably one of the greatest in the world. Hong Kong is resplendent with extremely modern skyscrapers and from the Peak you can actually look down on the splendour of the city. I would recommend having a meal in Café Deco, one of my favourite restaurants in the world. From there you can enjoy fantastic food and enjoy the magnificent view.

(3) Wan Chai is a very exciting area for night life and I have suffered the consequences of an excess of entertainment there on a couple of occasions, whether it be trying to buy a drink in Carnegie’s Aussie bar from between the legs of one of the many people dancing on the bar itself or watching a progressive rock tribute band playing Pink Floyd’s The Wall in its entirety (or at least the first few songs before I was unceremoniously dragged out by Mrs PM as she hates the band).

(4) Chinese food is fantastic, and I have to say that the cuisine in Hong Kong opened my eyes to new things to eat. Not all of them are appetising, for example eel stew or “thousand year old egg” but I certainly tried quite a few dishes I could barely imagine before visiting the city. We once went to a local restaurant , i.e. a restaurant that was not obviously  for tourists, and blindly ordered a set meal from a very grumpy waiter. The meal was fantastic and much cheaper than the more tourist oriented places we had eaten at previously.

(5) The Peninsular Hotel is probably the most expensive hotel I have ever seen. I can only imagine staying in one of the hotel’s most expensive suites, costing a few thousand pounds a night and offering breath-taking views of Victoria Harbour from your own private balcony, enhanced with a telescope, as well as your own private gym and a butler. The hotel also has a fleet of Rolls Royce limousines and a helipad shuttle service to take the most important guests to and from the airport. That is definitely something to do if I win the lottery and want to blow a wad of cash for one night.

(6) I mastered the art of politely refusing an offer without saying a word, thanks to Tsim Sha Tsui, or TST as it is known to locals. TST is a shopping area where there is a plethora of shops (in fact Hong Kong is a magnet for people who love shopping) but you can also buy tailor made suits, copy watches or jewellery. As you walk along the streets, you will almost certainly be asked if you want to buy such items and, being experienced now, all I have to do is raise my hand and shake my head slightly as soon as I am approached, rather than trying to engage them in conversation as I did in my naïve youth.

(7) Hong Kong is made up of the Kowloon peninsula and a staggering 263 islands, only a fraction of which I have visited. Lantau is the biggest island, closely followed by Hong Kong Island; in fact the airport Chek Lap Kok is also an island. Chek Lap Kok was originally just a tiny little place but was utterly flattened and, with the help of land reclamation turned into an island big enough to accommodate a huge airport. Mind you, having flown into Kai Tak, the original airport in Kowloon, I have to say that landing a plane at Chek Lap Kok is much safer. There are few experiences more terrifying than being on a plane that has turned sharply to land between high rise buildings in an extremely densely populated area of a very densely populated city.

(8) Hong Kong is full of skyscrapers and between visits a couple more have risen out of the ground to take me by surprise. I remember looking across Victoria Harbour during one of my more recent visits and exclaiming “Where the hell did that thing come from?” as my eyes caught yet another huge building. Talking of which, the view from the Kowloon side of Hong Kong to the enormous skyscrapers on Hong Kong island is breath-taking during the daytime but even more magnificent at night time when they are all lit up to great effect.

To be honest I could write an entire book on Hong Kong – maybe one day I will (it gives me an excuse to visit the place again) but I shall stop for now. I will leave you with some photographs of my time there.  If you get a chance to visit, please do; you will not regret it for one second. I know my next visit can’t come soon enough.

Taking a little bit of Walsall to Hong Kong in 1999.
I was working - honestly!

Noon Day Gun
Hong Kong Tram

Jumbo Restaurant, Aberdeen

Hong Kong Island at night.

View from Victoria Peak at night

Skyscraper City!
Hong Kong street life

Live band in a very packed bar in Wan Chai.

Dancing on the bar in Carnegie's


River said...

#6..I do that right here in Australia, when I'm walking along and see people with clipboards wanting you to listen and sign up for whatever they're touting, some of the beggars I see often and recognise. As soon as they step my way I look straight at them and give the tiniest of headshakes and they turn away.
I remember reading about Hong Kong many years ago, probably in the 80s? about how it was overcrowded, super busy and somewhat grubby. I'm glad to hear things have changed for the better, it does look lovely in the picture you have there.

H2B said...

Nice photos! This brought back fond memories of HK. I love the place too, been there quite a few times because I was seeing someone there for a while. What I love the most is zooming at night in a convertible with the top down. One can really appreciate that sdescription that it is has been described as the sparkling oriental pearl. The other cool thing to do is sailing amongst the islands. Try to go there during Christmas, and take the ferry ride to see the Christmas lights.

Pandora Behr said...

Somewhere I've always wanted to go - one day I will get there - just like one day you will write a book about it... Cool blog.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

It works in HK, Oz, Europe, the UK and the US. But it does not work in China - the touts and street sellers are very difficult to get rid of.

Hong Kong is very busy - but busy in a good way.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi H2B,

I would love to zoom around at night in a convertible around HK.

I've not been there at Xmas but I have taken ferries to a few of the islands.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pand,

Do it - you will absolutely love the place.