Thursday 12 May 2011

East Meets West

(I am reposting this as the original post disappeared along with comments during Blogger maintenance for some bizarre reason.)

I always thought of Hong Kong as a stop over destination to break that long 24 hour flight between Australia and Europe. I knew that I would eventually get around to visiting it one day but it has just never been on my Top 10 list of places to visit.

Well thanks to Virgin I finally made the trip and I loved it and wish I had done it much sooner.

Hong Kong has far more to offer than I ever could have imagined. And, as Arnie says, I'll be b-a-c-k (although I guess Maria is hoping he doesn't really mean that).

Hong Kong, as every travel guide will tell you, is a place where East meets West.(The UK only handed it back to China in 1997 after 156 years of British rule).

It really does balance a modern way of life with traditional Chinese practices. When I was sitting in a café one day I took this picture which in many ways reflects these differences - the old and new.

Hong Kong is also one of the most densely populated areas in the world and as a result is the world’s most vertical city. Looking out of the hotel room I was overwhelmed by the myriad of apartment buildings in every direction. Thankfully, Hong Kong also has one of the most amazing transport systems I have ever seen which easily gets these millions of people around.

While there is so much to see and do, the biggest surprise for me was the beautiful landscape, the amazing harbour and the surrounding islands. There is a lot of greenery, even in the city centre which is something I did not expect at all.

Hong Kong Island is dominated by steep, hilly terrain, which makes it the home of some rather unusual methods of transport up and down the slopes. And I think I got conned into taking every one of them, except perhaps for a donkey.

Although, as it happened, I ended up being a bit of an ass myself when my daughter persuaded me to take the Stairway to Urban Heaven as she likes to describe it. It is actually the biggest outdoor covered escalator in the world and carries 55,000 people up and down the vertical climb of 135 metres each day (20 escalators and three moving sidewalks).

“We have to take it right to the top", she said, "and then every 40 minutes it reverses so then we can come down again”.

She was wrong. So. Very. Wrong.

The escalator only comes down for the first two hours of the day to allow people to go to work. For the rest of the day it goes up. So I had a lot of stairs to walk down and that is why you are going to get to see so many lovely pictures of Hong Kong from greater heights. I took my time…. As it happened it was no real hardship, not that I told her that, given the many restaurants, bars, and shops lining the route down.

Oh and here we are, I was smiling but I was actually deciding how to throw her over the railing without anyone noticing…...until I got distracted by the amazing views.

The views over central Hong Kong, Victoria Harbour and the surrounding islands are just gorgeous (and well worth millions of steps). I think Hong Kong even beats NYC for the most impressive city skyline. Now that is really saying something!

I also want to give a shout out to everyone at EAST the most amazing hotel in which we stayed. Fabulous in every sense of the word. Hi-tech rooms, perfect for business travellers or holiday makers alike. The Service was just ‘right’ without being over the top and annoying like so many hotels are nowadays. It’s a fine line. The food at FEAST was amazing (the handmade chocolate divine). The Rooftop bar, Sugar, had the most incredible harbour views! The Gym called BEAST (Body by East) was excellent or so I am told! I could not fault a thing. I will be staying here again and cannot recommend it highly enough!! Anyone visiting Hong Kong, GO EAST!