Hong Kong – doings so far

I’ve been in Hong Kong just over a month now and I have managed to see a few sights and do a few bits and pieces. This blog post should give you a short overview of what I have been getting up to.

Music & lights show at Victoria harbour

Every night, there is a music and lights show at Hong Kong harbour. The show starts at 8pm (local time) and can be watched from either the Hong Kong Island or Kowloon side of the harbour.  We were stood on the Kowloon side of the harbour and I would like to make a second visit in order to view from the Island side. This was our view on arrival.

There is a commentary which goes along with the show. This is only in English on certain days of the week (which days, I don’t know because I’m a really informed and helpful blogger like that, sorry). We attended on a Friday night and the commentary was in English. Having heard the commentary, I can assure you that nothing would really be lost if you did not go on  an English speaking evening. The majority of the commentary is introducing the buildings which light up as part of the show. I, naturally, cannot remember a single one of their names. However, I do remember the building that looks as if it multiplies triforces.

Anyway, I digress. We were stood up on a viewing platform for the show. It was a good vantage point and I can recommend the view. Once the show started, it was actually quite entertaining. I was expecting a mediocre to dull experience so was pleasantly surprised when I actually quite enjoyed it. The buildings light up in time to the music and also have laser beams (a.k.a. LAZORZ) coordinated across them. The music is cheesy enough to fuel the entire of France for a decade. I managed to get a fairly decent (ish) picture of the show in action. You can see LAZORZ to the centre and left of the picture.

All in all, for something that is free and held nightly, it’s well worth a visit and a look. I think a good job has been done.

Hong Kong Walks

The Hong Kong tourism board have quite a lot of leaflets and information about what to do and see in Hong Kong. One of the leaflets they issue is ‘Hong Kong walks’. Thus far, I have completed one of the eight walks so I will tell you about it. The walk was called ‘Central & Western District – Travel Through Time’. Well, I didn’t travel through time in any way, shape or form, but I did enjoy myself.

Western Market

You begin the walk near Sheung Wan MTR station. I did not take the MTR however, I took the tram. The Hong Kong trams are cheap (currently HK$2.30) but slow. If you’re not in a hurry when on the island and you can use the tram, you should. It’s a novel experience. Anyway, The first sight you see is the Western market building and contents.

The building dates from 1906 and houses some shops and a restaurant. I was left entirely underwhelmed by the Western market. After seeing and experiencing far grander buildings and markets, it feels like quite a poor effort at conserving some of Hong Kong’s history. In England, we are very good at preserving culture, tradition and ceremony. Hong Kong does not boast the same. You can see that, even on my picture, the building is not fantastically maintained. Paint is peeling form the main name sign and the place generally looks tired. The shops inside don’t redeem much either. They are over priced and an uninteresting range of jewellery and clothes. I was rather disappointed by this introduction to Hong Kong culture so I decided to plough ahead.

Dried seafood and odd medicines street

These streets house all manner of dried seafood and medicine shops. I had to stop guessing what the dried seafood was originally as I quickly decided that if it can be dried, it is in these shops! It’s quite an assault on the senses. I didn’t buy anything as I genuinely couldn’t have told you what it was or how you would use it.

The odd medicines street was rather less interesting as all the odd things were in jars so you couldn’t really prod or shake them in order to aid the guess work. I did get a picture of ‘Bird’s Nest’ which I still have no idea about but looks really odd.

It was definitely interesting to walk around guessing A) what things were and B) what on earth they are used for.

Hollywood Road & Upper Lascar Row

Hollywood Road is renowned for being the antique central of Hong Kong. the shops are full to bursting of everything you would expect to find in curiosity and house clearance shops. It really is a rummager’s paradise. As is Upper Lascar Row. The ONLY way to describe it is as a car boot sale but with no car boots. It was simply incredible. I defy you to not find something you thought time had forgotten in Upper Lascar Row. I saw all manner of things including computer systems I thought had been lost to the abyss and odd ornaments which I presume have been sat on or generally mistreated badly because they can’t possibly have been made to look like that.

Well worth a look if you enjoy nostalgia and sheer disbelief at what people are selling. Also, at what they are watching. I saw one stall holder enjoying some pornography on his portable DVD player whilst making sales. I kid you not….

Man Mo Temple

Man Mo temple is the first that I have been into here. I don’t know what I was expecting but it wasn’t what I saw in Man Mo.

The first thing you notice about the temples is the smell. So much incense is burnt in the temples that the air is hazy and thick with the scent. I lasted about 10 minutes before my throat and eyes were feeling the effects of it. I took a picture of the incense coils attached to the ceiling. I have never seen anything like them before! I suspect they do not exist in the UK as the health and safety police would not have it. The hot ash drops off the coils randomly so can, and does, land on you. Dependant on reaction time, you may or may not get burned.

I had seen various make shift shrines in the streets where offerings of food and (fake) money are made to appease ghosts but the shrines in the temples are much more grand (as you expect). There was an awful lot of food at the Man Mo shrine. Some was bought and some was home made biscuits and cake. All together, intriguing.

There was an audio tour available inside the temple but I did not take it as I really was overwhelmed by the smell inside (thanks to the copious amounts of incense burning everywhere you looked). I’m sure it would have been interesting and informative but my eyes and nostrils would not allow me to dally.

Mid Levels Escalator

Hong Kong boasts the longest covered escalator in the world. It is about 800m long and goes through some pretty interesting parts of Hong Kong. There are coffee shops, food places and watering holes galore in SoHo which the escalator just happens to run through. It’s definitely more of a useful tourist attraction than something to stand next to and say “Ooohhh, Ahhh”. I took a photo anyway.

Duddell Street stone steps and gas lamps

There are only four gas lamps remaining in Hong Kong. You can find them at the stone steps on Duddell Street. They date from 1875 and were the oldest things I saw that day. The steps make for a good photo opportunity as demonstrated below.

Legislative Council Chambers

The building, which is now the Legislative Council Chambers, used to function as the Hong Kong Supreme Court. It’s really quite nice to look at and provides a stark contrast to the surrounding skyscrapers which are all fine examples of modern architecture. It was actually lovely to see a more classic building nestled in amongst a sea of modernisation.

And there ended the walking tour. I took the tram home and collapsed. The walk took approximately 90 minutes. It was an easy walk and, overall, worthwhile.

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