Sunday, May 13, 2007

Back Home in Hong Kong.

It's amazing how quickly one can adapt to a place. After 10 days in China, we arrived back in Hong Kong and felt quite at home. This time we decided to stay in a very different neighbourhood on Hong Kong Island. North Point is a less touristy area than Nathan Road in Kowloon, but the Harbour Place Hotel, where we booked, offered a lot of amenities including the subway, the cross island tram, and a grocery store right outside the door. Like most major hotels in Hong Kong, it also offered almost non-stop buffets of Chinese and international food.

During our final days, we were determined to do a bit more sightseeing. On Friday we took a 1 hr ferry ride to Cheung Chau, one of the outlying islands. The central waterfront comprised a very charming, albeit somewhat run-down fishing village, where we had a good seafood lunch beside the fishing boats. (One day, we predict it will be a fashionable tourist destination and place to live, since automobiles are restricted in the village centre, and the air is definitely cleaner.) We took a fast ferry back to HK in half the time.

That evening, we met up with a special friend from my CMHC days who now lives in Shanghai, and just happened to be in Hong Kong. He has spent the past 5 years working on a variety of real estate projects in the middle-east and around Asia for Li Ka Shing's son Richard. He talked about the challenges and opportunities living and working in China. One key difference, he thought, was the attitude towards older people. At 64, he worried that it might be difficult to get work in Toronto in the real estate community, whereas in Asia he is highly respected for his experience and expertise, with lots of opportunity.

Leaving his hotel in Causeway Bay at midnight, we couldn't get over the amount of life and activity on the streets. Sally also remarked on how clean the area was, with a complete absence of graffiti.

While the streets are clean, the air isn’t. One of the problems with Hong Kong at this time of year is a continuous haze that blankets the city. The tourist literature refers to it as ‘mist’ but I’m not sure. It should improve by July 1, when HK celebrates the 10th anniversary of its handover to China. A lot of special activities are planned, and if you can arrange flights, I think it would be a wonderful time to be here.

Unfortunately, we'll be in Eastern Europe around that time. But we will definitely watch the celebrations on TV. Given the quality of the light show that takes place every evening in Victoria Harbour, I am sure the July 1 celebrations will be awesome. Just as Beijing is undertaking a major works program in advance of the Olympics, Hong Kong has a massive infrastructure program underway. It includes two new links to the mainland and a major new waterfront walkway system, which should dramatically improve access to the water.

On our final day we set off to another island to visit Tai O where some of the descendents of the original settlers lived in homes built on stilts over the water. It was very interesting, and unlike anywhere else we had ever been. That evening, we took the tram ride up to The Peak, the most popular HK tourist destination. As the lights were setting over the city the view was spectacular. We had dinner at the ‘Peak Lookout’ a charming stone building adorned with fairy lights. It was very beautiful, and the only thing that marred the experience was the thought that we had to get up very early the next morning to go to India!

But it’s still better than having to get up early to go to work!

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