Monday, March 23, 2009

Xiang Gang! - Day 1

After a few recent gig to Chongqing and various semester-starting meetings at SCCM, I finally have time to embark on the final chapter of my Chinese New Year trip. Guandong province's Hong Kong was our last stop before heading back to Sichuan this last february. We arrived in the morning and stayed for four nights, so the next four blogs should be a good guide if you want to get the most out of a five-day trip to Hong Kong.

Day 1
Because we entered Hong Kong from the mainland, there was an immigration process before we came into the city. Even though Hong Kong is officially part of China, there still is a different government, currency and language than the mainland. Therefore, before we took the train from Shenzhen to Kowloon we had to go through security checks, fill out immigration cards and wait in long lines before entering seemingly, another Chinese city. We got through customs and were in Hong Kong! Well, it was technically Kowloon, but you could consider Kowloon the peninsula half of Hong Kong. We bought MTR (Hong Kong's subway/metro) tickets at an computerized kiosk, waited about ten minutes for the next train, and we were off to find the Panda Hotel in the Tseun Wan district.

Hong Kong's hotels are much more expensive than mainland China. My advice is to do your homework and shop on the internet first. I was able to book the Panda,a four star hotel for only 400 hong kong dollars per night. We checked into our posh Norther Kowloon hotel, and we were off in the hotel shuttle to Tsim Sha Tsui then MTR to Hong Kong island. On the island we strolled around Central, checking out some cheap clothing shops, then ate at one at one of Hong Kong's famous diner-style restaurants.

The Peak was our first tourist trap of our Hong Kong experience. Hong Kong's Peak is located at the top of a small mountain where they have built a wok-shaped tower so you can get a view of the famous Hong Kong skyline. That area was also home to many junk shops, restaurants and a Madame Toussaud's Wax Museum. I thought it would be interesting to go to a wax museum featuring Chinese celebrities, so we planned ahead and bought discount tickets in the (Chinese e-bay). I was impressed with the wax museum because it not only contained every Chinese celebrity in the last century (including a life-sized Yao Ming) but also had respresentations of most Western celebrities. We purused the shops and ate a small meal at Burger King (I hadn't seen one of those in a LONG time!)after that, is was about dusk, so we headed up five of six escalators to the top of the tower to check out the city lights. As you can see from the first picture in this blog, the view was pretty breath-taking. If walked around to the back of the Wok, you could also see huge houses on the hill, probably owned by Hong Kong movie stars we guessed.

The first day was a success. We checked into our hotel, learned the MTR system, saw most of Hong Kong island, including the Peak and wax museum. Coming up next...Lantau Island, home of the Big Buddha!

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