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Hong Kong weekend

Last weekend we went to Hong Kong. It’s not far away from Taipei (around 1.30h by plane), but from the city center to the airport, and vice versa, it took around 5 hour to arrive there. We have to say that we didn’t start very well the trip, as the night before our flight was canceled. But we didn’t have any problem as there are many flights to this destination, it is almost a shuttle service.

The excuse of this trip was to visit my ex-classmate in Taipei, and apply for my China Visa, actually to go to Shanghai next weekend. Yeah… I needed to go out from Taipei (considered by some as part of China) and to another country to apply for it, and Hong Kong was the easiest option, even if it is still China!!!

The situation is like that: Taiwan or “Republic of China” (ROC) has all the characteristics of a real country (government, currency, army, etc.), but it is not recognized internationally as a country; China is also called “People’s Republic of China” (PRC), which can be confusing for some people; and then we have Hong Kong, that together with Macau, they are Special Administrative Regions (SAR) that have different politic and economic systems from mainland China. Easy, right? So, it’s a mess to get a visa for China from Taiwan.

Normally, it’s possible to apply the visas during the weekend at the airport of Hong Kong, paying of course! But our surprise was when they told us they couldn’t guarantee us that we would get it by Sunday, when we were scheduled to go back to Taipei! We gave them all the documentation and took some pictures of me… I don’t look very friendly as I was quite pissed off…

You will have to read the post till the end to discover if I got the visa or not…

One of the interesting things of these megalopolis is that you can feel like at home very easily :) (catalan beer [Estrella], Spanish ham, Barça t-shirts and Roca toilets [most popular brand in Spain])

Once in the city center, we felt like we were coming from the countryside to go to the big city. It was a shock to see so many westerners together, the fashion, bars and restaurants and the party on the street. I saw more foreigners in 5 minutes than in the last 9 months in Taiwan! Albert already has similar experiences during his business trips to other Asian cities, but for me it was a real shock. For a while, we lost the sensation of being special that one can have in Taiwan as there are not so many westerners.

Right after arriving we went out to see the nightlife. Nick works on hotel’s interior design so he knows well which places are worth a visit :) In some places we had to go during daytime time as at night the dress code is very strict and there’s many people lining up. Because we were with people who live there, we could visit the most interesting bars and restaurants with the best views, that are hard to find in the middle of the concrete jungle of Hong Kong. You can get an idea by looking at the pictures or visiting the websites of the bars: Azure, Dragon-i and Cafe Gray

If you can not see the album (are you still using Internet Explorer? you can go to the Picasa)

At Hong Kong there is Hong Kong island and the rest of the country that is basically attached to mainland China. The continental side is where most of the locals live, this side is called “the dark side” by the expatriates (most of them live on the Hong Kong Island). We basically stayed at Hong Kong Island, so our view of Hong Kong country can be a little bit biased:

  • It is a mix of London “china town” + Lisbon + Manhattan(NYC)
  • There are double-decker buses and trams, most of them running at the same street!
  • They have the longest (at least they claim) automatic escalators of the world. Some areas of Hong Kong are very steep (it is surrounded by mountains) so the escalators are essential.
  • There is a lot less Chinese culture than in Taiwan. It was actually hard to see a single temple!
  • You must take care with the “Hong Kong juices”. This is how the call the drops from the air conditioning systems both on the street and inside the buildings
  • The expatriates living in Hong Kong island are divided in a three layer system. Closer to the harbour you will find the singles or the ones who live alone, a little bit more up the families and couple and finally at the hills the very rich families (mostly expatriates working for multinational companies).
  • The space is scarce and there is a lot of people, therefore the flats are very small and the rent is very expensive (do not even think about buying!). Flats with no kitchen or big table are very normal. In addition Nick had not TV set. There is simply no space.
  • HK as tourist destination is mostly to eat, buy clothes and take pictures of buildings.

You can see de Picasa album

In any case, we were tourists, so we had to act like that:
The Big Buddha
It is supposed to be an old Buddha but it was actually built on 1993 and it is more like a Buddha theme park. The most interesting bit is to take the cable car that goes up there. It provides great views of the HK airport.

Just in case Picasa album

1-hour trip at Victoria Harbor
Ferries are a very simple and economical way to move among the different areas of HK. We took the 1-hour trip around Victoria Harbor so we could see HK from all its sides.

Again here you have the Picasa album

The Peak or the green valve of Hong Kong
With an extremely steep tram you can get to the Peak in less than 10 minuts and get some fresh air. The views are simply astonishing.

There are some paths to walk or run around and get a view of the whole island (both the extremely populated side and the almost empty side). No worries, restaurants and souvenirs shops are also present.

Link to Picasa álbum

… Disneyland no!
We will leave that for the next visit to HK. It is a very popular destination, specially for the Japanese tourists as it is cheaper to go to Disneyland in HK than in Japan.

Last but not least, a word about the Philippine maids, very normal in HK. They usually live with the families from Monday to Saturday and they will take care of everything: cooking, laundry, kids, dogs, etc. On Sunday they have a day-off and they get together in various places of the city center, creating a very unique landscape on bridges, corridors and elevated walkways.
They do not earn much and most of what they earn is sent back to Philippines either as cash or as cloths/toys/whatever that they send in big boxes.

Again Picasa album

And at the end… yes!!!! happy ending as we got the visa for China and that means that next week we will go to Shanghai! :)

Our flight got delayed 2 hours… so we had some time to kill and we took yet some more pictures at the airport!


    Em quedo com a punt negatiu el pijerio dels clubs de Hong Kong. El que mhan dit es efectivament, si ets un loco de les compres es un bon lloc i per tirar fotos dels gratacels, que la vista es espectacular.
    No el tindriem al top 10 de futures destinacions per aixo! ;)

  • Un cap de setmana ben aprofitat. Sí , senyor.

    Per cert: el Pulpito no nececita visat o passa d’amagatotis?

  • I love it! I am going to send this to my friends and family to show them what Hong Kong is like. You must come again. You are welcome anytime.