Hong Kong - The Vertical City - South East Asia 5

Author: Sue Rogers
Date: 4th October 2000

A Weekend in Hong Kong October 2000

Friday - Kai Tak Airport

Despite the inauspicious date an evening flight (later than I’d intended because of a last minute very annoying change by Cathay) from Manila to Hong Kong. I have arranged to meet friends Susanna and Irvin on their way to Australia on a month’s break. From the new airport the express train speeds me to the city in twenty minutes. It’s all very efficient but I miss the old, slightly alarming view as the plane weaved in and out of the skyscrapers and almost plunges into the sea at Kai Tak. You could see the occupants of the apartments through their windows. Sue and Irvin are waiting at the Century Harbour Hotel on Hong Kong Island and we just have time for a drink in the bar before bedtime.

Saturday - Round Hong Kong Island

Window-shopping around Western and the back of Central and all through Hollywood Road where all the Chinese antique shops are. Also into the atmospheric Man Po temple full of incense burning and gilded statues of gods. Stocking up on Flex hair conditioner! Then meet up with Sue and Irvin who have been on the tourist round trip tour of the island. The view across the harbour from The Peak across the city and the scrapers is always incredible.

We take a bus across Hong Kong Island and wander around Stanley Market crammed with prints, cheap Chinese clothes, Tiger Balm and gaudy ornaments. None of them are tempting and the meal on the terrace in Stanley Oriental restaurant is much more satisfying. We eat on the third floor terrace looking out over the lights of the bay. The local food is excellent though the Chinese waiter rather spoils it by sulking very loudly because he deems his tip (on top of 10% service charge) to be insufficient. The meal is expensive even by English standards. Back on the top of a double decker bus which crashes along knocking against all the overhanging trees and swaying ominously into roundabouts. We survive and then take a tram onto our respective hotels.

Sunday - Kowloon

Another tram to the famous Star Ferry terminal where we catch the ferry to Kowloon. Yesterday’s weather was wet and cool (for Hong Kong); today is drier and permits spectacular island views from the boat. The new Cultural Centre is impressive on the harbour edge as is the Meccano shaped HSBC tower, but it’s a shame that the iconic fishermen’s sampans have almost totally disappeared. We wander up The Nathan Road through numerous markets and shops and Chinese department stores that aren’t much different from each other. Copy watches abound. I almost feel guilty that I haven’t bought one. Three prints and a MacDonald’s instead. Kowloon Park and another gilt and scarlet lanterned Tao temple.

Back on Hong Kong Island the streets round the ferry terminal are closed. They are crammed with women picnicking, playing cards and gossiping - the Sunday social reunion for all the Filipina maids working in Hong Kong. A final meal in a basic little Chinese restaurant where we make the mistake of accidentally ordering enough for six.

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