Explorations in China - Part 3

 

This is the final entry of my three-part journal of my travels through China in June 2005. For the coffeecrew readers who missed the preceding articles, please read article 2 and article 1.

The final leg of my whirl-wind trip through China was Hong Kong. I planned this to be my exit point from Asia as I knew that after traveling through some of the most rural and underdeveloped parts of China, the comforts and glamour of Hong Kong would be much appreciated. I arrived into Chek Lap Kok airport (recently built on a man-made island), just before midnight and then faced the task of finding a place to spend the night. This turned out to be a non issue in a city that never sleeps.

Hong Kong, although now officially part of China, is still considered to be on its own, away from the rule of Beijing, and is classified as a SAR (Special Administrative Region). Although Hong Kong is appointed a CEO by Beijing, the capitalist city state is free from governmental intervention of its ruling country, and is considered to be the "golden goose" in the south. Hong Kong is one of the major financial centers in the world, ranking up there with New York City, London, and Tokyo. As I was now being embraced by one of the densest and fascinating cities in the world, I knew some fabulous sites lay ahead of me over the next two days, including another decent cup of coffee.

Hong Kong, as it was a British colony until 1997, has a very European feel in the heart of Asia. Narrow streets, trolley trams, double decker buses, and Rolls Royce’s, I often felt as if I was in London or some other major world city....until I was hit by the monsoon rains and extreme humidity. The major attraction in Hong Kong is Victoria Peak, where a birds-eye view can be had of Hong Kong, Kowloon, with mainland China in the distance. Accessible by a trolley traveling up a 45degree slope, the view of the city and the mansions built on the jungle slope is where the true feel of the city is realized and appreciated. Victoria peak is where I once again found a decent cup of coffee - brewed by Pacific Coffee company. This chain of coffee shops can be found throughout Hong Kong as frequent as I can find a Starbucks here in Vancouver. However, I found that trying to enjoy a warm cup when the temperature is 40 degrees Celsius with humidity is near impossible. Instead, I was grabbing bottles of water at any chance I could! Another interesting find in the city was a McCafe - something I had always heard of but never seen - a coffee bar that serves up coffee, espresso and lattes alongside Big Macs and Egg McMuffins. I decided to ignore the temptation of sampling a McLatte, as I never have the urge to try anything else at the restaurant anyways.

Although coffee has made inroads into the culture of Hong Kong, tea is still king as one would expect, with the mix of Chinese and British culture. Tea houses are located throughout the city (just as easily found as in Beijing), and I even managed to take a quick tour through a tea museum - housed in a British colonial mansion, but with a heavily Asian feel.

Just as amazing as the cityscape views, world-class white sandy beaches are just minutes from the city. The south side of Hong Kong Island sits on the South China Sea, where beaches and water are comparable to the south Caribbean. I found it truly amazing how sleepy little beach towns could reside within the shadow of one of the largest and densest cities in the world.

I was in Hong Kong for three days over the national holiday of independence, and I was treated to a spectacular fireworks show. The landmark buildings of the skyline presented two nights of choreographed shows, which even incorporated a lights display of the Bank of China building. The view from the peak at night is well worth the wait, as the city takes on a completely different feel. In total, I must have spent close to eight hours sitting at the viewpoint over my two evenings in the city, admiring the views and satisfying my fascination for big cities.

Hong Kong was the perfect end to my month long excursion through China; it acted as a more civilized way to end the trip, as I welcomed the clean bathrooms, comfortable beds, and the end of the language barrier that caused so much frustration throughout the rest of my trip. It also served as an accomplishment for myself, as I knew that once I had reached Hong Kong, the most challenging part of my trip was completed. China was by no means an easy country to experience. Numerous travelers were amazed that I had chosen the country for my first major trip, as it is often viewed as the toughest country for westerners to travel through. However, it is increasingly becoming more accessible as westernization is moving at an alarming rate. The trip also served as an eye opening experience for myself, as I was exposed to a completely different cultural experience. It has created eagerness to experience other fascinating parts of the world.

As this trip has now come and gone, and all I am left with are my memories and amazing pictures, I can only think of one thing....Where will my next trip be?