Hong Kong: Gateway to China

At the time of writing it is still not possible to fly directly into China from Taiwan, though moves are afoot to allow this to happen. This necessitates flying into Hong Kong each time and continuing on from there. Hong Kong recently went back to Chinese rule as the New Territories were only on lease for 99 years. Britain was not really obliged to hand Hong Kong Island and Kowloon back which they possessed by right of conquest from the time of the opium wars but in the end they decided that dividing the colony was not in anyone's best interest. Still, there are some, who feel that Britain could have done more for the residents of Hong Kong. In any case it does seem to be pretty much business as usual in Hong Kong. You can still see books written by the Dalai Lama on display in bookstores and there isn't sensorship of the internet or press.


Stormy day in Hong Kong.

This was my second visit to Hong Kong. Three years earlier I stayed at the legendary Chungking Mansions, a monolithic guesthouse complex, the ground floor of which gives one the impression of a UN refugee camp. I remember my companion Dion, asking at the airport information desk about the mansions. "Is it a bad place?". The receptionist looked up totally expressionless and said, quite deadpan, not missing a beat. "No, it's not bad.....it's terrible". It wasn't so bad, but budget accommodation in HK means narrow beds, cramped rooms and some would consider a window a luxury. This time we were staying at Mirador Mansions up the road a bit, where they could arrange the China visas.

Hong Kong is an expensive place, so we tried to avoid spending to much. Taking the cable car up to Mt. Victoria is a cheap day's entertainment. From the peak you get good views of Hong Kong island, Kowloon and some of the neighbouring islands. At the top was a bunch of side show attractions such as Madame Tussaud's and the Ripley's museum. They had a statue outside of the tallest man who ever lived, Robert Wadlow, who at 8'11" would even have towered over Yao Ming. His shoe was also on display.

All along Nathan road Indians and Pakistanis push fake Rolex's or tailormade suits. Sir, copy watch?" "My friend, can I interest you in a copy Rolex?" In the evening we went out for a few quiet beers. Again, in Hong Kong this can be an expensive proposition.