Hong Kong

Question: What do you do when your husband calls you at 10:30 in the morning and asks you if you want to go to Hong Kong THAT NIGHT?

Answer: You say, "Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, ok." Then you run around like a maniac trying to get prescription refills, pack clothes, buy travel guides, and find someone to dote on your cat, all on short notice. Now, it's possible not all people would have reacted this way, but I did.

It's a good idea to click here for a handy-dandy map of the area to acquaint yourself. Nick labeled all the pertinent areas - what a guy.

Photos by Nick Twentyfive and Amanda Twentyfive, commentary by Amanda Twentyfive


Hotel

OUR HOTEL
This is the outside of the hotel. There are no rooms that overlook the harbor, even though it's to the immediate right of the picture, because there are luxury apartments that are part of this complex - they get the view. There is a shopping center here, like practically everywhere in Hong Kong (you can't walk five feet without finding another one) that had The Body Shop, a Lamborghini store (for clothes), a small supermarket, a McDonalds, and tons of other stores and restaurants. In every building of Hong Kong, elevators are not popular, but rather you ride an escalator from floor to floor. The shopping center had seven floors, which is a lot of escalator-riding, let me tell you!
HOTEL ROOM VIEW #1
Our room was quite odd. It was a square, like most hotel rooms, but the bathroom was pretty large in relation to the rest of the room and jutted out into it, effectively making the rest of the room an L-shape. This is the view from the foyer toward the bed.
HOTEL ROOM VIEW #2
This is looking back at the foyer and the bathroom door. That wall you see in the foreground is one of the bathroom walls.
HOTEL ROOM VIEW #3
This is looking from the bed toward the closet and the desk. You'll see my PC sitting on the desk - my only real connection with the familiar world while we were in Hong Kong. Basically, from the foyer you couldn't see the desk, and from the desk you can't see the door. The maids are very service-oriented, and came to the door at least once a day asking if we needed anything. Every time, I would get up from the desk, go answer the door, go back to the desk...
CHINESE (LUNAR) NEW YEAR TREE
This is the New Year tree at the Peninsula hotel. Our hotel had one too, but not quite as big. This was taken with a disposable camera, which explains the graniness. the lobby of the Peninsula is gorgeous, with marble and carvings all around. They serve afternoon tea there every day. I went one day, and they brought me my tea, then a 3-tiered tray of finger sandwiches, chocolates, and sweets. I ate most of them, then I noticed that they gave the same amount to tables with multiple guests and I felt like an ugly American. It was cool sitting there and watching rich people go by.
 

City

VIEW DOWN NATHAN ROAD DURING THE DAY
Nathan Road is the main drag on Kowloon Peninsula. This shot was taken from the median looking up (which is actually west) away from the water.
SIDE STREET OFF NATHAN ROAD
Even the side streets are crazy. This is about three blocks up from our hotel. This street is parallel to the water. There are people and trucks and noise everywhere - we were commenting that we had no idea how people could live right above all this, but they do. Just look at the top of the picture - those are apartments.
ANOTHER SIDE STREET
This was just taken to show that literally EVERY street in the heart of Kowloon Peninsula is crazy.
BIG BUILDING
Hong Kong actually has an architectural board that all developers of high-rise apartments and business offices have to pass their designs through. Because of this, there are very few ugly buildings, as evidenced by this lovely skyscraper.
VIEW DOWN CENTRAL AVENUE
This is the business district on Hong Kong Island. Kowloon Peninsula is mostly apartments, hotels, restaurants, and shops. Since it was a Sunday, this street is much less crowded than it would be during the week.
PART OF NATHAN ROAD AT NIGHT
I believe that Nick took this picture to show you how much neon there is, and how there are signs on top of signs on top of signs.

(Nick here - I actually took this picture because the restaurant's name is Wing Fat.  Come on, now.)

PAGODA IN KOWLOON PARK
This is part of the walled park called Kowloon Park. The park isn't real big, and I don't remember why it is walled (it was built that way a long time ago), but I thought the traditional Chinese pagoda was cool.
LED LIGHTS IN FRONT OF A PLAZA ON NATHAN ROAD
This was a huge mass of LED lights that were in different colors and hung from the trees (such as the one in the picture below). We just thought that looked kinda cool and different.
BIG OLD TREE ALONG THE SIDE OF NATHAN ROAD
Even with all the development of Kowloon Peninsula, several very large trees have remained scattered throughout, which is good, because Hong Kong has a VERY high amount of smog. You'll see what you think is haze in some of the waterfront pictures below. It's not clouds, it's not haze. It's smog. Nice, huh?
CHARLIE BROWN CAFE
Just an odd little place that shows the American influence on cultures even as far away as Hong Kong. KFC, Pizza Hut, Outback Steakhouse, and several other American restaurants have outposts there.
PLAYGROUND/CHILDREN'S AREA BUILT FOR CHINESE NEW YEAR
This was a neat little area with traditional Chinese lamps and things for children to climb on, etc. This was right near our hotel behind the Hong Kong Cultural Center.
HONG KONG FINANCIAL CENTER
This is the tallest building in Hong Kong, by far. You'll see exactly how much when we get to more skyline pictures. The reason it looks lit up from the back is because it is part of a laser-light show that takes place every night at 8pm (oh, and the light reflecting off the smog. Almost forgot about that). I am not sure we got any good pictures of the lasers, but take a look at the next couple of shots.

(Nick here - Two Financial Center is the sixth tallest building in the world.  It's 90 feet shorter than the Sears Tower in Chicago, the fourth tallest building.)

BUILDINGS DURING THE LASER LIGHT SHOW
The laser light show is only on Hong Kong Island, and is meant to be seen by the tourists on Kowloon Peninsula (and the residents, I suppose). People gather down by the water on a promenade that was right  behind our hotel. You can see some of the colors of the lasers that are part of the show in this picture. That building in the center has long lines of color that go down the sides of the building. Even more remarkable, they change color.
HONG KONG ISLAND SKYLINE DURING LASER LIGHT SHOW
The promenade also has the "Walk of Stars", which pays homage to actors like Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Bruce Lee (he even has a statue!) and Michelle Yeoh.  The Walk of Stars is a mecca for the tons of tourists from the mainland. Just try to innocently read your book on one of the benches. You won't be able to - you will be asked quite often to take pictures for people.

You can take the promenade all the way to the Star Ferry Terminal (the ferry goes to Hong Kong Island) that was about 1/2 mile away from our hotel. It's clean, well-kept, and free of annoying people trying to shove flyers into your hands, which is a very popular practice of the shops along Nathan Road and some of the side streets. You really just have to not make eye contact with the pushers and keep walking. It's a bit like NYC, but worse. One of the guys in our group, from the UK, was too nice, and ended up in conversation. We finally had to go back and extricate him.

DESIGNS ON THE SIDES OF BUILDINGS
Many of the buildings, both on Hong Kong Island and on Kowloon Peninsula have designs in LED or neon on the side of the building. You can see a few here.
LOOKING UP AT THE HONG KONG FINANCIAL CENTER FROM NEAR THE PEAK TRAM
We went over to Hong Kong Island on Thursday night with Mark Rosenecker, and that's when we took this picture. To get to the Victoria Peak Tram, we took the Star Ferry (Nick LOVED that - right...) to the Central district on Hong Kong Island, then picked up a bus that took us to the tram. You will see some pretty spectacular pictures below that were taken from the tram.
HONG KONG ISLAND SKYLINE
This was taken out of the bus, I believe.
I AM SUPER-MARK!!!
Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound - especially when he's half as tall as they are...
SEE, IT'S NOT SO TALL!
Can you tell that we waited for the bus for a while?
A MORE TRADITIONAL BUILDING
Not all of the buildings on Hong Kong Island are glass and steel. This building is right next to the corporate headquarters for HSBC Bank.

(Nick here - The HSBC building is five pictures up.)


Markets

ENTRANCE TO STANLEY MARKET
Stanley is actually a town, but there's not much to the town besides a huge market and about a dozen sit-down restaurants that cater to the tourists visiting the market.
BUS STOP OUTSIDE STANLEY MARKET
The bus stop is actually near the top left of the picture. Who thinks Nick got bored waiting for the bus? *raises hand*
ELECTRONICS MARKET AT NIGHT
Nick, Kevin (UK guy) and I took the subway from near our hotel up about 15 blocks or so. Parallel to Nathan Road, one block over, this market (and by market, in this case, I mean street, but they call it a market, so we went with it), deals exclusively in electronics. Kevin got a good deal on a digital camera and accessories, but I found that the price for the one we wanted was less in the US. It's still quite an experience - people and neon EVERYWHERE.
ANOTHER ELECTRONICS MARKET PICTURE
Nick took these while we were waiting for Kevin to finish his transaction. This street, as you might have guessed, is closed to traffic. The street that the Ladies' Market is on is also closed to traffic (but the intersecting streets are not, which makes for excitement when you forget and step into the road). Good thing I have the reflexes of a cat.

(Nick here - this picture was taken at about 9:30 at night.  The light you see is all from outdoor signs!)

NEON, NEON, AND MORE NEON
This is a picture that shows that there are multiple businesses in every building, and they compete for your attention outside in the street. Many of them list the floor that the business is on in English, so they can attract tourists and you know how far to go up on those darn escalators. :-P It took me a little while to figure out that 2.F means second floor, etc.
ELECTRONICS STORE
This is the store where Kevin bought his camera. Most of the shops on Kowloon Peninsula are open-air (it's so warm in Hong Kong that apartments don't even have furnaces for heat). The shops open around 10am, but many - especially in districts like this and along Nathan Road, stay open until midnight.
APARTMENTS ABOVE THE ELECTRONICS MARKET
Can you imagine living above the craziness that is the electronics market? We weren't even there on a weekend! You can see in this picture that everybody hangs their laundry out of their window to dry. They construct makeshift clotheslines out of steel and wires. We aren't sure why they do this - maybe with so many residents in these apartments dryers are hard to come by?
ANOTHER ELECTRONICS MARKET PICTURE
It took Kevin a while to buy his camera, so Nick amused himself.
TEMPLE STREET NIGHT MARKET
This market doesn't even open until around 7pm, and stays open until at least midnight, sometimes later on weekends. This view is looking down the "aisle", and by aisle I mean the 5-foot space to walk with about a million other people. You can find everything at this market - literally. There's even a risqu� area with adult toys and fortune tellers and such.
ANOTHER VIEW
This is further into the market. A lot of the stuff is trinkets, jewelry, and the like, but you can find some pretty nice Chinese-style souvenirs here. They also have a lot of clothing, but you'd better be sure of your size, since there are no dressing rooms. Every price is negotiable.  The most common things I said in Hong Kong were "lower" and "thank you".
FLOWER MARKET
You read that right - there is an entire market devoted to just flowers. There's another one just for goldfish - the apartments are too small for dogs and cats, so the people have fish and birds predominantly. During the day, you can see the bird cages hanging out of apartment windows, and there's a park where you can take your bird so it can sing with other birds. I kid you not. By the way, these are orchids.
VIEW DOWN THE STREET OF THE FLOWER MARKET
This street is also closed to traffic. The flower shops are open-air, and, as you can see, many of the flowers are outside. We're not sure how crowded it usually is, but apparently flowers are big for the Chinese New Year. Wading through the people was like fighting a current against you.
MANDARIN ORANGE BUSHES
For all of you who wondered where those delicious Mandarin oranges come from, here's your answer. We hear that they're pretty bitter when plucked right from the bush. These are very prevalent around Chinese New Year because they symbolize luck.

Victoria Peak and Tram

OBSERVATION DECK ON TOP OF THE PEAK
Victoria Peak is on Hong Kong Island. You take a very steep tram ride to get up to it. The tram was built 110 years ago and has never had an accident. This is at the top, on the observation deck. Ever wondered what "head in the clouds" looks like? Now you know. It was a crappy night to be up there, but it was the only day we had to go.
ANOTHER OBSERVATION DECK VIEW
If you look closely you might see me clutching the inside rail of the observation deck for dear life. I'm not a big fan of heights - especially big heights that are in the open air.
THE HAPPY COUPLE
Mark Rosenecker took this picture in a restaurant at the top of the peak. We had a great view of fog-covered fuzzy-looking buildings below. There were probably a dozen restaurants, plus fast food. These people love their McDonald's, but trust me, this ain't no American McDonald's. Their feature special there is a pork curry burger. Blech.
VIEW INSIDE RESTAURANT
This is a view of the inside of the restaurant. Most of the restaurants are large in Hong Kong. They are also not always easy to get to - you'll be in this kinda dingy shopping mall looking for a restaurant (in my case usually one in the Frommer's Guide to Hong Kong - highly recommended, by the way. I read the ENTIRE guide on the plane over there.) You get inside the center, take those pesky escalators around and around and around until you get to something like the 7th or 9th floor, only to suddenly come upon a really nice sit-down restaurant with white tables and servers in tuxes. Many of the restaurants have multiple rooms, since the residents can't entertain in their own homes because they're too small. Explains a lot about those large parties of Chinese people you see at every Chinese restaurant in the US, eh?
UPPER TRAM STATION
At the upper tram station, there was this cool back-lit system of gears and such. It was neat.
AH, THE FUZZY BUILDINGS (AKA THE VIEW FROM THE PEAK)
The haze is a combination of clouds and smog. Those are the tall buildings on the edge of Hong Kong Island, including the Hong Kong Financial Center in the middle.
VIEW FROM THE TRAM
The most important part of this picture is the lower left-hand corner. The motion blur clearly shows how steep the tram ride really was. Cool.
HSBC'S CORPORATE HEADQUARTERS
We came upon this while we were walking from the tram station to the subway that we took under Hong Kong Harbor and back to our hotel. This building is an architectural wonder - the entire structure is held up by the outside only - the entire inside is modular - all the walls move to suit the current needs of the business. There is also an unsupported escalator going up from the ground floor. So, where you usually put your hands - on those - rails, no rails. Now we know why they can't afford to hire competent customer service reps.
SOME OTHER BIG BUILDING
Everyone from Samsung to Panasonic to Nokia (all foreign-owned) to ING and AIG (American-owned) have buildings on Hong Kong Island.

Subway

ADVERTISEMENT FOR "NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM"
We were surprised how current the movies playing in Hong Kong were. This ad talks about who does the voice-over dubbing in Chinese.
INSIDE SUBWAY CAR, VIEW #1
The subway system is clean, efficient, safe, and convenient. Each car is very, very long, which comes in handy, since it seems like all of Hong Kong rides it. This was late at night, so the cars weren't full, but during the day it's packed. You feel like a sardine. As you can see when you look the picture, the car is effectively one long car, though there are dividers so the cars can turn.
INSIDE SUBWAY CAR, VIEW #2
Simply looking the other way from our seats. BIG cars.
INFORMATION SIGN
These were really helpful to us, as you can imagine.

(Nick here - this sign actually says "Please pickpocket only the ugly American scumbags.")

MAP OF SUBWAY SYSTEM
Now, THIS was cool. We were on the red line most of the time, because that goes up and down Kowloon Peninsula and over to Hong Kong island. There are a couple of these per car, and they light up according to where you are on the line. There is also an arrow telling you which direction you're going, and the next stop blinks. Announcements are made in both Chinese and English, and the names, for the most part, are easy to remember.
ANOTHER INFORMATION SIGN
This looks helpful too, doesn't it? Some of the translations, like this one, just cracked us up. A candy bar to the person who can figure out what they were trying to say.

Waterfront

AVENUE OF THE STARS
This was right behind our hotel. Too bad it was so cloudy that day. You can see some of the stars on the ground.
ANOTHER VIEW OF THE AVENUE OF THE STARS
This one is looking the other way, at buildings on Kowloon Peninsula. Those luxury apartments I mentioned earlier are on the left, and you can see yet another restaurant's outside patio.
AVENUE OF THE STARS AND HONG KONG ISLAND'S SKYLINE
In the foreground, you can see the statue of Bruce Lee and how popular it was. In the background in teh middle, the shorter building right on the water is Hong Kong's new convention center. Behind that are all the buildings that house HSBC, Samsung, etc.
AVENUE OF THE STARS
The lamps were strung up for Chinese New Year - they really decorate the entire city up. In the background, through the haze, you can see more of Hong Kong Island. This might give you a better sense of how many people are here - estimated at 7 million. Some of these buildings are government housing, but it's nothing like American government housing. The buildings are really nice - after all, nearly 50% of Hong Kong's population lives in them, including many professionals with money. Getting an apartment in a private building is a rare and expensive affair.
QUICKTIME REQUIRED

HONG KONG ISLAND AND CONVENTION CENTER
This is a straight-on view of the skyline from the promenade.
 
MORE LASER LIGHT SHOW PICTURES, TAKE 1
Nick likes laser light shows. You can see some of the designs in lights that take up the entire side of a building toward the right background. They had a Santa-looking guy on one building and the other one said "Happy New Year" and "Let's Celebrate".
MORE LASER LIGHT SHOW PICTURES, TAKE 2
Nick likes laser light shows. You can see the Samsung building right in the middle, though the name is pretty hard to read.
MORE LASER LIGHT SHOW PICTURES, TAKE 3
Nick likes laser light shows.
MORE LASER LIGHT SHOW PICTURES, TAKE 4
Nick likes laser light shows.
MORE LASER LIGHT SHOW PICTURES, TAKE 5
Nick likes laser light shows.
MORE LASER LIGHT SHOW PICTURES, TAKE 6
Nick likes laser light shows.
AVENUE OF THE STARS AND APARTMENTS AT NIGHT
That brightly-lit building in the middle of the picture is one of 3-4 concession/souvenir shops.
FERRY
It's a boat.  It carries people.


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