Friday, March 7, 2014

Hong Kong - A City to Celebrate

Written by Karen.
Hong Kong is a city full of contrasts and contradictions. The many skyscrapers soar towards the heavens and dwarf you as you stand 100 stories below, yet the City is still intimately walkable. Despite its incredible and modern vertical architecture, you can find the old and the traditional if you wander through the winding streets and alleys. The City bustles and hums with incredible verve and activity levels, yet overall Hong Kong is surprisingly quiet.  There are few horns honked and people quickly and quietly move through the City with a sense of urgency towards their destinations. 

Hong Kong is considered to be one of the most densely populated cities in the world, yet there are endless alleys, staircases and tiny neighborhood parks that immediately brings wanted respite from the thriving hustle and bustle that is just a few blocks away.  It is ethnically Chinese, but it feels more of an international city with a diverse and multi-cultural population and associated languages spoken freely and with ease.  

Hong Kong was designated the first Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China in 1997 when the United Kingdom ceded control of Hong Kong back to China.  There are parts of Hong Kong where you can still sense the past echoes and whispers of the British, but for the most part Hong Kong maintains its own unique identity as it moves forward on the world stage with confidence.

In short, Hong Kong is a dynamic, energetic, mysterious, and endlessly fascinating, dichotomous and autonomous experiment.  It didn’t take long for Hong Kong to go straight into my top five most interesting cities - and thus most likely to receive a return, long-term visit - that we have visited so far.  In part due its long list of contradictions, it is a very likable and interesting place with friendly people, a varied, abundant and delicious international menu to peruse and sample, lots to see and do, and a very real sense that opportunities abound and are possible here.  
We stayed in the Sheung Wan neighborhood, which is one of the oldest parts of Hong Kong and is located on the north-west side of the island.  It is comprised of an eclectic mix of the old, traditional, new and international with a distinctly Chinese focus.  Included in this neighborhood was the Dried Seafood Street which sold every type of dried fish imaginable and anything from the sea.  Shops and shops sold unknown (to us) dried sea things in bags, boxes and in beautiful glass vases.  We were also close to the Antiques Street with shop after shop that offered large and small antiquities from another time.  The outdoor markets were also close by and we would wander up and down the steep steps and watch the vendors interact with their friends and neighbors.  In contrast, we also found endless coffee shops in Sheung Wan where we would duck into to wait out a rainstorm. Or we could walk down to the Western Market or down the street to one of the many huge shopping malls for anything new and international.   

The juxtaposition of the new and the old
Reflections of the old and the new 
Reflections of the new

On our way to one of the very large shopping malls that also acts as the entrance to the ferry system.  One of Hong Kong's great urban planning triumphs are the covered walkways for people to cross safely from one side of the rather large and busy streets.  The covered walkways also provide shelter from inclement weather.
The entrance to a large shopping and office building and across the street from the main railway/subway station.  These glass panels float across the space like ribbons on a windy day.  I was in awe of this sculpture and could only imagine how the glass panels would light up in the sunlight.  
Next to the Sheung Wan neighborhood was the Central section of Hong Kong.  The street character changes with multi-level stores offering every designer brand imaginable.
We were fortunate enough to be in Hong Kong for the end of the Chinese Festival celebrations.  These lit lanterns glowed like a burning ember against the dark night.
The Chinese New Year holiday had a slight overlap with Valentines Day.  These beautiful silk lanterns in cream, pink, purple and red bobbed and floated overhead in the cool evening air. 
As we walked up and down - but mostly up - the steep stairs to other neighborhoods, we could see the different types of housing and shops.
Another urban planning triumph in Hong Kong are the elevators that can take you up - or down - the very steep hills that surround the flat land neighborhoods. They provide some protection from the bad weather, but mostly the elevators make it possible for everyone to get up and down easily off the hillside.
An example of the steep stairs that you walk up and down, if you're not near the elevators.  On the other hand, the steep hills and steep stairs make for a great exercise option right at your fingertips!
On our way to the University of Hong Kong.  
A fairly tall monument to remember the Tiananmen Square Massacre at the University of Hong Kong.  This was one of the contradictions that really stuck with me.  The ability to erect a permanent monument in Hong Kong critical of the actions of the Chinese government was surprising.  At the bottom of this monument was the following: The Tiananmen Massacre, June 4, 1989.  The old cannot kill the young forever.
In observance of the Chinese New Year
The man towards the back of the picture is washing entrails.  In the front of the picture are sharks fins drying on bamboo flat baskets.
The following pictures were taken as we wandered around different neighborhoods in Hong Kong.


Jennifer Chase said...

Wow, what an amazing city! Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos. What's been your favorite item on the menu?

Observers of Life said...

Hi Jennifer!

There's really so many options that are really, really good. The noodle soups, dim sum, sweet and sour pork...but the one dish that really sticks out in my memory was the sautéed beef with garlic, chili and pepper with bell peppers and onions over steamed rice. Yum! I could eat that on a daily basis!


Jennifer Chase said...

That sounds fantastic -- it's making me hungry.