Monday, 7 September 2009
Never say never. Never say last!
This may be my last blog on this trip. But then again, maybe it isn't. It will all depend on whether I can get access at the airport tomorrow evening and even if there is time.
Today has been a day of learning and contrast.
Yesterday we kept ourselves to Kowloon and a boat trip round the harbour on one of the little Star Ferries. Today we went on the HK Island tour. To say this was an eye opener would be a gross understatement. I don't think that anything I have ever seen on the box, read about or heard really explained 'Hong Kong'. This guided tour really opened my eyes and my mind to another world.
Reaching the view point near the top of Victoria Peak (where the tram terminates) the view back over the harbour area is outstanding (here we go again with the superlatives) and we both took lots of photos, of course. But the thing that really stands out is the Ocean side of HK island. Like most people, I have seen the pictures of the sky scrapers and the view from the peak out over these just didn't seem to make sense. There was no sign of the harbour. Now I know why. This is still HK, but a very different part. The town of Aberdeen is on the ocean side of HK island and it is this that is often seen in pictures of HK. The film makers compound this in Jackie Chan films, and the like, by freely mixing views from the commercial, harbour, side of the island with this altogether different part of HK. The ocean side is truly beautiful. That cannot easily be said of the Kowloon/ harbour side of HK. The best that can be said about that side is that it is awesome! It really is. The skyscrapers, the lights, the people, the smells. Everything. Awesome.
Our guide gave us some interesting in-sights into the Cantonese people of HK. Most seem to live in the New Territories area, towards China, as they can't afford to live in Kowloon Penisula or HK island. The mass transit systems are efficient and cheap, so people can afford to travel some distance to work in the commercial areas. Few people own cars as car purchase tax is at 150%!
Fuel is more expensive than in the UK. And even when you have a car you have no where to park it! Most people live in public housing. You are entitled to just 100 square feet of living space. A typical family of 5 has just 500 square feet to live in. I can't image that. It probably explains why there are so few radio amateurs here. Our typical shacks would take up much of that 100 square feet. My shack is 150 square feet!
To make up for the high cost of housing (it can be 80% of take home pay) food is cheap (I wish someone would tell that to our hotel manager. 18GBP each for breakfast and 50GBP each for the dinner). The Australian 'Outbacker' restaurant was much cheaper, we found, and the steaks were as good as I've tasted anywhere.
Taxis, surprisingly, are cheap. About 1.60GBP for the first km and irrespective of the number of occupants, so everyone takes them when there is more than one person going out. And on Sundays EVERYONE goes out. It is a national pastime. Eat out and enjoy the public spaces.
Tomorrow we are off on a tour of Lantau Island and the Po Lin monastery with its giant Buddha statue. This monastery also has a famous vegetarian restaurant which is where we are booked to eat lunch. Even as a confirmed carnivore I'll probably survive.............
In case this is the last blog from our trip I'd like to thank you for reading my words. I know a few of you have from comments received back both in the blog comments sections and from private e-mails.
I've enjoyed meeting so many people on this trip, both arranged and speculative (we bumped into an American today who worked on the Kesgrave MM trial video server and his wife did much of the video editing for N-Cubed). We should be back in the UK on Wednesday morning if they let us in again!
Thanks again for accompanying us both on this trip.
73 de Sam and Shirley