Thursday, 15 September 2011

The Hong Kong sojourn - 3

From the previous post: "...A nearby bakery also beckoned for a look at some exquisite creations, but was already full so just ended taking a snap.

The adventure continues, in the next post.

The story continues

The first place, I went to was Times Square (of the Hong Kong variety). I discovered that it really does not matter, what time or day it is - people love to browse and shop in this city. Maybe it is the fact that more than 7 million people are crammed into a small portion of the available land makes the density seem so high, but it certainly leads to efficiencies in use of space. Maybe only Tokyo does a bit better, but there is no denying the energy on display.

Or for that matter wasted. Walking on roads, especially in Kowloon, you are likely to suddenly feel a nice cool breeze, particularly emanating from one direction. Look around you, and chances are you will notice a shop with two sides open and air-conditioners in full swing. A spectacle, that wouldn't be normally experienced anywhere else in the world. Make no mistake, it is a selling point for the merchant. Get out of the hot, humid street and buy my wares, screamed at a subliminal thought level.

Sweet Basil Thai restaurant
After a walk around the place, soaking in the atmosphere (thank goodness for air conditioning), it was time for lunch. And it was my choice to select Thai food as the preferred cuisine on this occasion. Off we went to 'Sweet Basil' Thai restaurant. Words fail me here. What a sumptuous meal! Gastronomic delight is all I could gasp out at the end of the leisurely drawn out lunch. Interestingly, I thought that as a traveller I had time to take it easy, but it seems, even working people were drawn to this place to spend some quality time eating and talking with each other.
Flute player idol

There was a beautiful idol of a flute player intricately carved in traditional Thai style. So alive was the statue that I could almost hear the flute playing in my head.

Now, it was off to shop! And it was a rather forced choice, due to the incident I mentioned in the first post of this series.

Shopping and eating

Shopping in Hong Kong is an activity that is as easy as blinking your eyelids. The plethora of shops enticing me to have a look is near bewildering. The choices, aplenty. The range, enormous. The deals, exciting. If you travel to this place, and you know that, you are the sort who has a penchant to pick up products, impulsively, be prepared to part with cash! Way more cash than you may have imagined. Of course, all for a good reason, eh?

Another realisation was that this city is extremely good for picking up amazing deals on electronic products, but when it comes to clothes, it is a different story. Your size may be considered quite normal where you are from, but it is not likely to be the case here. Especially not, if you are bargain hunting. It took me ages to pick up a shirt, because my usual size is L or XL, and when the design I chose would be brought to me for a trial, I would realise on trying that it was not meant to be worn on my kind of size. And I can't even claim to be a really large person!

The eatery
The menu!
Finally, picked up a few clothes, and it was time to try something, I never had before - tortoise shell gelatine. Another thing, to keep in mind while in south east Asia is an open mind to the kind of food that is available. Locally, the tortoise shell gel/soup is favoured for its medicinal properties. The shell is only one of the many ingredients that go into the soup. It is quite bitter to taste, can be had hot or cold, has a smooth jelly-like texture and a layer of sugar syrup can be added to make it more palatable. Interestingly, there were clear visuals of the ingredients used. All were reared and grown in farms - how sustainable, no idea. The entrance of the eatery had these huge samovars that were used for keeping the product hot.

The walk through the Park 

Map of the Hong Kong park

Finally, we left the area and proceeded to a destination, usually on the 'must visit' list, for travellers to this city - The Peak! Thanks to my friend and guide, we chose to take a short hike through the Hong Kong park on the way to the peak. It is a point, on top of a mountain, that gives some of the best views of Hong Kong. But first, the walk. It was a very soothing walk through the park and as you can see from some of the pictures that I have put up here, very green, calm and quiet - in total contrast to the rest of the city.

Man made waterfall

Birds chirping, turtles and fish swimming calmly, walkers strolling leisurely, enchanting fragrances - all in all, a true breath of fresh air in the city that hardly relaxes, really.  

Where all to go?
The Peak as it is locally called is actually the Victoria Peak, also known as Mount Austin is located in the western part of Hong Kong. While the actual summit is occupied by a radio telecommunications facility and is closed to the general public, much of the surrounding areas consist of parks and extremely pricey residential buildings. 
The park walkway

The iconic Bank of China building
To think back to the old days, when those few people who used to live on the mountain had to be hand carried on 'sedan chairs' before the funicular tram was built.

The peak layered waterfall
With the tram opening up way back in 1888, more and more people started building residential units, which later on got converted into today's modern high rises. Today residency in this location is purely a function of how rich you are and has got nothing to do with the beauty of the place or the arresting views that the peak/mountain side offers.
Crowded tram entrance

At last, we made it to the peak tram entrance. With tickets priced at HK$ 40 for a same day return on the tram, it is a must see, must do activity.

See the print behind
And the crowds were teeming. So much so, that it took us nearly half an hour to get to the point where we could board the tram. The return journey was equally bad. But that is just the way it works in this city. No complaints.

The weirdest feeling while riding the tram is the optical illusion that all the buildings on the mountain are horribly tilted, and seem likely to fall off any moment! Reality, though, is actually a matter of physics.

The tram is the world's steepest funicular system, and while only a short 1.4 kilometre journey, the angle at which one sits is half way between sitting and lying down on a normal bed, leading to this optical illusion.

The Peak

Hong Kong at night
Finally, we reached the top. It had not been a sunny day and by the time in the evening, when we got there, the misty rain heavy clouds would keep on reducing visibility to nearly 0 at times. Initially, we went through the steep high rise building housing the shops.

It had been many months since I had a nice juicy hamburger. And Burger King beckoned alluringly. So it was off to dinner. Ah the joy of a nicely cooked, soft, juicy, spicy burger. Then followed up, by a walk just outside the building. The walkway could also be used as jogging track, since it goes around the mountain, but jogging was the last thing in our minds after that burger. A bit of drizzle, but not much to bother. Stopped at a viewing point on the walkway to snap off some nice shots. And it was time to go back to the hotel.

Another day, another adventure. Coming up.


Your comments are welcome. I am all ears.

The Chances We Take. Or Not.

Book under review: Ahmed Faiyaz,  Another Chance Grey Oak Publishers, 2010 ISBN: 978-93-81626-02-3 Rs. 195 We all know...