Saturday, 17 September 2011

The Hong Kong sojourn - 5 [end]

From the previous post: "...Finally, it was time to head home, with the indication given by my friend that tomorrow, I would be literally touching the sky! 

The next and last post in this series, comes up next."

The sky is the limit. Really.

In a city of skyscrapers, it is quite possible to see high rises that touch the clouds. So you can imagine, living/working a 180 floors above ground level is quite similar to being in the sky. All the time. 

As my friend and guide had promised, this day began on a lovely note, post her half day work got done. So once again, I walked around the streets off Nathan road, soaking in the atmosphere, browsing through shops that offered deals which made me work really hard at not reaching for my wallet.

It was time to get to the Mong Kok MTR station, meet my friend and then leave for a leisurely journey to touch the sky. Yeah! 

I have to observe here, the behaviour of the MTR passengers, which I have witnessed on multiple occasions during this trip. As much as the transportation systems in Hong Kong are efficient, so are the passengers. It is crowded, but still every person manages to wedge in, without stepping on anyone else's toes. Waiting at the station for my friend to arrive, it was an engaging site to watch the metal snakes arrive, within minutes of each other, engorged with passengers, who spewed out in a rush to the nearest exit or waiting train. It was disciplined, organised and efficient, yet cold. 

An interesting factoid: none of the MTR trains have a toilet on board. The system has been designed to ensure that people get on board and leave within the shortest possible time! My friend has a huge aversion to sweat as a result of the MTR and its crowds. To that, all I had to say was, please do take a local train in Bombay and you will soon realise how much better off the MTR is. Really. My experience in Bombay had taught me that we humans can contort our bodies in completely different angles for long periods, while silently suffering the smells, oils and perspiration of fellow passengers at 0 distance! The MTR with its air conditioning is a huge improvement. But then, it is a matter of perspective. Always.

Finally, my friend arrived, we boarded an appropriate train and reached a destination which was a bit further than expected. Exiting the MTR, we headed up to reach a massive shopping mall, which I could say was on par with any of the sprawling malls in Los Angeles, Paris or Dubai. Walking through it is like a running the half marathon, it never seems to end.

Looking down never looked better!

After gazing around the splendid brands on display, we finally arrived at a lift. The maximum height that I have ascended in a building was 10 floors (obviously I have not been in the Burj Al Arab, Dubai - another destination to go). When we step into the lift and it shows only two buttons. One marked 112 and the other 118. Realisation dawns on me. Oh boy, this is going to be high. 

And what a ride. Of course, the lifts are designed to 'take off' and stop slowly, while reaching maximum speed in between so passengers do not feel the strain. But my popping ear drums announced clearly to me, that we were ascending heights that were anything but normal for most people. 

View from floor 118
We arrived at the Ozone pub, part of the Ritz Carlton. A 118 floors above ground. I chose to go out on the viewing partially covered terrace. There was a good 10 degree temperature difference! And the view - f.a.n.t.a.s.t.i.c. 

Ritz Carlton
Yes, we do get to see a somewhat similar sight, when in a plane that is above to descend or ascend. The difference is, we are moving, whereas here one is standing absolutely still, trying to not to jump up and down in front of all the classy folks around, yet the eyes and the brain is racing with adrenaline pumping strongly through the heart, as the view develops and engages you with its soaring majesty. I must also add here, that it was one of the priciest Long Island Ice Tea, that I consumed at this place. Was it worth it? Definitely. Would I go back? Possibly.

After this, it was back to the ground. And a cab ride to a restaurant which was the designated place for a large bunch of old friends and some friends of friends. Reason: a welcome to Hong Kong dinner. Oh man, did I feel special or what? Such sweet, nice, caring friends are what make this world a better place. A lovely dinner, with lots of different kinds of food, after which the only thought was to somehow crawl back to the hotel bed. 

The last day (sigh)

Woke up with the realisation that this beautiful and exciting journey was coming to an end. And that this day presented the opportunity to make the most of the time left. So any guesses for what I had for lunch? Dim sums of course! A restaurant on Nathan road that was filled with people who liked to enjoy their food. A lovely multi-dish meal, it was once again gastronomic pleasure, which could be experienced only in Hong Kong. Of this, I am now convinced. Until someone showcases to me a place that could better this one.

To walk off the lunch, we went to the nearby Langham Palace shopping mall. Again, it was affirmation of Hong Kong's love with tall buildings and the people's love of shopping, anywhere, any time, anyhow.

I managed to snap a rare picture of an escalator that was not full of people. Note, how it looks like it is descending right from the heavens. It may look like an optical illusion, but I guarantee you, it is not. This is one long, high rise, escalator.

Today's highlight was a balloon ride. Now, never having experienced anything but holding a balloon in my hand, as a child, this was thrilling to say the least. No, it is not a hot air balloon ride over Hong Kong. It is a helium filled balloon that takes you a 100 metres up in the sky, for a panoramic 360 degree view of this city.

While on board this pulley and lever contraption, which by the way is completely safe for up to 15 people at a time, I noticed an something that widened my already wide eyes. It was the sight of a helicopter flying at half the level of the massive International Financial Centre - Hong Kong's second tallest building. It was almost like the laws of physics had been reversed. Planes and helicopters fly above buildings. Not below. Not beside. Yet here was this view that so simply characterised this city of skyscrapers. It was about the most effective and efficient usage of all the available space on land, air and water.

Ride over, it was that time of the journey when your heart wearies at the thought of having to leave this enchanting tour behind and return home. With a sated mind and stomach, it was only the blips coming from a corner of my soul that I tried hard, not pay any heed to, by reassuring myself that this is not the first and last time time that I would be here.

Hong Kong had entered into my psyche. It is a bustling, expensive and efficient spectacle of what humans can achieve. Now I understood, why people love this place and try to be part of it in whichever way they can. A clich├ęd but effective thought - I will be back, as I soar off into the sky, on the return back to India.

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