Travel dates: 4-6 April 2008. This entry is from my 2008 RTW trip.
I arrived in Hong Kong late in the evening from Macau on the fabulous Cotai Jet ferry. Hong Kong allows Indian passport holders to travel visa free for up to 30 days. HK Immigration held me for a while and quizzed me. Apparently the building where my hostel was located (Mirador Mansions) is also a haven for illegal immigrants. Anyway, that got cleared and soon I was on my way to Kowloon! Tsim Tsa Tshui to be exact, but don’t even try to pronounce it. It wouldn’t come out even close to it’s actual pronunciation.
The Mirador Mansions building is a dump. There is no other way of putting it. True, there are some nice places to stay in it, but most of the owners are cheats. I got a bed in a dorm which was also a cybercafe, and all night long I was woken up first by someone chuckling on something funny they read on the Internet and eventually I gave up trying to sleep after final long argument between a French guy and one of the hostel staff in Mandarin! Moral of the story: check in early and choose a better dorm, which I did the next day. If you’re headed there, avoid USA hostel as you would a rabid dog. Seriously.
The next day I walked around Kowloon, took in some beautiful views across the Victoria Harbour, ordered from an obscure restaurant by pointing at a random dish in the Chinese-only menu.
On the 6th I went over to Hong Kong island. Now, everyone knows that in 1997, Hong Kong went from being a British Territory to being a Chinese territory. What most people don’t realise is that the UK did not have to return Hong Kong to China at all! They were only obligated to return the “New Territories” and Northern Kowloon. The rest of Kowloon and Hong Kong island itself were British property for good. But they went ahead and returned it anyway, as Hong Kong could not have functioned without its extensions.
On Hong Kong, I took a slow tram (2 HK$!) to the end of the line, and walked into a fort turned museum which still had buildings with their WWII bullet holes intact! Riding the tram was so lovely that I rode it all the way back, but this time I couldn’t manage to stay awake. After catching some lovely views from “The Peak”, I headed back for the night, only to be dragged out by an American dorm-mate. Ah well, how can I say no to Tsingtao beer?
As we turned in after the night out, I couldn’t help but think about Singapore. It is impossible to not compare Singapore and Hong Kong. Both were British colonies, both were founded upon and prospered on the principal of free trade, both are in the tropics and both are predominantly Chinese, however Singapore is more Mandarin and Hong Kong more Cantonese. The two are compared constantly but, in my mind at least, there really is no comparison. Hong Kong is alive! Hong Kong feels like a real city, as opposed to the manufactured, artificial propriety of Singapore.