A Hong Kong Wander

A visit to Hong Kong can be frugal and slow, or the opposite. A leisurely stroll around older neighbourhoods, like Sheung Wan, gives a glimpse of earlier times, and the everyday, where locals walk, eat, shop and congregate. Better this than the multi-storied glittering halls of consumerism where international brand name items sell for absurd prices amongst excesses of air-conditioned marble and glass, overpriced food, and bored sales staff.

Cheap entertainment, cheap views, cheap travel ….

Many of Hong Kong Island’s streets are steep. When walking becomes tiresome, an easy way to ascend is to use the elevators in Central that whisk people 800 metres up from the harbour. Good views abound with  little effort.

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To a foreigner, shop displays range from the mundane to the bizarre. Sometimes, it’s difficult to know whether to reach for a cookbook, or just remain mystified. (Apologies for the bad phone photos).

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Lizards and starfish.

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Hong Kong is industrious.

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Quaint workshops and shops are easy to find, like this old operating printing press.

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Hand carts are crucial for deliveries. However, Hong Kong is not all hard work.

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Hong Kong’s public transport is very good and cheap. A 30 minute ferry trip to Lamma Island costs HK$35.6 (about AU$6) return. Lamma is rather laid-back, sparsely populated, pedestrianised, and a quiet and forested contrast to the city. The local fishing industry supplies the island seafood restaurants, which make a good place for lunch.

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Lamma’s main village – Yung Shue Wan – seen from the ferry. Below, inside one of the island’s temples.

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Hong Kong Island’s double decker trams are cheap HK$2.30 (AU$0.38) for an adult fare, and a nice scenic and relaxing way to travel about.

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Eat where the locals eat, here at a wet market (selling seafood, meat and fresh vegetables). Join them for cheap authentic tasty food.

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Hong Kong Musings

Hong Kong is an orphan in many ways, disconnected from China by colonisation and the culture of colonial rule. It was a British prize of the Opium Wars in 1841, that disgraceful era when government trading in human misery, including drugs and slavery, was a feature of many of the then most advanced and richest countries in the world.

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My Hong Kong visits have usually been on the way to or from mainland China, with a resulting impression that Hong Kong is Asia Lite, an unchallenging place where westerners can experience a touch of the foreign but always be comfortable and close to their needs and desires.

Hong Kong is renowned for shopping. I always prefer a local market to the up-market marbled air-conditioned shopping malls that breed in capital cities throughout the world and feed off the modern fetish for brand names. The photo was taken at an unheralded and unfashionable neighbourhood market on Hong Kong island amongst the jumble of  local housing.

While publicity about Hong Kong frequently highlights examples of economic dynamism, the extremely wealthy, and expensive house prices, less focus is on the gap between the rich and poor, which is one of the widest in the world. This inequality was a major motivation behind the pro-democracy protests in 2014, the year I last visited.

I encountered the market in the photo while using the Central-Mid Levels escalator and walkway system, a free and excellent way to explore and enjoy the views as you ascend the sometimes steep slopes to 135 metres above the harbour. The economical and efficient ferries, trains and buses add to the ease of travel, essential for locating the best food and places of interest.

This is my contribution to Tiffin’s A-Z Guidebook, this month starting with the letter H.

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