Thursday, January 14, 2016


Stanley - Thursday

Last week I indulged my addiction to airline food:  from peaceful, beautiful, and grey Copenhagen, to the City of Lights for a quick transfer and a couple of glasses of bubbly, to beautiful Cape Town at a scorching 34° C, to an even hotter Johannesburg, to Hong Kong for an infusion of energy, and finally to idyllic New Zealand to celebrate a good friend's son's wedding.

This week I want to share a few thoughts and pictures of Hog Kong, a city I first visited in 1979.  Even then, before its reversion to China, it was a bustling city.  But the bustle was offset by the pervasive colonial lifestyle enjoyed by the ex-pats.  Fortunately a cousin who lived there was able to show me around, introduce me to some of his friends, so I often had company as I toured the amazing city state.

Tall, short, new, old - Hong Kong
One of the enduring memories of that first visit was a day-long hike, complete with picnic, that I made on Lantau island.  Lantau was not connected to the mainland by any structure such as a bridge or rail link.  The ferry was it!  Lantau at the time was basically uninhabited, except for a picturesque Buddhist monastery up in the hills - a fine target to reach on the hike.  It made for a striking contrast to the bustle a few kilometres across the water.

Today Lantau is the site of the new Hong Kong International Airport, a massive, modern, efficient hub to almost every airline.  No more the curved approach to the old airport, dodging hills and skyscrapers, with the sea waiting patiently at the end of the runway.

Each time I have visited Hong Kong, I've been struck by its energy and growth.  But this time I was more than struck - I was blown away.  New buildings are going up everywhere, and the sky is filled with cranes.  Huge numbers of people have moved there, mainly from China proper, but also from every country on the planet.  The Hong Kong government website has this to say:
At the south-eastern tip of China, Hong Kong covers Hong Kong Island, Lantau Island, the Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories, including 262 outlying islands. Between Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsula lies Victoria Harbour, one of the world's most renowned deep-water harbours.
  • Total area: 1 104 square kilometres
  • Land developed: less than 25%
  • Country parks and nature reserves: 40%
Hong Kong's population was approximately 7.24 million in 2014. People of Chinese descent comprise the vast majority of the population, with foreign nationals comprising 8%.
  • Population density: 6 650 people per square kilometre
  • Crude birth rate: 8.6 per 1000
  • Percentage of population Chinese descent: 91%
  • Other significant national groups
  • Philippines (168 850 total)
  • Indonesia (165 170 total)
  • India (28 920 total).
By comparison, New York City is 790 square kilometres with a density of 10,750 per square kilometre.  However, if one only takes the developed part of Hong Kong, the population density is over 26,000 per kilometre.

It is a city of huge contrasts, rich and poor, old (some) and new (lots), original and fake.

Other than walking, walking, and walking, and being accosted every other step either to have a suit and shirts made by the next day or to buy a genuinely fake Rolex, I took Mette to a delightful hang-over from colonial times, namely Afternoon Tea at the iconic Peninsula Hotel.  I am sure, not that long ago, that the clientele would have been almost exclusively White.  Now one sees a White face or two, every now and again.

A truly colonial hotel

One has to arrive in style

The foyer
The tea room - full every day

The presentation is pretty good

I think it's a city well worth visiting, but, if you do so, make sure you have the time to travel outside the building limits to the New Territories or to some of the islands.

Here are our pictures.
14 stories of bamboo scaffolding

Impressive buildings
The view from the Star Ferry from Kowloon to Hong Kong island

Another view
Luxury goods are everywhere

Real luxury, but fakes are everywhere
The Chinese like gold.

The Chinese love gold!
Even odd gold
Chow Tai Fook jewellers are on every block

Lots of colours

There are watches for sale everywhere - not all gebuine

People, cars, buildings

Chestnuts, Hong Kong style

Oh to be in the air-conditioning business

Beautiful old trees are supported.

Buy, buy, buy!

Even Marks and Sparks is there.

Hong Kong - an amazing place to visit
And I didn't even have time to visit the docks and the tens of thousands of containers.


    1. Thanks for the visit, Stan! Aside from the wonderful pictures and your travelogue, I appreciated the (probably unintentional) pun: "There are watches for sale everywhere - not all gebuine". :-)

    2. I loved this! Thelma Straw, MWA Manhattan

    3. Thanks Stan, I am going to pass this on to my Non computer father. He did his national service in Hong Kong in 195???, I'm sure he would love to read this.

    4. Stan, my visits were in 1986 and a business trip in 1994. Except for a few sitings (most striklngly the bamboo scaffolding), it looks completely changed. I am not sure I would want to see it now. I have such great memories of how it used to be and I'm afraid that the new HK would wipe them out. I am glad, though, to have taken this trip with you. And I am sure I would not miss that steep, scary descent into the old airport.

    5. I've never been to HK, so to me it would be a new vision untangled by memories. I wonder if I'd be as transfixed on my first trip (even coming with a clean slate) as you and Annamaria were on your first trips. I always find a followup experience to be less exciting than the original. [Run with that EvKa.] Thank you for taking us there, Stan.