Night and Day
On Tuesday morning we catch a taxi in Guangzhou and head to the train station. Have to go through immigration and customs here since we are leaving mainland China and entering the New Territories, which have their own entry requirements. High speed train is a 2 hour run to Hong Kong. Cossing the border shows just how different Hong Kong is: the barbed wire and fences indicate that you do not just walk into the New Territories. Most of the territory is rural, and it has a lot of hills and islands.
Technically, the train station is in Kowloon, the peninsula part of Hong Kong. Our hotel is on Hong Kong island, which is a relatively quick drive via tunnel under the harbor. As we were getting into the taxi I noticed that the driver was on the wrong side. Wait! This was a British possession for 150 years, they drive on the left! It didn't even hit me until we got here.
Hong Kong on the hotel side, and Kowloon across the harbor, looking north from our hotel room.
This part of HK is tightly built up with high office and apartment buildings. We get to the Conrad and check in and head to the 53rd floor. The view above is what we see from our hotel room!
This city is vibrant, worldly, open, and welcoming. Our Kensington tour director told us not to even book tours with them here since it is safe and easy to navigate. English is common. This is very different from the mainland. We switch Yuan to Hong Kong dollars. Most everything is more expensive here.
But this is still China. There are a significantly larger number of westerners here, most likely doing business, but many ex-pats that are retired here.
On Hong Kong island there are no bicycles! After almost getting run over by bicycles and cars on a regular basis for the last 14 days, it is eerily different. Even the car and taxi drivers drive more moderatly here, not as many close calls. But the major reason for no bicycles is that Hong Kong is built on a hill that goes up rather steeply. Many apartment buildings and offices are partway up the hill, and the climbs and roads to them are steep. Riding a bicycle would be impossible.
The world's longest escalator is located here to help move residents up and down the hill. It is outside but covered most of the way and runs about halfway up the hill. It goes down in the morning, and up the rest of the day. About a 20 minute ride from bottom to top and you can get off at most cross streets.
There is definitely more money flowing through here than any other China city we visited. There are a large number of high rise apartment buildings and many high end shopping centers. An ad in local paper for a new apartment building listed average selling price for 1000 sq ft apartments at US $2.2 million. And this was considered a middle class place!
Night and day (mainland vs. Hong Kong)
- Entry visa required vs. none required
- Bicycles and wild driving vs. no bicycles and more moderate driving (and taxis require use of seat belts)
- Few high end shopping malls vs. many high end shopping malls
- Taxi drivers no English vs. some English
- Drive on the right vs. drive on the left
- Some westerners vs. many westerners, other Asians and Africans.
On the other hand both had: McDonalds, KFC, Starbucks! This may be a good thing: the author of The World is Flat claims that with only one exception, we have never fought a war with a country that has McDonalds!