China 2019 – Day 29, Thursday, 15th August
When you look at a planet from space, you don’t think, “Hmmm, I wonder what arbitrary lines of segregation have been drawn on that planet?”
You think, “Wow, what an awesome looking planet!!”
Now, practicalities and logistics aside, and I don’t want to hurt anyone’s national pride, but I often think that nationalities are a bit foolish really in a lot of ways.
Once you scratch below the surface of the slight differences in appearance, the organisation of sounds our vocal chords make, as well as regional customs and traditions, we are all the same and we share this planet together.
Hong Kong seems to me – like London – a city of the world, almost beyond nationality. A world city with a strong regional flavour (China may beg to differ at the moment I guess).
My anarchic idealistic sentimentality may never work on a practical level, we’re too far down another path to turn back (until we maybe have to start again!) but we should treasure such places for their diversity and their expression of a collective race – embracing the past while facing the future, boldly proud of their local customs and culture, yet confidently allowing others to sit alongside them – not removing themselves from important unions with other countries, or putting up walls and borders, brandishing fear and promoting separation as a weapon of mass control and manipulation.
Instead, take a moment to imagine yourself in space looking down on the earth and simply think, “Wow, what an awesome planet.”
Anyway…that’s what I was thinking about as I washed down a couple of pork and vegetable steamed buns with a black coffee.
Maybe I was fused with cosmic energy from Tai Chi in Kowloon Park early this morning – well, that and the caffeine.
I had always planned an early morning Tai Chi practice to start my day off in Hong Kong and thought, “I’ll just find a quiet little corner to myself and do a bit of practice.”
Things rarely work out as we plan and instead I had the observation point, AKA the highest point, of the park all to myself for 45 minutes as I ran through some forms. A local made his way up to see what I was doing and seemed very pleased to see a bald, bearded Westerner doing tai chi in his local Hong Kong park!
After training and breakfast it was a trip across the harbour to Hong Kong Island to the business area and beyond. Like most trips in this part of the world the scenery was ‘Insta-tastic’ with 360 degrees of amazing views.
Once off the Star Ferry, I hit the business area, which kind of seemed like part of the City of London had been fused with the local area. It was “interesting”, not exactly my cup of tea but I’m sure it’s great.
Next stop was the first stop on the Peak Tram, which slowly takes you up to an elevation of 550m for jaw dropping views of the entire Hong Kong skyline.
Hong Kong was a fishing village, as well as an area reliant on salt and agriculture for trade, until the might of the British Empire decided that it would quite like to own the area as spoils of the Opium Wars. Basically so Britain could keep the Chinese supplied with opium, in return for trading tea, which was in such huge demand. The British had nothing that the Chinese empire wanted, that is until they became a country of drug addicts, thanks to British foreign policy.
As I sat having a drink, gazing out at the skyline, I wondered what it would have been like in those years gone by.
After coming back down to sea level, I had a walk around the area known as Central. A couple of streets up from what feels more like the City of London are narrow streets, market stalls, interesting shops, and a nice little Taoist temple that I visited as I headed back to the pier and ferry back to Kowloon, my lungs just about incense smoke free as I got there!
At the risk of using the word juxtaposition twice in one blog, which is twice as many times as I have ever used it before, Hong Kong seems to effortlessly place traditional Canton culture alongside modern rampant commercialism more than anywhere I have ever travelled before.
Often it can seem like you’ve walked into a version of (my) Hell where you can’t quite find your way out of a Designer Label Shopping Jungle, the next minute you’re winding your way up stairs squeezing through market stalls on your way to a Taoist temple.
Back on Kowloon and I decided to visit the Hong Kong History Museum. Mostly because I love learning about history (blame my dad for that one!) and maybe just a little bit because it was mid afternoon and an hour or so in an air conditioned modern building was very appealing!
If you are ever here, I would highly recommend it…through 8 sections you start 400 million years ago and it leads you through pre-history (which is a really silly term!), the dynastic histories, Opium Wars, colonialism, WW2 and the Japanese occupation, before finishing with the handover to China in 1990-something, I forget the exact year. Interestingly there is no mention of the past 20 years under the ‘One Country – Two Systems’ agreement with China. Sometimes silence says enough!
A ‘watermelon juice spilt all over my white t-shirt’ incident meant I popped back to my accommodation to slip into a more suitably clean evening t-shirt, then decided my weary feet, that have been training so hard this last month and wandering endlessly around Hong Kong for two days, needed a foot massage.
I always say that one of the signs of a civilised country is the abundance of affordable massages – and Hong Kong (as well as China) has plenty.
I settled down into a comfortable seat and tried to relax as the Foot Crushing All China Champion went to work on my feet! He nearly brought tears to my eyes but after an hour of an almost pleasurable treatment he was well deserving of the 50 Hong Kong Dollar tip that he asked me for! Well, if you don’t ask, you don’t get! I assume he spends all jobs tips on hand strengthening devices anyway.
By then I was ready for some food and headed to Temple Street again, like last night, for some delicious street food. It dawned on me that I would soon be eating something that didn’t have rice with it!!!
Knowing that at 8pm there was to be a sound and lights show over the harbour I finished up and rushed down the have a look. It was fantastic. Have a look (with volume up) on my Facebook page if you can, I’ll add it to my own and WCO. Imagine a panoramic view of a city lit up like a graphics equaliser!
So now, I’m back in the cafe for a supper where I started my day for breakfast, which seems like a long time ago.
I like Hong Kong. It is very interesting, has a strong character, the food is amazing, the view over the harbour awe inspiring and I could sit there for hours.
I’m generally not a city person, I usually have a limit of a day or two and I am ready to get out of there! I can’t say Hong Kong is any different in that respect but for a day and a half of exploration, it has been a fantastic way to round off my trip.
As I said previously, I’d categorise it alongside somewhere like London, as a city of the world. So I really hope that the current problems it is experiencing can be resolved by peaceful and amicable so that it can remain free and continue living up up to its nickname, “The Pearl of the Orient”.