Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Layout of Hong Kong

Since many of the entries in this blog are going to be about Minxi and me hiking up and down Hong Kong, I thought it would be useful to give you some sense of the layout of the place.

Here's a nice map Google provided for me:

As you can see, Hong Kong is a collection of islands and a small piece of Asia stuck out into the South China Sea from Mainland China.  It lies just East of the mouth of the Pearl River and the main crossing into China is at Shenzhen.  It is basically a solid piece of granite.

Hong Kong got its start because of the beautiful, deep water harbor between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.  Today, most of the shipping happens West of Victoria Harbor, where miles of cranes load hundreds of ships a day with goods headed, literally, around the world.  It is almost certain that dozens of the items in your house passed through Hong Kong on their way to you. 

Since the shipping has moved West, Victoria Harbor has been transformed into a jewel of skyscrapers, ferries, and salt air.  With the high, forested mountains all around, and the bustling city in her arms, Victoria Harbor is a sight whose beauty is rarely matched around the world.

The two things that stunned me most about Hong Kong were its sheer density and wild contrast between man and nature.

Let's imagine for a minute that your standing at the intersection of Nathan and Granville roads, Kowloon.  The view to the East looks something like this:

Hong Kong Shopping

This is Chung King Mansion a few blocks South of where we are imagining but hang with me.  The main door in front of you leads to two levels of shopping arcade filled with discount shops, small eateries (mostly Indian food in Chung King,) internet arcades, and newspaper (and porn) stands.  Dozens of elevators here take people up to 16 floors of business offices, guest houses and private suites.  But wait!  

See that entry way marked "Cke?"  That leads up to the mid-level shops on the second and third floors.  There gem stone merchants, belly dance outfitters, and whole shops dedicated to handbags, vie with nail studios and a large food court for your attention.  But wait!

See all those stores along the front?  The most upscale shops are right on the street.  Louis Vitton?  No problem.  Need an Irish pub?  Yeah, we got that.

Turning around to the West, at the intersection of Nathan and Granville, the view is pretty much the same, except for the small stair cases that lead up from the street from here to there.  What could be up there?  

Why the Kowloon Masjid and Islamic center of course, where beautiful young girls in white linen sit for lunch and the minarets call to prayer.  That's next to Kowloon park where the sculpture garden, the rose garden, the play ground, cultural center, and this girl who was wearing bunny ears for no apparent reason can be found:

Kowloon Park

The point is, there is so much Hong Kong that you'll never see all of it.  Just relax, take a walk and find yet another magic moment in Hong Kong.

Contrasting the amazing cultural density of Hong Kong is the fact that half of it is unoccupied.  That's right, vast swatches of Hong Kong of forested wilderness full of bamboo thickets, chittering birds, and oranges that fall straight off the trees.

(Real orange tree with real orange really about to fall in a real forest on Lantau Island)

Absolutely amazing!  Okay, so that's a tiny bit about Hong Kong. Just hold onto the idea that its this incredibly dense city in the middle of forested mountain and that Minxi and I are about to take off into it and we'll get along fine.  Oh, also they have hundred's of 7-11's.  Thought you should know.

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