Hong Kong is a unique place in Asia, as it now once again belongs to China, but for almost 150 years it was controlled by the British who greatly influenced the city state. After the first Opium War that ended in 1842, the British Empire took control of Hong Kong, changing their political and educational system, bringing English, and eventually leaving them as a nearly democratic state. When mainland China took Hong Kong back in 1997, they did so with as little impact as possible, allowing Hong Kong to largely be an autonomous province that has its own type of government, currency and laws. The only exception is China always will rule on decisions regarding military operations and defense. As a result of the British influence and free market system, Hong Kong grew to be one of the most successful cities in all of Asia.
Above is a shot of the central areas of Hong Kong. The whole city is home to nearly 7 million people, making this one of the most densely populated places on earth. On the upper right is another photo taken while in the downtown area, the Chinese flag flying would not have been there before 1997, but instead you’d see the old British version. Since Hong Kong is used to ruling themselves, they enjoy much more political freedom than the mainland. As a matter of fact, they allow many westerns like myself to arrive without a visa, so getting into Hong Kong is as simple as visiting a European country or a place like Japan or South Korea. Below on the lower left is some type of protest or political rally that was going on in the city center. While mainland China is more open to religion now in modern times, earlier religious groups did face some persecution. With British influence, there are a large number of Christian places of worship in Hong Kong, and of course many Buddhists temples as well. On the lower right is St John’s Cathedral.
I’ve been in many of the world’s biggest cities already like New York or Tokyo, but while Hong Kong might not beat those places in population they do place higher in skyscrapers. It’s truly amazing to walk down an alley and peak behind a wall into a little area where you might expect a small store to be built, but instead see I-beams for a new skyscraper. Hong Kong was determined to grow, and since it couldn’t grow outwards it grew upwards, and is ranked #1 in the world was the most vertical city. Above on the left is an alley between two skyscrapers, on the right is one of many shops I saw packed in between an alley, every space counts!
While mainland China is seeing its fair share of Western Influence, Hong Kong has over a 150 years on the mainland. The city is very international, with all types of restaurants and brands and goods from all over the world. Above is another downtown shot, with a large Gucci store on the upper right.
Some other western influence I was surprised to see was Halloween decorations above one of the streets I was on. I’m sure its celebrated here loosely just for fun and marketing purposes but who knows, after a decade or two it could become a normal celebration for them as well.
Having a Hard Rock Cafe in Hong Kong wasn’t surprising at all, I’m sure I’ve seen people wearing shirts from this location over the years and this was probably one of the businesses first Asian’s locations anyway. Normally I’m used to both the inside and outside of Planet Hollywood and Hard Rock Cafe’ being extremely unique in their decorations and well looked out for. As far as the outside goes, this was probably the nastiest one I’ve ever seen, and while I suppose they can’t control the street conditions and trash immediately outside, they did pick a strange location. I felt like I was in some random back alley when I came across the Hard Rock Cafe, or maybe that’s just because of the construction going on that gave me that feeling. The photo on the right is of a really fancy restaurant in Hong Kong.
I was leaving the Hong Kong Station at maybe 8am when I saw dozens of women opening up cardboard boxes and some were even taping them down on the floor. I assumed they were doing this in order to later sell something, even though I didn’t see boxes of trinkets or souvenirs anywhere nearby. Later when I returned it seemed that the purpose of this was simply to have a cardboard box picnic. As far as I could tell, people were sincerely just here to hang out and have a chat with friends, though of course I might be completely wrong. It does seem like a strange place to meet, especially when there are plenty of more ideal places like a city park rather than a busy walkway. On another note, I was surprised that Hong Kong had banned smoking.
As Hong Kong was a popular place to visit for Brits, its tourism history goes back to when people were carried up the famous tram as the old poster shows on the left. A modern tram was built that tows people up to the top of a mountain where you can get some beautiful views of the city. Actually it was at that location where I took the Hong Kong city photo which is the first on pictures on this page. You can’t tell in the photo on the upper right, but the tram felt like it was traveling at an angle of nearly 45 degrees. I could feel the weight of the entire train and gravity pulling it backwards as it moved higher. It would be pretty scary if a cable broke, I can’t imagine the speeds the tram would make going downhill at those angles.
At the top of the tram, before you can get your beautiful views you have to first past a gauntlet of stores and vendors. No one is pushy or will bother you if you don’t feel like stopping, but I seriously counted going up 7 escalators, each of them with stores and restaurants until finally making it outside! On the upper left is one of the many stores that I passed by as I tried to escape to the terrace. This place is basically a full sized shopping mall and has several nice restaurants, lots of fast food joints, and even a wax museum seen above. Once I left the galleria and saw it from a distance, I realized what an impressive building I was in. On the left is the Peak Galleria, and its on the buildings roof where you can get some of the best views of all of Hong Kong.
One of my favorite places to visit was Hong Kong Park. This enclosed canopy is home to several exotic birds, basically a little walk in zoo. I expected the price to be something outrageous like equal to $20 or so, but instead I was happy to see it was free! For whatever reason, they even have free broadcasting wifi here as well, so you have no reason not to visit Hong Kong Park. Above is the entrance to the park, and on the right is a photo of the inside. I’m not sure of the species on the lower left, but on the lower right is the Southern Crowned Pigeon.
The bird on the upper right is obviously some species of parrot, but I have no idea what the white bird on the left is. Below on the lower right is one of the indoor trees growing within the enclosed areas. The gigantic Orangutan on the left was part of the zoo, which is also free to visitors.
My last photos of Hong Kong are a bit random. I forgot to mention earlier how dangerously steep some of the hills in the city can be. I find it not only impressive that Hong Kong built so many skyscrapers, but the fact that they did it here on such a mountainous island. The people have learned to adapt to the steep banks along roads like on the upper right by placing barriers. In other cases, nature has learned to adapt to Hong Kong’s construction like the tree growing off the side of a wall. Below was an advertisement I saw for Hong Kong Disney which was actually back in the Peak Galleria. Hong Kong Disney is something I didn’t have time for on this trip, but I plan to make it there eventually. The lower right is a photo of some real wild berries I found on the island. As a city state, there won’t be much nature shots from Hong Kong except for a few photos like this and maybe the birds that decide to enter the city from time to time.