Stephen Young

10.3.07

China trip part 1 - Hong Kong

It's been almost a week since Andrew and I returned from our grand tour southern China and Hong Kong. By combining NTU's Chinese New Year and reading week break we were able to spend fully 20 days traveling! Here's a quick recap of our first stage in Hong Kong.

We left on Feb 13, flying from Singapore to Macau and arriving in the early morning on Feb 14. For some reason, I'd scheduled a phone interview for a summer co-op job for the night we arrived. So right after arriving we taxied to the nearest 7/11 where I picked up a local SIM card and promptly had an interview with TD Securities in Toronto. Certainly one of the strangest experiences ever... sitting on the streets in Macau just after 2AM talking on a cellphone to a banker back home in Toronto. The interview went so/so, with the noise and sleep deprivation, however I got a chance to speak to someone else the next day using Skype and that went much better and landed me a job for the summer! Finally I can stop worrying about co-op.

Anyway, back to Macau... after the interview we realized the ferries to Hong Kong didn't start running until 6AM and we had some time to kill. So, of course we decided to explore the mass of casinos all over the small island of Macau. Macau is essentially the Las Vegas of Asia. One of the only places in China allowed to have casinos, and a former porteguese colony with an interesting economic and naval history. It was colonzed by Portugeuse in the 1600s along with several other key trading ports in India (Goa) and Malaysia (Mellaca). It remained under Portugeuse control until 1974.

We spent about 3 hours in the infamous "Sands" casino, while away our time and money at the cheapest slot machinese we could find. Sands is actually owned by an american company "The Las Vegas Macau Corporation" and claims to be the world's largest casino with 740 table games, more than any other single casino in the world.

After Macau we ferried over to Hong Kong Island, where we spent 6 days including the famous Chinese New Year celebrations. We stayed in Kownloon "the suberb" just north of Hong Kong Island. Our various hostels/guesthouses ranged in quality from very poor... to reasonable, and were certainly are most expensive accomodation for the trip. We explored Hong Kong extensively, including the surrounding islands of Lantau and the New Territories. In Lantau we passed by popular "Hong Kong Disney Land" - although didn't stop for a tour. We visited the famous large Buddha sculpture which claims to be the world's largest in bronze. We also visited most of the neighbourhoods on Hong Kong Island, including the popular Lan Kwai Fong entertainment area which is mainly populated by expats and tourists. Overall the development in Hong Kong was amazing. The city skyline was amazing to look at, easily overwhelming Toronto cityscape. On Sunday there was an impressive parade, with the streets of Kowloon becoming absolutely and completely full of people trying to find a good place to watch. Floats in the parage ranged from highly commercial advertisements for companies like Cathay Pacific to tradition Chinese dancing and costumes. The next day we met up with Annie (a classmate from Waterloo who is studying in Singapore at NUS). We visited a popular temple in the New Territories area of Hong Kong. Here we met Annie's older sister who is doing her PhD in Hong Kong, and Annie's grandmother who invited us to join them for a family dinner outing that night! What a rare treat! Drew and I had secretly hoped we would find a family willing to include us in their festivities, but we hadn't really expected. Between the family, Drew, me and Annie's sister's fiance, there were about 15 people all eating out a traditional Chinese restaurant. The food was amazing, but the family atmosphere was even better!

The next day we left for Shenzhen, the mainland China city which borders Hong Kong. More to come about this in my next post!

I've also uploaded a full album of Hong Kong /Macau pictures to Google's new PicasaWeb service. Check it out at: http://picasaweb.google.com/sry.young/HongKong

Cheers,
Steve

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