Thursday, 5 January 2012

Hong Kong holiday: Day 1

For the past three days, as a break from the awful year-round heat of Singapore, I have been travelling with my mother and brother to Hong Kong. I have always thought southern China has wonderful weather in the Australian summer and have viewed it as a great destination for travelling long before this trip, but visa costs precluded a trip to Xiàmén, which I had suggested in October before the trip was planned.

Hong Kong is often compared with Singapore as an example of free-market success in a resource-poor small city state, for instance by the Politically Incorrect Guides to American History and Socialism. Upon seeing Hong Kong, I was startled by the amazingly dense and seemingly run-down flats that characterise almost all the residential areas of the city and even exist on top of commercial buildings. (My mother said that Hong Kong’s desnity is nothing compared to what is found in Shànghǎi).

Our first day (Tuesday) in Hong Kong was short, and dominated by a trip on the tramway to the top of the Peak. It was extremely crowded at the entrance to the tramway and there was some very interesting information about its history in the aisle between the ticket office and the boarding platform. Although it was very hard to find a seat on the tram - seats had to be restricted for safety reasons on the steep route - we were able to get a tram about twenty minutes after paying for our tickets and the trip to the Peak was very quick and efficient.

On top of the Peak, in contrast to the year-round heat and humidity of Singapore, the weather was pleasantly cool - in fact too cool for someone only having clothes designed for 30˚C weather with very high humidity! Nonetheless, we did some easy walking down from the Peak and it was very enjoyable because of the views of Hong Kong’s mountains and a small residential village on the opposite side. After returning to the top of the Peak, we had a look at the sizeable shopping centre adjacent to the tram terminus; though there was quite a bit worth buying, we did not buy anything since it was quite a bit more expensive than on the lowlands. Thus, we travelled back down in weather that with wind chill and altitude added was probably colder than a typical southern Australian winter.

After going on the return tram journey, the always-foggy weather from the northeasterly winds off the Siberian High became cooler still as it became dark, and we turned to a big meal after I had not eaten for over a day. As it turned out, I had a delightful, if not remotely Chinese, meal of steak, chips and vegetables that cost HK$49, which is much cheaper than one can obtain such good meals for in Australia. The steak was well-cooked and very tender, even though a little thin, and the vegetables were an excellent accompaniment.

Lastly for Tuesday, I had become very tired and went to bed unusually early, though unfortunately I had forgot my pyjamas and had to sleep in the same T-shirt I had been walking in. Still, I slept better than I had in Singapore where the air conditioner‘s breeze made it difficult to obtain a pleasant temperature.

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