From Beijing West station, you can get the fast train to Guangzhou (24 hours), or the superfast one, 8 hours and a smooth ride at over 300kph. From Guangzhou, another half an hour takes you to the Special Economic Zone of Shenzhen. The Shenzhen subway takes you to the Hong Kong border, which you walk across through an elevated tunnel over the water. Apparently, the hot item currently being smuggled between Hong Kong and the mainland is baby formula, and strict restrictions apply. From there, you can catch the Hong Kong MTR out to the New Territories.
If you’ve been noticing a theme in my posts lately, so have I, and I think it’s about contradiction and paradox. Hong Kong didn’t break the pattern. What everyone knows is that it’s one of the world’s great cityscapes, and it doesn’t disappoint, an awe-inspiring skyscrapers and neon reflected in the water. What you might not know if you hadn’t been there is that it’s also more than 200 semi-tropical islands, all palm trees, green peaks, jagged rocks, and hidden beaches. In large part due to the peaks, space all over is at a premium, and huge numbers of Hong Kong locals* live in enormous, grim-looking and endlessly repeating towerblocks. This seemed to me to sum up one of the other paradoxes of Hong Kong and China; you’ll be told that the Chinese don’t care how things look on the outside but will maintain the insides of their homes immaculately, but somehow traditional Chinese art always reflects unspoiled, harmonious landscapes of a kind which are not exactly being preserved.
I have a certain strange interest in advertising; I like noticing what’s being advertised to whom, and using that as a cultural barometer. In Beijing, the advertising we were exposed to was mostly prim little PSAs about the correct public transport etiquette and the importance of preserving the environment; Hong Kong brought us back into contact with Western advertising and the vapidity of endless Prada and Chanel. I can’t say I missed that.
So, Hong Kong. It was great to stay with Louise and Simon, and to spend time out in the bay acting as race timers for the regatta. We did, as always, some of the standard tourist things – ascended the Peak Tram, took the Star Ferry from Hong Kong Island to Tsim Sha Tsui, and walked round Hong Kong Park and aviary, a strange green island surrounded by skyscrapers. On Thursday, we also took advantage of our situation in Sai Kung, deep into the New Territories and out of reach of the MTR, to get to some of the more secluded beaches. We took a sampan ferry to the quiet Hap Mun Bay, and spent an afternoon lounging and swimming in a gorgeous secluded spot. On our last day, Friday, we had lunch with Virginia, a friend of mine from the days of Northeast Iowa Community College ten years ago, who took us for dim sum before our plane. It was then onwards to Kathmandu, via an overnight stop in Kuala Lumpur. Chances are we’re now going off the grid for some time, so next post will quite possibly be in three weeks’ time, when we return from the peaks.
*Loz suggests “Honquistadors”