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Hong Kong – Two Sides of One City
We did not plan to visit Hong Kong. But…
…Getting a tourist visa for China is very easy, but for working visas and residence permits, you need some time, patience and the help of a local agent, once you arrive in the country.
Chinese visa laws are complicated and unclear even for local experts in the field. Foreign employers have to leave China, cross the border for only two days, get a Z visa, then they can return to the mainland and get a work permit. Crossing the border to Hong Kong is easy. (Although Hong Kong is now a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China (PRC), the border still exists).
Hong Kong (HK) is located on the southern coast of China and is connected to the north by the city of Shenzhen in Guangdong Province. If you want to be better oriented, you need to understand that the HK area consists of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon Peninsula and New Territories and more than 200 islands. The largest of them is Lantau Island. The northern part of Hong Kong Island, along with Kowloon, forms the main urban area of Hong Kong.
We went (had to go) to Hong Kong twice and spent about 7 days there in total. Our impression was different in each of these visits. Of course it depends on the hotels we stayed in and the places we visited. Hong Kong is known as an expensive city. Hotels and hostels are unreasonably expensive, but it depends on the location.
When I researched internet sites, I saw many horrible comments about hostels and cheap hotels in the city center. I decided to reserve a hotel away from the center of interest and our visa agency (Tsim Sha Tsui area). The hotel was located in an area called Tsuen Wan (New Territory). Internet sites show that it is a quality hotel with a relatively low price. It turned out to be a good decision: after a long journey in and out of the city, the spacious room, swimming pool and sauna could improve any damaged impression. But the road leading to the center of the city required additional expenditure. Hong Kong’s transportation network is highly developed. To avoid traffic jams, it is better to use subway (MTR). A great convenience is the free shuttle bus that runs between the hotel and the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station.
On our second arrival, we wanted to be closer to the visa agency, so we reserved a room at a hostel in Kowloon. I think it was the worst room we have ever seen in our life. Kowloon is one of the most densely populated places on the planet. The roads in that area were so crowded that we could walk in the same direction with other people. We advise you not to try to go against the flow, because if you do, you will stumble upon 1000 people in a minute.
The room was like a small cardboard box with no windows, reminiscent of a horror movie… Ironically, despite being a quarter of the size of a room at the Royal View Hotel, it didn’t save much money. . Location – We were paying here.
During our stay in Hong Kong, we were able to visit Hong Kong Park, Flagstaff House Tea Ware Museum and Ocean Park. In Kowloon we visited the beach, the stars and the ladies market. We spent two days in Sai Kung District and one day in Lamma Island. Sai Kung and Lamma both made a big impression on us and both deserve separate posts about them.
Hong Kong Park
Hong Kong Park is like a small beautiful island of nature, a breath of fresh air in the urban area of Hong Kong. In the park you will find many old garrison buildings built between 1842 and 1910. They are remnants of the mighty British Empire.
In the center of the park is an artificial lake and a waterfall. There is a flowing water through the park, which has been used as a thematic motif to add to the various features of the park through waterfalls, streams, ponds and artificial rock formations.
The Museum of Tea Ware is located in the park. The museum includes samples of teapots from different provinces and other different teapots as they evolved over time. More interesting for us were the examples of different types of tea and explanations about the history and methods of making tea. If you are a fan of Chinese tea, you must visit the Tea Ware Museum in Hong Kong.
Note: You can exit by MTR, Admiralty Station C1.
The next day we visited Ocean Park. It is located in the south of Hong Kong Island and you need to reserve a full day to visit it. You can buy tickets at many places including “Seven Eleven” and other small stores, but prices can vary – from 250 to 350HK$. It is better to buy tickets at metro stations, as they are cheaper there. The transport system in the park is very well organized. From Admiralty metro station you need to follow the signs and take bus number 629. The bus costs about 10 HG$ per person.
The park is divided by a large mountain into two parts, The Summit (Headland) and The Waterfront (Lowland) respectively. The area is accessible by cable car with spectacular views of the nearby islands and sea. The great aquarium was good, the dolphin/sea-lion show was great too and we only tried a few of the rides, as the queues for them were endless.
Way of the stars
The Sea-front Avenue of Stars is like Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Stars with the names and handprints of Hong Kong actors and singers line the sidewalks of Kowloon’s promenade, including Jackie Chan and Jet Li, Andy Lau, Maggie Cheung and many others. They are all famous people, but I admit that there were many Chinese names, which we saw for the first time in our lives. At the beginning of the avenue stands a life-size statue of kung fu action legend Bruce Lee. We couldn’t resist taking pictures there.
On the other side of Victoria Harbor we saw the famous skyscrapers of Hong Kong Island, perhaps the best scenic spot in the city. Every night all the skyscrapers come alive with incredible lace and light shows.
Oh yes, and don’t forget to visit the Starbucks, which is nicely located on the promenade with a view of the harbor.
Almost every travel guide advises you to visit the ladies market for cheap shopping. It can be a really interesting experience. It’s been a long road filled with many things, sometimes, not to say “mostly”, of very low quality. But here you can find the most beautiful traditional Chinese souvenirs and test your bargaining muscles. We found several good little restaurants serving a variety of cuisines (Japanese, Korean, Chinese, etc.) along the road behind the market stalls. They are cheap and really delicious. So if you are tired of shopping, you can run to one of them.
When we crossed the border again and returned to the mainland, our friend – “Culture Shock” was waiting for us there. This feeling is hard to describe. It felt like you left a neat, clean, quiet house and stepped directly into a noisy market, full of the smell of bad cigarettes, toilets and dust. It was at this point that we realized how different life still is between Hong Kong and mainland China.
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