THE HONG KONG HUSTLE!

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 09 Dec 2018 11:38:48


 

By ASHWINI LOTHE

A hybrid of the East and the West, Hong Kong is culturally very rich and a shopper’s delight. Discover what all this tiny nation has to offer to tourists...

 

W ide, clean roads, highly organised transportation, huge skyscrapers rubbing their shoulders, and big, green, trees in various shapes and sizes: these were the first impressions of the city I got as our bus carried us towards our hotel. And I watch fascinated-at the swanky cars, huge malls, rich people, at HongKong itself. With over 7.4 million people of various nationalitiesliving in just an area of 426 sq. miles, Hong Kong is the fourth most densely populated region in the world. As a special administrative region, Hong Kong’s system of government is separate from that in mainland China. It is one of the most significant financial centres and trade portsin the world.

Hong Kong features the largest number of skyscrapers in the world, and Hong Kong dollaris the 13th most traded currency in the world. Thus, I realise , thatIhave entered in the world of superlatives! It’s mid afternoon when we reach our hotel room. We just dump our luggage, and head back to our bus, for our lunch at an Indian restaurant. The tour operator has arranged for all our Indian lunches and dinners, and its heartening to see good old paneer butter masala, chicken curry and raita in a foreign land! We are on the move again, this time for the very famous Victoria Peak.

It is the highest mountain on Hong Kong island, and it offers a fantastic view of the entire island. We all were happy to know that we shall ascend the mountain in a tram ride. The tram or a toy train is an attraction in itself, because it goes up on a very steep angle of 45 degrees! And the view from the window constantly keeps changing. Sometimes we see dense bushes, sometimes tall buildings just meters away, or, as we go up, the big, broad roads winding down the city.

Within 10 minutes, we reached the peak; the main entrance to the peak actually lies through a huge mall constructed over the peak. This mall had enough distractions for all of us, cheap shopping, highly attractive food stalls, gaming zones etc. But we had something more important to do, visit the Madam Tussaud’s Museum inside the mall first! This museum, like all its counterparts, features world famous celebrities in their wax avatar, and Hong Kong’s very famous Bruce Lee welcomed us with his world famous pose at the entrance itself. We moved around and clicked photographs with Obama, Spiderman, Varun Dhawan and the like and headed out of the mall to actually go at the peak’s edge and getaview of the city below. And what a view it was!! Tall skyscrapers spread out below us, lining the Victoria Harbour.

The Harbour itself was looking pretty, with boats and yatches cruising down the clear, blue waters. The city outline was a visual treat in itself, but to the architect inside me, it was a feast! The tallest building in Hongkong, the International Commerce Centre, also can be seen from here. At 108 floors, it is also the world’s 9th tallest structure! After a little more loitering, we leave, this time headed for Repulse Bay. This is one of the very small, but beautiful beaches on the island, with crystal clear water gently lapping on the shore.

This was a peaceful area, with very little vendors or the usual hustle and bustle associated with a beach. All of the city’s rich people have their residences in this region, with Jackie Chan being its most famous resident! This bay is also lined with some unique shaped tall buildings. It is nearing evening, and we tear ourselves from the beautiful sight and head towards something really exciting: shopping! Our bus drops us at the very famous Ladies market. Contrary to its name, this market has something for everyone and for all age groups. Ranging from beautiful gift items, to stationary, apparels and make up, this market is a shopping haven.

The roadside shopping kiosks are quite cheap, and if one is smart enough, they reduce the price further! And so we head back home, with bagsfull of T shirts, artistic pens and key chains. The next day arrives, full of eager hearts, for today we are all going to a place we always dreamed of: The Disneyland! As we arrive at the highly colourful entrance,Ihave actual tears of contentment in my eyes. As long as I remember, I wanted to be here. Today, as I enter inside along with my 12 year old daughter, I just hope my daughter realises how fortunate she is.

The rides, the shows, the parades, the buildings, it is all surreal.The whole dayIwalk around in a daze,soaking in my childhood thatIrevisited. And at night, with heavy hearts and leaden legs, we trudge back to our bus, knowing that today’s day would be etched forever in our memories. It is our last day today, and we are going to the Ocean park. This is not just an aquarium, but a full-fledged water park with various rides and shows, all spread over hundreds of acres of land on a beautiful mountain.

This park is divided into two parts, the lower one at the base of a mountain with aquarium, and the upper one containing the rides. One can either ride a cable car or a mini train to go up or down. Once inside the park, one can have unlimited rides on the cable car or the train, and trust me, both the rides are equally memorable! The cable car gives a lovely view of the mountains, sea, and the entire ocean park, while the toy- train has unique interiors. Its roof is lined with L.E.D. displays and gives us a wonderful insight into the underwater world. The park welcomes you with its widespread fountains, greenery, queer shaped buildings and colourful facades.

The main aquarium itself is very beautiful, divided on four floors. The collection of a mind boggling variety of fish, from very small to the huge ones, is sure to enthrall the young and old alike. Big, huge water tanks with crystal clear glass and a suitable background music makes it a memorable experience. All the water tanks were beautifully maintained, and audio visually informative boards made it all the more interesting. A very cold.snow filled indoorspace with beautiful water filled glass tank has been created, and we can see the penguins frolicking and wallowing in water. Also here are the Arctic foxes and seals, sea elephants. If one is not interested in the marine life, then there are plenty of rides to choose from. The park boasts a hairraising rollercoaster, and many mini-coasters to woo all age groups.

There are many 3-D interactive shows, and also the Dolphin shows which all can enjoy. It’s evening, and we are now heading back to our hotel, knowing very well that just three days in this city istotally not enough. Everyday, we saw a new facet of Hong Kong. It was different in the morning, in the afternoon and at night. It pulsates with an aura that is irresistible, and we found that we were drawn towards it quite easily. Young and old, this city has plenty to offer to all. Even the view from our 13th floor hotel room was mind blowing. All of us gazed for a long time at the tall buildings, wide, broad roads and all the bright lights that shines down on everyone. The next day, we shall be leaving this place, with a bag full of experience and mixed emotions. Hong Kong, you are truly wonderful! A tip for the would be visitors : Hong Kong has a very humid climate and one tendsto sweatalot. Keep your eye shades, caps, water bottles and lots of wet tissues handy! Also, places like Disneyland and Ocean Park are very very huge, and one is required to walk whole day, and wait in long queues for the rides. So, if your budget permits, you can stay inside these theme parks so that you can enjoy them to the fullest. Otherwise, just take out the maps, do your research and then choose the best onesthat interests you. Happy travelling!! ■