Thursday, December 4, 2008

Four Days in Hong Kong!

I just got back from a 4-day trip to Hong Kong to attend a teachers' conference. The conference was great, but Hong Kong was even better. It was my first time there, and I had decided I was going to squeeze in all the sightseeing and fun I possibly could in whatever spare time I could scrounge after and between conference sessions. Fortunately, Hong Kong has an efficient subway system, and almost everything is in English as well as Cantonese, so it was easy for me to get around. My favorite thing to see was the waterfront (see the picture above). It was more gorgeous than any picture can show - you just have to be there to see the amazing buildings with their multicolored lights, many of which flash and swirl and change colors like a Christmas light show. Everything I've seen in my travels has confirmed that big Asian cities are the best in the world when it comes to making buildings works of art, and I think Hong Kong has most of the rest of them beat hands down.

Speaking of Christmas, it was fun seeing all the decorations in malls, subway stations, and the airport, and hearing soft instrumental Christmas music in public places. Because of Hong Kong's British heritage, Christmas is celebrated as a big event there - unlike Taiwan, which puts up gaudy singing Christmas trees in some public places but doesn't do much else to acknowledge the season. Hong Kong had large life-size displays of various kinds all over the place.

Another thing I enjoyed was a brief visit to the Nan Lian Garden (picture at right). It was almost funny to have such a beautiful, tranquil setting located right in the middle of a bustling metropolis. (If you look to the left of the pagoda, you can see skyscrapers trying to hide behind the trees.) I spent an enjoyable hour or so walking around the garden on little paved paths, enjoying the flowers and ponds and trees, before I had to hurry and catch the subway to get back in time for the last session of the conference.

On my own one evening, I decided to visit Hong Kong's Heritage Museum. It was okay - not nearly as elaborate as most of the museums I've been to in Taiwan, but interesting none the less. I especially enjoyed the exhibit on Cantonese opera. (Note the life-size costumed figures on the stage behind me.) Yes, picture-taking was allowed inside the museum - the security guard herself took this picture for me!

One of my last little adventures was to find and ride the world's longest escalator. At least, the Guiness Book of World Records supposedly calls it that, but it isn't continuous, so I don't know if it really counts. But it's a covered escalator that goes up and up right through the city streets in a hilly part of town. There were some interesting views looking down, though my camera stinks at night shots, so I couldn't capture most of them. But here you can see one segment of the escalator (at the front right of the picture), and then another segment beginning below it. There was nothing in particular at the top, which was a bit disappointing, but it was fun to ride anyway. But the escalator only goes up, so at the end I had to take the stairs all the way down.

My last dinner in the country was in a wonderful little Chinese restaurant. I have no idea what most of the dishes were called, but every one was delicious, and the style was a little different from the Chinese food we get in Taiwan. The shrimp in the big dish at the front were wonderful, but my favorite was Peking duck. (It was the last item to arrive, so it didn't make it into this picture.) The waiter cut off little tender bits of meat and sizzling skin, and we wrapped them in things that looked like extra-thin tortillas. Add some slices of cucumber and green onions, and a dab of plum sauce, and it was just heavenly.

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