Thursday, August 9, 2007

Sightseeing in Hong Kong

Some quick facts about Hong Kong ("HK"): HK is kind of part of China but kind of not. Along with Macau, it is a Special Administrative Region. Under the Hong Kong Basic Law, the former British protectorate recognizes the authority of the People's Republic of China and in return it enjoys a high degree of autonomy: it has its own (somewhat) representative government which governs most aspects of HK life and appoints a representative to the National People's Congress, although it defers to the mainland government on foreign policy and military affairs. The previous capitalist economy and common law legal system have been left pretty much intact. HK also has its own currency, the Hong Kong dollar (which is set at the same exchange rate as the yuan), most people here speak their own language, Cantonese, and they have freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

On my first full day in HK, my roommate Reed and I started out with the hotel's complimentary breakfast and then ventured out sightseeing with Clint and Sherri. We took the hotel's shuttle bus into the city center which was pretty slow. Then we hopped on one of the city's doubledecker trams that look almost precariously tall and narrow. When we got off, we wandered around a bit snapping photos of buildings such as the Convention Centre (above) and the International Finance Centre II (pictured to the left) which is the tallest skyscraper in HK.

After that, we rode the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbor to Kowloon. The part of Kowloon right across the harbor from Central is called Tsim Sha Tsui: it contains this Clock Tower which seemed like some kind of landmark so I snapped a picture of it; at any rate, it looked historical compared with all the modern steel-and-glass buildings surrounding us. Apparently the Clock Tower is all that remains of the Kowloon train station constructed in 1910.

In Tsim Sha Tsui, we ended up going to the Museum of Art. The collection is comprised of traditional Chinese artwork and artifacts: stuff like Tang dynasty pottery, ink paintings depicting pastoral landscapes and demons, and steles of fine calligraphy. I always enjoyed the Asian art section of the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Freer gallery here in DC, so I dug it. There was also a collection in the museum devoted to old maps and illustrations of China penned by big-nosed Westerners which provide an interesting glimpse of how Europeans of centuries past viewed the Chinese. The day of our visit, it seemed like a good half of the museum's exhibition space was occupied by this big special exhibit called The Pride of China which sounded like the thing to see, but a sign outside said tickets for that were already sold out for the day by the time we got there (apparently you need to get them ahead of time) so that was kind of a big tease.

When we were done touring the museum it started to rain so, in an attempt to wait out the storm, we spent some time browsing the gift shop and we then went to the museum cafe where I had a pot of tea and a sandwich. We were later told that in Southeast Asia the summer ends in June and the beginning of July marks the beginning of the rainy season. Thus the weather for a lot of the trip was much like the weather in Florida: it would rain for a bit almost everyday, although usually not for long, much of the day might be overcast, at some point the sun would come out... To some extent this was a blessing given that it would have been rough walking around sightseeing everyday in 90-degree weather with the sun blazing.


Zachary said...

I didn't know you went to the art museum...big nose

Meeg said...

Yeah, big nose, it was good time.

nola32 said...

so it was essentially new orleans weather, huh? rainy then hot then overcast then hot then rainy, ad infinitum