Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Hong Kong

It's taken quite a while, but Amy and I are finally settled into our new home in Hong Kong. We started our journey with a few setbacks. Amy broke her foot a week before our flight was wheels up. We had to book a trip to Macau (and a fall back to Singapore) to satisfy visa and immigration requirements. And we were holed up in a tiny hotel room for three weeks while we waited on our visa’s and searched for an apartment. But, in spite of the minor obstacles, Amy was able to get straight to work, and we were able to find an incredible apartment in the Yau Ma Tei district of Kowloon.

During this process of “settling”, we’ve become acquainted with Hong Kong and we both really like it. Modern and traditional, HK is unlike any city I’ve ever visited. The population here is over seven million, and most of these people live on top of one another. Hong Kong (including Kowloon) has more skyscrapers than any other city in the world.

In the shadows of gleaming, mirrored skyscrapers lie markets with butchers, bakers, and farmers peddling their goods and services in a manner similar to what would’ve been done one hundred years ago.

In addition to the vegetable markets, meat markets, and flower markets, there's the Ladies Market, the Jade Market, and the Temple Street Night Market. All a convenient walk from our place!

For over one hundred years Hong Kong was a colony of the British Empire. In 1997, the British transferred control of the territory back to China. Hong Kong now exists as a Special Administrative Region, which means that Hong Kong uses their own police force, currency, and in some cases their own, democratically elected leaders.

The traditional religion of Hong Kong is Buddhism. Buddhist temples are found throughout the city. Wedged between skyscrapers and hidden under highway overpasses, you can often smell the temples before you see them. In many Eastern religions burning incense is considered a form of purification, as well as a representational offering to various deities. At times, there can be so many sticks and coils of incense burning that a person could easily confuse the ritual for a fire.

The mixed history of this region has lead to an interesting amalgam of religion. In addition to Buddhist temples, a practitioner can find Christian churches, Islamic mosques and Hindu temples... often not far from one another. The Pew Research Center recently ranked Hong Kong as one of the ten most religiously diverse regions in the world (Singapore was ranked number 1, Hong Kong number 10, and the United States number 68). One incredible example if this diversity is the Chi Lin Nunnery. This temple and its surrounding gardens are an oasis of tranquility in a desert of high-rise apartment buildings.

Speaking of deserts... Amy and I both really enjoyed our time in the U.A.E. However, the U.A.E. was not just a literal desert, it was a food desert as well. I can't say for sure why, but the food there was just not great. And I'm not discriminating here... I'm talking about every type of food we encountered, whether it was fast food or a crazy expensive meal in the Etihad Towers, the food was really just a letdown.

But, the tables have turned... and we are now living in an absolute food haven! We've had such an incredible assortment of amazing food since arriving in Hong Kong it's hard to describe. It seems like every day we find a new delectable treat. Whether it's eating at the world's cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant, Tim Ho Wan, or downing liters at King Ludwig's, Hong Kong has got some good eats!

We arrived in Hong Kong at the beginning of the festival season and were lucky to experience the lights and lanterns of the Mid-Autumn Festival. Held on the night of a full moon, traditional celebrations were an opportunity for the people to pay homage to the Moon Goddess of Immortality, Chang'e. In modern times, it has become a festival to celebrate the harvest, and generally an opportunity for families to spend time together. And mooncake's, which derive their name from this festival, are an incredibly delicious treat that I'd never had before.

Shortly after the Mid-Autumn Festival, we attended the performance of the Tai Hing Fire Dragon Dance. Upon arrival, there were so many people clogging the streets that it was impossible to see anything. But, luck was on our side that evening as the unpredictable dragon broke free of its normal route and danced through the back alleys with the unsuspecting spectators.

Hong Kong is most beautiful at night. When the sun sets, the city begins to sparkle with a neon and LED glow. The skyscrapers that border the harbour put on a nightly light and laser show called "A Symphony of Lights". Parts of Kowloon, especially Mong Kok (known for its bargain shopping), are lit up like Time Square. Neon signs cover buildings the way kudzu covers trees in The South. A good way to experience this spectacle is to take an excursion on a traditional fishing "junk". For a few dollars, you can hop on board for a thirty-minute tour of the harbour. If you leave at 8:00 PM, you can experience "A Symphony of Lights" from the middle of the Victoria Harbour.

We've already had an incredible time in Hong Kong, and we're looking forward to what 2016, the Year of the Monkey, will bring!

Send me a message


Email *

Message *