Carrying on from the trips I mentioned in my previous blog, I must give some credit to the wonders of Hong Kong. We went here right at the end of March, so almost 6 weeks ago now, because that was when the Rugby Sevens was going to Hong Kong.
Before Hong Kong, we actually took advantage of how close Macau is, and flew there first, spent a couple of days there, and then headed on the short 1 hour ferry to Hong Kong.
Macau is known as the “Las Vegas of Asia” since it’s all about casinos and gambling. Some of most famous casinos there are the Venetian, the Wynn, the Sands and the Lisboa. But if not into gambling (I certaintly amn’t, but I enjoyed the ambience of it all) then there is more to do. For example, the Cirque du Soleil, which is held inside the auditorium in the Venetian, is an incredible performance. We did this on the 2nd evening we arrived, to get a break from the casinos, and it was mind-blowing. What the acrobats and circus performers could do with their bodies is out of this world, they’re like superhumans… Other things to do include doing the World’s Highest Bungee, for which you throw yourself of the Macau Tower. I didn’t actually do it, but several of my friend have done… its a very expensive 12 seconds of your life (costing almost 250 pounds) but I have been told a very memorable experience! Far too scary for me though… The town centre is very European and traditional, a nice break from the ultra modern sky scrapers of Singapore and Hong Kong. We had a lovely afternoon just wandering around and soaking up the ambience, trying some new foods (like the famous custard egg tarts), wandering up some ruins, perusing the shops, old churches and cute buildings, which were mainly pale pastel colours, like pink yellow and green. The contrast to Singapore was pretty startling, and in a way, Macau didn’t feel like a “real place”. At night time, there is a strange grey ambience over the place, it becomes very misty and you can’t see much. Nobody really walks around the streets at night, and since its mainly known for its casinos, a lot of the Chinese cross the border into Macau with the sole purpose of gambling, and then leave again ASAP. There’s not a lot of partying or “fun” in this little tiny city-island-state…. in a way, it doesn’t actually feel as if anyone lives here at all. But that’s just another wonder of travelling… you get to see such a diverse range of places, so close to one another, but often so different. This was clearly demonstrated with the juxtaposition of Hong Kong, with its shabby-chic and hustle & bustle character, it immediately contrasted to Macau rather spooky and sombre atmosphere…
I LOVE HONG KONG. I have never been in a city before which has such a strong and powerful character and ‘feel’ about the place. You immediately pick it up. I could really see myself living here in the future. It’s great to be able to compare Hong Kong to Singapore, since of all the South East Asian countries, these are the two business/commercial/financial hubs so are the most likely places I would end up living in in the future (with the view of establishing a career out here). The British influx in Hong Kong is very strong, but it is closely intertwined with the mismatched, but somehow also perfectly matched, Chinese traditions. It is a perfect example of Britain and China coming together and working well together… you feel like you’re in an exotic place, but also there are feelings of home here!
Hong Kong island itself is so so so small, but we were lucky to be able to rent an apartment on that island. This meant we were close to the Hong Kong stadium for the Sevens matches, and close to the nightlife hubs of Wan Chan and even bigger, Lan Kwai Fong. Everything on this island is compact, built upwards, and very very narrow. There’s not a lot of room, especially when you cram 15 students into a 5 person apartment like we did! I think the entire apartment was around 24 square metres or something!
Kowloon is the other island in the city of Hong Kong, and this is where all the shops are, the markets, and the majority of the residents live. Hong Kong island is home to the CBD (business district) and the famous Peak Tram. Built again very mountainous terrain, the island has a peak tram which takes you up to the peak and you have this incredible view over both islands. The juxtaposition of all the skyscrapers against the greenery of the mountains is incredible! But back over to Kowloon, you can watch the famous Lightshow by all the buildings along the water front, which is performed (free of charge) every night at 8pm. We went over to Kowloon to see the skyline of Hong Kong Island, and watch the show.
The atmosphere in the city over this long weekend was unlike anything I’ve seen before. I have never been, but my friends who live in London say it is akin to when the London Marathon is on, but only better. So many people have travelled to Hong Kong to see the rugby, they’re all out celebrating, the bars are crammed, and everyone in the stands in the stadium are dressed up in costumes. The airport back on the sunday evening was rammed as well, which demonstrated how popular Hong Kong is over the weekend of the sevens.
To put the icing on the cake of a fabulous week, I even bumped into a friend and fellow edinburgh exchanger who’s studying in Beijing one evening during the Rugby Sevens celebrations. She had come with a group of exchange students at university in Beijing, which shows just what a small world it is! Especially in the exchange student world!