Bob Mok’s last leg of his East Asian trip was Hong Kong. It is a densely populated city
with cramped flats and cubical apartments all over the place. While the living spaces are tight in Hong Kong, transportation is convenient. For the previous articles on the other destinations (Korea, Taiwan, China), please click - http://096.ca/news/657601
The last time I set foot in Hong Kong was 1978 (38 years ago). At that time, there was no subway system and no Mass transit Railway. The public transit system was limited to buses and electrical trams serving a population of 4.66 million. Today, it is a world class metropolis with an efficient transit network for 7.35 million people.
My impression of Hong Kong? Lots of people living in very crowded apartments and they all move around with a very versatile smart card called the Optopus.
The first thing my friends advised us to do upon our arrival was to get an Octopus card and buy credits for it. Everywhere we went and with almost every mode of public transportation accepted the "Octopus" card. The Octopus card is a reusable contactless stored value smart card for making electronic payments. It can also be used for payment in many retail shops in Hong Kong, from convenience stores, supermarkets, fast-food restaurants, on-street parking meters, car parks, to other point-of-sale applications such as service stations and vending machines.
This part of our tour did not involve any guided packages. Our Hong Kong relatives and friends helped us to revisit old places, see new sights, and enjoy the exquisite cuisine. They have a saying there: “Taking guests around is not an issue but don't expect HongKongers to give you accommodation!”. Most families are living within 450 square feet of spaces with one or two rooms and there is just no room for guests. We booked someone's unoccupied 400 square feet apartment with 2 rooms of about 42 square feet each. Just when I finished complaining about the beds being small and short, I opened the narrow bathroom door and discovered the 18-inch square shower stall! Are there no obese people in Hong Kong?
When we were in Hong Kong, the temperatures were around 22-30 degrees celsius (hot and humid). Nights were intolerable in the thirty-two floor apartment, even with the windows wide open. Of course, we also encountered an unprepared adventure one night, trapped in the elevator for 45 minutes waiting for rescue by the firefighters. To me, it was uneventful as we were in constant communication with the firefighters and the internet service was working all that time. Other claustrophobic members of the trapped party behaved differently though.
There were plenty of people everywhere we went. We had to move forward constantly or take a risk of getting run over. The Shopping Malls were big and many were built on top of, or next to subway stations. When I went out for grocery shopping, I found the fruits, cakes, and imported items expensive when their costs were converted into Canadian dollars. Dining out could also burn a hole into your pocket, depending on the restaurant you chose. I used my Octopus card many times for shopping and dining and it was a very convenient tool to use.
We took a side trip to “Las Vegas East” (Macau). It used to be a Portuguese colony a stone's throw away from Hong Kong. We took a less than an hour hovercraft trip from Hong Kong to get there. I was told that I once visited Macau in my mother's womb during her pregnancy so technically it was my second visit. There were many beautiful casinos in Macau and they took in more annual wagers than Las Vegas. I did not want to gamble there and only tried to take in the ambience. I was able to do that at the Venetian Macao – the largest gambling casino in the world. One other must-do attraction was the Ruins of St. Pauls, the well known facade of a 17th century church destroyed by fire. Finally, we sampled many of Macau's famous pastries including Portuguese tarts, beef and pork jerkies, almond biscuits , and biscuit rolls.
Next time, we will continue to talk about my other Hong Kong adventures.
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