As I write this post, it is December 3, 2011. I arrived in Hong Kong yesterday early in the morning. What a difference compared to Kathmandu. Kathmandu has many challenges but over time I grew to appreciate some of it’s charms. In contrast, I immediately loved Hong Kong. So much action, activity, polite people and despite its size an extremely clean city. I am amazed at the number of cleaners they have out for example in Kowloon Park continually sprucing up the place. If you love shopping (I do not personally) this is surely heaven. The number of stores is overwhelming. Everything from inexpensive bakeries all the way up to extremely high-end shops selling the most exclusive goods. Even though there are many people you hardly ever hear any car horns unlike Kathmandu. Everything is orderly and everything works. This is another distinct difference compared to Kathmandu. There was an underlying sense of brokenness and decay in Kathmandu. Hong Kong exudes energy and enthusiasm. The other thing that became immediately obvious was that it was Xmas shopping season. Decorations and Xmas music blaring out everywhere. I left Canada mid-October so I guess Xmas is a coming and mighty soon.
I arrived yesterday, as mentioned, quite early and could not check into my room until 2 PM. This afforded me the perfect opportunity to cruise downtown Kowloon on foot since I had so much practice walking over the previous six weeks. Everyone in Kathmandu is trying to sell you all manner of goods. In Hong Kong the only people who try to sell you goods in the streets are the tailors. There must be thousands of tailors in Hong Kong. It seems everyone wanted to sell me a new custom-made suit. During my morning I visited the beautiful centrally located Kowloon Park. What a mecca of peacefulness in the centre of this busy city. It had a wonderful aviary, beautiful sculptures and many people practicing tai chi, martial arts and swordsmanship. The weather was warm (about 23 C) and beautiful with blue skies. It is amazing how cheaply one can eat in Hong Kong. Taxis are always available to take you anywhere you want to go for a reasonable price. It seems the only type of taxi available is a Toyota Crown Custom LPG automobile (in Kathmandu it was broken down and barely legal Suzuki Maruti’s). Not all of the taxi drivers have a good command of English so it is a good idea to be aware of major landmarks around where you want to go or where you are coming from. As an example, on December 3 traveling back from a hike on Dragon’s Back I asked the taxi driver to take me to the YMCA on Salisbury Road. After driving through the expensive districts of Refuse Bay and Stanley (both lovely by the way) he happily stopped and wanted to drop me off at South Gate Way. After a lot of confusion, I decided it was best he just drop me off at the Star Ferry near Kowloon which he seemed to understand. In his broken English he was very apologetic.
After getting back to my hotel at 2 PM, I was informed that because the hotel was so booked with an open house they were having the next day that they were upgrading my room. Excellent. The room was absolutely palatial compared to what I had experienced over the previous six weeks. The upgraded room had a separate suite and a beautiful view over the downtown area. It was extremely comfortable. Needless to say I had a wonderful sleep to make up for the lack of sleep the previous night on the flight over.
I actually slept in on December 3 and finally got out of bed at 10:30 AM! Wow I guess I needed that sleep. I then had a quick breakfast and took a taxi drive out to the Dragon’s Back Trail. This is a wonderful hike if you find you have time and are in Hong Kong. Within 25 to 30 minutes it’s like you have left the city. It is so quiet and the views are panoramic. The weather was perfect. Certainly all my high altitude hiking helped over the previous six weeks as this hike seemed very easy. You basically get up to a high point of approximately 284 m over undulating hiking trail hence the name of Dragon’s “Back”. I have attached the elevation profile because I have finally figured out how to do this from my GPS! One must do something with the data from these tech-toys!
When I completed half of the hike I decided to completely descend to a lovely village on the beach which was very quiet and a great place just to reflect on the experiences I have had over the previous six weeks. I then double-backed on the same trail and along the way watched a paraglider take off from the slopes and gently ride the thermals and when I got back to the start point I took a cab back to my hotel. Overall, a nice little hike- total distance 11.6 km and total ascent cumulative 542 m. I had a fantastic dinner and will go out to walk around downtown to simply soak the ambience of this fantastic city this evening. My plan tomorrow morning is to get up early and to do a run along the nearby promenade. I try to do a long-distance run in every city that I visit. The mornings are generally very quiet and it is a wonderful way to explore a city. I regret to say I did not do this in Kathmandu. It just didn’t seem like it was a safe , healthy or particularly pleasurable thing to do in that particular city.
After my run I plan to have a leisurely breakfast and again simply walk along the promenade enjoying my final hours in the city. I fly out of Hong Kong International at about 4:30 PM December 4 and will arrive back in Calgary December 4 as well late afternoon.
What a fantastic trip this has been. So many wonderful experiences and wonderful people. I hope this blog was able to communicate to you some of the experiences that I had on this wonderful journey. I hope you enjoyed the photographs and also the narrative. I tried to be as entertaining and brief as I could. Certainly with many of you I will further expand on my experiences when I am back in Calgary. Who knows where the next adventure will take me. Certainly Patagonia in Chile is one place that I really want to visit, hike and camp in. Perhaps that will be where you will next find me. For now I sign off, however, I plan to keep the blog active even for some of my local adventures so check back often. Goodbye for now. As always, a few pictures for you to enjoy.