After witnessing the pristine, idyllic nature of Tasmania (see my previous posts), the change could not have been more extreme: The concrete behemoth of Hong Kong, the once-British-now-Chinese-governed mega city with its 7+ million inhabitants, 14 times the number of people that live on Tasmania.
This January, it was one of the coldest and rainiest months ever documented in the region, and yet, the city seemed restless. An anthill of people, a crazy and hectic lifestyle, gorgeous street vistas, where really old and weird meets really new and modern. Truly fascinating, absolutely photogenic, and somewhat insane.
Mong Kok, Yau Ma Tei and Tsim Sha Tsui make up the core of Kowloon. This is as busy as Planet Earth gets, and I have never seen as many people in a single spot as there. As the rain kept falling, we ventured around Nathan Road, which can be seen as the aorta of Kowloon, and its smaller side streets. Markets, temples, shops and restaurants, and apartment block ghettos like Chungking Mansions – here you could find truly anything. Just make sure you wear proper shoes while walking down side streets and market squares.
Nearby is also the Chi Lin Nunnery. Home to nuns and functioning as a retirement home, it also features an impeccable temple complex and the Nan Lian gardens nearby. Perfect architecture, silence and serenity make it a wonderful escape, as does the fact that it is basically devoid of tourists compared to many other parts of the city.
The historic village, which stood in the shadow of the giant Buddha at the top of the hill, was grotesquely turned into one of the most embarrassing touristic attractions I ever encountered. Shops were battling some sort of jingle war, where each shop tried to edge out the competition by volume using terrible pseudo-Asian midi music. I only lasted a few minutes before disappearing up the steps to the Buddha, of which, due to the densest of fogs, only the feet were visible. The six Boddhisattvas, which surround the majestic statue are no less beautiful.
On the Western coast of Lantau island lies the fishing village of Tai O. Bizarrely out of place in modern day HK, this village features houses built on stilts. The aspects of hygiene were dismal – observing the waters underneath the wooden poles, you could make out just about anything if you just waited long enough. Street dogs served as dishwashers, and scores of tourists ventured from shack to shack buying dried squid, fish and spices. Yet, the drastic change in lifestyle compared to its neighbouring megacities was really intriguing.