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Hong the Kong! :P

So after 3 years of my passport being issued, I finally got a stamp on it. I didn't get a visa (unfortunately) because HK doesn't need a visa if you're staying for < 14 days! Ha! :) Anyways. I had a super awesome trip. 13 days of pure bliss, enjoyment, fun, madness, shopping, traveling, sightseeing, thinking, clicking and all the 'ing's possible.

The city is beautiful. After the first few days I realized that I was clicking all photos in the portrait modes because clicking in landscape mode wouldn't accommodate the tall buildings at all, and ALL buildings are TALL! Really! The roads are spick and span, like my kind of roads, people throw the trash in the dustbins, and in the right dustbins. There is a separate thing on the top for cigarette butts. There are bins at most signals, and on most streets. The traffic signals work and show you when to cross the road, and all people patiently wait and abide. Thanks to this, taxis, cars and buses zoom between signals in the middle of the day at speeds like 70 - 100! This is unheard of on roads in Mumbai where you have to keep an eye out for the people crossing, animals crossing and the silly drivers. People drive and maintain lanes. In fact once a taxi refused to take us because he was in the extreme right lane and couldn't take us (coz we wanted to go left) and another time, we had to suffer the consequences of our poor signal + one-way knowledge and wait till we circled an entire block because we took the cab from the wrong lane!

While the days are beautiful, there's one thing that I missed. Sunlight. There's just no sunlight there! It's almost always overcast, and when it isn't, the sun doesn't reach you because of all the buildings. On my first day I found it strange that no one wore dark glasses, on my third day I knew why. :) It's like being in the Amazon forests (not that I've ever been there, but that's what is written about it, that the sunlight never reaches the floor of the forest). Anyways I began by writing about the days, but it is the nights that are the most beautiful. Have you ever seen how pretty Mumbai looks in the night by the Queen's necklace? Those lights shining in one curved pattern? Can you imagine the entire city being lit up with that simplistic beauty in mind? The city is lit. Always. Buildings are built with the intention of being lit. Patterns, signs, digital ads, seasons greetings, random colors, and just so much more. They've worked hard to make it look beautiful and it just does. When talking a walk in the night, you feel that beauty that one would feel in the moonlight because of these everyday citylights. :) The moon was only visible once when we were at the Peak. I don't remember seeing it otherwise!

It's amazingly tourist friendly. There are signs everywhere. Signs to take buses, trams, MTR (metro), public light buses, etc. Makes you realize how incompetent our cities are. Each bus stop and tram stop showed the routes, pointed to where you were in that route, gave you calculations for your fare, showed you which buses will take you where, etc. etc. Plus this was in English and Cantonese. What more can anyone ask for? Every MTR station had maps, pamphlets, showing you shopping centres, restaurants, banks, grocery shops, etc. etc. It's built for the convenience of locals and visitors. There were visitor help centres at every station, and enough signs for a newbie like me to find my way to another part in the city without the need to make even one phone call!

I loved their system of having a universal card which can be recharged anywhere and you can pay for your bus tickets, MTR tickets, groceries, entry into buildings, and so many other things with it. Another interesting thing was the routing of the MTRs, in Bombay if you have a train from Dadar - Churchgate on one side of the platform, on the other side you'll have a train from Churchgate - Dadar. However, if you want to come from Churchgate till Dadar and then change lines at Dadar, you'll have to run to another platform (some 4 platforms away to get to that line) Conveniently here you don't have to do that. If you need to change lines, then the other line will be on the platform just next to the one you got off at. The return journey platforms for the same line are one below another, not one beside another. Just so convenient!

Plus there were a lot of things to do there. We went to see the horse-races one evening, managed to win 200 HKD too! :P Went to the beach at Lantau island called Cheung Sha beach for the weekend. The water was so cold that we just ended up playing beach football and flying disc. We had awesome barbeque in the night for dinner. The entire process of buying groceries, and then grilling them ourselves and eating it while it's fresh off the bbq was simply awesome! :) Celebrated Xmas in the party street in HK, Lan Kwai Fong also known as LKF. Hundreds of people (tourists + locals) walking through the streets singing carols, just enjoying themselves at pubs and having a ball of a time!

I had the best time at Ocean Park. An amusement park but what a park! Built in an environment friendly manner on a huge expanse of a mountain complete with a Giant Panda habitat, a Giant Panda reserve, Dolphins, Sea Lions, and other mammals. And with some awesome scary rides! :) The park itself was divided in two parts, and to go from one part to the other, kind of like going from the summit to the low levels there were cable cars, and an ocean express train created by none other than Volkswagen (an awesome way to cement their brand in HK). The rides there were amazing. Few but great. :)

Literally all the brands in the world are in that place. Unfortunately they're also equally expensive, so I didn't do any shopping in the stores. Instead I was shopping on the streets. After one day of disastrous bargaining, I think I was remarkably better on the second day. The trick is to be firm and to be confident while bargaining. So difficult when you have to speak in only monosyllables if you want to be understood! :P

Brought in the New Year on a boat with some 25 other friends of friends and had an amazing time dancing, and watching fireworks. At some point in the night I even played some Hindi music and everyone seemed to enjoy it (though I wonder how many of them were conscious of what they were listening!)

All in all, one of the best times in my life. :) Aah. Wish I could make a trip again. Still have Macau, Ngong Ping and the outlying territories to be explored. Anyways, it's always good to keep some things undone, so there's a chance you can go again!

Happy New Year to you and your family! :) Hope you had fun reading about my travels!


Riddhi said…
Sounds like a dream, really. Trust you to describe the lights and building. And that's awesome for me, because i notice just those very things. You will really like singapore. Next destination madam?
~ a said…
If all goes well, my next destination will be Boston! :) Keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for the best!

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