04.09.2014

HOME OF CAPITALISM

HOME OF CAPITALISM, Melih Bildiren | 04.09.2014

The hub of the Far East and the home of Capitalism Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China and a little island state. Every night at 00.55 Turkish Airlines has a flight from Istanbul Atatürk Airport to Hong Kong and it takes 11 hours.

In this piece I will share tons of photos and try to write everything I know about the life style, and the places to visit in Hong Kong.

Let me start with a few hints:

  • Its currency is the Hong Kong dollar (HKD).
  • Time difference: 6 hour ahead of Turkey.
  • Hong Kong is more expensive than Turkey, not an ideal place to shop.
  • 100 HKD = 10 EURO = 30 TL (approximately)
  • You can go anywhere by subway.
  • I am afraid public transportation is not cheap. Each ride is approximately 5-7 TL.
  • For short distances caps can be advantageous.
  • A plug and go SIM card with 5GB internet package is 50 HKD. (You can buy it from the 7eleven at the airport) I think this is a very important detail for a tourist because if you have a local SIM card and can use the internet, your life will be much easier. If you have foursquare,  you won't need a map or a navigation system. I strongly recommend that.

The city consists of three main districts: Kowloon, Hong Kong and Lantau. While the Hong Kong island is the city center, Kowloon is the touristic hub. You can go from Central Pier in Hong Kong to Kowloon in 5 minutes by “Super Ferry” for 2.5 HKD.

I stayed at Novotel Citygate Hotel in Hong Kong. Citygate, is an outlet area 5 minutes away from the airport. It goes without saying that the prices in this mall where you can find outlets for all brands from all over the world are not favorable. The hotel is just next to the mall and you can go directly into the mall via an escalator from  the hotel. That's why I think it was advantageous.

Hong Kong Airport is situated on Lantau Island, or rather on Chek Lap Kok, the small island just next to Lantau. After getting of the plane, you can reach the city center in approximately 25 minutes by subway or bullet train (30 HKD). Since the subway is exceedingly comfortable and easy to use, you don't necessarily need to choose a hotel in the city center and pay an arm and a leg. For the same amount of money you can stay at a very good and a comfortable hotel.

Hong Kong is one of the most cosmopolitan countries in the world, and you will see people from all over the world. Maybe because of the money flow from the Far East, HK has become the most important financial center in the world.

Here people are so busy that all you see are large groups of people walking in double time, interested in nothing but their cell phones. Even in the subway there are announcements like “stop playing with your phones and hang on!”

As the life is very expensive here, people are obliged to work very hard; the rents start from 2000 USD. That's why many people have no choice but to work late into the evening. One of the things that surprised me most in Hong Kong is that people who have been working hard all day are strolling on the streets during the night... At two in the morning, the subway and streets are packed. I have no idea when they sleep or rest.

Things to do-Places to see

  1. Big Buddha (Lantau)
  2. Disneyland (Lantau)
  3. Streets of Kowloon (Kowloon)
  4. Night markets  (Kowloon)
  5. Symphony of Lights (Kowloon)
  6. Avenue of Stars (Kowloon)
  7. Canton Road (Kowloon)
  8. Victoria Peak (Hong Kong)
  9. Central Streets (Hong Kong)
  10. Soho district (Hong Kong)

Big Buddha: Let's start here. This is a touristic area composed of a temple between the mountains and a gigantic Buddha statue on Lantau IslandYou'd be the butt of a lot of jokes if you didn’t see the Big Buddha while you were in Hong Kong.

To go to Buddha, you can take the cable car just next to the Citygate Outlets. For a round trip it's 150 HKD. There are cable cars with glass floors, but they are more expensive and very unnecessary. Don't waste your money; the normal one is just as good. You don't pay for anything up there. The cable car starts working at 10.00. The only disadvantage is that there is a long queue. I recommend you to be there around 10.00 and stand in the queue; otherwise you'll wait at least an hour.

After a cable car trip with  marvelous scenery for half an hour, you'll reach the gigantic statue and the touristic village. A complex of gift shops and cafés will be waiting for you. You can find all kinds of souvenirs there. Then again compared to the city center they are more expensive. The average time it will take to visit Big Buddha is two hours.

Disneyland: I heard that compared to the others, this one was designed for smaller children, and my time was limited, so I skipped it. It's your call.

In the Kowloon district, you can stroll around almost every street. This district is packed day and night and it promises places where you will fully experience the sense of Asian culture.

There are two night markets at Kowloon. They are Temple Street and Ladies Market and it takes 20 minutes on foot to go from one to the other. Before going I had heard a lot of good things about those markets, but, honestly, it was a total disappointment. It was full of belts, wallets, and all kinds of things made in China.  I couldn’t find anything as a souvenir other than magnets, but I must admit they were the cheapest magnets  have ever seen.

Besides all of this, Kowloon is a  beautiful place where you enjoy the famous and sparkling  scenery of skyscrapers. Every night at 20.00, you can watch the light and sound show called Symphony of Lights from the balcony at Tsim Sha Tsui bay; it's on the right when you get off the Star Ferry and it's free of charge. It's not as flamboyant as people say, but nevertheless you should see it.

After that you can take a walk along the shore, and in 15 minutes you'll reach the Avenue of Stars. There are local stars just like the one in Hollywood on this promenade. I don't know about you, but I didn't know any of them.

You can also see the statue of Bruce Lee, the pride and joy of Hong Kong, along the Avenue of Stars. If you'd like to pose just like me, you'll have to bear the queue.

If you think you can't leave the Far East without seeing a temple, I recommend you to drop by to the Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple in Kowloon. The subway takes you there directly. I think the most important attribute of the temple is that it's the syntheses of the past and the future. It's an old religious building in a district of skyscrapers. It was wonderful.

After Kowloon let me tell you about the central island Hong Kong. Hong Kong Island, the district with monumental skyscrapers, business and shopping centers can also be described as one of the grandest districts in the world. There is no residence or business center which is less than 100 floors. As far as I am concerned, this place has the most expensive rentals in the world. Maybe I can explain how serious the situation is with some examples. The rent of an ordinary office floor starts from 300 thousand USD, and the monthly rent of the Abercrombie&Fitch store is 3 million USD.

Do not leave Hong Kong without climbing the Victoria Peak behind the skyscrapers. You can reach the peak in 15 minutes, either by tram (they say there is generally a long queue) or by a cap (costing 65 HKD). A panoramic view of the whole country, a small mall and cafés will be waiting for you. When I was there, it was kind of misty as you can see in the photos, but if the sky is clear they say you can even see China.

The last place I will recommend in the Central district is Soho.  As you may know there are lots of Soho districts. This one, just like the others, has local products, restaurants and food markets. I'd say go and try some of them.

In fact there is a lot to write about the life style of Hong Kong, but let it be the topic of an another piece.

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