Monday, September 24, 2012

Views of Hong Kong

I visited Hong Kong in the summer and would like to share some photos with you. It is 15 years since the handover from the British back to the Chinese, and on the surface it has not changed much. The economy is still doing well, and more and more high rise buildings can be seen.

The traditional mixes with the modern, western lifestyle mixes with eastern lifestyle. Maybe there are less expats now and more mainland Chinese. Nevertheless, it is still a good place to relax after a long trip in mainland China, or to stopover first to have a taste of the Orient before you go on a long trip to the mainland.

This is a view of Hong Kong island, the main business district. You might be able to spot the I. M. Pei designed Bank of China building on the left background...look out for the triangles!

A bit further east is Wanchai, with the bird-like convention centre in the foreground left. You can still see traditional junks sailing through the harbour.

Here is a child's impression of Hong Kong island looking down at it from the Peak. You can see the Bank of China building and the convention centre.

This is taken on the Star Ferry ride from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon peninsula - so many new high rise buildings.

You can see the original clock tower at the pier. It belonged to the original Kowloon-Canton Railway Staion and was built in 1915. Behind it, you can see the pink coloured building which is the HKG Cultural Centre, where the very successful Annual Arts Festival is held in February.

Hong Kong - Asia's World City

Back on the island side, there is the longest outdoor covered elevator in the world, (800m or 2600 ft), linking the business district Central to Mid-Levels, where house prices seem to increase steeply the higher you go! The elevator was opened in 1993.Yes, you're right it only goes in one direction, so of course downhill in the mornings and uphill after 10.30am

All sorts of businesses can be seen along the route. Here along Hollywood Road, there are many antique shops.

They may seem similar to what we can buy in Panjiayuan Dirt Market but the prices are much higher!

Squeezed in among the dense apartment blocks is Man Mo Temple, the oldest buddhist temple in Hong Kong (built in 1841).

There are small cafes selling cooling drinks for the summer, made from old Chinese recipes, and all good for you.

There is a street full of Chinese medicine shops. How many of the herbs on sale can you recognise?

Have you heard of cordyceps...better known as caterpillar fungus.....animal or vegetable? In Chinese it's name can be translated as "winter insect - summer grass". It is very popular and very expensive, maybe because it is thought to be a very powerful medicine, as well as being an aphrodisiac! It is found in Tibet, and I remember buying some for my mother when I visited there in 2005. It has increased many times in price since then.

These also look like insects but in fact it is American ginseng.

Birds nest on the top and a huge shark's fin below.

This shop was selling medicines made from dozens of different herbs which had been ground into powder. They could make up treatments for any aches and pains, sleeplessness, failing eyesight, prostrate problems, cancer, diabetes, name it, they had a remedy for it, handed down over the generations.
I was more interested in the powders they combined for making facials.

Hong Kong is a place for making money, so no problem to change your dollars.

It is also a more open region than the mainland, so there were all sorts of books about various political leaders that we wouldn't see in Beijing. Favourite topic at that time was of course Bo Xilai.

And another sign of openness is girlie magazines openly on sale. We don't see much of these in Beijing, but we do get the real thing!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Holiday in USA (2)

In my last blog I covered the first part of my trip from LA to Iron Mountain to New York City. Now we left the heat of NYC by coach to go to the heat of Washington DC, but with great blue skies. Here I am at the US Capitol building, just like the one in Havana...well almost.

Cuba's is smaller for sure! I was lucky to be there 6 years ago.
We met this funny guy ( I mean the one on the right) who wanted to join the other clowns in Congress!

We enjoyed a slow walk down the National Mall, which will look really good when the renovation works are finished. Of course we stopped off at some of the great Museums along the way.

The National Gallery of Art is in a beautiful building and the new wing by I. M. Pei was also wonderful to walk around in. He really likes triangles, doesn't he? He used them in Beijing (Xiangshan Hotel, Bank of China building) as well as in Paris.
I was so happy to see the 12 animal signs of the Chinese zodiac. Here I am beside my animal sign, the rat. That gives away my age now. 
I got a great photo of the White House at dusk. I waved to President Obama but I didn't see him wave back. We left DC just in time before the thunderstorms which cut off electricity for several days. Just imagine what it was like with no air con! That never happened to us in Beijing so far, though we did have problems with flooding of the roads.

Our next stop was Miami, such a famous tourist resort but we came during the hot off-peak season. The Hispanic influence is very strong here, and we treated ourselves to a great Latino barbeque buffet.

At Miami Beach, there is a mixture of different beaches for different interests, (we even had a peek at the nude one but no photos sorry) and at South Beach, a large collection of art deco buildings. Some in this style remain in Shanghai but none in Beijing.

I guess it's a fun town when all the tourists are here, but quite expensive. Saw some party glasses.

Do you think they suit me?

There were lots of seafood restaurants....

cheap cocktails especially giant sized mojitas....

and all kinds of bar entertainment, such as this drag show.
We then went on to our last stop Fort Myers to see some old friends who had travelled with us a lot in China and now it was our turn to see how they lived. A big thanks to y'all who made our trip so enjoyable.

We got a very warm welcome, and saw that our friends lived as a very close family, just like in China. We tasted all sorts of yummy home cooked and southern restaurant food. It was also mango season there so we had lots of those.

Here's a typical brunch.......
We went to see the historic centre of Fort Myers, which looked quite new and modern to us, but that's because anything over 100 years old is called historic there. We also went to an art collectors home......
and admired lots of "historic" goodies, including several Chinese pieces....
.....and a pair of Foo Dogs, which we call stone lions, just like outside any important person's home in China, including the emperor's (have you seen the ones at the Forbidden City or Summer Palace?). Mind you these were not carved out of marble or cast in bronze......but the male and female were in the correct place on either side of the main door.