Travel

City Upon the Sea: Hong Kong 

My Splendid Tour guide for the afternoon was a bubbly young woman named Ivy. Speaking to a group of blank faces as the bus wormed through Kowloon to the main island, she chattered on about the island’s history and some of the modern construction projects being undertaken today to connect Hong Kong by higher-speed rail to the mainland, as well as projects to ease congestion on some of the highways connecting Kowloon Peninsula to Hong Kong.

It was Vasco da Gama who first discovered Hong Kong in 1498 when looking for new sea routes to China, Ivy said. Then the Portuguese, Dutch and English all took an interest to claiming land in Asia for trade. The Portuguese took Goa and Malacca in Malaysia, moving their way up north to China and finally arriving in Macau in 1514. By 1557, the Portuguese settled in Macau, paying the Chinese government annual rent. This set the precedent for Europeans to lease land in China, which would later influence Hong Kong’s occupation by the British.

Today, Macau is a gambler’s paradise, and Ivy said the casinos in Macau actually make more money in total than those in Las Vegas. In fact, the UNR’s Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming economics professor William Eadington told the Las Vegas Sun in 2010 that gaming revenue in Macau would would likely exceed $20 billion that year, adding, “Las Vegas still has more diversity in its various offerings, but it’s hard to say that it’s king of the hill in gambling.”

“Macau generated about $5.6 billion in gross “games of fortune” revenue during 2005, compared to about $3.5 billion during 2003. Given the favorable prospects, it is possible that Macau’s gaming revenue could exceed $10 billion within the next five years. However the composition of gaming revenue is what makes Macau unlike any other gaming jurisdiction in the world, including the Las Vegas Strip.” -Bloomberg Businessweek, 2006

It’s just another example of how Asian cities are replacing their U.S. counterparts as the world’s major commercial centers. As China and India’s economies are burgeoning due to increased productivity and modernization, American leaders look to raise the U.S. debt ceiling for short-term fixes for the U.S. economy.

Within Hong Kong however, people can only place bets on three things, legally: the lottery, football, and horse racing, which is the most popular, and is handled by the Hong Kong Jockey Club. I didn’t get a chance to visit Macau on this trip, though Ivy said it’s only an hour-long ferry ride away.

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As we drove up to the peak, Ivy pointed out the more expensive houses.  Just like during the British occupation, the higher up on the hill you live today, the more you have to pay for the view.

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After the peak, we headed toward Aberdeen Harbour, where we were took a short tour by sampan, or “small boat,” to get a better look at the boats in this fishing village. Tourists have the opportunity to experience dinner and entertainment at the “world’s largest floating restaurant,” the Jumbo.

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By the harbor’s 2010 numbers, it saw 4.66 million tons in imports and exports, 7,467 vessel arrivals, 149,656 passengers, and $1.85 million in profit before taxes.

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From Aberdeen, we stopped at a jewelry factory and showroom before heading to Stanley Market through Repulse Bay. The one thing I can’t stand about guided tours is that they usually drag you to some sort of factory as if to show you a process or behind-the-scenes look at some industry. I’ve found that this is just a way to lure tourists to spend money. In this case, our factory tour guide told us plainly that the workers we saw behind glass windows, chipping away at intricate designs were only pretending, and not the actual craftsmen. I was in no way impressed, and found this to be the most boring part of the tour. So when we got to the showroom and I didn’t even flinch at all things glittery, a Swiss man also on our tour asked me how I, as a woman, showed no interest in these things.

For one mister, your comment is sexist and offensive. Second, when I’m in a foreign place, I prefer to spend money on experiences rather than objects. Third, ok fine. maybe your comment was actually somewhat on target because I do love jewelry, but I’m also 23 and now unemployed and not in a position to be racking up major credit card bills.

And on to Repulse Bay we went.

The bay was named for the British attempts to ward off pirates. Ivy said the hotels along the bay provide a kind of Waikiki feel for Hong Kong residents. They come to this bay whenever they fancy a trip “to the beach.” However, you’ll notice in the photo that a yellow line of buoys marks the area where a net has been placed to prevent shark attacks.

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We only passed through Repulse Bay to get to Stanley Market. This is an open-air market where bargaining is allowed. I’ve never been too good at bargaining myself, plus I had packed my life with me from Guam, so I had absolutely no space in my suitcases to fit anything more.

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While the others used this time to buy handmade souvenirs, I decided I’d go for a late afternoon pick-me-up at one of the pubs lining the street behind the market instead.

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This place served small breaded mushrooms filled with pesto and marinara. They were delicious. Come to think of it, the whole time I was in Hong Kong, I never once had Chinese food. That’s right— French, Italian, Mexican and Indian, but not once Cantonese cuisine. I’m not big into Chinese food, plus I’ve found the vegetarian choice is usually limited.

Stomach full, I was in a much better mood heading back to the bus for our ride back to Kowloon.

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