Outside China

The past few days I spent outside China – maybe not totally because Hongkong and Macau have been given back to the PRC in the late nineties, but they are still like individual countries in many aspects. The main reason I traveled to Hongkong is that the territory is treated as a special area in regards of visa. As my study visa expired, I needed to leave the country and get a new tourist visa to continue my journey through mainland China.
But Hongkong is not only different on that aspect, compared to mainland China it is very dense, there are people everywhere, anytime. One the one hand it creates a “busy” atmosphere, but there is also a lack of relaxing.

Generally speaking, goods are much more expensive in Hongkong, especially the cost for food and living space. However there are some corners where one can get cheap food as well, but I have to search for it. But we were lucky and found some small streets with small restaurants. They had the menu only written in Chinese characters (traditional ones, so not the same way of writing as in mainland China) and the customers were all Chinese. When in the street one usually can hear all kinds of languages: Indian, Mandarin Chinese, English, German, French… The most common however is Cantonese, that I cannot understand with a few exceptions like numbers and very few words that are similar to their pronounciation in Mandarin Chinese (like “wait for the car/bus”, “fifth floor”). But Hongkong is an international city, so most people are able to speak English – if not, we could still try Mandarin Chinese to talk to them.
Another thing I noticed was that foreigners are nothing special in Hongkong. In mainland China, one is rather often stared at and one can hear children (and adults) loudly talking about “waiguoren” (foreigner) when you come near them. And in contrast to Macau where most of the tourists come from the mainland, Hongkong is very international, so you never know who is a tourist and who is doing business there. So in Macau, where I went to for one day, I was asked how may Chinese pronounciation was that “standard” and not with a southern accent – usually people tell you how good your Chinese is just after you say “Ni hao!”

Anyway, Macau sometimes looks like a European city – well, the Portuguese built it. But there are also a lot of new casinos (whose tax accounts half of Macau’s budget), there is a Formula-3 racing course and newly built skyscrapers. When I visited the city I went more for the traditional options: Some churches, including the famous St. Paul, that only consists of the front wall these days, the old fort on the mountain, the maritime museum and some temples.

In Hongkong our visit was more highlighting the newer sights. Besides an “old” temple (Chinese would laugh about its age, though), we saw the lightshow and the fireworks in front of the skyline, did some shopping for eletronics (these items are expluded from taxation on Hongkong that makes them even cheaper than mainland China), and walked the streets of the financial district. The later we did on Sunday, but that day we could only see a large picknick party going on in the streets as literally thousands of people were having drinks and food in the streets, playing cards and chatting between the skyscrapers. Several people told us that some skyscrapers can also visited for free – however, not on a Sunday. I think we are still used the the Chinese way where most shops are opened on Sunday, as well and were surprised how hard it is to find something to eat for lunch when the tall buildings are devastated.

We also toured the interesting museum the depicts the history of Hongkong and its role during the opium wars and had a look at the botanical and zoological garden. Of course the Peak Tram to Victoria Peak was also in the program, but the weather was a little hazy, so the skyline might not have been as beautiful as on a clear day. Anyhow, in Hongkong the air (and the city itself, too) is much cleaner than Beijing.


2 Responses to “Outside China”

  1. Guangzhou - Back in Mainland China « Beijing 2007 Says:

    […] Beijing 2007 « Outside China […]

  2. gail Says:

    The many people you saw on the Sunday are mainly Philippino women who come to Hong Kong as nannies for the wealthy residents. They are given one day a week off and hurry to a designated spot in parks, subways, etc. to meet with friends/family to spend their day off playing cards, gossiping, picnicking and generally having a wonderful time. For holidays, they are given two consecutive off-days and there is hardly a space for another person. Entertainers perform for these people as well in the parks and personally, I think it is a wonderful sight to see.

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