February 22, 2007

Hong Kong II...
Some travellers that I had met in Yangshuo highly recommended that I check out some of the ethnic minority villages in the New Territories of Hong Kong (the part that was leased for 99 years to the British which cause the talks leading to the handover of Hong Kong back to Mainland China in 1997). Since I hadn't actually been able to see many minorities in either Yunnan or Guangxi despite having learned about them, I thought it would be quite interesting to see one of the old Hakka walled villages. Out in the New Territories I found Kat Hing Wai, a village that was founded in the 1600's by the Tang clan which I've heard is Hakka, but according to Wikipedia is Punti.
The wall around the village was pretty old, but the houses inside were very modern and crammed close together. Wandering through the little village I checked out the familial shrine, the narrow alleys, and the rat poison alert posters. It was quite interesting to see a very different side of Hong Kong.
There are quite a few differences between Hong Kong and the Mainland of China, starting with the fact that the people of Hong Kong seem to be proud they are not from the Mainland. The people in Hong Kong are much more polite, and I'm not just talking about the fact that they don't spit. There were two people who bumped into my by accident on different days, and they both apologized to me (I did check my pockets, but I hadn't heard of theft from any other travellers, also unlike the Mainland). People also line up for the bus, they don't 'huddle'. All of the public bathrooms had toilet paper, seat toilets, and soap! At the Big Buddha on Lantau Island the bathroom played the music "Joy to the World" and had friendly reminders in Mandarin, Cantonese, and English to wash your hands for hygenic reasons. That would probably also explain why the Hong Kong money is so clean and doesn't smell.
Apart from all the cultural and politeness differences, you can also see a difference in the temples. On the Mainland you have to pay to enter every temple, and the temples are almost treated like museums. If the temple has monks, they often act as the ticket sellers and collectors. But in Hong Kong the temples are free, and the people at the temple are actually praying.
On my last full day in Hong Kong I visited the Hong Kong Museum of History, which was free because it was a Wednesday. I thought it was a good idea to go while it was free, but so did at least 16 bus loads of primary school kids. It was an excellent museum with interesting exhibits. Another Chinese museum that puts the National Museum in Beijing to shame. Just before lunch I boarded the Star Ferry which crosses the harbour from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island itself, which is where all the famous skyscrapers are. Seeing all of them crowding out the sun certainly makes the word skyscraper make sense. There are skyscrapers everywhere, and yet a lot of them are in interesting designs which makes them interesting to look at and not just lumps of concrete and glass.
I really enjoyed Hong Kong, though I didn't enjoy the Hong Kong prices while I'm earning Chinese RenMinBi (People's Money). It's a fascinating mix of East and West which I think can be summed up by the uniquely Hong Kong drink of "yuen yeung", a mix of milk tea and coffee which doesn't sound good but which I really enjoyed.

No comments: