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Travel Guide to Hong Kong
Imagine the bustling streets of New York, then times it by ten. Add a dash of Chinese culture, a wallop of nature and half dozen fish balls that don’t actually contain any fish, and you have the beautiful city that is Hong Kong.
At 7.2 million people, Hong Kong is a dynamic city with an incredible history, towering skyscrapers and a unique mix of English and Chinese that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. While Hong Kong has existed for a millennium, it was officially founded in 1842 to solidify a truce between Great Britain and the Qing dynasty of China during the First Opium War. A decade after the British took control of Hong Kong, the Black Death swept into China, killing hundreds of thousands of people. It would remain part of Hong Kong’s life for a century.
During World War II, Hong Kong was captured by the Japanese. For three years and eight months the British-Chinese culture of the city was destroyed, replaced with Japanese text, language and art. The booming city of 1.6 million people was slashed to only 600,000. Japanese occupation was incredibly harsh for the Hongkongese, being the darkest part of their history. Japan ceased occupation on August 6th, 1945, in response to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For forty-two more years, Hong Kong was controlled by the British, with the reunification between Hong Kong and mainland China finally occurring in 1997.Read More
We took the train from the restaurant in Hiroshima about a half hour outside of the city to a port, and then crossed on a ferry to Miyajima island.
Most temples in Japan are structures, but Miyajima is different. In this case, the whole island is considered a temple. There's a temple on the island too, but in this case the island is the temple, as is the water surrounding it, so all must be treated with care (but we can, thankfully, wear our own shoes while in this temple!).
Another interesting thing about this island is it's paper-eating inhabitants: deer. Very friendly, very adorable, very aggressive deer. Arriving on the island, each person is given a map of the island. Occasionally people drop these maps and the deer will eat them. In fact, the deer will often go after the maps while people are still holding them!Read More
The Mountain Village of Koyasan
I awoke at 5 this morning and hustled to the subway station. From there we took a commercial train an hour and a half outside of the city. Then we took a rail car half an hour up a mountain. Then we took a bus for 45 minutes. And then we walked for 10 more minutes.
During this excursion, we had lots of time to view the Japanese landscape. We saw misty mountains, farms, with lakes and forests, and everything in between. I even saw a deer from the rail car, casually watching us roll past it. I'm almost embarrassed to admit this, but growing up I always thought Japan was coast-to-coast cities, with no nature remaining, let alone with fully inhabited forests! Words cannot explain the lush waterfalls, the greenery or the plant life. It was like a rain-forest!
Arriving in Koyasan, we went to our Buddhist Lodge. It's exactly what you imaged a lodge would be like: rice screen doors, waterfalls next to the rooms, trees, nature inches away. A very earthy, yet clean, experience. And best of all, no mosquitoes!Read More
Hiroshima did not disappoint.
(Editor's Note: If you wish to sign a petition to help make the future nuclear free, please check out The Atom Project. Thank you.)
After a quick, non-complimentary breakfast, we boarded the train from our hotel and rode it for about 20 minutes, arriving at the A-Bomb (as in Atomic Bomb) Dome. It was so incredible to see. Back in 1945, the building was a landmark of the city. It was a famous dance hall, where performances and shows would often take place. Now it's a landmark for a completely different reason. Now there are no cries of joys or folk music coming from the structure. There is nothing but a haunting quiet that hangs around the burnt, dilapidated stone structure. The structure demanded silence; as if speaking too loud would cause it to finally collapse.Read More
Kyoto - The Storm
I was able to sleep in today, and woke up at 8am. I quickly showered, ignored the hotel's "bring an umbrella" warning, and began my first free day out on the town. My first stop on my trip was one I happened to discover before I came to Japan; the Headquarter's of the video-game giant Nintendo.
I didn't know how to get there from my hotel, so I asked the lady at the front desk. Although she had decent English, she had no idea what I was asking. I wrote it down and she googled it, and came back with a map. She explained what subway to get onto, how many stops to take, and how to get from the subway to the HQ and back. I thanked her, and left.
Leaving the subway station, it didn't take me long to see the top of the building from afar. However, it was much more difficult navigating the winding streets to get to it. Add to that, the sky was overcast and there was a very distant rumble coming from the clouds. It was either because I misunderstood the seriousness of the thundering clouds, or because it was obvious I had no idea where I was going, but a Japanese man who's English was comparable to my Japanese buzzed his car over, ran up to me and asked if I needed help. I showed him my map and he gestured to his little Japanese car to get in; he would take me there. My mother told me to never get into vehicles with strangers, but I sized up the small man who I was about a foot taller and about 100 pounds heavier than he, so I got in his car.Read More
I enjoyed sleeping in today. I think I woke up sometime around 10. I was completely exhausted from my trip in Japan, but today was going to be another busy day.
My focus today was Kowloon, the mainland section of Hong Kong. Hong Kong is broken into many separate islands, with Kowloon being the only part attached to the mainland, besides the New Territories. Kowloon is an area more known for it's shops, street vendors, fish markets and the "Walled City", which had the highest population density on the planet -- or twice that of Manhattan, whichever is easier to comprehend. Although I never got there, pictures of that part of the city are phenomenal. Think your living quarters are cramped? The pictures make me feel claustrophobic.
Taken from "City of Darkness: Life in Kowloon Walled City Paperback – Oct 1993" by Ian LambotRead More