One of the greatest things about traveling the world is that you never experience the same thing twice. A city might have the same name, the same culture, or the same food, but there are no two locations on earth exactly the same. And that's where my love for Hong Kong begins.
Hong Kong is part London, part Beijing and very much not part Tokyo. The culture is both proudly Chinese, proudly British and proudly not Japanese, with multicultural street names like Nathan Street and Shan Tung Street crisscrossing the city. The markets are dotted with both traditional fish ball kiosks and MacDonald Big Macs. The streets are full of bicycles and Fords, and the waterways are full of junk ships and recreational powerboats. Using chopsticks in Hong Kong is applauded equally as much as English. Hong Kong isn't just a city: it's a city between two very different worlds. Hong Kong is the gateway to the East.
Being said, I had no idea what Hong Kong would be like when I first arrived. Would it be like Kyoto and it's temples, or like London and it's Gothic architecture? Or would it be like New York, a finely oiled machine? With my mind open to possibilities, I was in awe when my train first came above ground on the island of Tsing Yi. I have seen skyscrapers before, but these were different. Hong Kong is a forest of skyscrapers! Their apartment complexes dwarf the tallest buildings in my home town! Built between the ocean and the mountains, this concrete jungle spanned the entire city, creating a beautiful canopy of brown, grey, black and green.
But the incredible architecture isn't the reason I fell in love with the city. Like a romantic fling that develops into a life long relationship, the first glance is often what steals your eye, but it's the personal experience that really captures your heart.
The first thing I discovered about Hong Kong was the kindness of the people. Canadians are kind, but often shy and will only help when they see somebody in need. The Japanese are similar: polite but private. But the Hongkongers will run up to you and offer their help, even if you don't need it. I was so floored by this that when my bell boy offered to take my suitcase, I was suspicious of his true intentions. I experienced this same kindness several times around the city, usually from teens wanting to take pictures of me. I would be too shy to ask to take a picture with a foreigner back home, but I was asked four times to have my pictures taken!
The next thing I loved about the city was it's appreciation for nature. Cities around the world have a bad habit of destroying nature in the name of progress. Hong Kong is different. They build around nature, and let the trees become part of the architecture. Massive parks, zoos and gardens can be found throughout the city. Even Hong Kong's most iconic location, the Peak, offers a pedestrian path up the mountain to reach the final destination. While this path is old and moss covered, it would nevertheless be a beautiful hike through the heart of the city.
Not only is the city full of greenery, but so are the nearby islands. In fact, over 70% of the Hong Kong area is undeveloped. This means massive forests and uninhabited islands dot the harbor. Separated villages, while all controlled by the Hong Kong government, can develop and grow independently, which leads to a vast diversity of architecture, commerce, transportation and hygiene unlike anywhere else in the world.
It is this diversity of cultures, languages and lifestyles that make Hong Kong the incredible place it is. Every night the city celebrates this by putting on "A Symphony of Lights", the world's largest light and sound show. Thousands gather on the shores of Victoria Harbour to watch the show, and many have their picture professionally taken in front of it.
While this show is interesting, I found the real show was walking through Hong Kong at night. Depending on where you are, you'll see a variety of different things: you might find "authentic" merchants that will sell you a cheap, custom made suite, or you might see exhausted, sweating shop keepers playing cards outside their store. You'll also see people rushing around the city, aglow in neon moonlight. Hong Kong, like New York, never sleeps, and if anything, it comes alive at night.
The Hongkongers are also very resilient. In the past 100 years, they have been under the control of three very different countries. They have seen their city at war several time, and even in smoldering ruins. They have had their culture stolen from them, trampled and spat upon. They have had the iron fist of Communism crush down upon their freedoms, and they have used umbrellas to fight back against the oppression. While the city as a whole has grown, some parts like the Kowloon Walled City grew too fast and became a carcinogen, needing to be destroyed. Other parts like Tai O were unable to grow, and crumbled into poverty.
Hong Kong isn't just a city. It's a testament to mankind's progress, and through coming together by their differences, not just their similarities, they were able to create something beautiful. In a world constantly torn apart between cultures, politics and religion, Hong Kong shows it is possible to live in peace. Asia's World City is just this: a symbol of multiculturalism and the benefits that we can all acquire from them, with the promise of a world where all people can live in peace.
This is why I love Hong Kong.
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
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When I was younger, I really loved winter. I loved sledding, snowball fights and building snowmen. One of my favourite pastimes was visiting a little outdoor ice rink a few blocks from my house. Every winter my friends and I would climb over the walls of the rink and goof around on the ice. When we weren't falling over our feet, we'd play hockey with whatever snow chunks we could find. As these events became more frequent, we often talked about playing real hockey on the rink. Eventually, we would end up playing hockey, but we'd settle for the street in front of our houses instead.
Beyond childhood, the only other time I went skating was in high school. Everybody else's ice skating skills had improved with age, but mine were still that of a fourth grader. I remember standing in the rink, struggling to shoot while holding my balance, only to have a classmate swoop in and steal my puck! Ever since then, I've stuck to floor hockey.
As I got older, my love for winter dwindled. Now I find it cold, icy, dark and sometimes miserable. My blog usually slows down in the winter for this very reason. I've been trying to get out and enjoy our longest season of the year, but it's hard. Most days I just want to stay inside.
As this was my first time flying a kite, I'm proud to say I only crashed it about thirty times. Thankfully, my instructor said, the kite wasn't too expensive and was made for crash landings. After one particular sharp nose-dive, however, he came over to show me what I was doing wrong. After a few minor adjustments, I kicked the kite back into the air and managed to do my first loop.
The field we were in was empty that day. Within 24 hours, however, the field would be full of kite enthusiasts from across the world. Many of the kite flyers were from Canada and the United States, but some even came as far away as London, Germany and New Zealand. At only 13 years old, the SaskPower Windscape Kite Festival has become internationally renowned to kite flyers around the world.
When people think of kites, they might think of the classic diamond shaped kite of Charlie Brown. However, these days there are many different kinds of kites, and each with their own unique design and purpose.
Part 12 of my cross Canada series takes us to the smallest province in Canada, Prince Edward Island. However, don't let the name confuse you: PEI is actually 232 islands!
PEI also happens to have smallest population of any province in Canada, with only 146,300 people as of 2014. This means this province has less people than my hometown Regina!
Being so small, however, it was difficult to find images on Instagram. That isn't to say there's nothing there worth seeing! Quiet the quandary, actually. PEI has a few very unique locations that drive their tourism. One of them is the gorgeous themed village of Avonlea, named after the village in the hit novel "Anne of Green Gables" published in 1908. This story, and the subsequent stories, follows Anne, a red-haired "fiery" orphan who grows up on PEI. The story is an international bestseller, and is strangely very popular in Japan (or so I've been told)!