As the list of cities that I have visited grows, I become more and more interested in what sets each apart from the other. When we first land in a new city, we like to spend some time walking around and exploring, without too concrete of an itinerary set. Our first few days in Hong Kong, we stayed in Kowloon, very close to Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade. As we walked out the front door, one of the first sites that met our eyes was a couple dressed in clothes from a bygone era. It was like they had stepped straight out of the 1930’s in a British colonial style. Of course we knew that Hong Kong had been owned by the British for over a hundred years. It had only recently been returned to the rule of China. But it was still interesting to see how the British and Chinese cultures meshed within the modern city of Hong Kong.
Our first morning wanderings brought us to one of the main shopping districts of Kowloon. At first glance it looked very similar to a street you might see in New York, or any other large fashionable city. There was one striking visual difference.
The scaffolding was made of bamboo! I decided the bamboo scaffolding is much more visually pleasing than the metal and blue walls that is used in New York. Building and renovating happen in cities all over the world. The small differences in details in universal activities like this are just so interesting.
Another difference we noticed as we strolled along were number of jewelry stores, and how different the jewelry was. The gold was yellow, a much deeper and richer yellow than gold used in jewelry in the U.S. In China (and Hong Kong) they use 24k gold to make jewelry. It is a tradition that brides are given gold jewelry by their families when they marry. Their jewelry is one of the few items that traditionally they retained ownership over. The deep yellow of the gold is gorgeous and attention catching. The other jewelry that was really interesting was the pearl collections. So many different colors and sizes! While the pearl jewelry in Hong Kong didn’t quite rival that of Mikimoto (a Japanese jewelry designer), it was still far more varied and intricate than pearl jewelry in the United States.
I love visiting the green public spaces in the middle of a towering urban metropolis. There is something really interesting to me about the juxtaposition of nature and concrete jungle. The layout of the park, its structures and plant life, as well as the people in the park, can give you a taste of the culture of an area.
Kowloon Park was a beautiful green oasis, filled with quiet waterways, animals, and a playground that our kids loved. In Central Park you’ll find people doing yoga. In Seattle’s public spaces, you’ll possibly see Butoh or Capoeira. In Hong Kong, you see people practicing Tai Chi or martial arts.
The Peninsula Hotel, an icon of British colonial culture in the midst of Hong Kong’s Kowloon, is located very close to the Star Ferry. This hotel oozes with the luxury of a bygone era, reminiscent of the height of British colonial power. You can go to the Peninsula and experience afternoon tea, in true British style. Although intrigued by the idea, we didn’t go to afternoon tea on this trip. Maybe next time!
***Correction – The above picture is not the Peninsula Hotel, but a nearby building called 1881 Heritage. You can follow a link to the Peninsula Hotel’s Website here. ***
This is a part of Tsim Sha Tsui looking over Victoria Harbor into Central Hong Kong. I love these kind of relaxing moments when traveling with our children. No one can teach you to stop and enjoy the moment like small children, who find the joy in splashing in a fountain, gazing at reflections, or watching the ships moving across the water. The Star Ferry was a big hit with both of our girls. It is really a very short ride to cross Victoria Harbor from Kowloon to Central Hong Kong. I am more used to the ferries going to and from Seattle, which are much bigger and far longer crossings. The Star Ferry is about a 10 minute ride, but it gives you an excellent vantage point for taking in the skyline of Central Hong Kong and Kowloon. Plus, I just love the name. Who wouldn’t want to ride a Star Ferry?