Thursday, April 20, 2017

A foreign land within its own country

Oh no!
I found a cool place where you could take
your picture with drawing that looked
3-D. Unfortunately, I didn't
have anyone to take my photo so
I got a couple of the posed photos
that you had to pay for. I'm actually
in part of a fake tram...
After I left Thailand I headed to Hong Kong for six days. Hong Kong is a very interesting place because it is part of China, but it isn't part of China. Hong Kong Island was a possession of the British. Then they added Kowloon (which is Cantonese for nine dragons). Finally, the British leased the New Territories from China for 99 years. This lease of course was initiated before the founding of the People's Republic of China. In 1984 it was
Hong Kong Island has these really narrow
trams often called ding dings because of the
sound of the bell.

Here comes the tram

decided that all of Hong Kong would go back to China on July 1, 1997. Part of this agreement included that Hong Kong had to remain the same for fifty years. So far it has been 20 years and there are already a few changes (largely related to putting in a more and more pro-Beijing leadership), but Hong Kong is classified as a Special Administrative Region (SAR) and banking-wise and in a few other ways is considered a foreign country from the mainland (for example Hong Kong passport holders can attend international schools and other things only open to foreigners in China).
The tram logo
Me on the tram
This trip was my second time to Hong Kong. The first time was 14 years ago. Several things have changed. First, as an American, I don't need a visa to go to Hong Kong (never have), but last time Chinese citizens needed a visa. Now I don't believe they need a visa (although I'm not positive). Before I had to have a re-entry visa and ended up with 8 stamps in my passport! I had a stamp for exiting the mainland and then one for entering Hong Kong. One for exiting Hong Kong and then one for entering Macau (another SAR that was returned to China in 1999 by Portugal), a stamp for exiting Macau and one for entering Hong Kong again and finally a stamp for exiting Hong Kong and entering the mainland. Now. this time I arrived in Hong Kong from Thailand so it was a little bit different, but I didn't get any Hong Kong stamps at all (a little disappointing). When I arrived in Hong Kong they just gave me a little arrival card with the information that is usually in the stamp and that the papers said I needed to hold on to until I left.
While I was in Hong Kong I did most of the usual things - I took the tram up to the Peak, took a cruise through Victoria Harbour and so forth. There were two main highlights for me: a guided tour of the Hong Kong history museum and catching a Lion and Dragon Dance. The Hong Kong history museum had free tours. It was really nice. We had a tour guide who took us throughout the museum not only telling us about the history of Hong Kong, but also sharing his personal family experiences as they related to the history. The Lion and Dragon Dance was also really cool. This is a quintessential Hong Kong Chinese New Year celebration that I happened to wander across (I actually had to do quite a bit of waiting, but it was pretty cool). One thing that was unusual was that the dance I saw had purple lions in addition to the traditional yellow and red ones.
Finally, the last thing I did was also kind of interesting - I took public transportation to the China -China border at Shenzhen and crossed into the mainland on foot. I then took Shenzhen public transit to the high-speed railway station and returned to Beijing via high-speeded train (about 10 hours as opposed to 24 hours from Hong Kong by non-high speed train).
The view from the top of the peak

Another picture from the top

Me at the top - the headphones are because I
am listening to an audio tour.

A woman asked me to take her family's photo so
I asked her to take a photo of me.
This was a display in the mall at the top of the peak. These
are all candles.

The purple lions

The dragon

Go lions, go!

A night view of Victoria Harbour

I took the ding ding all the way to the other end. There I ran
across a fun market. These are common on the mainland

Meat anyone?

The midlands escalator. It's a series of escalators that take people up
the hill in the central part of Hong Kong Island.

Approaching the intra-China border

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