**** Photoalbum (Family) ****
HONG KONG TOUR 2002 SUMMER
On August 2 to 5, my family (my wife, two daughters and one son)
visited Hong Kong for vacation. This is my first visit and I have no
experience of Hong Kong in the days of the British colony before 1997.
This is a roving report of my reconnaissance platoon, which I hope is
of some help to you when you visit there.
(1) Civil Freedom and Security:
According to two native guides of JTB (Japan Travel Bureau), there has
been no change in its market economy since Hong Kong's return to China,
however, when I asked if civil liberties have been compromised, they
did not answer clearly, looking rather cautious, maybe they took care
of the possibility of eavesdropping by Big Brothers, maybe not. On the
other hand, there are many relaxed police in moss-green-uniform on the
street, and there seems almost no possibility of hold-ups, but they say
there are pickpockets.
(2) Currency and Exchange:
The currency is Hong Kong Dollar, and exchange rate is circa 17.8 Yen
for HK$1 at the Chiba Bank in Tokyo Narita Airport, and 10K Yen for
HK$615 at the exchange at the Cameron Road of MTR Tsim Sha Tsui in
Kowloon (P.J.Global Ltd.; 16.3 YEN for HK$1). I would rather recommend
foreign exchange of cash on the street. Credit card is also available
in the major restaurants and shops excluding papas and mamas souvenir
shops (Eventually revealed in the advance bill notice on the
Sumitomo-VISA web site; 15.6 YEN! for HK$1).
(3) Public Transport System:
Hong Kong is severely crowded and has no extra space, so privately
owned cars seem scarce and I did not identify subcompact cars, e.g.
TOYOTA Corolla, Honda Civic, Volkswagen, etc. on the streets. On the
contrary, over-600-class Mercedes are frequently seen on the parking
lots of excellent hotels and malls, which are probably owned by
corporate Tycoons. But, why so numerous?
MTR (To enlarge, click here. To return to this page, click *return* on your web browser)
scanned from color print, NIKON FM-2, Tamron 35-70 mm, 1/60 sec with flash
Commoners use public transportation. The subway, which they call Mass
Transit Railway (MTR), is well organized and punctually operated with
short intervals, trains being clean and solidly built. Overall
impression is it is a very similar system to that of Singapore. The
fare is cheap, e.g. HK$4 between neighbor stations, and HK$10 from Hong
Kong Island to Kowloon, and we purchased HK$70 tourist MTR 1-day pass.
We never felt any danger in terms of facing crime. The electric ticket
card seems reusable, so if you lost the ticket in the train, the
penalty money must be paid, they warned. Let your kids take care of
this. The label inside the train shows the name of Australian company,
which I don't know if is a manufacturere's name or contractor's name.
It's a very well-organized system, I would say once again.
The bus service is also networked extensively. The fare is also cheap,
e.g., HK$8 from Admiralty at the north of Hong Kong Island to Stanley
market at the south of the same island for a 40 minutes ride. Double
decker is interesting to us non-Londoners, off course.
(Because it remains unclear if taxicab drivers can understand English
conversation, we refrained from its use)
(4) Landscape on the Street and Places to Visit:
MTR Tsim Sha Tsui (To enlarge, click here)
cool-scanned from Ektachrome 100 slide, Minolta X-700 with auto winder G, 50 mm MD, program-AE, cloudy midday, natural light
and noisy. Colorful and scrambled. Jewelry shops are numerous, and
mainly Asian women are seriously engaging and hungrily purchasing at
the floor. It looks rather odd to me with some surprise because in
Japan we do rarely see clients in the fancy jewelry shops lately. Of
course Hong Kong too faces recession but in my perspective the people
of upper middle class are hungry and vigorous and still have a dream.
Bird Garden (To enlarge, click here)
cool-scanned from Ektachrome slide, Minolta X-700, 50 mm MD, P-AE, rainy morning, natural light
Flower market and bird shops are clustered locally at Bird Garden on
Yuen Po Street in Kowloon (MTR Prince Edward), which suggests decent
taste of the native people in spite of the urban noise.
Wong Tai Sin Temple (To enlarge, click here)
cool-scanned from Ektachrome slide, Minolta X-700 on a tripod, 50 mm MD, P-AE, self-timer, cloudy morning, natural light
Wong Tai Sin Temple is located in the residential area in Kowloon (MTR
Wong Tai Sin), and appears very traditional and photogenic, but I
regret the possibility that I might have insulted the people by
focusing my SLR on the faithful.
Hong Kong Island viewed from pier at Central District (To enlarge, click here)
cool-scanned from Ektachrome slide, Minolta X-700, 50 mm MD, over 1 sec exposure, night, blurred without tripod ;)
Hong Kong Island viewed from Victoria Peak to Central, Harbour, and Kowloon (To enlarge, click here)
cool-scanned from Ektachrome slide, Minolta X-700 on a mini-tripod, 50 mm MD, over 1 sec exposure, night without haze
I recommend to visit Victoria Peak on Peak Tram after taking dinner at
MTR Central or Admiralty district. The night view of Hong Kong is
breathtaking and photogenic. Tripod is useful for longer exposure. The
key is weather, non-rainy night is preferable. We also visited Stanley
by double decker bus (Line No.6) from the station near MTR Central,
which is in fact a souvenir shop market on the shorefront. You can see
the Repulse Bay during the ride.
HK Convention and Exhibition Center (To enlarge, click here)
cool-scanned from Ektachrome slide, Minolta X-700, 50 mm MD, P-AE, cloudy morning, natural light
The HK Convention and Exhibition Center on the shorefront in the Wan
Chai district is also very photogenic (MTR Wan Chai). Wide lenses are
needed. Hand over ceremony was held here in 1997, which I watched on
(5) Where to Dine:
We enjoyed decent chinese dinners (a delicacy!) at about HK$350-400 per
person (we tried Chuk Yuen Seafood Restaurant, 3 minutes walk from MTR
Tsim Sha Tsui, at HK$1,900/5 person, and Hunan Garden, at HK$1,650/5
person, 5 minutes walk from MTR Central), and lunch at about HK$100 per
person (Jade Garden, 2 minutes walk from MTR Tsim Sha Tsui, at HK$430/5
person, and Peking Garden at Pacific Place, at HK$420/5 person),
including HK beer. At the last night, we took Italian dinner, for a
change, at La Trattoria in the Landmark at MTR Central (HK$1,400
including a Chianti red bottle/5 person). Probably fitness-conscious
white people will not eat this much. In short, Chinese meals at
restaurants which clear satisfactory sanitary conditions are not
necessarily cheap also in Hong Kong, but anyhow McDonald's did not
appeal charming to us there. No GI pathology happened to us, of course.
(6) Construction Boom:
Not to mention the new HK international airport and related express way
and bridges, high rise buildings and new infrastructures are
continuously under construction. Comparing with suppressed national
public spending in Japan, which in fact is a nature-friendly trend, the
landscape is still being changed radically here. The construction
companies contracted are half of Hong Kong conglomerates and half
Japanese, the guide explained. Anyway, in the age of environmental
protection, the construction companies struggle to survive in every
niche on this planet. Invasion into mainland China seems imminent.
There is a large container port Kwai Chung, which is actually third
largest hub port in the world and has been an important portal to main
land China. Lately China is doing commerce directly from their own
ports, and as a result the cargo is decreasing in this terminal too
this year just like ports in Yokohama and Kobe in Japan. Incorporation
of China into the world trade put Japan and Hong Kong in distress in
some respect. Ross Perot was right, when he objected to NAFTA on TV ad,
presenting the landscape of ramshackle timber huts and semi-naked
people in Mexico and asking the American people "Will you really
compete with these poor people on labour costs?" President Jiang Zemin,
don't you have the intention to return China from greedy and flexible
market economy to the old-fashioned barefoot communism and isolated
hardliner's paradice once again? ;)
Just after returning to Japan, I came across an article dealing with
the mainland China's unstoppable low-cost clothing and textile
manufacturing base that appeared in Newsweek magazine. See Brook
Larmer. From rags to riches. Newsweek August 12, 2002, pages 10-13,
(7) Escape-and-Return Tactics:
I hear that the people who escaped from Hong Kong just before the hand
over to China on July 1 1997 are now returning to Hong Kong again after
successfully obtaining the nationality of Canada, Australia, etc. One
reason is certainly that they could not adjust to the weather and
feeling overseas, but on the other hand they noticed the supremacy of
Hong Kong, where tax is very low. Holding the nationality of, say
Canada, and staying in Hong Kong as a foreigner is the best strategy in
the new reality of Special Administrative Region of China. Ummm, sure
(8) Health Care and Social Insurance:
In Hong Kong, some people buy the social insurance and others not. Poor
people cannot afford the insurance. As some segment of people in main
land China are getting rich and the principle of self responsibility is
prevailing, they become concerned with the insurance as a next step, so
overseas insurance companies, say A.I.U. and CIGNA, are now
aggressively infiltrating into China for the market. Under the control
of "Invisible Hand"?
Window view from our room at J.W.Marriott through Admiralty to Harbour and Kowloon (To enlarge, click here)
cool-scanned from Ektachrome slide, Minolta X-700, 50 mm MD, P-AE, morning of a small typhoon, natural light
In the lobby (To enlarge, click here)
scanned from color print, NIKON FM-2, Tamron 35-70 mm, available light
We stayed at J.W.Marriott near MTR Admiralty, which was a decent hotel, indeed.
Your off-list comments and corrections on this post are greatly appreciated.
Competing interests statement: The author declares that he
has no competing financial interests.
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