The city of today

Okay, Hong Kong wins.  It is a city that embraces the 21st century with both hands. We took a bus tour of Hong Kong Island today, and started to feel like we were from Iowa visiting the big city for the first time. Great way to lose your New York chauvinism!

We started with some pretty fancy dim sum this morning. No simple steamed buns for us! These were works of art and we properly admired every one.

Then touring began in earnest. We took the ferry across to the place where all the money is made and kept. The financial center is an incredible monument to the power of money – one looming banking center after another. As HSBC happens to be our own bank, we at least felt protected by the big local guys – even though Sir Norman Foster’s iconic HSBC headquarters “robot” building looks like a complete excrescence on the landscape, in our humble opinion.

What’s startling but very effective is the juxtaposition of the old apartment blocks of diseased-looking concrete and the glittering monoliths in close proximity. Concrete just doesn’t age too well, and I guess they just haven’t gotten around to tearing some of the worst of them down. They look like vertical tenements, but maybe looks are deceiving, and they’re just lovely inside…

At any rate, we had great city views, including seeing the wonderful old double-decker trolleys that still move people everywhere. The public transit system in this city is amazing, and so easy to use. Today we also sampled the city buses – and found them fast, easy, clean and on time. Just like home, right?

We got off our Big Bus tour for a while to experience the world’s longest covered escalator, which runs over the Central and Mid levels of the city. Great way to move people up and down a fairly steep incline, along with the chance to snoop in a lot of windows.

We made one stop at “Happy Foot,” where Don had a reflexologist give him a foot and neck massage. My feet are so ticklish that I can barely get a pedicure. But he had a great time and his feet were happy all afternoon, as we toured the neighborhood, reboarded the bus, glimpsed some vestiges of the British colonial past, and just generally gaped at the mixed up splendor of it all.

Completely overstimulating, this city. When it’s all new to you, you can’t just turn it off and ignore it. That’s why being a tourist is so tiring! We need to take a brief break now before tonight’s Harbour light show, which we expect to be dazzling.

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