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26 March 2012, Monday
Goodbye Beijing, and hello Hong Kong! Beijing sent us off with some taxi-related difficulties – it turned out that concept of “booking a taxi” didn’t work at all here. The most you can expect when booking is that the clerk will catch a taxi for you out of turn. But even despite a slight delay, we managed to do everything (i.e. to have breakfast, check out, get to the airport and pass through all stages of airport control) with a huge lead time.
Compared to the Chek Lap Kok Airport in Hong Kong, the Beijing Airport looked half-deserted, perhaps, due to its vast territory. The long winding queues in Hong Kong Airport reminded us of London, while the luggage claim part didn’t remind of anything at all. One would think that it’s really easy – just follow the signs, check the announcements on the monitors and find your luggage. But for some reason our flight wasn’t mentioned anywhere. I had to go to the information desk, where it turned out that our luggage had been unloaded on the conveyor for a flight from Singapore. It’s hard to tell, whether this was a single case, or such disorder is generally usual for Hong Kongers.
Hong Kong’s topography is very complicated, which we realised while trying to find a taxi to the hotel. There are taxis of one colour for one island, those of another colour for another island and taxis of third colour going to the peninsula, while the airport itself is located on yet another island.
The road to the city was totally stunning, as opposed to the dull one in Beijing. Picturesque hills entirely covered with greenery, crimson flowers everywhere, air full of spicy fragrances, huge bridges, skyscrapers of incredible forms, the bay of the purest blue colour – amazing! Every now and then we grabbed each other’s hands and cried: “Look, over there, look there!” Narrow skyscrapers made us feel somewhere in New York, and the palms and tropical greenery clearly indicated that this was an exotic place. Well, as for the left hand driving (as well as triple outlets), it reminded of the good old England.
The hotel somewhat disappointed us though, compared to the five-star one we had in Beijing, shining with luxury. This one was inferior in terms of both service and location: it was situated somewhere on the outskirts, in the interior of the Hong Kong island (Happy Valley area). However, the view from the window was quite interesting: we could see a hill covered with greenery (as all hills here), as well as terraced roofs with tables, chairs, chaise lounges and people, hanging clothes out to dry or cooking something.
After settling in the hotel, we immediately went out to walk around a bit. Hong Kong absolutely has the appearance of a western city. Although the people you see around are pretty much the same Chinese, but their clothes, their manners, their dogs on leashes and even their faces are quite different. For example, in the Beijing Zoo we noticed a group of guys, one of which must have probably been claiming to be very stylish: he had a cool tie, a short-sleeved tight jacket, shades and patent leather shoes. Still, next to any Hong Kong guy he would have looked a bit provincial, despite living in the capital.
The streets, surrounding our hotel were very busy and full of banks, real estate agencies, restaurants and shops. We bought some exotic fruits, like cherimoya and star fruit. The first one turned out to be very sweet, and the second one – rather tasteless, but peculiar. What made us glad was the fact that there were “hop on-hop off” bus tours in Hong Kong, which we planned for the next day.