Thursday, 30 June 2011

Eastern Promise.

On Wednesday I headed for the Far East. I'm talking to the Hong Kong Communication Art Centre about possibilities for partnership work with Drama St Mary's. In the first instance we're looking to run our final year as a top up for their Performing Arts 2 year programme - but if we can successfully negotiate that, then there may be more opportunities for staff and student exchange or placement. Over time it could mean we have a well resourced regional hub in South East Asia.

The flight itself wasn't nearly as gruelling as feared and after a fairly sound sleep I woke just as we broke cloud cover and began to descend over the South China Sea - hundreds of tree clad islands, trawling boats and in the far distance the skyscrapers of Hong Kong city. Thirty years ago the plane would have landed in the bay itself, swooping low over the built up residential zones in Kowloon; but now touch down is several miles West on reclaimed land north of Lantau.

Face pressed close to the bus window for the half hour journey into town, startlingly large suspension bridges, impossibly narrow towerblocks densely packed, more going up at every junction, huge ocean liners ploughing through the deep water channels between the islands. Frenetic activity, everywhere.

The eight hour time differential made it quite late by the time I arrived at the hotel just off Nathan Road, but I couldn't resist taking a midnight stroll, to get my bearings and soak up a little of the vibrant atmosphere of the Golden Mile.

I headed towards Victoria harbour, where the Star Ferry provides cheap passage for the thousands of commuters, who daily cross the narrow strait to Hong Kong itself. Turned the corner and suddenly a glittering skyline came into view, flashes of reflected neon tumbling across the water, the sky lit up as bright as day. Only here, from the other side of the bay, do you realise how rapidly the mountains behind the shoreline rise, narrowing the available land and enforcing the vertical. The engineering needed to accommodate the millions of people and thousands of businesses here is very impressive indeed.

Despite the late hour and the humidity, the promenade was crowded with revellers and tourists. I followed it along past the old colonial clock tour and onto the rather kitsch Avenue of the Stars which celebrates, through Hollywood style handprints and pavement stars, Hong Kong's film industry.

It's hard to imagine that it's only 170 years since a naval party first hoisted the British flag over what was then a sleepy fishing village and began the process of colonisation that has, in turn, led to the creation of this tiger city. There's so much I want to find out. It's going to be a fascinating few days.

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