Friday, 24 February 2012

Rattling Across the Island.

A final free morning so I decided to take the rattling old tram which runs the length of the northern shore on Hong Kong Island. The route runs for 16 kilometres and at just a couple of HK Dollars a ride (about 16p) it's the staple transport for many of the workers in the residential areas at either end into the centre.

I took the the MTR out to the terminus at Shau Kei Wan, where the trams literally let off steam at the end of a run, before setting off again. I climbed to the top deck and took a front seat as we headed off through the crowded streets, past towering slum tenements. It took over an hour to make the journey through Quarry Bay, past North Point, Causeway Bay and Fortress Hill into the more familiar territory of Tin Hau and Victoria Park. I got off in Sheung Wan and made my way back through the old wholesale markets selling ginseng, ginger, birds nests, dried sea food and powdered deer antler. There aren't many Europeans or tourists in this part of town.

I wandered back down Hollywood Road, towards the centre, past the old Victoria Prison and the Governor's House. Impressive, but tellingly dwarfed by the new Bank of China, which was provocatively built to block the view from the house's terrace to the harbour, into Hong Kong Park and onto the British Council, to attend a briefing on tomorrow's recruitment fair.

The fair is being held in the huge convention centre on the waterfront. We're not top of the bill. That honour goes to a huge international fur expo. Lots of rich Russian buyers swanning about. Anorexic models trying to find their way to changing rooms and very heavy security. I found the unrepentant show of it all very unnerving. There's mega bucks here.

Before I headed back to Kowloon I went to have a quick look at Golden Bauhinia Square which was created to mark the return of the colony to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. For tourists from the mainland it's a must-see attraction. They pile off the buses to have their picture taken in front of the golden flowering bauhinia. Each morning at 8am the Chinese flag is raised here whilst the national anthem is blasted out. It's a small ritual, vital for reminding Hong Kong's residents that for all the European influences and heritage, the future belongs to China.

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