The first thought that comes to one’s mind when one steps out on the streets of Hong Kong is its striking resemblance to Mumbai, albeit more planned and definitely cleaner. The skyscrapers, the necklace of lights embracing the sea, the salt laden mist, the cool breeze, the hustle as well as the untimely rain, all unite to give one a refreshing welcome. In spite of having almost nothing in common with a country like India, Hong Kong strangely makes you feel at home.
My first stop, after dumping my stuff in my hotel room, was the Victoria Harbour at TsimTsa Sui where, amid thousands of enthusiastic and cheerful locals, the famed 12-metre high art installation, the inflated Rubber Duck by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, was to be unveiled. Having travelled almost all over the world since the year 2007, Duck Duck (as the locals chose to call it) was to float on the South China Sea for the first time and stay there till June 9.
Conceived 12 years ago, as an initiative to spread joy, the idea for the installation came to Hofman by fluke. “One day I saw a rubber duck in the bathtub of my kids and decided to incorporate it in my work. I placed the duck in an urban setup to see the joy it brought to adults,” he said. “The duck is a metaphor for unity, what it represents is that all the waters in the world is a global bath tub. It is very important to bring art in public spaces,” Hofman added. But that was not where my two-day adventure in the city ended.
An interesting amalgam of the east and west, Hong Kong dazzled me with its affluence and the accessibility that it provides to all the high-end brands from all across the world. It is a shopper’s delight. It was hard not to go out window shopping, and it was a relief to see that there were thousands of other mall rats giving me company, at any given hour.
Another interesting place that I visited was the Chi Lin Nunnery, a Buddhist temple complex located in Kowloon. It is home to a nunnery, temple halls, Chinese gardens, visitor’s hostels and a vegetarian restaurant (a rarity) serving some of the best mushroom-based dishes. Not to mention the night market and the ladies market which were not only a great place to haggle over fashionable clothes, replica bags, shoes, small souvenirs, but also the best place to get a taste of the local cuisine.
Some Travel tips
Best time to visit is from October to April.
Do visit the night market and the ladies market at Kowloon.
Always carry an umbrella or a raincoat.
To save up on travel expenses, one can easily use the public transport which includes Mass Transit Railway (MTR) service, the local buses, the Hong Kong-Kowloon ferry.
Feel free to haggle at the local markets.
Don’t indulge at the duty free shops at the airport as they are rather expensive.
If you are a vegetarian, your options will be limited. So make sure you check before ordering food.