[Pictures] [Travelogue] [Useful bits] [Conclusions]

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As my plane gets closer to the "Fragrant Haven", I see the new Chek Lap Kok airport, on an expanse of reclaimed land off Lantau island. It was almost completed and due to start operations in a few weeks. After a few days, as I was driving by on a bus, I saw thousands of people queueing under the rain at the gates of the new airport, with bags and all. It was a general rehearsal to test the new facilities: check-in counters, luggage pick-up and delivery, waiting rooms... just like in Europe.
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As we fly over the bay, I get my first sight of the countless ships and the amazing Hong Kong skyline. OK I had seen it many movies before, but the real thing still takes my breath away!
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Feel like counting houses anyone? The old Kai Tak airport is right in the middle of bay, and the landing approach goes right over the city.
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The plane rolls over the Kai Tak runway, and it feels rather like a taxi driving through the city center!
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If you go to Hong Kong dreaming of tropical sunshine, chances are you'll find yourself in the wrong place. Clouds and rain are the rule, and boy does it rain! But some sights are unique even if you look at them from under an umbrella, and in fact I found Hong Kong to be more charming like this: wet and cloudy.
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The variety of food is endless, and you can spend hours not only eating it, but just looking at it. In case you are wondering what exactly is that you are looking at, just be brave and try it: chances are you won't be disappointed.
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Tai O, a fishermen village on Lantau island. The city is only a short bus or ferry ride away, but you think this is another country. The people here seem to live on a different clock, and one that suits me better.
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Still Tai O. Notice any difference from Hong Kong harbor?
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An after dinner moment with friends. If you are as lucky as I was and are invited by locals, get ready for some special treats. And if you don't like new food, well bad luck. You can't use chopsticks? Don't worry, you'll learn!
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This is not a cathedral or a shopping mall, but the inside of the Shangai Bank building. And in case you are one that likes to move a lot, well this one can be packed and shipped somewhere else. It can also be reshaped inside, and floors can be moved up and down, like a giant LEGO.
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One typical postcard picture...
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... or two.
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Macau is a short ride with the JetCat from Hong Kong, but it's a totally different world. Sometimes you feel like you are on the streets of a mediterranean city...
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... and sometimes you think you are really in China.
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But the best is when the two cultures are sitting side by side. I had the impression that they never really managed to merge though.
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This beautiful garden is home to a cemetery... I wouldn't mind being buried there myself.
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A view of the city looking from the top of the old Portuguese fortress. Quite a difference from the high rise buildings of Hong Kong. And mainland China seems closer here, well visible to the northern horizon.
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Looking from Taipa island, the Macau skyline looms through the mist.


[Pictures] [Travelogue] [Useful bits] [Conclusions]

I visited Hong Kong and Macau in May 1998, on my way to the Philippines. When I think back to Hong Kong, I have two distinct pictures in my mind: the fast-paced, glittering, ultra-modern city; and a small noodles shop on a rainy day in Tai O. I liked both. There is not much time for thinking in Hong Kong. But it's nice to sit on a ferry, and look at the buildings all around, and the people inside them without time for thoughts.
Macau is different story. Macau da noite a uma hora, and the memory is a cat, the cat is in my lap, and the bridge is in the fog. The garden of life and death, and the death of the cat is a fire on the roof. I loved Macau.

Useful Bits

[Pictures] [Travelogue] [Useful bits] [Conclusions]

Hong Kong is in general very user-friendly. Already on your arrival at the airport, you'll find lots of information posted and handed out by the Tourist Association. Transportation is a breeze, with the metro which is cheap and reaches almost everywhere. This is no reason however to pass a bus ride, which is an interesting experience of its own, expecially if you can get on the top of one of the famous double-decks. Also worthy a trip to the summit of the hill overlooking Hong Kong bay, and a ride on one of the countless ferries.
Macau is much less used to tourists, unless you count the quick ones that come down for a thrill at the Casino. These days, Macau is a stage for a chinese Mafia war that is scaring lots of tourists away. I did not see any of it, if you exclude a few impressive types in the casino and quite a number of working girls around it, but I was happy to get an excellent deal with accomodation.
Hong Kong was returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997, but enjoys a special status for another 50 years under this latter. The most impressive change is the fear of Hong Kong chinese that they will eventually be brought under standard chinese rules sooner or later. Macau will return from Portugal to China in December 1999. It is likely to cause much less of a commotion than for its more famous sister, and it will be interesting to watch how things evolve here, far from the Hong Kong spotlights.
Here is a site where you can find an updated table of currency conversions for the Hong Kong dollar. The Macau pataca is not easily found in banks abroad, but it's just a few percent less than the HKG$ (which is accepted everywhere in Macau).
Here is a few maps. Don't forget to visit the excellent PCL map collection, and the Hong Kong Tourist Association site.
Here are some useful links (note that many servers have both chinese and english pages, I list here the URLs for documents in english only):

Concluding bla-bla

[Pictures] [Travelogue] [Useful bits] [Conclusions]

Atai, thank you!

This page was created using a photo camera, a scanner, some freeware, and lots of patience. Click here for a list of details and acknowledgments.

Created by A. Richichi, last modified: 07/07/99. Here is my homepage. If you want to know more details (such as places to stay, to eat, to avoid, and other travel tips) send me an e-mail, but first make sure to remove nospam_ from the address. If you liked this page, wouldn't you send me a postcard from the place where you live? Thanks!

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