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24-26 June 2018.
From Yangshuo we travelled to Hong Kong: a two-hour ride in a private van to Guilin, followed by a three-hour journey on a bullet train. At one point we were travelling at 308 kilometres/191 miles per hour! Inside the train it was a smooth quiet ride. Leaving the bullet train we went directly underground to the subway. We were probably in Shenzhen at this point though there was really no way to tell; we just followed along behind our guide. We took the subway to the China/Hong Kong border, which was still underground and part of the subway system. We passed though border control, had our passports stamped, and officially left China. Then we took another subway for about an hour. After a change of lines, and two more stops we finally arrived in downtown Hong Kong. Our hotel was a five-minute walk away. Our epic journey from Beijing to Hong Kong had ended.

I have an enduring memory of crossing this border forty years ago. We took a train from central Hong Kong to the border, walked a short distance through no-mans-land and then boarded another train. The train was antiquated and charming. Every seat had a white lace-edged antimacassar, and lovely young women walked up and down the aisles offering us tea that was freshly poured from a large kettle into china mugs with lids. We rode that train all the way to Guangzhou. In those days there was nothing between the border and Guangzhou except farmland and small villages.

In a way it was a relief to finally get to Hong Kong after three weeks in China. All those years ago I’d spent six weeks there and loved it. Because of its history as a British colony I knew signage would be in English, and that I’d find people who spoke English if needed. I felt a general relaxing and was confident I’d be able to manage on my own. Also I was looking forward to exploring Hong Kong forty years later. I knew it had changed, a lot, but I still found a city that was easy to navigate and that offered much that appealed to me. I had three days there. I did a lot of walking on both sides of the harbour, riding the renowned Star Ferries back and forth.

Hong Kong has the largest number of skyscrapers of any city in the world.

In between the closed walls of those skyscrapers, down below the anonymous faces of the endless buildings,

nestled at street level is a vibrant crowded city. Down at street level it feels accessible. Modern and wealthy and sophisticated, but also gritty, grubby, and real.

The streets of Hong Kong:

If you go down to Victoria Harbour at 8 o’clock at night

on both the Kowloon side and the Hong Kong Island side, you’ll be able to see the light show across the water. There are a myriad of searchlights, lasers, LED screens, and lighting all working together to create a spectacle that transforms the Hong Kong skyline. The lights on all those skyscrapers change patterns and colours in a choreographed dance to a soundtrack performed by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. It’s called A Symphony of Lights and combines music with the interactive lights of 41 buildings to literally highlight the shining night-time panorama of Victoria Harbour.

I loved it, this party of coloured lights in the night, and my photos don’t even begin to do it justice. Here’s a taste of it in this short video:

In the previous post I wrote about how the Chinese think big. Well for the Hong Kong/Macau/Pearl River delta area of China they’re thinking really big, as in building a city of 70 million big. If it comes to fruition it will dwarf even the very biggest cities of the world.

When I was last in Hong Kong there was pretty much nothing just across its northern border with China. Now there’s Shenzhen, a city of over 12 million people, and the subway that takes you through border control and connects all the way to central Hong Kong.

At the moment both Hong Kong and Macau each exist as a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, under the principle of “one country, two systems”.

This video illustrates China’s vision for the future for the area. I suspect that eventually both Hong Kong and Macau will lose their special status and be absorbed into the central government of the country.

Next post: getting out of the city – a day trip to Cheung Chau and Lamma islands.

All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2019.