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Shanghai – Weeks 14-20

I have received complaints about my lack of weekly input on the blog.

Here`s the thing! (™ Scott Kelby)

Every week I fake a pathetic attempt at writing a new blog entry. Sometimes I actually have amazing things to share with the world, but … I am quickly reminded that I`m in China and “everything you say can, AND WILL, be used against you in a court of law … if you actually make it there”. So most of the times I file all those memories for a later date.

I`ll have an attempt at setting the records straight this time next year. In the mean time I`ll tell you a little bit about Hong Kong.

For those of you who don`t know, I had some problems with the visa. Long story short: the Shanghai police kept my passport longer than they should and when they gave it back with the new visa, they put different dates on it than what I asked for and thus creating a big fuss because it looked like I overstayed my initial visa.

I had to apply for a work visa – and that was faster and easier to get in Hong Kong. And as always in life: faster, easier, cheaper – pick any two. But that`s not the subject for today.

The important thing is that I was supposed to go on a 2 day trip to Hong Kong and because of some complications I ended up stranded there for almost 5 days. I tried to make the best of it.

What do you do if you only stay 3 full days in Hong Kong?

1. You walk the island back and forth (east-west) and try to get the feeling (the vibe) of what is probably the most crowded modern city in the world.

After 4 months of Shanghai, Hong Kong is like a breath of fresh air. Everybody speaks english all of a sudden! Bus drivers, taxi drivers, servers, cashiers … almost EVERYBODY! Until you go through the experience of not being understood in a new country, you won`t be able to understand how good it feels to get the things done the proper way without playing charades every time you need something.

Hong Kong has the biggest light show in the world every weekend (if not every day) at 8PM. Some of the companies on the island sponsored light installations on their buildings and everything is choreographed via a complex computer software / system. All in all, it was something new and well worth the time. If you`re on the mainland, do go on the pier at around 7PM to get a good spot. It tends to get crowded very fast.

The weekend I was there, the town was under assault of unemployed women from the Philippines and India, and to make matters worse they literally occupied all Hong Kong. Every bench, every rock, every gazebo … all used by swarms of women, and if in the morning it didn`t seem such a problem, in the afternoon when we wanted to have a break and catch our breath … there was no room … ANYWHERE!

We managed to take our minds off of that and we went to the Peak (the place all photogs go to take those beautiful HDR panoramas of the city. I just had to take one of those shots! But to get there we had to stay in line for almost one and a half hours just to get on the Peak Tram. Once there we grabbed a quick bite and walked around the commercial area. At dusk we moved our souls on the observation deck at the last floor of the main building. There were already many people there but when I was done with my set of pictures there was not enough room to properly turn and GTFO of there. The ride back down costed us another 45min in line just to get the Tram and I couldn`t find a seat so I felt like Spider-Man all the way to the bottom. Steep ride, it`s a must!

The best thing, architecturally speaking, must be the system of elevated walkways. There`s a big chance that one can get from one side of the island to the other without ever putting the foot on a sidewalk. The walkways go from building to building, and the interiors are designed to facilitate the continuity of this type of passage, thus one could easily go through 3-4 shopping malls and no thing once about waiting for a green light. Some of the walkways are closed and air-conditioned and they are lifesavers for those of us not used to the heat and humidity this town has to offer between May – October.

2. For those of you who want to see the biggest sitting bronze Buddha statue, you need to take a half day trip to Lantau Island. On a sunny day I`m sure it`s a treat. When I got there it was foggy and all I have is pictures with half of Buddha. Maybe i`ll get lucky next time.

3. Walk, eat, walk, drink, walk and eat again.

A lot of the times (™ RC Concepcion) It`s the best way to take in a city if you just have a few days. Enjoy yourself! Don`t chimp on the camera`s LCD screen ALL THE TIME!

On my 5th day I wanted to move there forever. That`s not such a sane idea. The city in wonderful and full of life and things to do at every corner but the rent is overwhelming and the apartments are very small. On top of that one needs a very good job to pull it off and actually enjoy life, without thinking about tomorrow. The best part is that plane tickets to Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand are dirt cheap from Hong Kong.

It is definitely a city to see at least once in a lifetime. I`m going to make it my priority to go there again in the near future and enjoy it without thinking about all the annoying things that I had to take care of while I was there.

On a side-note, there`s the saying “if you don`t use it, you lose it”. Your`s truly is the perfect example, photographically speaking. Not shooting everyday has taken it`s toll on me. I get cranky when I have to carry the big camera. I complain about carrying a body and a lens more than girls complain about weight, when in fact I just need to train my vision harder. (and I probably need an all-round lens … something like a 28-300mm on full-frame). We`ll see what the future holds for me. At the time of this article I`m almost sure I`ll sell all my SLR camera gear in the near future and try to focus on something different. These M4/3 look more and more attractive every day.

Thanks for tuning in this week and I hope I made you just a little curious about Hong Kong.

“I`ll be back!”

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