Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Hong Kong and Beijing

Last year (March '06) my brother, Jay (or Raja as we call him..) was taking a class at Stanford that involved a trip to HongKong.. Not wanting to be left behind, I tagged along as well.. Here is what I thought of the trip..

Hong Kong feels like a nice "asian - british" city.. Feels very much like Bombay only way more advanced and clean.. Its very "Hi-Tech".. Their subway system is amazingly well organized. They have 5 lines and each line interchanges with one other line in atleast two places to avoid a single point of failure. Also, when you get off at a station to change to another line, you don't have to walk up or down the stairs to get to the other line. Its just across the platform. The trains are also coordinated such that you don't have to wait for more than a minute to get the other train. Most place have escalators. We also rode on the worlds longest escalator.

The first thing you see when you land in Hong Kong is stacks upon stacks of tall sky scrapers.. All about 30 storeys high. The city never seems to sleep. Most of the shopping places and restaurants are open till midnight. The other great thing about Hong Kong is their "parks". So, in the middle of the neighborhood with all these tall buildings and busy life of people, there are these small (about 900 sq ft) parks, where people come and hang out and can enjoy a few moments of peace. These parks have nice trees, benches and are quiet and peaceful.

They also have this stored value cash card called the "octopus card". The card with RFId. The card can be used on the subway, bus, vending machines, 7-11 type stores..

The people are also nice and most of them speak english. Infact, I was told that English is the official language of Hong Kong. Hmm.. I wouldn't mind living in Hong Kong..

China was nice too.. We visited Beijing. The city sprawls like LA. Its is built around 5 ring roads. We had a bit of a language problem there as no-one speaks (rather, wishes to speak) english. Fortunately, we had one person in our group who spoke a little Mandarin so, we could get by.

In Beijing, we saw the Tianemen Square, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heavenly Peace, the Lama Temple and Mao's monument, where they have kept Mao's preserved body. Seeing the body was a bit eerie, because they had a small light bulb over his head whcih made his face "glow".

We also took a day trip to the Great Wall of china at the Mutianyu section of the great wall. Its about 50 miles from the city of Beijing and hardly has any tourists. It was very exhilarating to be there and see the wall. In the picture, To my left is my brother.. The rest are his friends from Stanford..

Food was nice. I am mostly vegetarian, so, it we had to look for a place that would have a nice vegetarian meal. It was mainly noodles, either in soup or stir fried with vegetables to be eaten with chop sticks. We also had Dim Sum a bunch of times.

The wierd thing in Hong Kong and Beijing was that people drank "hot" water with their meals, so, we had to order bottled water to get some "cold" water. The desserts were also, not very sweet and were often made with red beans. Or they would serve fresh fruit for dessert.

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