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October 6, 2001
Life in Hong Kong (Russell)

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Nathan Road, Kowloon

In our plans, our four night stay in Hong Kong was going to be the last leg of our overall Mainland China adventure.  In reality, it was more like a recovery vacation from the rest of our Mainland China adventure.  

The 99-year British occupation of Hong Kong actually included two territories: the island of Hong Kong itself, and the Kowloon Peninsula on the southern tip of Mainland China.  Our hotel was in Kowloon, and we never did end up setting foot on the island.  The closest we got to it was looking at the skyline from across Kowloon Harbor.  During our entire four days here, we took no marathon excursions or sightseeing tours.  Instead, we spent much of the time in the hotel, resting and recovering.  And we didn't mind it a bit. 

Hong Kong is still separated from Mainland China by Customs, Immigration, and border control, despite reunification four years ago.  A passport is required to cross the border.  In fact, Hong Kong still looks and feels like the same British possession that Russell last visited 14 years ago.  The streets are a busy and crowded cacophony of people, cars, stores, and neon lights.  Unlike Mainland China, however, the signs and voices are all English-friendly.

Kowloon Hotel is very nicely located at the southern end of the peninsula, a block away from the harbor.  Nearby Nathan Road is full of electronics and souvenir shops.  We bought our standard souvenirs of country patches, stickers, and pins (in fact, we were very excited to find patches and stickers for Mainland China as well, as we had been searching in vain for the previous three weeks.)  Russell added to his gadget collection by picking up a portable DVD player that can accommodate all regions and formats worldwide -- something you can't get back home.

As usual, we went to the local grocery store to self-cater many of our meals.  However (perhaps due to burnout), we supplemented our jelly and bread dinners with a couple of outings to the hotel restaurant.  We were clearly no longer in Mainland China: Joss ordered a cheeseburger and Cameron ordered spaghetti.  A couple of nights later, Joss ordered spaghetti and Cameron ordered a cheeseburger.   For our last dinner in Hong Kong, Russell and Gail splurged and ordered the buffet, which included a fantastic selection of Japanese sashimi and sushi in addition to other Asian, European, and American gourmet dishes.

The only other outing we made was a couple of trips to nearby Kowloon Park, a two-block walk to the north.  Nestled here among the gigantic skyscrapers was a wonderful lake filled with exotic ducks and birds, turtles, and fish.  (On our last day in Hong Kong, we took our leftover bread to the park and fed the fish and turtles.  We had tremendous fun sharing our bread with all of the local children.  Unfortunately, the fish were struggling so hard to get to the bread that they kept going near the shore, where they were promptly getting eaten by the birds.  A guard finally came by and asked us all to stop feeding the wildlife.)  There was also a wonderful public swimming pool, but we never ended up taking advantage of it.

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Kowloon Park

Other than these small explorations, we spent the majority of our time in the hotel.  The boys were able to play with their Lego for the first time in a month, and with dad's help they put together some robot toys that we had purchased in Guangzhou.  There was much home schooling (amid much resistance).  Cameron's other favorite activity was to sit in the corner where two picture windows came together and watch the traffic go by 12 stories below.  He spent many hours day and night nestled up against the glass (sans balcony), and mom did a great job by not completely freaking out.

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Cam watching the world go by... day and night

There was also much business to be done, as Hong Kong would provide our only consistent Internet access for weeks before or after.  We found out that our flight from Mauritius to Tanzania has been cancelled, so we were scrambling for an alternative.  In addition, we have concluded that it is not safe at this time to travel to Egypt or Turkey, and we are still in the process of determining what to do instead. 

Hong Kong provided a nice transition for leaving China.  Gail remarked that she didn't realize how accustomed she had gotten to the constant dirt and filth of the Mainland until she was back among modern sanitation again.  As we prepare to leave Hong Kong, we have the strange feeling that we already left China days ago.

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The view across the harbor to Hong Kong Island


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