Hong Kong Diary
A week before Hong Kong was handed back to China three of the future founders of World InfoZone visited students in Hong Kong with whom they had been developing a cross-curricular educational project using the Internet.
HONG KONG DIARY
TRAVELLING TO HONG KONG - Friday 20th June 1997
We met in Terminal 3 at Heathrow Airport in London. Neil's parents dropped off Neil and Andrew, while Teresa and Dan arrived with his family. After goodbyes, the parents left and we checked in. Going through security took ages because Andrew had so much change in his pockets he kept setting off the alarm!
We went airside and bought some food from a cafe and waited to be called to our gate. Soon we were on the plane and on our way. The flight took twelve hours (which is a long time to be stuck in a little seat) and we hardly got any sleep (I was chatting away most of the time!).
The arrival at Kai Tak airport was one of the most amazing I have seen.... one minute we were heading away from the airport, the next, we were banking steeply right back towards the island. From there, we continued in the same direction for about a minute, and then banked right at an even steeper angle, only two hundred feet below us were the buildings of Tsim Sha Tsui, and only a mile behind were some very big hills - it is enough to scare the life out of those who are not the greatest of flyers! Just one minute later, we were only fifty feet off the ground and passing over a main road, it's really amazing! Anyway that's enough about the landing, shame that nobody will be able to experience it once Chep Lap Kok is open.
We managed to get to the hotel safely and set off to explore the local area. We were amazed by just how lively the place is, with bright lights and an unbelievable number of people moving about. DANIEL
THE MARKETS - Saturday 21st June 1997
Today was the first full day we had in Hong Kong. We overslept (the jet-lag started to creep in) but managed to make it to most of the places we intended to visit. First thing on the list was breakfast - we called into the local 7-11 for a snack and then we went in search of the Bird Market.
At the Bird Market we saw all sorts of birds - nearly every feathered creature with wings was on sale. From the Bird Market we went on to the Jade Market. We hoped to see some traditional abacuses being used, but I think the pocket calculator salesman had visited the day before :)
Leaving the Jade Market, we boarded the Mass Transit Railway (Hong Kong's equivalent to the London Underground - but much more orgainsed) to Central on Hong Kong Island. Then we took the mid-levels escalator up for about one a a half miles and joined the queue for the Peak Tram to get to the top of Victoria Peak. Amazingly there were outdoor escalators in the hilly parts of Hong Kong - it is like nothing we had seen before. However we had to leave the visit to the Peak for another day as I nearly collapsed from heat exhaustion. Following this, we decided to return by taxi but we managed to upset a taxi driver because Teresa accidently jumped the queue. We received a selection of abuse in Chinese - we won't make that mistake again!
When we arrived back on the mainland, we decided to go to Planet Hollywood for a meal. They serve mostly the same food as in the UK/US, but things are a lot cheaper, although I would say that it was probably the most expensive meal we will have here. There was no queue, which surprised me. On the way into the restaurant there were hand prints of many celebrities on the walls and film memorabilia decorating the restaurant.
The others went to some local night markets to buy fake designer jeans, watches and T-shirts. Now I'm off to get some sleep ... hope they are not back too late. DANIEL
THE RAILWAY MUSEUM AND THE TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS MONASTERY - Sunday 22nd June 1997
The weather has been rather rainy and grey for most of the day although it is still quite warm. We travelled to the railway museum in Tai Po in the New Territories. The New Territories divide Hong Kong from China.
We have noticed how a huge number of the population depend upon mobile phones and pagers. This was largely noticeable on the trains as there was a constant bleeping and ringing sound. The use of mobile phones has had a large impact on the society here. Most people use mobile phones at all times.
The Hong Kong Railway Museum is at On Fu Road, Tai Po in the New Territories. Tai Po, once an ancient market, is a New Town. The Railway Museum is an open-air museum and includes the old Tai Po Market Railway Station building which was built using traditional Chinese architecture. There are six coaches dating from 1911 to 1974 and there is a mock-up of an electric train and an office block. NEIL
After visiting the train museum we headed for Sha Tin. Teresa and myself went onto the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery which has almost thirteen thousand Buddha images. The monastery is built on a hill and has four hundred steps leading up to it (there was also a cable car and escalators - we used the escalator !!). There were a number of shrines and a pond containing terrapins.
At the top we saw the monks at prayer and the Buddha statues. There was a very good view of the town showing the contrast between the old and the new - the East and the West.
Sha Tin has a large shopping centre with five floors full of different types of shops - many of the them are the same as we have over here: The Body Shop, Levi's Store, and HMV. In HMV I bought some CDs that I found cheaper over here. We bought some lunch at "Oliver's Super Sandwiches" and took some back for Dan and Neil. ANDREW
VISIT TO HSBC - Monday, 23 June 1997
Today we went to Hong Kong Island and visited the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank in Central.
Central District is Hong Kong's main business area. It is the location of many of Asia's main trading companies, international banks, government offices and the Supreme Court. There are also shopping malls and hotels. There are many interesting buildings including The Bank of China Tower and the Hong Kong Bank.
The Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank headquarters was designed by the famous architect Sir Norman Foster and it is one of Hong Kong's the most eye-catching buildings. An atrium rises one hundred and seventy feet through eleven levels of the building. The public banking areas are around the atrium and can be reached from the plaza by escalators.
In the bank we met Betty Tong who my Dad contacts to open bank accounts over in Hong Kong and vice versa. We spent some time talking about the bank and the link between England and Hong Kong. HSBC owns the bank in England called Midland Bank which it took over in 1992.
This afternoon we went to Causeway Bay to visit our friends at Queen's College. On the way we saw the Typhoon Shelter which is a safe shelter for junks and sampans. It is also the home of many people who live on boats. Just further on from the shelter we saw the Noon Day Gun which is fired on the stroke of midday.
We visited Queen's College and met a number of staff and pupils who spoke excellent English and I was very impressed with how easy it was to have a conversation with them.
One of the pupils, Arthur Chan, has been writing to us for some time and we were pleased to meet him at last. The pupils we met were very impressed by our equipment. They showed us how they use a standard English keyboard and a Chinese version of Windows to type Chinese characters. It seems quite complicated to do, requiring a number of key combinations. Paul Chan translated and printed our names in Chinese.
We were introduced to two teachers. One was Sally Willsher, an English teacher and Cecilia Wong, the information technology teacher. We also met the headmaster who welcomed us and introduced us to the other members of the staff.
Sally said that people in Hong Kong are looking forward to the parties which will take place for the Handover. People are also collecting souvenirs such as special train tickets to commemorate the event. NEIL
COMPANY VISIT AND SHOPPING - Tuesday 24th June 1997
Today we visited the Headquarters of BAA Pacific with Kathy and Kitty from the Sacred Heart School. We spoke to the Managing Director, Timothy Ayris, about his visions for his part of the company and asked how BAA plans and prepares for future developments.
We were told about the exciting new developments being undertaken in Hong Kong, the construction of a new airport at Chep Lap Kok.
Chep Lap Kok is a small island off the northern coast of Lantau Island. The airport will be linked to the mainland by the Tsing Ma Bridge, one of the world's longest suspension bridges carrying both rail and road traffic. The Lantau Fixed Island Crossing (two bridges and a viaduct) also links to the islands of Tsing Yi and Ma Wan. The second bridge is called the Kap Shui Mun bridge: it is 430m and is the world's longest road and rail cable stayed bridge.
From BAA we went to the town of Stanley on the other side of Hong Kong Island, and visited the local market. A film crew were filming in the market.
We returned to Hong Kong to continue exploring the town, on what will be our last full day. Kathy took us to some computer shops and we bought a few things to bring home. We travelled by tram which is very cheap - about 16p for a short journey. (Earlier Teresa was nearly run over by a tram, but thanks to Andy's quick intervention she was pulled out of the way!).
In Hong Kong people are preparing for the Handover celebrations and there are many decorations in the streets. DANIEL
VICTORIA PEAK - Wednesday 25th June 1997
This evening we are leaving Hong Kong and we had made arrangements to meet Kathy, Kitty and one of their friends, Winnie, at Admiralty Station at 11 o'clock. The girls wanted to visit Victoria Peak. They suggested that we should eat before we went up to the Peak as the price of food at the top is quite expensive.
We went to a Plaza where there were lots of food shops. I spoke to Cathy about the Handover. She said the people who had been worried about the re-unification of Hong Kong and China had left a while ago - and now some are coming back. Other people were looking forward to the Handover celebrations and she was going to a Wet-Wet-Wet concert at a stadium.
Then we walked through the park - it was bright and warm (our first really sunny day). We were also able to see lots of the main buildings in Hong Kong such as the Bank of China. There were some waterfalls where we had our picture taken - Dan managed to get his trousers absolutely soaked!!
We took the funicular railway to the Peak. At the top we got a 360 degree view of virtually the whole territory.
We left Daniel and Andrew with Kitty and Winnie and they went to the science museum. Before leaving Kitty gave us a commemorative stamp showing the new Bridge connecting the mainland and Chep Lap Kok. She told us how she queued for 3 hours to get it and we were very grateful for the momento of our visit. NEIL