Monday, April 20, 2009

Hong Kong and Macau - a brief but entertaining synopsis

I've been living in Asia for about ten months now and in that time I've felt crazy nostalgic for NYC on a number of occasions, but through all the holidays, sporting events, or lack of bagels I've never felt more homesick than when I was in Hong Kong. It's the first city I've been to in Asia that reminded me of Manhattan. hong Kong is situated on a few islands, but the main island, coincidentally named Hong Kong Island, is a hilly island that reminds me of Lisbon. So there's limited space on which to build. The peak at the top of HK island is really steep and so the only room to develop is along the coast where it levels out. The result is a tendency to build up....and up....and up and up. The entire ciy is full of skyscrapers and as you look out over the horizon, there's just more and more construction going on, each new building higher than the last. It's impressive and overwhelming at the same time. Unlike NY, in HK its possible to get a genuine bird's eye view of the metropolis from on top of the huge peek on HK island. It's got a space-aged feeling to it; just buildings that seem to be floating out of the river.
Once on street level, there is a hustle and bustle that is very NY esque, without the chaos and craziness of other Asian cities. It was clean, smog free (unlike Taipei), diverse and full of energy. But also a bit too capitalistic for my taste. (shopping malls everywhere and giant Ads all over the place).
But all in all I really enjoyed it, and it made me really homesick for New York. (except for the double decker buses and red taxis)

A 30 minute ferry ride from HK and you'll end up in the "Vegas of the East". On the plane ride there we were surrounded by lots of rich Taiwanese business men and when we could see the Sands, MGM, Hard Rock Hotel and a dozen other casinos from the airport it was obvious why all those Taiwanese guys were headed there. The scenery is full of casinos, but it lacks the sleaziness one would associate with such a place. We stayed at the Westin Hotel (thanks again Caitlin for hooking up the hotel discount) for about 70 US. It's located on the second island, far from the Casinos but within a five minute cab ride of the Venetian Hotel and Casino, the biggest in the world. We decided to check it out and turns out I had some good luck. I was up from black jack and roulette, and as it was getting late me and my girlfriend decided to put 50 HK dollars on a 20-1 shot (they have the wheel at the casino that the dealer spins, like wheel of fortune, and each section is based on the odds of it hitting, 1-1, 3-1, 5-1, 20-1 etc.) We put our money on 20-1 and it HIT!
That plus some of my other winnings totaled about 3,000 HK dollars. Enough to cover the costs of most of the trip...

All in all it was a great time, but made me miss NYC even more. I'd recommend it for sure. It's perfect for someone adventurous enough to want to travel around Asia, but who doesn't want to be bothered with pesky things like 'culture shock'
It seriously felt like NYC

I'm planning the next trip....any suggestions?

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