Friday, October 12, 2007

Hong Kong - Smog or no smog

Just back from a couple of trips. This one was about a quick trip to Hong Kong. That too during the period said to be the worst time of the year because of air pollution and the pollution index was hovering around the danger mark. The weather was also too warm for this time of the year. Locals told me that this was the time of the year for some pleasant early fall weather. The recent typhoon to hit eastern China, it is said, had something to do with the smog staying around, in a high pressure area. That said, HK is really an easy place to get to. For Indians and many others, it is a seamless 'visa on arrival' and takes no time in getting past the immigration desks unlike in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia where the waiting time for a visa can be excruciating. The new airport is swanky, spacious and easy to get in and out of.

(The smoggy skyline of HK from the Tsim Sha Tsui Waterfront)

A high speed train takes one right from the Airport terminal to the heart of downtown HK in about half an hour. That's pretty good speed and a comfy ride. HK is famous in Asia for many things, Disney Land seems to attract a fair bit of Asian crowds who have not been to Disney's theme parks in the States. I was there on business and on this occasion had half a day to spend. Not much one can do, right? Actually, there's plenty to do in a short time and HK has a similar underground train system to the one we have in Singapore that I have written about previously. Except that they call it an MTR in HK. HK also has good busses and a tram system. No comparison to the dilapidated and rickety trams they have in Kolkata.

The MTR connects vast portions of HK territory and some say connects better than the Singapore MRT. It is cheap, fast,efficient and gets you everywhere you want to go. I hopped on one to Kowloon, on the other side of the bay and walked around in the afternoon sun, taking in the sights. Partly due to the weather and partly due to my interest in museums and art, I ventured into the Hong Kong Art Museum in Kowloon, they were exhibiting among many other things, selections from the collections of Asian artifacts housed in the British Museum. Spending most of the day in the air conditioned museum, I was fascinated by HK Museums own collections of Chinese art, Calligraphy and ancient pottery.

(Above and below - HK Art Museum)

Now that was something new to me, having glimpsed Chinese pottery on Nat Geo in the past. The outside area around the Museum is a walkway called as Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront and one gets a good glimpse of the HK skyline and the business district. Nearby is the "Avenue of the stars" and is a tribute to HK's movie scene. The beginning of the avenue has a tall statue of a woman and this is supposed to be the statue awarded to winners at the Hong Kong Film Awards functions. In front of the museum, and just as one exits from the underground road crossing, one comes across a domed structure. This is the Hong Kong Space Museum and the domed structure is an Omnimax theatre. I didn't have time to go in.

(The Movie Maiden)

(The Space Museum)
I'd like to mention a few things about the new Hong Kong International Airport at Chek Lap Kok. Firstly, it is well laid out and can handle the crowds without looking like a mess. Then the ease at which one can get in and out of the Airport. The options for eating is vast. What caught my eye, obviously, is aviation. This Airport has a large dedicated section for aviation, the technology that goes behind aviation, the history of aviation in Hong Kong and so on. They even have a large scale model of a glass cockpit Airliner that one can walk into. The entrance looks like a runway and the interior looks like an Aviation museum, indeed that's what it is. Working models that can be handled by visitors makes it interactive and gives loads of information. To spend time at the Airport, at this place within the Airport terminal building, is a cinch. Full marks to their efforts in promoting aviation this way. Through all my travels, I have not come across an aviation museum of sorts within an Airport terminal building that can rival this.

I have posted photos above and as always, please click on them to enlarge. I'm going to find time later next week to put in more posts. I have not done HK any justice in this blog. The next time I go there, I'll find more to see and write about. And hopefully the air quality would have improved and it won't be so hot!

Foot note: No, I didn't run into Jackie Chan, a lot of my friends asked me just that when I got back.


Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

Wow...Hong Kong! You are one lucky person,sir! And to top it all off, an exciting profession! Thanks for telling us about it...i'll remember the travel notes. The thing is, in a funny way, your blogs have been educating me. Just asked my auny in singapore about the ghost festival and she was surprised to know that I know so much about singapore culture, I was already smiling, thinking 'For that, i need to hand it to Anup Murthy sir..."

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Thanks Lakshmi, yes I have been fortunate to have traveled the World, no doubt about it and the very essence of traveling is education as one learns a lot just by observing and being in a different place. There is tons to learn yet, for me too, and I hope I never stop learning. This piece about HK was hastily written, not my best piece of literature but it will have to do when i have little time and much to write. Thanks for your compliments again.