Hong Kong Lights

Some pictures of lights on the harbour.

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Hong Kong, China

I have been here many times over the years but my last two visits are recorded on my blog at https://lesliesh.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/hong-kong/   and   https://lesliesh.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/hong-kong-china/

I have not done much sightseeing but yesterday I started out with a walking tour of the Central District.  The area contains wholesale food markets and stores, some with some very strange items for sale, Chinese Medicine shops, antiques and curio stores and many restaurants and other small shops. I cut the tour short to go to the last possible Chinese painting supply shop on this trip and finally found that particular brush that has eluded me in the fifty or more shops that I went to in China.  On my way back I passed the former Supreme Court building, now the Final Court of Appeal and I used the iconic Star Ferry to cross back to Kowloon.

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Today, I wandered around some more markets including the Fruit and Vegetable market.  Tomorrow I leave for home.

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Macau, China

I took a tour to Macau as I am getting a bit tired of organizing these trips myself.  The tour took the fast ferry both ways.  Last week a 55 kilometre bridge opened connecting Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China.  Some people who booked at the last minute were able to take the bus in one direction on the new bridge. I think the ferry is faster but the bridge would be interesting.  Macau has been inhabited for some six thousand years.   The Portuguese arrived in 1513 and in 1557 Macau was leased to Portugal as a trading post.  Macau was returned to full Chinese sovereignty as a Special Administrative Region  in 1999.  The PRC has promised that, under its “one country, two systems” formula, China’s socialist economic system will not be practised in Macau and that Macau will enjoy a high degree of autonomy in all matters except foreign and defence affairs until at least 2049.

The first known settlers were people who fled from the Mongols in 1277. During the Ming Dynasty fishermen came and settled, and in 1488 built the A-Ma Temple which is the oldest Taoist temple in Macau. It is dedicated to Ma-tsu, the goddess of sailors and fishermen.

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Said to be the iconic landmark in Macau, the Ruins of St. Paul’s are all that remains of a 16th century complex which included the Church of St Paul (Mater Dei) and St Paul’s College. The college was one of the largest in Asia when it was first built, at a time when Macau was the main port in the Pearl River Delta.  The historical centre of Macau has remained intact and was designated a UNESCO Heritage site in 2005. Most buildings have commercial uses now.  It would be useful to have  two days here to explore the historical areas in a bit more depth.

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We also had an opportunity to visit the Macau Tower which measures 338 metres (1,109 feet) in height from ground level to the highest point.  The views were spectacular of Macau, the Pearl River Delta and China.

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The principal industry in Macau is gambling and no tour would be complete without visiting at least one casino. We visited The Venetian which others told me is like the one in Las Vegas.  I was particularly impressed with the ceiling in St. Marks Square and the canals complete with gondolas.  It is an amazing piece of theatre. Gambling here is not for the faint of heart. The minimum bid on the slot machines is HK500 or about US$75. The main clientele are from China where gambling is not permitted.

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Shenzhen, China

My second day in Hon Kong, I went across the border to Shenzhen, China.  Doing this involves all of the immigration departure and arrival formalities on both sides of the border in both directions, adding about 45 minutes time to the trip.  Shenzhen is easily reached from Hong Kong by the MRT system.  After immigration you have to switch to the Shenzhen MRT system.  The system is massive and the trains are brand new, large and have English announcements. Both systems are easy to navigate and Google Maps can give complete directions.  My first visit was by the MRT to the Dafen Oil Painting Village. I was curious about this place because I understand that they produce a lot of artwork for shipping abroad to big box retailers.  There are many artists at work and some are painting in the classical Chinese style, but I saw a lot of copies of Old Masters.  There was also a seal carver at work as classical paintings always have the artists seal affixed to them.  I found one store selling Chinese brushes and paper and  another selling art books. There is a brand new art museum in the village. The paintings there are in both the classical and modern Chinese genres. 

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I returned to the border to visit the Lowu City Shopping Mall which is beside the Train Station. This mall has hundreds of small shops selling clothing, handbags, jewellery, Chinese medicines and prescription eyeglasses.  A friend has been buying prescription sunglasses from Bohua Glasses in unit 2109 for several years with great success.  They are very inexpensive and ready in one hour.  They can copy from your existing glasses or do an eye exam if you prefer.

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Manila, The Philippines

This is the second time that I have been here. Here is a link to the blog post for the first time when I went on a tour of the old city and visited a museum. https://lesliesh.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/manila-philippines/

I have been told that it is not safe for me to go out alone here as I have been doing for the past 28 days in other ports. I did not like any of the tours the ship was offering so I went on shuttle bus to a shopping mall and went to a spa. I am now all set for my five days in Hong Kong. I did take some photos of the skyline of Manila from the top deck of the ship. The green spaces are Rizal Park and the white hotel with an old and new section is the Manila Hotel where the American General MacArthur had his headquarters during WW II.

Today was a happy day for the Filipino crew as they had over 1000 of their family members come to visit them on the ship. Most are on  8 month contracts so some have not seen their families for some time. These ship visits are a Holland America tradition when visiting The Philippines and Indonesia where most of the crew are from.

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Rizal Park                                               Manila Hotel

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Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Kaohsiung is Taiwan’s largest port and second largest city. It started out as a fishing village but now is a very modern city with lovely buildings and beautiful parks. After the past two days experiences with crowds, I decided to avoid major tourist sites and go nearby the pier to the Pier 2 Art district which has been transformed from a station and warehouse buildings into an arts venue, with many lovely restaurants and several crafts markets.  This is an upscale area.  I then walked a long way along the river to the Kaohsiung Museum of History which was originally the town  hall during Japanese Rule, then became the City Government Office after WW II and then in 1999, the museum. The structure is of the Japanese diadem style. The upstairs is devoted to an important anti-government incident in the history of Taiwan. Downstairs there was a display concerning the history and use of lacquer ware. I then returned to the ship.  Once again there were cute children to wave us goodbye. Tomorrow we are at sea, then we have a day in Manila, another day at sea and then we end this segment of the cruise in Hong Kong where I disembark.

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Keelung (Taipei) Taiwan

This is the port for Taipei. We have an overnight stay here. I took the train into Taipei the first day with my main objective to see the National Palace Museum which is a very busy tourist destination. The National Palace Museum was originally founded in 1925 in the Forbidden City in Beijing. Hence the name “Palace”.  Beginning in 1931, the collection was moved to the hinterland of China to avoid the ravages of the Sino-Japanese war.  It holds a vast amount of Chinese art taken from China by Chaing Kai Shek when he left China after losing the civil war to the Communist army led by Mao Tse Tung.   As a lot of ancient Chinese art was destroyed during the cultural revolution, this museum is an excellent place to go to see artistic treasures.  Photography was forbidden in many rooms.

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Here is a puzzle for you. The description of the issue is in the photo on the left. The manifestation of it is in the photos on the right where the rear image is a mirror image of the forward one. Are they the same?

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I also visited the Lungshan Temple founded in 1738 and dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy, Guan Yin. The temple was rebuilt in 1919 and completed in 1924. The temple was destroyed by allied bombing on June 8, 1945 but the statue of the goddess survived. This is said to be the most famous sign of the efficacy of the temple. Many local people were praying and meditating at the temple when I was there.

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The second day I took a private tour organized by a fellow passenger. Six of us went on a trip to the countryside.  We went up Taiwan’s north eastern coast through landscapes covered with steep tree- covered mountains.  We first went to Jiufen which is famous for its architecture and the old street built along the slopes of hills forming picturesque views. It used to be the centre of a gold mining industry. Our first stop was at a Daoist Temple and we then navigated the narrow old shopping street. Unfortunately after I took the picture it filled to overflowing with tourists, most from China, Japan and Korea. I am sure that none of us had a perfect experience.

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We then went to see the Golden Waterfall.  Although there is no actual gold flowing forth from these falls, the name reflects their appearance. The combination of regular rainfall in this mining area causes it to radiate a gold-like colour. As the stream flows into the ocean,  mineral sediments cause it to change the colour of the seawater.

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We then went to Pingxi Town. The Pingxi Railway which passes through Shifen old street was originally built to transport coal. Now the track is used for tourists to experience flying Sky Lanterns which the local people fly during the Lunar new Year Festival.   Releasing Sky Lanterns has long been used for people to pray for their wishes to come true.  You make a wish, write it on the lantern, a wick is lit and you then let it fly.  Every once in awhile, a local train passed through and the tracks had to be cleared. I think this would be a public safety nightmare most other places.

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Tomorrow we will be in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. This is a beautiful country but it is overwhelmed with tourists making it difficult to enjoy.

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