We took the train to Hong Kong Island (Grace lives in the New territories which is north of the island, as is Kowloon, another area of Hong Kong) to explore the city. Grace guided us to Times Square, an area that like it's counterpart in the states, has many neon signs and lots of shops and restaurants. We checked out a cool little bookstore called The People's Bookstore. You could buy lots of communist memorabilia there (and ironically, order a latte at the same time). I (Kristin) bought a copy of a bestseller called Wild Swans about three generations of women and their experiences in twentieth-century China. As we were walking to the Financial Center, we stopped to check out an art exhibit in the window of one of the shopping plazas. We had read that more and more art is being displayed in the shopping and business areas of Hong Kong instead of the musuems, as those are the places that the residents spend the most of their time.
We arrived in the Financial Center to gape at the incredible architecture -- skyscrapers of all shapes and sizes in every direction, gleaming in the bright sunlight. The buildings towered above us, proudly bearing the names of banks and investment firms, like shrines to commerce and trade. Their geometric designs seemed to flow together to create a cohesive pattern against the sky. It was a truly impressive spectacle. From there, we continued on to the Soho (south of Hollywood Road) district. A neighborhood of shops, restaurants and bars, it's comprised of narrow streets that climb and descend steeply beneath more neon signs and advertisements. Grace took us to a really fantastic Egyptian restaurant decorated with old black and white photos of movie scenes, intricately latticed mirrors, and beautiful pillows to lounge on.
Afterwards, we basked in the glow of the millions of city lights all around us as we made our way towards Victoria Peak. A tram carried us up a steep slope to the highest point above the city. We were able to enjoy the full arial view of the skyline as we ascended but it became very cloudy just before the peak. Thus, we have little to offer by way of photographic proof! Trust us when we tell you that it was mesmorizing. The blanket of millions of tiny lights laid out below us was so dramatic - it almost seemed like they might be reflections of the stars except that they were arranged in endless, perfectly ordered rows and columns.
Our overall impressions of the first day of exploring Hong Kong were that the people were so gracious and helpful (even when we didn't ask -- we must have looked terribly confused at various times) and the city somehow seemed to be inviting and warm despite all of the cold, rigid skyscrapers. It must be due to the way that the city has managed to squeeze green space into all of the nooks and cranies and the way that it is always moving and flowing with life and activity. We can't wait to see more...