A little bit of China

After 2 weeks on the beautiful Thai islands in the Krabi area I thought it is time to see something new again. My next destination: Hong Kong. Why? The flight was cheap!

In Hong Kong I stayed at two different couchsurfer´s places in Kennedytown and on Lamma Island belonging to the new territories. There I had the unique chance to meet friends and families of my hosts and to explore Hong Kong from a very local perspective. Additional to the local´s tips I did a two day bus tour and met a German girl which I spent 3 days with.

 

The capitalistic but finally Chinese Hong Kong (after 150 years of being a British colony) loves its shopping malls. Hong Kong residences believe a successful career should show in watches, shoes, hand bags and jewelry. This is how you can find dozens of shopping malls filled with all international brands you can imagine. As it is not good for a girl´s reputation to hang out in clubs and bars at night girls use their only chance to dress up during the day and walk around in black mini-dresses and 10cm heels. Extreme consume was nothing for me and wearing my classical tourist outfit of runners and a backpack made me feel out of place.

Hong Kong´s landscape is breathtaking. Not only the skyline with its 8000 sky scrapers, but also the surrounding islands are worth a visit. On the islands you find unspoiled nature and one can escape the fast live in the city hiking through green hills or hanging out on the beach. The biggest islands are connected by ferry boats running every 20 or 40 minutes. From Ocean Park on the southpart of Hong Kong island (rollercoaster park) one can enjoy an incredible view over the islands and the city.

What is so special about Hong Kong?

Warnings. Who thought the US were world-leader in warnings was wrong. It must be China! (well, I have not been to Japan yet) In Hong Kong you can find warnings everywhere. Trains, busses, escalators, rollercoasters and all kinds of things are talking to you. “This train will approach soon” “This train will stop soon” “End of walkway” “Please hold the handrail” etc.  There is also a big variety of funny signs like “No smelly goods“, „No Umbrellas“ (asian ladies do not like to get tanned and use instead a lot of space with their umbrellas) or „No running“ (It seems Hong Kong residents are always worried about getting the best spot. Therefore they like to run in/from the subway, train or park-attractions).

Uniforms. Yes, there are many people wearing uniforms to ensure city-security. Not only police man and government employees wear uniforms, also security guys or drug store employees wear them. If you are shopping in a shopping mall you get the feeling the “Chanel”-clerk is in real life a doctor prescribing you this fragrance for national security.

Confusing Jobs. There is plenty of confusing jobs in Hong Kong. For example there is a lady at the entrance holding a sign „slow“. (well, you could just fix that sign there and the poor lady would not have to stand the whole day) Besides her there are people helping you to insert your subway ticket the right direction or just people telling you to walk on the (obviously) right way in theme parks or subways.

Very valuable public transport. There is anything you can imagine: busses, trams, subways, ferrys, taxis and even escalators everywhere in the city. (Hong Kong has the longest outside escalator uphill in the middle of the city!) Public transport costs something between 20ct or 1€ and runs 24 hours a day.

To me Hong Kong is the New York City of Asia. It is a melting pot of all nationalities. (most Hong Kong residents speak very good English) The city never sleeps and there is plenty of entertaining and culinary possibilities. The mix of western and Asian culture makes it definitely worth a visit!

Sarawak, Borneo

Spending 2 weeks on very touristy Bali where I had to take the scooter to remote areas to find some air to breath I went to Borneo.

Borneo, the island of jungle and orang utans. The remote island filled with tropical animals, insects and plants where you need a pump gun to keep the wild animals away from your little cabin. The place where only biologists and some tribes live and where you have to fly from village to village.  On this island you´d need a guide who speaks the local language, good hiking boots and a machete make your way through the jungle – I thought!

The reality is different. The capital of Malaysian Sarawak, Kuching, is a modern city with sky scrapers, shopping malls and 4 lane highways. People dress in international brands like Gucci, Levi´s, Zara and like to eat at MC Donald´s. Only 28% of the original rainforest in Borneo are left. The rest had to yield within the last decades for palm plantations.

It is still possible to find the wildness and remoteness I was looking for on Borneo. Unfortunately, this is not present at all times and you sometimes have to look for it. The national parks are a good opportunity to see jungle and wild animals. If you get off the main tourist routes and hike on longer or more remote trekking paths you will find yourself all “alone” in the jungle.

 

The probably most exotic and the beautiful place I´ve ever seen is the scenic panorama of Bako national park. The park is located on a peninsula and only accessible by boat. It was low tide when I arrived there. The boat man let me hop off in the knee deep water and walk to the park headquarters. These 20 minutes were maybe the most stunning on my whole Borneo trip. Clear sea water and a fluffy sand bottom around my feet, walking towards the misty green rainforest hills, surrounded by bizarre rock formations sticking out from the ground.

Besides Bako national park I went adventure caving, saw bats flying out of their cave to hunt in the dawn, observed orang utans in a nature reserve, swam in waterfalls, saw incredible huge butterflies and other insects, went to a longhouse and made new traveller-friends. I experienced the desperate fight of park rangers and organizations to preserve the rainforest and hope they may be successful to save our planet´s loungs. Even though Borneo is modernized I hope it will stay a paradise full of animals and rich in culture. I will definitely come back!