Friday, December 19, 2008

Many Paths

Feeling tall at only 5'6", I explore this foreign city that gradually becomes less foreign by the day, thanks to the human chameleon ability to quickly adjust and adapt to one's surroundings. With the incessant dinging of the cross walking signals, I feel I'm in a casino -- as if just walking across the street means you're a winner and to some extent, in Hong Kong, you are. This is just one of the not-so-subliminal messages the city gives you on a daily basis along with a preoccupation with materialism, commercialism, and other 'ism's constantly reflected in the thousands of sparkling mirrors, shiny steel and spotless glass found everywhere in this city.

As I cross the street, I constantly remind myself to "Look Left" as driving is on the left side of the road here. I look around and notice that with few exceptions, there are basically only 3 types of cars here: Mercedes, BMW's and Lexus' - money reigns here.

As I explore the city enjoying the intoxicating weather (dry weather averages between 50-60 deg F in December and a little cooler in January), I encounter new smells and sounds. I am in awe of the wild beautiful exotic birds and plants that I have only ever seen in zoo's or special botanic gardens.

This is a city of diversity on many levels. Not only is Hong Kong home to a sophisticated international population, it's land ranges from mountains to valleys, chilled beaches to charming little villages, thick wild jungles to the bustling glittering city which boasts an impressive super modern skyline. There is something for everyone here on this not-so-big island.

I enjoyed an intense hike with my brother-in-law in The Peak where I forgot I was in Hong Kong. I can see how hiking can become my new habit (no thanks to my complaining calf muscles) during my stay here. Who would have thought you could find such peace and solitude in nature within one of the busiest cities in the world. There are hundreds of hikes throughout the area, many very steep and demanding as Hong Kong has many pointed peaks covered with thick green jungle. My life is not complete without nature or a place to retreat to for centering myself so I'm very happy about the diversity of the terrain.

One of the things I find most charming about this city is the numerous ways to get to the same location. You can have your choice of small alleys, stairways or garden pathways to large footbridges or underground walkways.

I enjoyed descending this stairway in Central after visiting a beautiful government monument building which I will photograph later.

These raised walkways labyrinth themselves around the business district in Hong Kong. I try a different bridge every day as I get my bearings which wind through and around buildings and shopping centers.

Ah ha! An old charming building - I found one! No small feat.

One of the unfortunate things in this thriving city is that there are few old historical buildings (at least in the central business area) due to commercial building and the addiction to "new" shiny superstructures. I believe efforts are being made to protect some of the older landmark buildings. So I will make it my new project these next few months to find these old charming buildings amid the new structures. I'm still quite impressed by and appreciative of the modern towering buildings that are so part of the unique personality of Hong Kong.

I stumbled above this little tree-lined stairway connecting two major streets in the middle of the city.

Hong Kong has the longest covered stretch of moving walkway in the world - the Midlevels escalator, which can take you from your office to your apartment in a matter of minutes if you're lucky enough to live in the Midlevels area. At 800 meters long with a vertical climb of 135 meters, the total travel time of this outdoor wonder is twenty minutes.

I spent a day wandering through the botanical gardens and zoo in the center of town which house very talkative monkeys along with other equally vocal animals. I exit the plant and animal jungle through this Chinese gate framing the ever impressive skyline and walk into a human jungle.

The diversity of the land makes walking to and from my yoga school every day more interesting and more like a discovery. My school is located in the trendy Lang Kwai Fong area, a hilly section of town that has a San Francisco-like feel to it, with narrow streets, stairways and some low-rise buildings. This is the heart of the entertainment district and is a short walk from the central business district, making it possible for the hard-working Masters of the Universe to retreat to after a long day.

Still feeling quite disappointed with the quality of yoga schools here in Hong Kong, I continue my search, yet feeling I might just need to settle with what they have here or start my own school one of these days. As Yogi Braja pointed out, many schools here lack the appreciation for the lifestyle of yoga and rather treat it only as another money-making business transaction. Yet again, perhaps that is just another indication of the personality of this city seeping through every thing.

Well, I'm off to have some Dim Sum -- always been my favorite meal. I can't seem to ever get enough.


Braja said...

Hey Shireena, you're there! Oh I loved HK, and seeing these photos reminds me of how much. The Peak is gorgeous, isn't it? Who knew?!

Hope you find your feet on a yoga mat soon....

Here, There, Elsewhere... and more said...

Fascinating post...lovely of you to share your impressions - never been there myself but so many people I know have lived there for a spell and thoroughly enjoyed the endless discoveries they made...
Good luck with the settling in..:)

Anonymous said...

Awesome post, you really have a gift for writing. I look forward to reading them. I suppose in theory you should inspire me to do my own travel blog, but that would assume I actually like Uruguay! Ugh... But I'm off to Chile next week for a few days, maybe that will be more noteworthy.

Miss u!

Manasa said...

Lovely pics. Hope you had a gala time. :)

Braja said...

Hi Shireena...thought of you today when I did my yoga post. Hope you've found your yoga place and are enjoying HK...happy new year and hope to see you blogging soon....