Both my wife and I grew up in Hong Kong and we had always have a soft spot in our hearts for this city and its people. In this Asia trip, we were going to spend 2 months in Hong Kong to relive our childhood experiences and to do anything we didn't get to do when we were young.
Since our last destination was Taipei, we'd need to fly to Hong Kong. To get to the Taoyuan Airport, we took the recently (2017) opened Taoyuan Airport MRT. It was convenient and inexpensive. The ride took a little bit more than an hour and was quite crowded. So, prepare for some extra time especially if you are travelling as a group.
Most of the metro station stairs have a dedicated luggage ramp. It was easy to know how to use it to go up the stairs but we were puzzled by how to use it to go down the stairs until we saw this picture.
Once we were at the airport, we checked in with the China Airlines and boarded the plane. The flight was smooth and took about 2 hours. I found that the CAL's onboard instruction videos were the best among all of the airlines we took. They were clear and to the point.
We lived in an old neighborhood in Hong Kong and it was a surprisingly nice area to live in. Everything is accessible. Groceries and restaurants around the area offered goods that were reasonably priced. I also loved to see lots of grandparents and parents (rather than domestic helpers) taking care of their own kids in the park. It was the Hong Kong that I grew up in.
When I mentioned that we were visiting Hong Kong, a lot of our friends were concerned about its ongoing protests. Yes, Hong Kong was experiencing the worst protest ever in its history. I am certainly not in a position to take side. So, putting aside the question of who was right or wrong, I had a couple of observations in these protests. First of all, different voices were somehow represented in Hong Kong. When I grew up, I used to not like living in Hong Kong because it was a homogeneous socieity. If you think or act differently, you will not feel accepted. These protests showed that there were people in Hong Kong who thought differently and demanded dialogue and acceptance. Secondly, these protests cut down the number of tourists dramatically. As tourists, we were able to enjoy the city a lot more than we did a few years ago.
We never thought that Hong Kong was full of history. I felt ashamed to admit that I spent almost twenty years in Hong Kong without fully appreciating its history. Of course, I knew about the colonial era and the return to China's governance. However, there were so many other histories that I missed. Kudos to the Hong Kong government, they recently put a lot of resources into preserving and presenting the history of Hong Kong using different museums and exhibits. As I visited each one of them, I felt more and more identified as a Hongkonger.
Mei Ho House
The Mei Ho House is a unique place because it was the oldest public housing complex in Hong Kong transformed into a youth hostel. On the ground level, there was an exhibit about Hong Kong's public housing development. You don't need to be a resident to see the exhibit and it is free of charge.
After we visited Mei Ho House, we walked up a nearby small hill called Graden Hill. It was an amazing place to see sunset. You will see many young couples and photographers there.
Kowloon Walled City
Ever since I was young, I had heard about the Kowloon Walled City. It was an ungoverned but densely populated area. In the old days, the local triads controlled the settlement and many illegal activities were carried out in there. In 1993, the walled city was finally demolished and converted into a park. The park showed some interesting historical information about the area and what the area was like during the time when nothing was regulated.
Jao Tsung-I Academy (饒宗頤文化館)
The Jao Tsung-I Academy (饒宗頤文化館) building was full of history. It was used as a quarantine station, a prison, an infections diseases hospital, a psychiatric rehabilitation centre, and finally a heritage centre. To fully appreicate its history, I would highly joining one of their free walking tours.
Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb Museum
Who would have thought that a Han dynasty tomb would be discovered in a modern and densely populated place like Hong Kong? I read about it when I was young but this was the first time I actually went there to see it with my own eyes. Yes, it was small and mostly empty but as a Hongkonger, I was impressed by its discovery.
Old Hong Kong Map
I was amazed to find that many of the names of Hong Kong districts were the same in this 100 year old map.
Stone Houses Family Garden (石屋家園)
The Stone Houses Family Garden was a small exhibit about the history of that area. During World War II and thereafter, the government built several housing projects in the area to help settle any affected people and refugees. During the 50s, it was also used as a site for filming. An outdoor cafe was located right next to the exhibit in case you were bored.
Cheung Po Tsai Cave (張保仔洞)
The Cheung Po Tsai Cave in Cheung Chau is a natural cave rumoured to be one of the hiding spots for a pirate's (Cheung Po Tsai's) loot. The cave itself is small and not very interesting. However, the backstory of this famous pirate and the pirate history of Hong Kong are facinating. We discovered how Hong Kong was once a haven for pirates. Even some of the popular districts are named after some pirate activities.
... in progress