Hong Kong always seemed interesting to me but I never actually expected to go when I was younger. In India I had planned to submit the application for a student visa for China but as it turns out the people at the visa office were demanding a medical exam despite the website saying I didn’t need one. Ultimately I decided to go to Hong Kong where the visa process would be faster and in so doing take advantage of the Chinese New year celebrations.
After a 5 hour flight, the airplane from Indira Gandhi International Airport touched down at Hong Kong Airport. Hong Kong is very convenient and there was a bus that took me right where I needed to go, Kowloon, just a few dozen meters from Victoria Harbour. Kowloon itself reminded me of downtown Los Angeles, sort of gritty when it comes to back alleys and older buildings yet amid buildings dating back decades are shiny steel and glass behemoths in the form of banks, malls and offices recently built in the past decade. Kowloon was a sort of middle-ground between the often mud and dirt covered New Delhi roads and the pristine cleanliness of Japan.
After dropping off my things at the hotel where I would be staying, I walked around Tsim Sha Tsui (the southern part of Kowloon), to get familiar with my surroundings. In the process I passed by the Avenue of Stars, an homage of sorts to the golden age of Hong Kong’s film industry and important figures such as Bruce Lee, Jet Li and almost one hundred other celebrities. On the other side of the harbor was Hong Kong Island with its iconic cityscape full of towering buildings, accessible from Kowloon by a short ferry ride or via subway. While I enjoyed the ease of using the Hong Kong subway, it was definitely more scenic to take the ferry to the island, as it turns out it was slightly cheaper as well.
In the next week I walked all around the Kowloon area, often getting lost but slowly forming a mental map in order to get around. My visa was approve the day after I had submitted all the paperwork which was incredibly convenient and cheaper than if I had succeeded in getting it in India. Now without the worry of visa issues I ended up finding the 33 acre Kowloon Park which impressed me due to the variety of different activities and attractions that it offered. Packed with multiple gardens of vibrant flowers, an aviary with hundreds of wild bird species and several lakes with turtles and fish, Kowloon Park is a tranquil sanctuary, an island of green, in an otherwise busy city of skyscrapers and crowded residence on this formerly British territory. I began to explore more, eating at local markets full of fresh fish, walking through different stalls that sold everything from ancient medicines to dried meats, live animals, clothing and firecrackers. The looming Chinese New Year seems to have enhanced the mood of the already dynamic city and I loved every second of it.