HONG KONG

I am so curious to see Hong Kong. I am not aware of any town with such a history: a British colony and a pain in the neck for Communist China for its wealth and progress until 1997, in the last 10 years it has been again[1] part of China. In 1997 I remember a lot of reports about the handover of Hong Kong from the UK to China, but I haven't heard anything about it since then - that's not surprising, given the care of the media for the breaking news, not so much for following-up on those events.

How is Hong Kong like today? To what extent has it kept its colonial heritage? In which respect is it autonomous from China?
So I waste no time and I begin to look around when on the bus from the airport to my accommodation in Sha Tin. I am impressed by the downright separation between urban areas and natural areas: in urban areas each and every square inch has been exploited, and you can see skyscrapers everywhere. Very often not just one skyscraper, but groups of five, ten and even more alike skyscrapers, built close to each other, as you can see here:

Then there are the natural areas, which account for a good percentage of the overall land in Hong Kong; some of them are fairly large. That's cute!! Hong Kong inhabitants can take advantage of beaches, mountains, woods, trails, only minutes away from their homes. Something like this does not happen by chance. Not, at least, in such a valuable area as Hong Kong: I guess there has to be great attention to planning and to the preservation of nature to keep away the building speculation from those natural areas. Most likely the citizens themselves played an active role in the colony political life to prevent personal advantage from taking precedence over common interest.
So, while the bus goes on those viaducts halfway up the hills of Hong Kong, the urban area may turn into a natural landscape in a matter of seconds: from a small valley chock-full of skyscrapers you enter a tunnel and, once out on the other side, you are in a natural dell with a waterfall on your side.

You can find natural areas in Central (yes, you figured it out: it is the central district of Hong Kong) too. The largest, most well-known and beautiful of them is Victoria Peak, a hill approximately 500 metres high which can be reached with the tram or with the bus. But the best route to the top is through a road closed to the car traffic which brings you, within minutes, from a forest of skyscrapers to a lush forest of trees and bushes, while skyscrapers still appear in front of you:

At the top, either from the Victoria Peak Tower or from the Peak Circuit, you can enjoy a unique sight of the town:

Here in Hong Kong I have my first experience with overcrowding, something usual in Chinese towns. The top of it is on Saturday afternoon at Central, in the malls area. There are so many pedestrians that the pavements are not wide enough to hold them all (and the pavements are wide, some Italian towns have streets not that wide), as you can see here:

The public transport in Hong Kong is efficient, with frequent connections among train, metrò and ferry. Overcrowding is a problem here too, however. This tramway:

reminds me so much the double-decker buses in London that I would not be surprised if it were a heritage of the colonial period (though I do not know this for sure).

Pedestrian routes are often on the "first floor", isolated from the vehicles' traffic on the ground:

Those routes go along the roads, cross them and, sometimes, they go through large malls: it is good for pedestrians who are shielded from the sultry climate and the scorching sun of Hong Kong, and it is good for retailers (no need to explain why).

Every once in a while, looking through the skyscrapers, you may be able to enjoy nice views:

  1. ^"Again" is probably not the most appropriate word, because when this territory became a UK colony in 1847, the town of Hong Kong did not exist yet.