The "Mecca" of women shoppers

by Zanita Careem
his is the land that gave us Jackie Chan. This is also the city in which the most romantic movie "Love is a Splendid Thing" with William Holden and Jennifer Jones was shot.

As the aircraft Cathay Pacific approaches the runaway to land, a spread below me is my first glimpse of Hong Kong.

Three days in Hong Kong all we had for four Journalists might seem like a short time, but with a planned itinerary from the Hong Kong Tourist Board, we came with a pretty good idea of what makes this city tick... And it’s more than just shopping.

We were accompanied by Ashani de Sylva Marketing Sales Executive of Cathay Pacific who saw to our itenerary from the time we were selected to fly by Cathasy Airways.

We landed around 9 a.m. in the morning, and the mood as we expected was action packed. This is perhaps the reason why it is called Hong Kong, The City of Life, and yes you’ll be surprised at how much it has to offer.

The flight from Colombo to Bangkok to Hong Kong takes about 6 1/2 hours, the airport is huge, modern and efficient and the customs and immigration formalities are hassle free.

The Cathay City the global headquarters of the Hong Kong flagship, airline is situated in a centralised location, An integral part of Cathay Pacific City is a spectacular pedestrian bridge designed in steel,with a cantilevered glass canopy and used an arch structure to achieve its 40-metre span.

Hong Kong actually covers Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, the new Territories and an Archipelago of some 260 islands surrounded by the South China sea.

The glitzy international airport opened in 1998 is rated among the best in the world. As you shoot through the Immigration area, the first message you get is that nothing takes too long here.

We were met by our tour co-ordinator, Stanley Wan. Driving into the city over the impressive Tsing Ma bridge in a van with a friendly and courteous driver Ali Lee, we realised the place is vastly different from any image we might have had.

What we see take us by complete surprise. There’s the busy Victoria Harbour, which has old wooden ships next to gleaming new hulks of modern metal, which look like a scene from a Star Wars film! Flyovers loop over the city, with fast moving traffic and tall glass and metal buildings rise from the island to create an awesome skyline. Especially at nights the scene is spectacular.

It was a guided tour, and Stanley Wan was explaining and showing us videos about the places we were taken to.

Hong Kong is compact and we were swept up with its energy, excited by its multi-faceted multinational character and amazed by the pace of life.

"Prosperous, active and lively Hong Kong is really the City of Life" this is what exactly what we felt.

We saw pubs, gourmet cateries and shopping streets everywhere. Hong Kong is a shopper’s paradise they say, so we went berserk at the night bazaars. We took our pick of mall shopping as well as street shopping.

We were left on our own at Templers Road, where we could pick up watches, electronics, jewellery and cosmetics at some pretty good prices.

At the Times Square this is where all your labels come together Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Espirt, Gwency, Giordano and many more.

Street shopping was fun, and you could get lost with all the handicrafts from Chinese embroidery to masks, paintings. Bargaining is best here.

Night stop at the ladies market was fun as we have to jostle through the crowd but we foundsome cool stuff. Bargaining skills come best in street shopping. At the end of the hectic shopping spree we dined at the Chun Kee Restaurant. "This is the place the rich and famous dine, said Stanley. ‘You can see Jackie Chan’s photograph holding a big lobster’. Do you want a photograph holding a lobster? Stanley queried from the group.

We feasted on grilled crabs and prawns and steamed dim sum item. Mushrooms, oysters are the most exotic. And yet, what you experience in eating in Hong Kong is all exciting— for it is authentic Chinese cuisine.

We love food without much spices, said Stanley relishing the Chinese noodles. True to his word, the food was excellent and never have I tasted such good Chinese cuisine.

The best part of the journey was our visit to the Madame Tussad’s Museum.

The exciting journey that was beyond our wildest expectation to the Museum is by the Peak Tram. It climbs smoothly up to 396 meters above sea level giving a breathtaking view of the Hong Kong skyline, offering views over Victoria harbour, Kowloon city etc. and the PeakTower which has over 112,000 square feet of great dining, shopping and entertainment.

We rubbed shoulders with the hottest stars at Madame Tussad’s world famous wax exhibition. We were thrilled to see over 100 lifelike portraits of celebrities like Jackie Chan, James Bond, Jiang Zemin. We could compare and contrast sizes, heights costumes, scars and even wrinkles on the world’s famous people.

Cameras were clicking and all of us took ‘photographs’ with the Presidents of America Bush, Clinton, the Royal family Harrison Ford, Silvester Stallone, Lady Diana, Elvis Presley etc.

We also visited the Hong Kong Museum of History. It was a showcase of the history and development of Hong Kong. The Hong Kong story comprises eight galleries located on two floors with a display of our 4000 exhibits. The Hong Kong story outlines the natural environment, folk culture and historical development of Hong Kong in a vivid manner. The exhibition depicts the story of Hong Kong from the Devonian period 400 million years ago and conclude with the reunification of Hong Kong with China in 1997. The exhibits took us on a historical and cultural journey and aroused our interest on the historical and cultural heritage of Hong Kong.

We also had a glimpse of one of the world’s 15 tallest buildings. The 78-storey Central Plaza, 374 meter 70-storey Bank of China Tower 369 metres and the Centre at 79 storeys while it differs in size and height, interestingly all three buildings are located on Hong Kong Island.

The Star ferry service provided us with a sightseeing trip. It cost Hk 2.20 and transports nearly 72,000 passengers across Victoria Harbour said Stanley from the Hongkong BoardTourist Board.

All in all it is an experience to visit Hong Kong. Everywhere we found something to see and to do, to suit all tastes. Hongkong is a busy city and no wonder it is called the city of life.

The Hong Kong Tourist Board planned our itinerary well, and the Sales Executive from Cathay Pacific Ashani did her best to make our trip memorable. Thanks to Stanley from the Tourist Board who gave us an interesting insight into the life and history of Hongkong and Feroz Munzeer for selecting the journalits

We wished if we could have stayed a little more, but within the shorttime Hong Kong captured my heart, and I promised myself I would return to drink in more of its beauty, and culture.

Of course there is much more to do, and see. This description is but a sampling of what can be fitted into two days.

And the duty free shops, the airport, this is where I emptied the tiny credit limit left, to indulge in a shopping fancy — Voila you are at the threshold of what one can describe as or ‘shoppers’ paradise.