Hualien, Taiwan

Taroko National Park Arch Gate at the park_s east entrance, Hualien, Taiwan

Taroko National Park Arch Gate at the park’s east entrance, Hualien, Taiwan

 

Known as Karenko during the Japanese occupation from1895 to the end of World War II, Hualien is now the largest municipality on Taiwan’s east coast.  Many visitors use Hualien as a base for exploring the natural and man-made wonders of Taiwan’s most popular attraction, Taroko National Park.  Just a short drive from the city, the park encompasses peaceful grottoes, waterfalls, steep marble-faced canyons festooned with dangling ferns, and miles of hiking trails.  A series of palm-lined, seaside parks make for pleasant strolling, while Chingszu Temple and the city’s Stone Sculptural Museum offer cultural appeal.

 

Entering Swallow Grotto, a particularly beautiful section of the gorge, Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

Entering Swallow Grotto, a particularly beautiful section of the gorge, Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

 

Looking through a natural “window” in the wall of the gorge wall at a portion of Swallow Grotto, Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

Looking through a natural “window” in the wall of the gorge at a portion of Swallow Grotto, Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

 

Widely regarded as Taiwan’s most extraordinary natural attraction, Taroko National Park is known for its sheer marble cliffs, deep chasms, winding tunnels and the Liwu River, which continues to carve its way through the stony landscape.  This singular topography originated over 230 million years ago with the formation of coral reefs in the tropical shallows of present-day Taiwan; over time, the coral was transformed into limestone, then into marble by the intense heat and pressure of geotectonic movements.  Major highlights in the park include Yanzihkou (Swallow Grotto), a particularly beautiful section of Taroko Gorge; Changchun (Eternal Spring), Shrine, a beautiful cliff-side shrine with a gushing spring that overlooks the Liwu River, dedicated to the 450 workers who lost their lives building the highway; and the Shakadang Trail, which reveals Tung trees and vibrant aquamarine pools strewn with boulders.

 

The walkway, carved through the gorge, is visible on the right side of this photograph of Swallow Grotto, Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

The walkway, carved through the gorge, is visible on the right side of this photograph of Swallow Grotto, Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

 

This singular topography originated over 230 million years ago with the formation of coral reefs in the tropical shallows of present-day Taiwan; over time, the coral was transformed into

This singular topography originated over 230 million years ago with the formation of coral reefs in the tropical shallows of present-day Taiwan; over time, the coral was transformed into limestone, then into marble by the intense heat and pressure of geotectonic movements, Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

 

As we went further into Seallow Grotto, the gorge narrowed; the walkway is visible on the left side of the photographs, Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

As we went further into Swallow Grotto, the gorge narrowed; the walkway is visible on the left side of the photographs, Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

 

After hiking in Swallow Grotto, we drove to this bridge in the park where we hiked up the hillside to a Buddhist temple and pagoda (following photographs), Taroko National Park, Hualien,

After hiking in Swallow Grotto, we drove to this bridge in the park where we hiked up the hillside to a Buddhist temple and pagoda (following photographs), Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

 

A golden Buddha seated upon four elephants outside the outbuilding of the Buddhist Temple in Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

A golden Buddha seated upon four elephants outside the outbuilding of the Buddhist Temple in Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan; note the “backwards” swastikas on the side of the building predate the Nazis taking the historic Buddhist symbol and reversing it for the symbol of the National Socialist [German Worker’s] Party of Germany in the 1930s

A beautiful pagoda set in the forest next to the Buddhist Temple in Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

A beautiful pagoda set in the forest next to the Buddhist Temple in Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

 

A Golden Buddha with the mountains of Taroko National Park as a backdrop, Hualien, Taiwan

A beautiful pagoda set in the forest next to the Buddhist Temple in Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

 

After a delicious Chinese banquet luncheon at the Silks Palace Taroko Hotel, we concluded our visit to Taroko National Park with a 90-minute hike along the riverside Shakadang Trail that

After a delicious Chinese banquet luncheon at the Silks Palace Taroko Hotel, we concluded our visit to Taroko National Park with a 90-minute hike along the riverside Shakadang Trail that was previously known as the Mysterious Valley Trail, revealing vibrant aquamarine pools strewn with boulders; Hualien, Taiwan

 

The rock formations along the trail were beautiful, reflecting millions of years of Mother Nature shifting the “ground” that now formed the rock walls of the gorge, Taroko National P

The rock formations along the trail were beautiful, reflecting millions of years of Mother Nature shifting the “ground” that now formed the rock walls of the gorge, Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

 

Taichung, Taiwan

A view of Sun Moon Lake from above the rear temple hall, decicated to Confucius, at Wen-Wu Temple, Sun Moon Lake, Taichung, Taiwan

A view of Sun Moon Lake from above the rear temple hall, dedicated to Confucius, at Wen-Wu Temple, Sun Moon Lake, Taichung, Taiwan

 

Perhaps not quite as well known as the capital city of Taipei, Taichung has in recent years claimed its place on the “where to go in Taiwan” list.  Inviting urban parks and several well-respected museums, including one devoted to the massive earthquake of 1999, provide counterpoint to the city’s industrial vibe.  Food lovers are drawn to the multicultural cuisine offered by street vendors at Feng Chia Night Market.  Situated on the island nation’s west coast, Taichung is also a convenient gateway to the natural wonders of Taiwan’s interior, including Sun Moon Lake.  We enjoyed an outstanding barbeque meat dinner at Kazama in downtown Taichung the evening we docked in the harbor a few miles outside of town in the Port of Taichung (a major container port for the country).

On our full day in Taichung, we joined a group via a chartered bus to explore Taiwan’s largest and, what many would agree, most beautiful natural lake.  Situated at the very heart of the country at an elevation of nearly 2500 feet / 750 meters, Sun Moon Lake is named for Lalu Island at the center of the lake —shaped like the sun on one side and a crescent moon on the other.  To reach the lake was about a 90-minute scenic drive inland towards the Central Mountains region, a popular honeymoon spot.  Additionally, we were informed that the road that encircles the lake is often cited as one of the world’s most beautiful bike rides.

 

The entrance gate at Wen-Wu Temple with Sun Moon Lake in the background, Taichung, Taiwan

The entrance gate at Wen-Wu Temple with Sun Moon Lake in the background, Taichung, Taiwan

 

We began our day at Sun Moon Lake with a tour of Wen-Wu Temple, its orange-red tile rooftops a local landmark since 1938.  “Previously, two temples were located on the coast of Sun Moon Lake.  In 1919, the Japanese colonial government constructed a dam to generate hydroelectric power, causing the lake’s water level to rise.  The two temples were subsequently torn down and consolidated at the temple’s present location in 1938.  After the Japanese handed over Taiwan to the Republic of China in 1945, the government invested in developing tourism around the lake.  Wen Wu temple was rebuilt again in 1969, increasing its size and constructing it in the Chinese palace style.  The temple consists of three halls.  The first hall, located on the second floor of the front hall, is a shrine devoted to the First Ancestor Kaiji and the God of Literature.  The central hall is devoted to Guan Gong, the God of War, and the warrior-God Yue Fei.  The rear hall is dedicated to Confucius.  Chinese guardian lions are located in front of the temple, one male and one female.” — Wikipedia

 

The front temple hall of Wen-Wu Temple, Sun Moon Lake, Taichung, Taiwan

The front temple hall of Wen-Wu Temple, Sun Moon Lake, Taichung, Taiwan

 

Details of the exterior of the front temple hall of Wen-Wu Temple, Sun Moon Lake, Taichung, Taiwan

Details of the exterior of the front temple hall of Wen-Wu Temple, Sun Moon Lake, Taichung, Taiwan

 

Chinese guardian figures decorate the edges of the roofs at Wen-Wu Temple, Sun Moon Lake, Taichung, Taiwan

Chinese guardian figures decorate the edges of the roofs at Wen-Wu Temple, Sun Moon Lake, Taichung, Taiwan

 

Details of an interior ceiling at Wen-Wu Temple, Sun Moon Lake, Taichung, Taiwan

Details of an interior ceiling at Wen-Wu Temple, Sun Moon Lake, Taichung, Taiwan

 

The beautiful rooftops of the multiple halls of Wen-Wu Temple, Sun Moon Lake, Taichung, Taiwan

The beautiful rooftops of the multiple halls of Wen-Wu Temple, Sun Moon Lake, Taichung, Taiwan

 

Prayer bells at Wen-Wu Temple, Sun Moon Lake, Taichung, Taiwan

Prayer bells at Wen-Wu Temple, Sun Moon Lake, Taichung, Taiwan

 

Following our time at the Temple and its fabulous views of the Lake, we had a superb Chinese banquet-style luncheon at the elegant Jade Luminous Restaurant inside the five-star Fleur de Chine Hotel, on a hillside on the edge of the lake with excellent views.  After lunch we drove to Ita Thao aboriginal village where we saw an indigenous cultural performance (no photographs) and had a chance to explore the lakeside shops and food stalls.

Our last stop was at the Hugosum big-leaf black tea farm on the hillsides of Sun Moon Lake.  Originally established in the early 1900s by the Japanese (who occupied Taiwan Island — then called Formosa Island — from the late 1800s through 1945), the tea farm is today operated by second generation Taiwan Chinese family owners.  Their goal is to both educate customers in black tea and to promote local culture and Taiwan black tea culture.  The farm produces six exceptional varieties of black tea.  Our favorite in the tasting was Jade Black Tea, so special that some people call it “Taiwan Fragrance” (the fragrance is of natural cinnamon and mint).

 

Black tea growing at the Hugosum big-leaf black tea farm, Sun Moon Lake, Taichung, Taiwan

Black tea growing at the Hugosum big-leaf black tea farm, Sun Moon Lake, Taichung, Taiwan

 

The main crop around Sun Moon Lake (show here) is betel palms, grown for the betel nuts, Hugosum big-leaf black tea farm, Sun Moon Lake, Taichung, Taiwan

The main crop around Sun Moon Lake (show here) is betel palms, grown for the betel nuts, Hugosum big-leaf black tea farm, Sun Moon Lake, Taichung, Taiwan

 

Eat local: A home-cooked international dinner party sailing the South China Sea in our shipboard apartment

The dining room set for a festive home-cooked dinner in our apartment on the ship as it sailed across the South China Sea, Asia

The dining room set for a festive home-cooked dinner in our apartment on the ship as it sailed across the South China Sea, Asia

 

With a day at sea after sailing from Hong Kong (on the way to Taiwan), we invited friends over for a home-cooked meal featuring foods from literally around the world.  One of the great joys of having a kitchen (and pantry) in our shipboard apartment is that we can purchase great local ingredients as we visit ports on all seven continents and enjoy dishes made from them further in our journeys.  Our South China Sea dinner began with porcini risotto with grated fresh Parmesan cheese – all ingredients were sourced at Eataly in Rome, Italy.  The main course was a fish stew with local fresh salmon, shrimp, clams and calamari sourced from the Auckland Fish Market in Auckland, New Zealand and then kept in our freezer.  Our Caesar salad (not pictured) featured Romaine lettuce from Hong Kong and croutons from Semifreddi’s Bakery in Berkeley, CA, sourced in Berekely.  Dessert was a frozen raspberry spuma with fresh raspberries from Hong Kong.  With tea and coffee, the chocolate cookies were sourced at Eataly in Rome, Italy and the dark chocolate covered almonds were from Paris, France.  Thanks to the Executive Chef, our Intrepid Explorer, for leading the cooking team — with your blogger — in the kitchen to have fun creating these tasty dishes.

 

Dinner began with porcini risotto with grated fresh Parmesan cheese, shipboard dinner, South China Sea, Asia

Dinner began with porcini risotto with grated fresh Parmesan cheese, shipboard dinner, South China Sea, Asia

 

The main course was a fish stew with local fresh salmon, shrimp, clams and calamari, shipboard dinner, South China Sea, Asia

The main course was a fish stew with local fresh salmon, shrimp, clams and calamari, shipboard dinner, South China Sea, Asia

 

Dessert was a frozen raspberry spuma with fresh raspberries, shipboard dinner, South China Sea, Asia

Dessert was a frozen raspberry spuma with fresh raspberries, shipboard dinner, South China Sea, Asia

 

With tea and coffee, we all enjoyed the chocolate cookies and dark chocolate covered almonds, shipboard dinner, South China Sea, Asia

With tea and coffee, we all enjoyed the chocolate cookies and dark chocolate covered almonds, shipboard dinner, South China Sea, Asia

 

Eat local: Spring Moon in the Peninsula Hotel, Tsim Sha Tsui District, Hong Kong, S.A.R. (Special Administrative Region), People’s Republic of China

Exterior of the Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People_s Republic of China--

Exterior of the Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China

 

On our last day in Hong Kong we and some friends decided to splurge and enjoy a dim sum luncheon at one of the city’s finest restaurants — Spring Moon in the Peninsula Hotel, located on Salisbury Road near the Star Ferry Terminal in the Tsim Sha Tsui District of Kowloon.  As shown below, we ordered up a feast and had a light supper that night! Eating at Spring Moon this visit keeps our record intact – it’s the only restaurant we’ve dined at on every visit to Hong Kong

 

A formal British-style afternoon “high” tea is served in the lobby of the Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People_s Republic of China

A formal British-style afternoon “high” tea is served in the lobby of the Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China

 

Beautiful Art Deco era woodwork and stained glass decorate the dining room of the Spring Moon Cantonese Restaurant in the Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People_s Republic of China

Beautiful Art Deco era woodwork and stained glass decorate the dining room of the Spring Moon Cantonese Restaurant in the Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China

 

“The Peninsula’s Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant presents fine Chinese cuisine in its purest form, steered by renowned Chinese Cuisine Executive Chef Gordon Leung. Specialties include an array of seafood, superlative dim sum and the restaurant’s acclaimed XO sauce made to a secret recipe.  Dim sum at Spring Moon is a timeless classic, featuring expertly crafted favourites from pan-fried dumplings filled with pork, cabbage and mushrooms to baked crispy buns with minced Wagyu beef, onions and black pepper and steamed red Sicilian prawn soup dumplings with a refined twist.” – http://www.hongkong.peninsula.com

 

Local “Hairy” Crab meat served in the shell, Spring Moon in the Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People_s Republic of China

Local “Hairy” Crab meat served in the shell, Spring Moon in the Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China

 

Beef in pastry with sesame seeds, Spring Moon in the Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People_s Republic of China

Beef in pastry with sesame seeds, Spring Moon in the Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China

 

Steamed vegetable dumplings in vegetable dough wrappers, Spring Moon in the Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People_s Republic of China

Steamed vegetable dumplings in vegetable dough wrappers, Spring Moon in the Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China

 

Crab and pork steamed dumplings, Spring Moon in the Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People_s Republic of China

Crab and pork steamed dumplings, Spring Moon in the Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China

 

Chicken, green onions and mushroom steamed dumplings, Spring Moon in the Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People_s Republic of China

Chicken, green onions and mushroom steamed dumplings, Spring Moon in the Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China

 

Scallop and minced pork siu mai dumplings, Spring Moon in the Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People_s Republic of China

Scallop and minced pork siu mai dumplings, Spring Moon in the Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China

 

Barbeque pork, Spring Moon in the Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People_s Republic of China

Barbeque pork, Spring Moon in the Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China

 

Noodles with pork and the house special XO sauce, Spring Moon in the Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People_s Republic of China

Noodles with pork and the house special XO sauce, Spring Moon in the Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China

 

Special vegetables, including cloud ear mushrooms and greens, Spring Moon in the Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People_s Republic of China

Special vegetables, including cloud ear mushrooms and greens, Spring Moon in the Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China

 

Walking Hong Kong, S.A.R. (Special Administrative Region), People’s Republic of China

Older highrise apartment buildings soar above the retail shops in the Sheung Wan District of Hong Kong (Island), S.A.R., People_s Republic of China, the area where the British first cl

Older highrise apartment buildings soar above the retail shops in the Sheung Wan District of Hong Kong (Island), S.A.R., People’s Republic of China, the area where the British first claimed possession of the island

 

A professor from Hong Kong joined a small group of us on the ship for a “breakfast forum” where he spoke about the history of Hong Kong and discussed some of the effects of the return of the “colony” from Britain to the People’s Republic of China in 1997 when it became a Special Administrative Region with the “one country, two systems”-style of government.  Afterwards, we took a van under Hong Kong Harbor from Kowloon (where we were docked) to the Hong Kong Island side of the city.  Our destination was the oldest part of the city, the Sheung Wan District.  Our walking tour encompassed the spot where the British claimed possession of Hong Kong in 1841 and many historic and contemporary sites over the course of the morning.

“Sheung Wan and Western District Highlights include a mix of old and new: ancient temples, traditional Chinese dried food and medicinal shops and markets, the rickety Ding Ding tram, antique and curio laden streets, all next to futuristic skyscrapers, upmarket shopping centers and the distinct and novel Mid-Levels Escalator.  The area comprises the North-West part of Hong Kong Island, and is considered a very ‘Chinese’ part of the city, and is a fascinating mix that is best explored on foot and one of our favourite walks in the city, good for a morning or afternoon of exploring.” — www.hong-kong-traveller.com

 

Possession Street (Chinese- 水坑口街) is a street on Hong Kong Island where on January 26, 1841, the commander of Britain_s Far East Fleet, James Bremer, raised the British flag to

Possession Street (Chinese: 水坑口街) is a street on Hong Kong Island where on January 26, 1841, the commander of Britain’s Far East Fleet, James Bremer, raised the British flag and had a gun ceremony to mark the official possession of Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China

 

Possession Street (Chinese: 水坑口街) is a street in the Sheung Wan District (Upper District of “Central”) on Hong Kong Island where on January 26, 1841, the commander of Britain’s Far East Fleet, James Bremer, who came to Hong Kong by HMS Calliope, raised the British flag and had a gun ceremony to mark the official possession of Hong Kong.  The area was called Possession Point (it is no longer on the coast as subsequent reclamation has moved the shoreline further north) and, after brothels were removed in 1903, the area became a residential housing district.   Possession Street’s Chinese name, 水坑口 (Shui Hang Hau), means the mouth of water trench, reflecting the mouth of a stream from Victoria Peak.

 

Set right up along a narrow street, behind a wall, the Man Mo Temple was impossible to photograph, so I captured it_s design with this photograph of a Lego-style model, Hong Kong, S.A.

Set right up along a narrow street, behind a wall, the Man Mo Temple was impossible to photograph, so I captured it’s design with this photograph of a Lego-style model, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China

 

The interior of the Man Mo Temple – dating back to the mid-1800s -- maintained by the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People_s Republic of China

The interior of the Man Mo Temple – dating back to the mid-1800s — maintained by the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China

 

“One of the first traditional-style temples built during Hong Kong’s colonial era, the Man Mo Temple pays homage to the Taoist God of Literature (Man) and God of War (Mo).  The temple also houses statues of Pau Kung, God of Justice, and Shing Wong, God of the City.  The plaques near the entrance offer an interesting perspective on the history of the temple and its gods.  The Man Mo Temple’s historical relics include a bronze bell dating back to 1847 and imperial sedan chairs made in 1862.  It was preserved as a Declared Monument in 2010.” — www.discoverhongkong.com   The temple is maintained by the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals (TWGHs), located in the neighborhood.  The (TWGHs) are also very active in providing education services, having set up the first free school for Chinese students at Hollywood Road in Sheung Wan in 1880, under British rule.

 

Lighting incense sticks for an offering in the Man Mo Temple, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People_s Republic of China

Lighting incense sticks for an offering in the Man Mo Temple, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China

 

Hanging spiral incense burners with prayer notes In the Man Mo Temple, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People_s Republic of China

Hanging spiral incense burners with prayer notes In the Man Mo Temple, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China

 

One of the cultural centers of the Sheung Wan neighborhood a century ago was the Bridges Street Center of the Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong, now surrounded by high rise apartment buildings;

One of the cultural centers of the Sheung Wan neighborhood a century ago was the Bridges Street Center of the Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong, now surrounded by high rise apartment buildings; S.A.R., People’s Republic of China

 

Street vendors mix with the retail stores and cafes and restaurants at street level, among the skyscrapers now filling up the Sheung Wan District, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People_s Republic

Street vendors mix with the retail stores and cafes and restaurants at street level, among the skyscrapers now filling up the Sheung Wan District, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China; note the steep drop downhill from our level to the Harbor level

 

In addition to the famous Mid-Levels Escalator, which we rode up, the area is full of stairs leading up and up and up – eventually to Victoria Peak, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People_s Repub

In addition to the famous Mid-Levels Escalator, which we rode up, the area is full of stairs leading up and up and up – eventually to Victoria Peak, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China

 

Prohibition signs outside the gardens of a restored police station, now a shopping arcade, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People_s Republic of China

Prohibition signs outside the gardens of a restored police station, now a shopping arcade, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China

 

Both the electric trams (which I was riding on when I took this photograph) and busses are double-decker, greatly helping lessen the congestion in Hong Kong, S.A.R., People_s Republic

Both the electric trams (which I was riding on when I took this photograph) and buses are double-decker, greatly helping lessen the congestion in Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China

 

East of Central is Causeway Bay, very popular for dining and shopping, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People_s Republic of China

East of Central is Causeway Bay, very popular for dining and shopping, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China

 

On Sundays, it has become a tradition for the 10% of the population that are migrant household workers to congregate in Central and Causeway Bay (pictured here) for picnic lunches outdoo

On Sundays, it has become a tradition for the 10% of the population that are migrant household workers to congregate in Central and Causeway Bay (pictured here) for picnic lunches outdoors in public spaces with their friends, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China

 

Hong Kong Skyline, S.A.R. (Special Administrative Region), People’s Republic of China

Panorama of Hong Kong viewed from the Hong Kong Museum of Art in Kowloon with the Convention and Expo Center on the left and the IFC (Internaitonal Finance Center) office buildings, IFC

Panorama of Hong Kong viewed from the Hong Kong Museum of Art in Kowloon with the Convention and Expo Center on the left and the IFC (International Finance Center) office buildings, IFC Mall and the Four Seasons Hotel on the right, behind the Star Ferry boat

 

Hong Kong, officially the Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, is an autonomous territory, and former British colony, in southeastern China on the Pearl River Delt, with a population over 7 million people of various nationalities.  Its vibrant, densely populated urban center is a major port and global financial hub with a skyscraper-studded skyline.  Central (the business district) features architectural landmarks like I.M. Pei’s Bank of China Tower.  Hong Kong is also a major shopping destination, famed for bespoke tailors and Temple Street Night Market.

Note that the air quality varied considerably over the few days we were in Hong Kong.  Some of the photographs on the day we sailed in appear a little sepia (a brown tint), due to the heavy smog that day.

 

Sailing into Hong Kong, S.A.R., People_s Republic of China, from the south, following our stop in Shanghai, China, we passed by the old shanties in Aberdeen on Hong Kong Island_

Sailing into Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China, from the south, following our stop in Shanghai, China, we passed by the old shanties in Aberdeen on Hong Kong Island – in sharp contrast with the hundreds of high rise apartment buildings constructed over the past few decades

 

Sailboats were out in Hong Kong Harbor, a nice welcome to Hong Kong, S.A.R., People_s Republic of China

Sailboats were out in Hong Kong Harbor, a nice welcome to Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China

 

The tugboat helped guide us into our pier at the Ocean Terminal, Kowloon, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People_s Republic of China – across from the Convention and Expo Center and skyscrapers o

The tugboat helped guide us into our pier at the Ocean Terminal, Kowloon, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China – across from the Convention and Expo Center and skyscrapers on Hong Kong Island

 

Our pier at Ocean Terminal, just west of the Kowloon side Star Ferry Terminal, was close to the new International Commerce Center (completed in 2011), the tallest building in Hong Kong,

Our pier at Ocean Terminal, just west of the Kowloon side Star Ferry Terminal, was close to the new International Commerce Center (completed in 2011), the tallest building in Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China, with the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong Hotel on the upper floors and Sky100’s wrap-around, 360-degree view observation deck

 

A panorama of our ship docked at Ocean Terminal in Kowloon, with the new International Commerce Center towering over us on the left and the Star (Ferry) House office building (with some

A panorama of our ship docked at Ocean Terminal in Kowloon, with the new International Commerce Center towering over us on the left and the Star (Ferry) House office building (with some great restaurants!) on the right (“Weather Forecast” is advertised on top at that moment), Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China

 

The Kowloon Skyline with the Star House (center) in front of One Peking (also full of great restaurants!) and the Clock Tower and Hong Kong Art Museum (right front), Hong Kong, S.A.R., P

The Kowloon Skyline with the Star House (center) in front of One Peking (also full of great restaurants!) and the Clock Tower and Hong Kong Art Museum (right front), Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China

 

A Star Ferry boat docking in the Kowloon ferry terminal, with the Hong Kong Museum of Art and the Clock Tower in the background, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People_s Republic of China; the ferr

A Star Ferry boat docking in the Kowloon ferry terminal, with the Hong Kong Museum of Art and the Clock Tower in the background, Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China; the ferries cost US$0.15 per ride, making the crossing of Hong Kong Harbor between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island quick and affordable

 

A filtered view of the high rise apartment buildings surrounding Kowloon Park where, as we took a morning kike, we forgot that we were in a giant city (except for the occasional partial

A filtered view of the high rise apartment buildings surrounding Kowloon Park where, as we took a morning hike, we forgot that we were in a giant city (except for the occasional partial view of the skyline), Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China

 

The new ferris wheel (installed after the London Eye), the Hong Kong Maritime Museum (quite interesting!) in the left-most pier, the Star Ferry terminals, the IFC office buildings, IFC M

The new Ferris wheel (installed after the London Eye), the Hong Kong Maritime Museum (quite interesting!) in the left-most pier, the Star Ferry terminals, the IFC office buildings, IFC Mall and the Four Seasons Hotel, Hong Kong (Island), S.A.R., People’s Republic of China

 

The Hong Kong, S.A.R., People_s Republic of China, skyline at night, viewed from Kowloon

The Hong Kong, S.A.R., People’s Republic of China, skyline at night, viewed from Kowloon

 

People’s Park and People’s Square, Shanghai, China

A walking bridge around the pond in People_s Park in the center of the city, Shanghai, China; during colonial days, the park formed the northern half of the Shanghai racetrack

A walking bridge around the pond in People’s Park in the center of the city, Shanghai, China; during colonial days, the park formed the northern half of the Shanghai racetrack

 

During the colonial days, Shanghai’s People’s Park (Renmin Park), located south of Nanjing Road in the center of the city, formed the northern half of the Shanghai racetrack.  Today, the park features 30 acres / 12 hectares of flower beds, lotus ponds, and paved paths.  This park is also known for its Marriage Market where every Saturday and Sunday afternoon (12:00-17:00 hours) parents flock to the north end of the park to find suitable partners for their unmarried children.  The park is one of the prettiest parks in Shanghai and is home to two museums, a pond, and several other attractions.  People’s Square is located directly south of the park.

 

As we walked through People_s Park, we noted many beautiful sections, Shanghai, China

As we walked through People’s Park, we noted many beautiful sections, Shanghai, China

 

One of many card games underway with numerous spectators in People_s Park, Shanghai, China

One of many card games underway with numerous spectators in People’s Park, Shanghai, China

 

The opposite end of the pond in People_s Park, Shanghai, China

The opposite end of the pond in People’s Park, Shanghai, China

 

A panorama of People_s Square, Shanghai, China, looking north with the Shanghai Grand Theater on the left, the refurbished Shanghai Municipal Government Mansion in the center, and the

A panorama of People’s Square, Shanghai, China, looking north with the Shanghai Grand Theater on the left, the refurbished Shanghai Municipal Government Mansion in the center, and the Urban Planning Exhibition Hall on the right

 

People’s Square is he city’s main square is a social and cultural center and home to the Shanghai Museum.  “After renovation, the new Municipal Government Mansion lies in the center of the northern People’s Square, while the Shanghai Museum, which was designed to resemble a Chinese cooking pot, is located to its south.  Flanked on both sides by 17-meter/56-foot-wide green belts, People’s Avenue goes across the center of the square.  At the northwest corner sits the Shanghai Grand Theater which is a colossal construction made almost entirely from glass which is balanced by the Urban Planning Exhibition Hall [see our previous blog post titled, “Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, Shanghai, China”] in the east and in the northeast side lies the subway station.  Along the south side of the People’s Avenue, there are several large underground structures, including Hong Kong Famous Brands Street and Dimei Shopping Center, the largest underground city transformer substation of Asia and the largest underground parking garage of Shanghai.” – http://www.travelchinaguide.com

 

The Shanghai Grand Theater, People_s Square, Shanghai, China

The Shanghai Grand Theater, People’s Square, Shanghai, China

 

The entrance of the Shanghai Museum, which was designed to resemble a Chinese cooking pot, People_s Square, Shanghai, China

The entrance of the Shanghai Museum, which was designed to resemble a Chinese cooking pot, People’s Square, Shanghai, China

 

Home to China’s premier collection of artifacts, the Shanghai Museum is made up of 11 galleries that exhibit fine Chinese art that includes paintings, bronzes, sculpture, calligraphy, jade, furniture, and seals. Signs are in English and audio guides are available.

 

Polychrome Glazed Pottery Statue of Tomb Guardian Beast, Tang Dynasty, A.D. 618~907, the Shanghai Museum, People_s Square, Shanghai, China

Polychrome Glazed Pottery Statue of Tomb Guardian Beast, Tang Dynasty, A.D. 618~907, the Shanghai Museum, People’s Square, Shanghai, China

 

Zun (vase) with Fenacai Design of a Hundred Deers, Jingdezhen Ware, Quinlong Reign (A.D. 1736~1795), Qing Dynasty, the Shanghai Museum, People_s Square, Shanghai, China

Zun (vase) with Fenacai Design of a Hundred Deers, Jingdezhen Ware, Quinlong Reign (A.D. 1736~1795), Qing Dynasty, the Shanghai Museum, People’s Square, Shanghai, China

 

Eat local: Shanghai dumplings at Jia Jia Tang Bao, Shanghai, China

People_s Square (viewed from the top of the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall), Shanghai, China

People’s Square (viewed from the top of the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall), Shanghai, China

 

One of the very popular local foods in Shanghai that are well known around the world is the so-called “Shanghai dumplings.”  These steamed marvels are very difficult to make, as the dough, filled with minced pork, or a mixture of minced pork and crab meat, or pure crab meat, etc., is twisted around the filling and then a little broth is added before the dumpling is twisted close.  To eat them after they have been steamed, you place the dumpling onto a Chinese soup spoon that already has had a little burgundy-colored vinegar and picked slivers of ginger root added to the bottom.  Then, 1-2-3, it’s into the mouth all at once (be careful when they are served, as they are steaming hot); biting on the dumpling dough releases the soup and then you have a wonderful combination of the soup, filling, and steamed dough, with a touch of vinegar and ginger all coming together in you mouth.  Delicious when well made!

 

Each Shanghai dumpling is made by had by this hard working staff at Jia Jia Tang Bao, Shanghai, China

Each Shanghai dumpling is made by had by this hard working staff at Jia Jia Tang Bao, Shanghai, China

 

Thanks to Google Maps on my Google Pixel phone, we left the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall at People’s Square and had only an 8-minute walk to a total hole-in-the-wall, local Shanghai dumplings ONLY restaurant that was recommended by fellow travelers and where not a word of English was spoken by the staff — Jia Jia Tang Bao, on Huanghe Road.  Luckily one of the locals in line with me at the cash register (at the front when you enter the tiny space which has, perhaps, seating for about two dozen diners — they also sell a lot of take out!) was able to explain that the hanging red banners with Chinese characters on the wall were the “menu” of what was still available for purchase.  With our friends we got a couple of steamed baskets of pork and crab Shanghai dumplings, one of all crab dumplings, and some seaweed soup, with the obligatory Tsingtao (local) beer.  For about US$32 the four of us feasted like kings and queens.  Our lunch was quite tasty and it was a great experience to be the only “big noses” in sight on the street and in the restaurant.  Of course, when a fight broke out at a nearby table at the restaurant (two couples were arguing over who could claim 2 seats at a community table – the last two seats in the restaurant) we were mesmerized and also a little scared, as we couldn’t tell if the extremely loud five minutes of arguing would culminate in a fist fight on the spot.  Luckily the hot-headed guy’s girl-friend pulled him away and back to the entrance to await some open seats.  Some friends on the ship who had lived in China subsequently told us that this arguing is rude, but not atypical.  We had not expected live entertainment during lunch…

 

The baskets of Shanghai dumplings are steamed to cook them, Jia Jia Tang Bao, Shanghai, China

The baskets of Shanghai dumplings are steamed to cook them, Jia Jia Tang Bao, Shanghai, China

 

What the fuss is all about – wonderful pork and crab Shanghai dumplings, one dozen per steam basket, Jia Jia Tang Bao, Shanghai, China

What the fuss is all about – wonderful pork and crab Shanghai dumplings, one dozen per steam basket, Jia Jia Tang Bao, Shanghai, China

 

To accompany our dumplings we also had seaweed soup, Jia Jia Tang Bao, Shanghai, China

To accompany our dumplings we also had seaweed soup, Jia Jia Tang Bao, Shanghai, China

 

Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, Shanghai, China

The Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, documenting the changing face of Shanghai, was built as part of the re-development of parkland at the edge of People_s Park and around Peop

The Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, documenting the changing face of Shanghai, was built as part of the re-development of parkland at the edge of People’s Park and around People’s Square in the 1990s and 2000s in Shanghai, China

 

Our favorite museum in Shanghai was the Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, located in a modernistic building in the heart of the central business district across from the Shanghai municipal government building.  Opened in 2000, the museum traces the development of the city from a swampy fishing village to the modern super-metropolis with a population of 24.5 million.  “The Exhibition Center was built as part of the re-development of parkland at the edge of People’s Park and around People’s Square in the 1990s and 2000s.  The Park and Square together occupy what was once the Shanghai racecourse, and today still make up one of the largest open spaces in central Shanghai.  The building was designed by architect Ling Benli of the East China Architecture Design & Research Institute (ECADI), as a harmonious balance to the Grand Theatre, another contemporary building at the other end of People’s Square.  The Exhibition Center is 43 metres (141 feet) high, has a white aluminum panel cladding and a symbolic membrane structure roof.” — Wikikpedia

 

The Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, Shanghai, China, is 43 metres (141 feet) high, has a white aluminum panel cladding and a symbolic membrane structure roof

The Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, Shanghai, China, is 43 metres (141 feet) high, has a white aluminum panel cladding and a symbolic membrane structure roof

 

This view of the scale model of the city shows the Bund on the western bank of the Huangpu River on the bottom of the photograph, with the new skyscrapers of the Pudong district across t

This view of the scale model of the city shows the Bund on the western bank of the Huangpu River on the bottom of the photograph, with the new skyscrapers of the Pudong district across the river, Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, Shanghai, China

 

“One of Shanghai’s best and most visited museums, the Urban Planning Exhibition Hall at People’s Square documents the changing face of Shanghai and is an essential vising point for those interested in the evolution of the city.  A perfect scale model of the entire city on the 3rd floor model shows planned and recent developments of Shanghai.” – http://www.smartshanghai.com

 

Looking north in this view of the scale model of the city, the Bund is on the bank of the Huangpu River on the left (west) and the new Pudong skyscrapers are on the east bank, Shanghai U

Looking north in this view of the scale model of the city, the Bund is on the bank of the Huangpu River on the left (west) and the new Pudong skyscrapers are on the east bank, Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, Shanghai, China; our ship was docked on the riverbank at the northern bank of the river at the top, center of the photograph

 

This view of the scale model of the city shows the density of high rise building in the central business district in the foreground; the Bund is on the riverbank at the center-left edge

This view of the scale model of the city shows the density of high rise building in the central business district in the foreground; the Bund is on the riverbank at the center-left edge of the photograph and the Pudong skyscrapers are on the right- top side; Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, Shanghai, China

 

This view of the scale model of the city is from the opposite direction of the previous photographs, with the Bund in the center, on the upper side of the Huangpu River, and the new Pudo

This view of the scale model of the city is from the opposite direction of the previous photographs, with the Bund in the center, on the upper side of the Huangpu River, and the new Pudong district in the lower-left; Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, Shanghai, China

 

This view of the scale model of the city has the Bund on the lower edge of the image with the central business district in the center and the greenery on the upper left is People_s Par

This view of the scale model of the city has the Bund on the lower edge of the image with the central business district in the center and the greenery on the upper left is People’s Park and People’s Square, home of the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, Shanghai, China

 

A view of People_s Square from the top floor of the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, Shanghai, China

A view of People’s Square from the top floor of the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, Shanghai, China

 

This view of the scale model of the city focuses on People_s Square with the Shanghai Museum in the lower-center (just above the road outlined in yellow lights) and the Municipal Gover

This view of the scale model of the city focuses on People’s Square with the Shanghai Museum in the lower-center (just above the road outlined in yellow lights) and the Municipal Government Building in the center, flanked by the Grand Theatre on the left and the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall on the right; Shanghai, China

 

Shanghai Maglev Train, China

Almost “faster than a speeding bullet”, the Shanghai Maglev Train is a magnetic levitation train, or maglev, in Shanghai, China, that began commercial operation in 2004; we rode the

Almost “faster than a speeding bullet”, the Shanghai Maglev Train is a magnetic levitation train, or maglev, in Shanghai, China, that began commercial operation in 2004; we rode the train round trip from the east side of the Pudong district to the Shanghai International Airport

 

Advised that there were only certain hours of the day that the futuristic Shanghai Maglev Train operated at its fastest speed — round trip from the east side of the Pudong district to the Shanghai International Airport (9:00 – 10:45 a.m. and 3:00 to 4:45 p.m.) – we decided to venture out to the Pudong train station after a late lunch at the IFC Mall [see our previous blog post: “Pudong district, Shanghai, China”].  Our round trip to the Shanghai Airport and back was on a pretty empty train (overall ridership in the past has been estimated at only 20% “occupancy”) – visible in my photographs of sections of the train with no passengers at all.  The ride is extremely comfortable with virtually no vibration, low noise, and hardly any sense of traveling at airplane speeds while hovering (levitating) above the guideway (which functions like the train track for traditional wheel-on-rail trains) that guides the direction of the train’s movement and bears the load of the train.  The advertised maximum speed – achieved mid-way on each run – of 430 kilometers per hour (267.2 miles per hour) was slightly exceeded; on our trips the train maxed out at 431 kph (267.8 mph).  Interestingly, there were curved sections of track that were expertly banked and hardly noticeable in terms of motion.  Overall, an excellent, but short — 30.5 km (18.95 mi) – ride in each direction on an amazing piece of “technology”; it’s about a 7 minute ride in one direction.

The cost of the train is pretty reasonable by Western standards — about US$10 round trip (good for one week) in “economy”; for the locals, however, this is quite considerably higher than the ticket prices for the regular subway trains from either the central business district or the Pudong station.

If it weren’t for the high construction and operating costs, more maglev trains would be operating around the world.  Note that that technology for the Shanghai Maglev Train was developed in Germany (not China); see some technical notes at the bottom of this blog post from the Shanghai Maglev Train web site.  Even China decided a few years ago (after the Shanghai Maglev was in operation) to replace the originally planned maglev train to connect Shanghai to Beijing with a conventional, high-speed wheel-on-rail train.

 

The train cabin in the lead car of the Shanghai Maglev Train, houses a single train operator on the world_s fastest commercial high-speed train

The train cabin in the lead car of the Shanghai Maglev Train, houses a single train operator on the world’s fastest commercial high-speed train

 

“The Shanghai Maglev Train or Shanghai Transrapid (Chinese: 上海磁浮示范运营线) is a magnetic levitation train, or maglev line that operates in Shanghai, China.  The line was the third commercially operated magnetic levitation line to open in history.  It is the fastest commercial high-speed electric train in the world.  The train line was designed to connect Shanghai Pudong International Airport and the outskirts of central Pudong where passengers could interchange to the Shanghai Metro to continue their trip to the city center.  It cost $1.2 billion to build.  The line’s balance of payments has been in huge deficit since its opening.  From 2004 to 2006, Shanghai Maglev Transportation Development Co., Ltd, the company runs the line, had more than 1 billion RMB in losses.  The line is not a part of the Shanghai Metro network, which operates its own service to Pudong Airport from central Shanghai and from Longyang Road Station.” — Wikipedia

 

The Shanghai Maglev Train runs on a “guideway” (functioning like the train track for traditional wheel-on-rail trains) to guide the direction of the train_s movement and bear the l

The Shanghai Maglev Train runs on a “guideway” (functioning like the train track for traditional wheel-on-rail trains) to guide the direction of the train’s movement and bear the load of the train

 

The VIP seating section (“first class”) had larger seats than the regular seating sections, Shanghai Maglev Train, China; this looks much more like the interior of an aircraft cabin

The VIP seating section (“first class”) had larger seats than the regular seating sections, Shanghai Maglev Train, China; this looks much more like the interior of an aircraft cabin than a traditional wheel-on-rail train car

 

At 3-18 p.m. our train had hit its maximum speed, 431 kph (267.8 mph), which was very exciting because we couldn_t feel (in our seats) that we were flying by the landscape so quickly,

At 3:18 p.m. our train had hit its maximum speed, 431 kph (267.8 mph), which was very exciting because we couldn’t feel (in our seats) that we were flying by the landscape so quickly, other than seeing the nearby objects whiz by in a blur; Shanghai Maglev Train, China; also, note the curtains separating the two classes of riders – much like an airplane cabin

 

The regular seating sections of the Shanghai Maglev Train, had smaller seats and were less luxurious (no leather upholstery) than the VIP (“first class”) seats

The regular seating sections of the Shanghai Maglev Train, had smaller seats and were less luxurious (no leather upholstery) than the VIP (“first class”) seats

 

From the platform in Pudong, the Shanghai Maglev Train, China, doesn_t appear that different from a traditional wheel-on-rail train; note that what you can_t see is the lack of wheel

The regular seating sections of the Shanghai Maglev Train, had smaller seats and were less luxurious (no leather upholstery) than the VIP (“first class”) seats

 

Here are some technical and historic notes from the Shanghai Maglev Train company’s website:

“Development of German Maglev Transportation

“In 1922, Hermann Kemper put forward the principle of magnetic levitation levitation and received a patent for magnetic levitation technology-the first patent of the kind in the world in 1934.

“The Germans’ researches of maglev transportation in the real sense began in 1968.  Before then, no systematic research had been carried out because the level of technical and technological conditions remained rather low which limited its development to a large extent.

“In April, 1997, Germany decided to build 292km-long Transrapid route Berlin Hamburg.  It had been planned to start the construction in the second half of the year 1998 and to be put into commercial operation in 2005.  TR 08 vehicle had been developed specially for use in that line.  The vehicle was tested at TVE in October 1999.  However, the construction plan had to be cancelled in February 2000 because new forecast indicated that the construction of the new route might encounter the risk of suffering lossesl

“Sino German Construction of Maglev line in Cooperation

“In June, 2000, the city of Shanghai and Transrapid International agreed to jointly carry out a feasibility study on high speed Transrapid demonstration line in China.  In December, China decided to build a high-speed transrapid demonstration line in Shanghai from Metro Longyang Road station to Pudong International Airport.  The construction began in March 2001.

“On December 31, 2002, the Shanghai Maglev Line, after more than two years of designing, construction and commissioning by the experts of China and Germany, eventually came into view in the world.  The Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder were among the first guests in her maiden trip.  On board the world’s sole commercially-operated maglev train and looking through the windows at the road vehicles lagging far behind, they enjoyed the pleasure to them by the speed of 430km/h and nodded with smile.” – www.smtdc.com [the website of the Shanghai Maglev Transportation Development Co., Ltd.]