Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Smog in Hong Kong

The reason I have not written anything for a couple of days is that I have discovered that smog makes my head feel like it is going to blow up. The air was pretty clear when I first arrived in Hong Kong, but the past three days have revealed to me a new understanding of pollution. Most of the pollution here is not actually from the city itself, but from mainland China. There are virtually no environmental standards at all in mainland China, and coal is the primary source for electricity. It is filthy air, folks!!! I was flattened by it the day before yesterday, and if I stood up, I felt like I was going to hurl. Not fun. I spent the day on the bed, watching bad movies and a shark attack special on the National Geographic channel.

So the headache is still there, but I am able to move at least. Yesterday, Matthias had a day off, so we went downtown, to the infamous "nose hair trimmer" building, a.k.a. the ifc mall. It has a VERY ritzy mall in it. You know, one of those kind of malls where you feel like the shop owners KNOW you can't afford anything. I am certain you know what I am talking about here. We did find a really nice bookstore in this fancy mall. I got another book, and some cool cards. The art in this mall was cool. We really went down there to find this Tea store, and of course when we did find the Tea store, it was outrageously expensive.

We decided to go elsewhere for the tea. We took the Star Ferry across the harbor to the Kowloon side (the nose hair trimmer is on the Hong Kong side). The Star Ferry is fun, and of course, you can use the Octopus card to pay. We did manage to find some more affordable places to buy tea, and also stumbled upon a wonderful Indian restaurant with a vegetarian lunch buffet. YUM. I took pictures looking across the harbor, so that you can see the difference in air quality from my last visit to the same area a week ago. YUCK! In fact, the second photo was actually taken from the ferry, so I was closer to the buildings than in the first photo. Can you believe the difference??

I took quite a few photos from the ferry, because I love being on the water. Since the Star Ferry just goes back and forth, the backs on the seats can be flipped depending on which direction you are going. That way, you can always face forward. How clever is that? Hong Kong is one busy harbor for containers. I think Matthias said it is one of the busiest in the world with container ships. The one here is just a little barge or something, most container ships are huge. I will see if I can go somewhere to get a photo of one, for those of you who have never seen one.

I don't know if I have mentioned it or not, but the Chinese New Year is this weekend, and they are pulling out all the stops with decorations. Everywhere you go there are pink blooming trees, decorated with these red pieces of paper (no, I don't know what they mean, sorry), not to mention blooming flowers and small citrus trees lined up. It is really cool. The celebration is a big one, where they give gifts, and eat a lot, and of course the standard fireworks and parade bit. The thing that I am looking forward to the most is that the factories on the mainland close down for the holiday, and apparently the air gets really clear. YAY! That is the reason I will be celebrating. By the way, it is the year of the pig, and there are pigs everywhere. I have the photos all ready for you, but blogger is being really slow, and won't let me upload the pics. I am sick of staring at the computer now, so you are just going to have to wait for the next batch of photos. Sorry.

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