Depending on your mood, walking up and down the electronics district of Kowloon (in Hong Kong) can either make you laugh or do your head in. Massage sir? Copy watch? Rolex? Copy watch? Copy watch? Please, if you come here, don't buy a copy watch (a knock-off watch which will most likely break on the plane home), it just encourages the Bangladeshi guys here that are shouting this at you all the time that they're doing something right.
I strayed out to Central (Hong Kong Island) where everything is more uniformly more expensive and posher-looking, here I bought some Acuvue contact lenses, which work out to be around £20 a box, so roughly a third cheaper in comparison to the UK. It was here I found that I have catarachts, a clouding on the lenses in my eyes - wearing UV-coated glasses or sunglasses can help prevent them. Great! Anyway, I mooched on back to Kowloon (the main island of Hong Kong, which is split into four main parts, Lantau Island, Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and New Territories), and visited one of the many electronic dealers who also sell spectacles - I found that these places are far cheaper than dedicated opticians, sometimes by half the price. I ordered a pair for around HK$800 (£53), a bargain from a street retailer, but far cheaper to order online (http://www.goggles4u.com/ being my choice).
If you're one to hit the museums with all you've got, then you can't go wrong with Hong Kong's museum card, HK$50 (£3.30) will let you into it's seven main places including the Science Museum and History Museum (which are located opposite each other). I've only visited the former, and while it felt a bit 1980s, it redeemed itself with a lot of interactive displays, a large hall of mirrors and a gallery dedicated to wildlife photography (which takes around half an hour to get around). The museum card is valid for six months, so even if you don't make full use of it, you can come back in the future or pass it onto someone else that looks your age if you're feeling particularly generous.
Throughout the city, you can usually find an internet cafe within five minutes walk, my favourite has been an HK$8 p/h (50 pence) place with Pepsi on tap and games to play if you're bored. The floor above it charges HK$20 p/h (£1.30), gives you a free drink and has a large library of manga books to read - this would make it heaven for me, except it's all in Cantonese, heart-breaking to say the least! This place is located in Sham Shui Po, but best of all, around the corner is the Golden Computer Centre, one huge building (split into two parts with two floors in each) dedicated to games, consoles, laptops, computers, monitors, accessories, books and many more items. It's quite a way out of central Kowloon so you won't see many non-Chinese there, but the prices are far better than in Nathan Road and they have a far superior range. Each stall inside the building is packed closely to the next, so bargaining has never been easier - if you don't like the price, turn around and ask the next stall. Memory cards (in all shapes, sizes and forms) are particularly cheap, as are the Nintendo DS flash cartridges (a cartridge you can put downloaded games onto so you don't have to pay for them), whereas in the UK they're twice the price.
Just like Amsterdam, it's easy to meet people doing exactly the same thing as you. On the first night I went around the town and the harbour with a girl called Katie, the day after that I befriended two Canadians that were staying in the same room as me, as well as Dave from Washington DC and James from Surrey. We all went to the local dive known as Sticky Fingers. Yes, it's as tacky as it sounds, but great fun. It's for the 40+ white guy with a penchant for prostitutes - we went (we being five 19 - 31 year old guys) simply as a way to people watch, it's fascinating to do so and ends up with many a laugh. At night they stop their 2-for-1 offer on drinks and have a local covers-band play the rock hits from the 70s and 80s in a tremendous fashion.
One of the best views you can find in Hong Kong is the harbour from either Kowloon or Central (across the water). During the day the skyline is slightly foggy, but, it's not fog but pollution from all the cars and coal-burning factories. This haze is consistent throughout Hong Kong, even high up in the peaks and far-out reaches where you can only see green. At night the harbour lights up, literally, as at 8pm every night there is the world's largest permanent urban lightshow (the city has a few 'biggest' and 'largest'), it lasts about thirteen minutes and has many of the financial buildings taking part in time to the music. It's fun to watch and worth a short amount of anyone's time. Videos to be uploaded in due course.
In any of Hong Kong's many restaurants, you can usually get tea for free and the food is rarely expensive - whenever it is you can't be far from one that isn't. Meals can be picked up for as little as HK$15 (£1), to HK$38 (£2.60) at the very most for something substantial. Of course, there is much fine-dining to be had, but when credit cards go bad and you're trying to budget yourself, you have to be wary about spending even £5 on a meal when you realise you have to eat twice at a day (plus snacks and drinks).
Myself and American Dave (visit http://www.gobackpacking.com/Blog/ for his blog) made our way to the Mid-Levels Escalators, the largest series of escalators in the world. We first thought it was the largest single escalator, but it turns out to be about fifteen long ones leading half way up the hill in Central Hong Kong (on Hong Kong Island). It takes you very close to the Peak Tram, a tram to take you up to Victoria Peak for a fantastic view of most of Hong Kong, including the harbour. Pictures will follow in a further update.
The following day (today in fact) we took the MTR (the equivalent of London's Underground) to Lantau Island, a half hour journey across Hong Kong to Tung Chung, where the world's largest sitting bronze Buddha resides. To get there we had to queue for over an hour and a half for the cable car to take us over the peaks, past the airport and up to Ngong Ping village. Here there's the huge Buddha, a fantastic view of the forests surrounding it, and a monastery for your perusal. After going up and down the Victoria Peak the day before, we retired earlier today to get some much needed rest. Despite the crazy amount of escalators in this city, we still ended up tired and aching from all the walking and hiking. No bad thing of course, but be prepared to spend a good day on each of the museums, peaks and main attractions.
I'll be uploaded a whole lot of pictures soon, but really need to sort through them all first, as Dave has an inherent knack for taking one at every opportunity, which has suitably rubbed off on me.