May: The Hong Kong Bucket List

by - June 24, 2014

A last sunrise at HKUST  
10000 Buddha's Monastery 
Nine months after landing in Hong Kong for my year abroad, May had come around far too quickly.  Aside from the pressure of finals came a certain nagging need to see all of the Hong Kong sights that I had yet to get around to visiting.  First up, right at the start of the month, was a visit to the 10000 Buddha Monastery near to Sha Tin MTR station, a surreal collection of individualised Buddha statues that have been built up over the last sixty-odd years.  While not being an actual temple, it has become something of a religious theme park and tourist site.  The Buddhas range from those in traditional poses through to surreal ones with massive arms, or multiple faces.  Whether there is any underlying religious symbolism I do not know - but it was certainly an interesting half day out.

Happy Valley Racecourse
Next up on the bucket list was Happy Valley racecourse near to Causeway Bay.  Happy Valley is one of several racecourses that make up the Jockey Club - the largest contributor of taxes in Hong Kong and us one of the real ‘Hong Kong institutions’.  Watching the races (and partaking in the associated gambling) is one of the most popular evenings out for locals, expats and tourists and is held on most Wednesdays of the year.  Surrounded on all sides by skyscrapers, the course has to be one of the most dramatic in the world and with live music and a range of food stalls, I only wish that I had been a few more times while I had been in Hong Kong - definitely something to come back to see and a must for anybody who is in the city on a Wednesday.  Having never bet on racing before, it was easy to put down a few Hong Kong dollars to make things a bit more exciting.

Hong Kong History Museum
I had originally intended to spend all of my final month in Hong Kong, but a nagging desire to see the Great Wall of China got the better of me and I squeezed in a five day visit to Beijing (see elsewhere).  After the trip I was plunged into the exam period, which didn’t go as well as last semester, partly as the research project had eaten into my time so much and partly because I was preoccupied with making the most of my remaining time in Hong Kong.  With a big gap between some of my exams I decided to spend an afternoon looking around two of Hong Kong’s most important museums.  The first of these is an absolute must-see for any visitor to Hong Kong - the History Museum, which is perhaps the most impressive such museum I have ever visited.  Hong Kong is blessed with a fascinating but concise history, and it is possible to view this from prehistoric times through to the modern day at the museum in a series of chronological exhibits.  I spent a good four hours there, but it would be possible to get a good overview in a few hours.  The other museum I visited is a very new addition to Hong Kong - the 4th June Museum, which is dedicated to teaching people about the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, the 25th anniversary of which was imminent.  The museum is very controversial as talk of the protests is still banned on the mainland and Hong Kong is definitely pushing its freedoms by allowing it to open.  It is situated on the fourth floor of an apartment building in Tsim Sha Tsui and is admittedly not very big and is mainly in Chinese, but is worth a look just to see it as an act of defiance by the people of Hong Kong.

The goddess of democracy, 4th June Museum
Myself, Jewel and Sam at the Tram Party
My last exam unfortunately was as the latest possible time slot, which meant that I was thrust immediately into a brief period of leaving celebrations before we all went back to our respective homelands.  The highlight of the farewell gatherings was the tram party, where a group of us hired one of Hong Kong’s iconic trams for the evening and travelled up and down the island on it.  There can be few better ways of rounding off a year in Hong Kong, and as I hope to allude to in my concluding blog (watch this space), there definitely couldn’t have been better people to be joined with.  May wasn’t as hard as the slog of March and April (mainly due to the conclusion of the research project) and it was great to be able to get out into the city again for a range of last hurrahs.  A few days after the tram party it was all over.  A group of us rose to watch the sunrise over the campus as myself and Sergei made our way to the airport to fly to Yunnan province for our last major trip - a most wonderful send off to a most wonderful year.

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