Friday 1st June - Tuesday 5th June 2012
01.06.2012 - 05.06.2012 27 °C
Once again, my body and mind had taken a beating from the severe lack of sleep over the past few days in Loas, so I was glad of the opportunity to relax during my days travelling, and spent a large chunk of that Friday in Bangkok airport watching "The Crimson Petal and the White" on my iPhone and reading the second "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" book!
I finally arrived in Hong Kong around 8pm, and was glad to see that their airport was very clean and well organised... customs was a breeze and the staff were really friendly in helping me locate the bus station in order to get to my hostel on Hong Kong Island.
I even met a lovely local girl on the bus who spoke incredibly good English and was giving me tips on things to do whilst I was here!
The bus journey was like travelling through space... the skyline throughout was a sea of bright lights and high rise buildings like a sci-fi film! I loved it! When I arrived at my hostel, the reception was on the 15th floor of a block of apartments, but my dorm was on the 5th (strange but apparently this is quite common in HK due to the lack of space!)
The hostel was clean and the staff were friendly, so I was looking forward to it here already! A girl in my dorm room lent me her Lonely Planet so I could read up on things to do, and I had an early night (I say early- was still about 11pm!) to re-charge ready to explore the next day!
Day One - The Peak
In the morning I let myself sleep in, finally arising at around 10am, where I made my way to the MRT (tube) station and got the tube into Central, as I mentioned before, everything in HK is very clean and efficient, so figuring out the MRT was a breeze, and only cost 50p a journey! In Central I got myself a Hazelnut Latte from Starbucks (I have developed a taste for coffee on my travels) and followed the street directions to "The Peak", a tram ride which takes you to a look out building that is said to have the best view of Hong Kong. "The Peak" sits atop a mountain at the back of Hong Kong Island, so on a clear day you can see Kawloon and Lantau Islands etc as well!
Unfortunately, although the day was very sunny, there is also a continuous mist that seems to settle in the air (potentially pollution) so the view wasnt quite as far as I'd like! The tram ride was cool though (very steep) and on the way up you could see the 'urban jungle' idea suggested by the Lonely Planet, as sky scrapers seem to stick up out of palm tree/jungle vegetation on the street floor!
At the top of the viewpoint, I met a lovely New Zealander called Richard, who became my Hong Kong travel buddy as we talked about the city and ourselves! He took some photos of me with the HK skyline in the background and let me read through his travel guide to figure out what to do with the rest of my day... as we got on well and were both travelling alone, we stuck together and spent the day (and the following) exploring and enjoying the local "things to do".
After descent, we walked around the central area in search of Mo Ma Temple (famed for it's smoky incense filled aroma) where we also noticed they used bamboo for scaffolding here (a nice mixture of old and new) and we even saw a Chinese bride!
On arrival at the temple, you could instantly smell the incense... the slits in the ceiling sent cool beams of light through the smoke and the smell made the place feel very spiritual!
After the temple, we walked further into Central to find the famed Luk Yu Tea House for 'Dim Sum', a traditional Chinese afternoon tea, where you order several small dishes to share and the waiters continually fill your kettle with Jasmine Tea... I got to try some real Chinese food including 'dumplings' (which were a bit too squidgy for my liking), pigeon rolls, fish wrapped in green pepper (with a lovely black bean sauce),bamboo shoots and 'spare ribs' (which had SO much fat on them they were horrible!) as well as the usual spring rolls and fried rice!
Richard was staying on Kawloon island and so once he'd got his boat back over, I decided to walk back to my hostel through the various neighbourhoods for a bit of exploration! The street scene is really cool here, there are SO MANY people that you look like ants crawling around beneath the buildings, and there are loads of random little markets and street sellers right next to the big shopping malls... here I watched a blind woman perform a street ritual which is designed to ward away evil. A gentleman explained to me that you write the name of the person/people you don’t like on a piece of paper and then the woman whacks the paper with her slipper whilst chanting and then burns it! Quite cool to watch, but I can't think of anyone I "dont like" enough to write down!!
I also grabbed some ice cream at the Haagen Daz cafe and noticed that Standard Charter also appears on their 50 dollar notes! Plus their money is nice and colourful like Australia’s! Britain really needs to think about updating the pound!
That night I had another decent sleep, I'm surprised that it isn't more noisy at night given the number of people, but perhaps I was just in a quiet area! Richard had mentioned to me that a very swanky hotel on the Kawloon island offered British "afternoon tea" and as it was expensive, he said he would treat me! SCORE!
Day Two - Kawloon Island
We arranged to meet at 3:30pm, which meant I had a leisurely morning in Starbucks, reading my book over coffee (caramel latte this time) and a muffin for breakfast (I am on holiday!) ;-)
At around 2pm I got the ferry over to Kawloon island (which was only HK$3) and strolled along the promenade in the sunshine to the "Avenue of Stars" !! This is apparently Hong Kongs version of the walk of fame in Hollywood, with all these famous Chinese movie stars hand prints! The only three I'd heard of we're Bruce Lee, Jet Li and Jackie Chan, do I took a photo of them! There is also a life sized bronze statue of Bruce Lee, which for some reason really reminded me of Dad! (perhaps he pulled that pose too many times during my childhood! ) x
When it came time to meet Richard, we strolled into the Peninsular Hotel, with it's white uniformed doormen, chandeliers and high ceilings only to be told that they had a "dress code" and my flip flops did not adhere to it!! I demanded to speak to the manager as I was not dressed scruffily and explained to him that I lived on the other island and was unable to get back and a little offended by the idea that I should have to! I AM British!! They're stupid hotel is just pretending, they should be honoured to have my feet in their cafe, no matter what shoes they're in!! GRR! Alas, they would not budge, so we walked back to Richards hotel and I had to drink afternoon tea like a lady, dressed in a mans business shoes! Classy! :-(
The only saving grace was that the food was sensational! The bottom layer had homemade scones which came with jam and actual Devon clotted cream (which I assured Richard was nothing in comparison with Jersey cream!), the middle layer had savoury treats with traditional cucumber and cheese sandwiches (no crust of course) and smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches which were rolled into a spiral for variation! Then there were mini quiches and mini sausage pastry! The crowning layer was filled with macaroons, mini lime cheesecake, strawberry and passion fruit moose biscuit cups and mini raspberry crumble! We were served proper English breakfast tea (though Richard chose Earl Grey) using a very grand silver kettle set and china cups/saucers and mid-way the waiter brought us shot glasses of pineapple and coconut moose!! AMAZING!! X To top it all off, when the bill came, it was accompanied by two chocolate and orange truffles!! Skye = HAPPY BUNNY!! X
After tea Richard and I caught the MRT up towards the centre of Kawloon where they had a variety of markets to visit... stepping out the tube station we caught a glimpse of what the real Hong Kong is like, there were BIG neon signs and billboards hanging from the shops above, THOUSANDS of people walking in all directions and street hawkers/stalls calling out to you as you passed, one woman was making name bracelets out of wire for HK$50, so I bought one and watched her make it;
As night began to fall, the vibrant streets really came alive with colour that was almost headachey... the neon signs were SO bright and every street was a mass of different colours! The markets were cramped and mostly full of tack, but I did buy myself (and impress Richard with my haggling skills) a "silk" night gown!
We then made our way down to the sea front for the "Symphony of Lights" display, which is a famous attraction here and a world record holder for the biggest light and sound show on earth! The waterfront at Kawloon offers a panoramic view of the skyline of Hong Kong island, and during the light show classical music is played whilst lasers and coloured lights are orchestrated across the sky scrapers on Hong Kong island... once again my camera failed me somewhat so I couldn’t capture the full effect, but I thought it was pretty fly and certainly nothing like I had ever seen before!
The Standard Charter HQ was involved Mum, and looked like a tower of bricks that drained in colour from blue to green and occasionally flashed one of the two;
Once the show was over, Richard and I went our separate ways! A LOVELY man whose company I enjoyed immensely!
Day Three - Lantau Island
The following day was my last full day in HK, I had been told about a giant statue of Buddha on the nearby island of Lantau, and so I got an early start with my Starbucks fix, then got the ferry over to Lantau (which is much more vegetative and picturesque than HK) and then a bus ride into the central city of Tung Chung, where the best way to get to the monastery was by cable car (as it was high in the mountains).
For some reason, when I waited in the queue for the cable car the woman decided to give me a whole carriage to myself!! Which at first I thought was quite cool, but then soon felt rather silly when everyone in the cars around me started to wave/laugh!
Once we arrived at the village, it was very pleasantly sunny, though VERY commercialised, with all shops selling souvenirs! The Buddha himself was impressive and he sat overlooking a very quaint and traditional monastery surrounded by hills;
Once again (as would seem to be the case with many deities on this trip) Buddha demanded that if I were to see him, I had to do some exercise first! So up I went, climbing 200 stairs to visit the big Buddha and admire his view of Lantau island;
Hot and sweaty once I got to the bottom of the stairs again, my next stop was "Wisdom Path"... a 15 minute walk into the woodland of Lantau where monks had erected a structure in the shape of the infinity sign (a sideways number 8) using very high tree trunks that were sawn in half and had Chinese inscriptions carved into the flat side. When I got to the path I was the only one and the whole place was silent... really made it feel spiritual and beautiful!
For my trip down the mountain, they thankfully put me in a cable carriage with some other Chinese people, so I wasn’t alone, although they were very giggly and I couldn’t understand a word they were laughing about!
I bought myself some ice cream and decided to get the MRT back to central to save time (and money)... it was here that I observed just how vain Chinese girls are... literally ever single one is either looking at herself in a compact mirror or using her iPhone camera as a mirror!! preening their hair and pouting to themselves!! A lot of them have those freaky blue contact lenses as well, which make them look like dolls!! :-S
Once I got to Central Station it was around 7pm, and all the business men/women had obviously finished work so the Tube was RAMMED! (and I mean RAMMED!), this is a photo of the queues OUTSIDE the doors to the tube... it was like that at every station and each time we stopped another 10-20 people piled into the carriage, I have never been that close to a stranger in my life! I could barely breathe and all I kept thinking was THANK GOD I'M TALL!
The next morning I got up early to make my way to the airport for my flight to Tokyo, my last stop on what has been a FANTASTIC trip so far... XX