Published: September 18th 2006September 14th 2006
My last two days in and around Hong Kong were enjoyable.
I had booked a15 hour to Macau and Shenzhen in mainland China since visas and transportation would all be arranged for me. And it would figure that this was the only dark and rainy day of my trip, making the high speed ferry a very rough ride. The first stop was Macau, the Portuguese settlement. Macau is mostly known for its gambling- there are lots of casinos and it’s a weekend gambling destination for businessmen. As a whole, Macau looks pretty run down which is something I was warned about before leaving for my trip.
The highlight of Macau is the ruined façade of St. Paul’s cathedral, built in the 16th century. It was destroyed by a fire caused by a typhoon in 1835 and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2005. The façade is a nice architectural contrast to the rest of the architecture that I’ve seen in Asia. The entire area of the surrounding square looks like its straight out of Europe. Next to the cathedral is an old fort that offers some views of the city and surrounding area. Across the water from
The free-standing facade of the former cathedral
Macau you can see mainland China- the beaches are covered in barbed wire to prevent any illegal entry.
In the afternoon, our Macau tour group split into 2 with the majority of people continuing their sightseeing in Macau while it was just me and a young Australian couple for the Shenzhen part of the tour. We were on our own on a ferry to Shenzhen where we would meet our guide. This ferry was quite a contrast to the new and modern ferry we had taken in the morning as the diesel fuel sell and noisy motor were overpowering, causing us to shout the entire time in order to hear each other speaking.
We arrived in Shenzhen a little apprehensive sine Gray Line tours had not won our confidence- we were told by our guide in Macau that they had forgotten to secure us visitor’s visas for the trip. We set foot on land in Shenzhen not sure if we would even be allowed to enter the country. It ended up working out okay and our guide was young which worked since we were all within 4 years of each other in age. Because it was just the
This square in front of the cathedral would look at home in Spain
3 of us on the tour, we were able to talk to the guide and tell him specifically what we were interested in seeing and what we wanted to buy.
Our first stop was a mangrove park, followed by a trip to the mineral museum, which was more interesting than it sounds. We got a tour of different types on jade and materials and sampled some awful tea which tasted like perfume. After this, it was off to a miniature and folk village. Here, all of China was represented in miniature models. We took a drive around the village in a shuttle which sped by mini Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, and the Great Wall. The only thing that was real was this live goat that we saw near “Beijing.” The folk village part of the site is in actual size. The various peoples and regions of China are represented here in reconstructed sites, temples, and villages. The staff wears different costumes and re-enact daily routines of the locals for their particular region. It’s all a bit cheesy, but that was to be expected.
After our tour of the villages, we were off to have dinner at the village’s restaurant.
Another awful meal where my fellow travellers agreed that they have had awful food in Hong Kong, save for a German restaurant they went to. After dinner, it was time for an elaborate night show featuring acrobats, dancers, horses, and goats that re-enacted some of China’s history and tradition through song and dance. I was impressed by the show- unlike the rest of the village and miniature, the stage show was well done and not at all cheesy.
From here we went to what we had assumed was the highlight of the trip- the Lo Wu shopping mall. It ended up being a very terrifying place. The Lo Wu is run down, filthy and full of shady characters and beggars which is something I haven’t been exposed to in Japan. Our guide told us to stay close. They market this mall to tourists but our guide said it is not safe to go to on your own, without a guide. Aside from the beggars and pickpockets, the mall is filled with dingy corridors and dodgy shops. Another problem is trying not to get ripped off in the shops that almost exclusively sell faux designer goods as we were told
the old “bait and switch” tactic is common (you agree to buy one item and the shopkeeper switches that one out for a lesser quality item after you had over the cash).
Luckily, we had a guide and he took us to a “warehouse” which was actually the storeroom for one of the shops. In this warehouse is where the shop kept it’s “Grade A” merchandise- that is it’s knock-offs that were pretty much spot-on to the original designer item. I found it disappointing since I found the quality of the goods a poorer quality than the ones we had seen in Seoul, but for more money here. I did end up picking up a nice-looking Fendi purse for about $15 Cdn and the Australians purchased some golf clubs and wallets. Armed with our purchases we boarded the train back to Hong Kong.
For my last day in Hong Kong, I went to the art museum in Kowloon and over to the flower market and the bird garden. The bird garden is the place where (mostly) men bring their caged birds out for some sunshine. Men place their caged birds on the ground or in trees for the
afternoon as they sit and chat. It’s the place to buy all bird-related things like food, cages, and birds themselves. I have never been anything like that so it was a real highlight for me. After hitting the surrounding markets, it was back to the hostel where the breaker kept blowing, leaving me without power. They had to get a technician to come in and change the wires since there was something wrong with my hot water heater switch. For my big, final dinner in Hong Kong, I ended up eating at the Outback Steakhouse which is not somewhere I would even consider eating at, but I figured I had been to Starbucks enough already.
Because my flight didn’t’ leave until the evening, I was able to fit in some more sightseeing before taking off to the airport. I walked through Hong Kong Park to the aviary. It was more trouble getting there than anything since I managed to get lost in a shopping mall for the second time as I tried to follow signs to the park. After that, I took the elevator up the Bank of China tower to the “observatory” which was really just a hallway
The top of the fort has canons which were used for defense.
with a window. Still, I had some nice views of Hong Kong.
All in all, the trip was a success and I’m glad I went. While I prefer Seoul and Tokyo to Hong Kong, it was a good opportunity for me to see a city I never had any intention of visiting. I don’t think I would go out of my way to plan a trip to Hong Kong, but it makes a good stopover for shopping on your way to other destinations.
There are more photos below