Arrival in Hong Kong is exciting: first we experience top efficiency as we need exact change for the bus and don't even have any HK$ yet; finally work out the system and Laurent returns with a ticket just in time to jump on bus through smooth roads surrounded by skyscrapers and neon signs for 1h til we arrive on Nathan Road in Kowloon.
Easily find our accomodation that we'd called to book a few days previously: a tiny, brilliantly set-up studio on 11th floor of a Nathan Road building: Golden Crown Court. $35 per night: must be a bargain in HK. Raymond, actually a Cambodian and a great guy, welcomes us and shows us in - no formalities; we are staying a week. We head out and find a good local eaterie and everything open and bustling at midnight.
First day in Kowloon we do the touristy walk-of-fame on the waterfront (loving my alter-ego: Jackie Chan of course), giggle at the extreme hygiene measures at the Cultural Centre (notices informing you how door-knobs are sanitised every 15 mins; everyone wearing face masks), buy Chalayan Hussein at the factory outlet, enjoy Dim Sum lunch (mmmm) and experience the endless shopping
centres and markets (laurent find acupuncture shoes for first time in about a decade!) before heading back via Kowloon part where lots of Malaysians hang out around the mosque. In the evening the Ladies Market is good with tons of cheapish electronics though fried tofu tastes of foul tripe. Won't try that again. Several apparently African gangs hanging around our hotel openly phoning, sorting and dealing something or other around our hotel.
Day 2 we explore Hong Kong Island, quickly and easily reached via Star Ferry to Central, great views of Kowloon and the City. After disastrous coffee spillage all over Laurent's t-shirt due to enthusiastically walking and drinking, we take the longest escalator up to Soho and walk on to famous Man-Mo temple: full of incense, praying buddhists and us in the middle video-ing a slot for Rachel and Justin's wedding video message! We discover set-lunches are excellent and cheapish here then take the Peak Tram up to Victoria Peak where Laurent gets annoyed because the signs direct you to the top but the tickets doesn't give you entry - you have to pay again: misleading. Afterwards we visit factory shops where you can't really complain abaout the
prices (I get a bikini for $2!) but they're disappointing. We also find Times Square boring: just designer stores.
Day 3 we're off to Macau to practice our Portuguese we haven't attempted since Brazil in August! Entrepreneurial as people are, although it all seems highly controlled, some tickets are much cheaper than others; we buy one and realise this is because you only get about 4 mins to clear immigration and board to ferry! Heavy rain on arrival a bit of a pain and we have more difficulty negociating the exact fare/bus issue with nothing in English - life seems to be in Cantonese with signs etc in Portuguese. We discover some HK$ denominations are valid here so we're OK and make it to Praca Leal.
Old Town is well-preserved gorgeous colonial style with cobbles, pretty shutters, iron balconies and faience tiles. St Paul's fort is now a fantastic interactive history museum with just its original facade - impressive. We struggle to find a Portuguese restaurant but fimally stumble on a street with lots of bacalhau eatieres and we enjoy fantastic food & Sagres at "Platao". After tasting rice biscuits and rich egg-tarts from street-sellers washed down with
excellent strong black coffee we're ready to hit the casinos! Loads of people, especially Chinese, come here only for that, and the 2 glam Lisboa casinos are busy. L teaches M blackjack and M ensures we leave with exactly what we went in with (though of course we should have left before we lost our winnings!) and we are amused by semi-clad girlies at the drinks/entertainment bar. We find a cheap bottle of Perriquita - our favourite Portuguese wine - many memories! - and get back to Kowloon late, walking through the still busy streets back to our studio.
Nexy day is another roam around Kowloon, first to the electronics market in Tsam-Shui Po via the MRI train. It is indeed a mecca and M leaves L to it; neither of us find anything much cheaper than home with the exchange rate and are also disappointed by lack of fantastic food places you find elsewhere in HK: end up eating crap and horrid sugar-soda in shopping centre caf then opt to return to the brilliant museum - free today! Later we get a few gifts at the Night Market, but Ladies Market was better. M gives up on cheap
tat and buys RayBans for £110!
Time is running out in this fascinating place and I am determined not to remember HK from the inside of a shopping centre, so I head out to 45 mins west to New Territories on the MRT, leaving Loz to explore more tech-meccas. Pouring rain makes the trip tricky but I find the Sam Eke museum and it's worth it: a restored C18th Hakka village on the Chan Clan which opening during the massive government relocation New Town planning. Strange to see it surrounded by the housing estates built to deal with the massive Chinese influx. I marvel at the ceramic pillows and meet a little bat - it's just me and him here this morning.
We meet up again for another great set-lunch in Soho and wander about the traditional "wet market". I will always remember seeing filleted fish still flipping about and birds in cages :-( After taking the tram to a specialised karate shop in Causeway Bay for gifts, we find a huge noisy internet centre and manage, with difficultly, to make and edit Rachel and Justins' wedding video. That evening we go out in Soho, which is kickin,
but not really our thing with generic strip-bars for suited men and competing music. After a very overpriced and mediocre Spanish meal we save our $ and go back to our studio!
Last full day: we must eat as much lovely HK food as possible! First we find the Japanese Quarter and buy our Japan Rail Pass ($300) which you must buy abroad to use in Japan; this transaction involves much formality, bowing and a formal intorduction to the Director who commands a woman to give us some commemorative HK stamps - odd! M then has shopping extravaganza, including traditional chinese pyjamas and we enjoy a final dinner at the amazing Kings Court chinese restaurant: worth waiting 45 mins for again.
The next day, we stuff in somemore food before our flight, with Nicola and Martin: friends of L who live in Beijing. We'd thought we would be tight for time but on the way discover our flight is cancelled so we are on the next one to Tokyo. The traditional trolley Dim Sum at the City Hall is spectacular and has about 100 people queueuing around the walls by midday! By the time we roll off our
seats it's time to get to the airport and we arrive just in time to board for our flight...to Tokyo!!!
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