Published: May 21st 2012May 18th 2012
*Want to dedicate this blog to my gran who sadly passed away whilst I was in Hong Kong. She will be very sorely missed by everyone in my family, I know. I regret not being able to see her one last time, but have only fond memories of her that I will always cherish. Love you gran. *
Hong Kong. What a place.
Left Shanghai at around 6pm to get our overnight train down the coast to Hong Kong. Think we arrived the next day at around 2pm, that be Monday 7th May. Train station was built into the subway station, very handy, and our digs for the week were only 1 stop away. Our room was on the 17th floor of the Chungking Mansions, a huge building complex that used to be rife with crime and ganster activity, now recently voted the most multi-cultural place in Asia. That fact had its perks and drawbacks, great Indian food being the best, but SO many touts. You had to wade through them to get into the building. All Indians mostly. "Fake rolex sir?", was a common utterance, even a sneaky, hushed "hashish, coke, marijuana?"; even if you were so inclined
it would hard to pick out who said it given how sneakily quietly it was muttered.
Anyway, the female hostle owner was really friendly and helpful, giving us a map and indicating which were the best places to head to. The first thing she told us to do was to buy an Octopus card. An ingenious invention, which makes you wonder why other countries don't catch on.
Basically, at any subway station, you go to the customer information desk and ask for this card. It costs $150 Hong Kong Dollars (just over £10). $100 of that goes on as credit, and the other $50 is redeemed when you hand your card back in. Not only does this card work on the subway, but also for all local buses, minibuses, trams, trains, 7/11 shops, Mcdonald's; it really did make life a hell of a lot easier.
Also, everything in Hong Kong is so well signposted, that maps basically become redundant. That first night, we headed out of our building and followed the sign to the Star Ferry. This is one of the main things to do in HK, it provides transport between Kowloon and HK Island, and has
been running for well over 100 years. For 15p a journey it's a right treat. You get great views of the city's skyline.
Once on the other side, we walked a while over the huge elevated walkway that connects the financial district to various other buildings and transport stations, and made our way to The Peak Tram. It takes you up to one of the highest spots in HK, affording excellent panoramic views. After plenty of snaps, got the bus back down, then subbed it to Temple Street market, where we had a wander and some scran, then walked back to the hotel.
The next day we decided to venture out to one of the outlying islands, namely Lamma Island. Twas a 25 minute ferry away, and the day was turning into a scorcher. We were heading to Lo So Singh Beach, which was widely recommended, though it was a 45 minute hike from the ferry port. Felt like a 45 day hike to be honest, was practically naked by the time we reached the beach, a waterfall of sweat cascading from my brow, just a big pale, dripping, Scottish mess. The others were no better, I assure
The beach was just reward for our labours, however. Nice stretch of golden sand, cool, clear waters, the only drawback being that the hard ass lifeguards wouldn't let us try out our newly purchased frisbee. Must be all those frisbee-related deaths you hear about....arseholes.
Spent a good 4-5 hours at the beach, couple of beers, swimming when it got too hot, but it was time to leave after the sun went down and a plague of mossies descended. Hate the bastards. Took the ferry home around 8pm, then treated ourselves to a curry at one of the little restaraunts in our block.
The next day was to be an organisational day. We had to arrange for vaccinations and Craig had to get his Vietnam visa sorted out. Went to fill out some forms at one place, only to be told we had to go to another, love it when stuff like that happens. Ran into our old buddy Carlos from Shanghai randomly in the Vietnam embassy. Small world. He had the same plans as us for the evening so we agreed to meet up later.
After Craig had his visa sorted out, we just headed
back to the hostel for a few hours before heading out for the nights activity: Horse Racing at Happy Valley Racecourse!
I have been known to be a bit of a gambler in my time, so this was a night I was very much looking forward to. Widely regarded as one of the most atmospheric racecourses in the world, Happy Valley is encircled by huge skyscrapers which adds to the spectacle. Plus, it helps that the - Hong Kongians? Hong Kongese? - are absolutely bat shit crazy about gambling, and this being their only legalised form, they certainly take advantage.
Not too many winners to write home about unfortunately, but it was a top night, beer was flowing, met up with Carlos and some of his pals, met some folks from Britain who stay in HK and took us to some bars where it was ladies night, so Rosie was on to a winner. Turned in to quite a heavy night, don't think Craig got in till 8am the next morning, best to ask him what he was getting up to, though he claims amnesia.
Best not to mention Thursday.
Friday brought a return to form,
and a trip to Hong Kong's most visited theme park, Ocean Park. Quite a statement considering there is a Disneyworld on the island as well. It's more of a theme park/animal exhibition sort of deal. The bottom part of the park has a huge aquarium, bird and sea lion shows, a Panda exhibit along with some airy-fairy rides for nippers. Then you get the cable-cars up to The Summit, where the bigger rides await.
We picked an absolute winner of a day to go as there were literally no queues for most of the rides. You could jump off and go back on if you so wished. We had our fill of rollercoasters, the Hair Raiser being the best, built right on the edge of the summit, giving the illusion that you are about to go flying off into the South China Sea. Great day all round.
That night we went to the goldfish market, a couple of subway stops up the road from us. Its what it says on the tin really, just shops and shops of goldfish, but also more exotic creatures such as turtles, small and large, lizards and the like, cats and dogs too.
Pet collecting in Hong Kong is a big deal.
On Saturday, we decided to follow one of the walking tours on an app I downloaded for my phone. It was on Hong Kong Island and took us round different markets, dried seafood and bird markets were ones that spring to mind, and some of the old, architecturally nice buildings. Trouble lay ahead when we got to SoHo and then Lan Kwai Fon, the famous bar district. Happy hours tend to start very early in HK, and tend to last quite a while, so we plonked ourselves down at a bar in SoHo for some half price cocktails, thank you very much. 1 led to 2 which led to 5, then we went to Lan Kwai Fon for some cheap beers. Our saving grace was that prices become exorbitant once the happy hours are over, so we drank up and said no thanks to another. Cheap bastards.
Sunday brought about just a casual day at the park, I mused that it was the womens only day they were allowed out as the was full to the brim with packs of them. Rosie enjoyed that comment....Obvioulsy had to be home
by 10 in order to watch the football. Obvioulsy. Wasn't really worth it in the end though. Got one last portion of curry and some excellent samosa and went to the waterfront for our last supper.
Monday was our day of departure, not before some vaccinations. Went to the airport a good 5 hours early, it was despicably hot and we couldn't be arsed hanging around with our bags in the heat. Got checked in very quickly and easily. Things would take a turn for the worst however....(we didn't crash or anything).
I'll leave that till next time, one country at a time.
There are more photos below