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Published: January 20th 2007
Hong Kong nightscape
From the Kowloon side
Photos to follow.
Thursday 18th January
We made yet another early start for the airport, having successfully squeezed all our last minute souvenir shopping and newly tailored clothes into our bulging rucksacks. After spending a few minutes badgering the taxi drivers to provide us with seatbelts, we were soon away through central Bangkok (already gridlocked) and then out towards the airport on the expressway. The new airport is pretty plush and makes for a decent travelling experience, and we were soon to know why when we were stung for the 500 B departure tax! Despite more hassle at check in with our unfamiliar e-ticket, we didn't have to wait long and had an uneventful flight to Hong Kong.
On arrival we immediately began to enjoy the noticeable change in temperature from muggy Bangkok as it's cool enough to wear a coat...probably a good middle acclimatisation point for our pending return to the UK. We boarded the swish airport express and were whisked quickly to Hong Kong Island, where we had booked a hotel from the airport. Supposedly our hotel was the cheapest we could get, but when we turned up we found we were on the top floor
(marked 'executive' in the lift and soon dubbed the penthouse) in what must be one of the nicest hotels either of us had stayed at. Although massively more expensive than accommodation in Thailand, we figured that for two nights, a bit of luxory will nicely round off our trip.
We spent the rest of the day exploring our immediate surroundings on Hong Kong Island - our hotel being at the corner of Hollywood Road (the oldest street in HK) and Possession St, which supposedly marks the point on the island where the Brits came ashore in the 1840's and planted the Union Jack. There are plenty of antique shops in this area and also quite a bit of redevelopment going on - including plenty of very fragile-looking bamboo scaffolding. From here we went down to the Star Ferry Terminal, but not before we suffered a rather unwelcoming Cantonese dining experience...confirming my already unenthusiastic view towards Chinese food. After being told the restaurant wasn't open, we wandered around in search of another, but actually ended up approaching the same one from the back through a mall: a fact we only realised on leaving! At the rear entrance we were welcomed in but then given short shrift by the waiting staff (probably recognising us from the front), who provided us with meals that didn't entirely match what we'd ordered and left us both feeling a bit quesy afterwards.
At the new Star Ferry terminal, the harbour undergoing extensive redevelopment including the demolition of the former terminal, we caught a ferry across to Kowloon, where we had a good wander around Ocean Terminal - something I can just about remember from when I lived here 20 years ago (God...am so old!). The return trip allowed us to take in the lauded light show across the harbour, which was less spectacular than the general skyline view itself. Both of us were impressed by just how much use is made of the space here with dozens of massive apartment and office complexes. On the Kowloon side this has supposedly been a recent thing because of the height restrictions imposed by the old airport.
After breakfast at the Golden Arches (ok, a cop out but last night we were out of our depth) we walked back down to the Central Piers and caught a bus to Ocean Park, catching some views of the other side of the island and the famous Happy Valley racecourse along the way. As the weather was quite cloudy/drizzly, there didn't seem to be too many other people with the same plan. This meant we didn't have to queue for long for any of the rides or attractions at the park, which is separated into Highland and Lowland areas by a long, scenic cable car (views back towards Aberdeen and Repulse Bay).
Highlights of our day included seeing the beautiful Jia Jia and An An the giant pandas, the impressive Marine World/Whiskers theatre performances and the Runaway Mine Train, where we were finally persuaded to cave in and purchase a novelty key ring/magnet (they take your picture everywhere).
After returning to Central Simon picked up a Sony MP3 player he has been lusting after (as a xmas pressie) and we settled down to wait for some of his relatives who we had tried to organise meeting. Unfortunately the email arrangements hadn't been too well communicated and they were otherwise detained, so we moseyed back to the hotel to catch up on the news of storms back home and of course the infamous CBB clips of Miss "East Angular is abroad" Goody behaving like an ambassador for the country on national tv.
Having packed up our stuff for the final time, we caught a bus up to the Peak Tram terminus and transfered to the tram, which scaled Victoria Peak through the clouds shrouding Hong Kong Island today. Despite there being no views to speak of, the tram trip itself was quite fun and there were plenty of shops to keep us amused at the top. Following this, we had another good wander around Central, taking the mid-levels escalator up to SoHo and looking around One and Two IFC along the way. While there, we decided to overcome any developing misconceptions about the food and went to a really nice restaurant for some dim sums - these were delicious and looked beautiful too. We rounded them off with a dessert of glutinous rice, wrapped up in strips of leaves...to my shame the waiter actually came over to show me how to eat mine as I grappled with my chop sticks (but had forgotten to remove the leaves, which I thought were edible). Why I have these Bridget Jones moments remains a mystery to me.
Feeling quite weary, we returned to the hotel for our bags and then back to the train station for the airport express - only to find out we could actually check our bags in there - genius! A relatively long wait at the airport was broken up for Simon by some Chelsea v Liverpool action, and a good browse of Heat for me.
Next desination - London Heathrow.
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