We woke early not having slept much as the overnight bus was not very comfy at all. We arrived into Shenzhen near the Chinese border and were told it was the end of the line. We were a little confused as we thought (and had been told) that we had booked a bus to Hong Kong. Upon checking our receipt however we found that Shenzhen was the end of the line and we had to find our own way into Hong Kong.
Taking it on good faith from the driver we caught bus 7, not sure where it was bound, and eventually arrived at the border crossing for Hong Kong. Passing through the border was a lot more in depth than we had imagined, exactly the same as immigration between two non affiliated countries. Thankfully, adding another stamp to our passports, they decided to let us in and we jumped on the train to Hong Kong.
We checked into the Mayfair Garden, our hotel for the next few days. A huge thank you to Debs, Ann, Alan, Mikey and Enid as our nights here were their wedding gifts to us. We really appreciated having a
nice place to return to at the end of some busy days, although we forgot to take photos to show you until we checked out but there are a couple!
Our first task in HK was to get some new Chinese visas. Originally we had planned to use our 30 day initial visa to see what we wanted to and then fly on from HK to somewhere in SE Asia. However, we have met a lot of other travellers along the way that have enthused about the Yunnan province in SW China so we had decided to go back into China to visit this region and therefore needed new visas as our 30 days were up. We found that the prices for this in HK had gone up since our Lonely Planet book was publishied and because we come from the UK we must now pay an extra 300 HK dollars (about 20 quid) each on top of what most people have to pay. We were not overly impressed with that!
The visa process underway, we went from our hotel on the Kowloon side of HK to HK island, travelling on the Star Ferry, surprisingly cheap and with
some fantastic views of the HK skyline. We saw the Golden Bauhinia statue - the symbol of HK and wandered around the front of the Exhibition Centre before going back over to Kowloon to watch the Symphony of Lights Show. This is a free show, held every night with music, lights and lasers over the skyscrapers on the waterfront of HK Island - cheesy but excellent!
After the light show we walked along the Avenue of Stars in the Kowloon harbour celebrating the work of famed Asian film stars such as Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li amongst a load more we had and will probably never hear of. A good evening and a great introduction to the charms of Hong Kong.
HK is well known amongst travellers as an expensive place to visit and we have found this to be so with most everyday things costing up to 4x or more the price of what you can buy in China. With this in mind we set out in search of some free/cheap things to do. Thankfully this is relatively easy in HK which is the oppositie to China where you have to pay
for absolutely everything, even to visit a park or a temple.
We started our day with a visit to the Man Mo Temple on HK Island. This is a small temple right in the middle of tall, scruffy looking apartment buildings so doesn't look much from the outside. Inside, however, it is much more charming. Hung from every available inch of ceiling space are huge, lit coils of incense with more being lit by blow torch and hung up as you watch. A fab place to start the day and totally free to visit.
We walked down Graham Street, a steep street filled with a fruit market and then boarded the Central to Mid-levels escalator system. This is reputed to be (by another traveller we bumped into) the longest escalator system in the world and (obviously being free) one which we decided we must have a go on. Some 20 minutes later we had travelled the entire length of the escalator from bottom to top and wandered down the road to the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens - to give it its full name! Amazingly this is also free and we spent a couple of hours being
entertained by the birds and primates, in particular the ring-tailed lemurs which were very active and put on quite a show for us!
Our next stop was Hong Kong park - yep you guessed it another free activity! This is a lovely park but the best part of it is the walk through aviary, a huge enclosure in the park where the birds literally fly right past your head. Fab!
At the bottom of the park is an old colonial style building that houses the Teaware Musem so we decided it would be the British thing to do to pop in for a look around.
A visit to HK would not really be complete without a trip on the Peak Tram up to Victoria Peak. So we had our first paid activity of the day (apart from lunch obviously!) and jumped on the tram or funicular for a great ride up the hillside at varying angles the steepest of which is reportedly 23 degrees. Amazing views on the way up and a fun ride on the tram. The views only got better when we arrived at the station and went up to the viewing platform.
Man Mo temple
man putting up the incense
spent the rest of the afternoon waking around the summit of the peak and taking the Governer's Walk to the Peak Gardens before catching the tram back down to get some dinner and head to the piers for our next wedding gift, a night cruise around the harbour with all drinks included.
At this point our thanks go out to Russell as this was his wedding gift to us - cheers mate, you'd have been impressed with how well we made the most of the free bar! We had a great night with superb views of the harbour, plenty to drink and some friendly Americans.
One of the most iconic images that most people hold of Hong Kong is the huge bronze buddha sat on the hillside. This is actually on Lantau, one of Hong Kong's outlying islands. We took the ferry out to Lantau and then the bus up to the monastery at Ngong Ping. The Tian Tan Buddha really is a fantastic sight sat in the middle of the hills of Lantau. After the climb up to see the buddha we visited the monastery before catching another bus to Tai-O.
a little fishing village famed for its dried fish which is hung in all of the shops. The village is cute, in its own way, with most of the waterfront buildings standing on very rickety looking stilts in the water.
Another bus trip took us back to Mui Wo to the ferry port and we walked along to the Silvermine Beach to have a few hours of relaxation on the sands watching the cockle pickers and a funny man flying his kite - very high!
After dinner overlooking the sea we got back on the ferry to HK.
Today we had to check out of our hotel so we packed up our stuff and arranged for the hotel to keep our large packs for a couple of days while we headed to Macau. We spent our last few hours in Hong Kong today (although we will be spending another day here after Macau) sending some post which was much easier than in China, and trawling the markets next to the Nathan Road.
We collected our completed visas on the way to the ferry port and then went through anohter full passport/immigration check upon
leaving Hong Kong. Aboard our plush hydrofoil ferry we relaxed for an hour only to arrive in Macau just as the rain hit - typical!
We had planned to visit one or two of Macau's casinos in the evening (as Macau is like the Vegas of Asia) but were denied entrance due footwear issues so we relaxed in our hostel with a couple of beers planning to try again the next day after buying some new cheap shoes.
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