Homeless in Hong Kong for New Year's ... well almost but it was close ;)

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January 1st 2012
Published: February 6th 2012
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Hong Kong for New Year's - that just seems like such a great idea. Being in this particular city that we always wanted to visit made us all excited. We could not wait what the New Year's celebrations would be like, what the atmosphere of the place would be like and how we would feel about HK in general. We did realise though that with great experience of HK came higher spending so we decided to make a stopover in Guangzhou before crossing the border. It was not as exciting as HK but we used this place to see some of the places around including Kaiping's Diaolou that I mentioned in the previous blog.

Guangzhou is just one of the very modern cities in China. Based at the gateway to Hong Kong it does attract a lot of foreigners mainly for the job opportunities. I guess it does provide the conform and familiarity of western place, restaurants and night life. For us a little bit too modern so we could not wait to hop on the local bus and get to know the surrounding Water Village. There is a local bus going there so it was just so easy to get there. It is a very artistic place with workshops, galleries and cute, little cafes. The village is spread around river canals and some of the alleys are just stunning. It was very peaceful and wandering around it could not have been a better way to spend a day. Locals just sit around and chill out. It makes you wonder how a place like that managed to keep it's way of being when located just on the suburbs of Guangzhou.

Unfortunately the hostel we were staying in happened to be the worst of all in China so we could not wait to leave for HK. Crossing was relatively straight forward. Of course we opted for the cheapest way and decided to take a bus to Shenzhen, then walk across the border and then take a subway to Kowloon where we booked our accommodation. This process took more than 6 hours and we were exhausted when we got to Chungking Mansions (where all budget guest-houses are) only to hear from the counter 'I cannot see your reservation'. We opened our netbook to show it to the owner and still he insisted that we didn't actually have it for the night. He also mentioned that the price we booked it at was definitely not the New Year's one (our booking showed 11£each/night, their price was 60£ each/night). He told us not to worry and wait for his daughter to come around as she was the only one 'having any idea about that computer stuff'. So when she finally showed up she told us that yes that was correct that we had a reservation but for 30th of January 2012!!!! How did that happen? I have no idea but none of us even noticed it when booking online. We really panicked at this point as every hotel in the whole city was fully booked up. There was no space even in those fancy, expensive hotels not to mention all the budget accommodation.

Ow well there always must be a point on your travels when you have situations like that just thrown at you but we really wished it wasn’t during the New Years time. The owner of the guest house was kind enough to give us a small room that really was just a computer room with some bunk bed in it. Still we had a roof over our head for
very old Oyster shell housevery old Oyster shell housevery old Oyster shell house

all of the wall were made of oyster shells - looks incredible and fashionable ;-)
the night and that was the most important thing. You can guess that the rest of the evening did not go really well as we ended up worrying about the following days. In the morning we scanned hostelbookers once more and one double room came up just in the next building on the same street. The price was not that bed either – only 24£ each per night. The price that we would never have paid for a super basic room in a guest-house but what choice did we have. We quickly went there to talk to the owner (who was amazingly nice and genuine) and he told us that they had 'no show up' so we were pretty lucky.

Very relieved we finally could start to enjoy the city, the amazingly warm weather and the feeling of wearing sandals for the first time during our trip. So we went shopping. That is right – shopping was on the agenda. It was not the kind of shopping we would have loved to do bust still felt nice to be wandering around the shopping streets amongst others who just came to HK for the holidays. There was a flip side to that as well. We felt really under-dressed.1 For the first time ever on our travels we felt like we don't belong to this place. There were people smartly dressed everywhere around, walking with their designer bags of clothes and shoes and tailored suits. We were reminded of our situation on every corner when saying NO to the tailors asking for business.

I wandered how it would feel to just come to this place with a lot of money and just splash and enjoy. Ow well maybe one day. We obviously feel very grateful that we can do what we do now but at that particular point of time we wished we could have been them – people on holidays. Tomek's goal for the whole stay was to get a camera flash light and I just wanted to stock up on some skin care. Everywhere else in China western brands were so expensive and someone told me that HK is the best place for buying cosmetics. We could not believe how crowdy HK was. It has double of population per km2 when compared to Beijing or Shanghai so no wonder it felt that way. Plus the number of visitors that were in town for holidays.

When our mission was accomplished we felt happy to move on to do some sightseeing. We took the ferry ride from the harbour which is just the cheapest thing you can get in HK(2$)- fantastic!!! We also decided to visit Tai O fishing village as per recommendation of our friends. As it was during weekend we had to pay a double fare and also there was so many people around that the whole thing was really difficult to enjoy. It was ok to be honest and maybe we should have opted for something else to do.

And of course the New Year's celebrations. We decided to join the crowds near the Star Ferry pier and we took our position around 9 pm. The place was already full of people getting the best spot for their photos. This year the fireworks were to be displayed from the IFC Tower (opposite side of the Victoria Harbour). The minutes were going quite fast and we spent a lot of time defending our position and not allowing other people to push in front of us. What surprised us was that there was no music - except for few songs - no concert and it did not feel like the celebration we expected. The fireworks lasted maybe few minutes but definitely shorter than we thought they would yet they were stunning. I guess they save the best stuff for the Chinese New Year as they were not quite like the photos I had seen before. Another surprise came after that. People just went home. We had some beers afterwards and went home as well - what else to do?. Overall it was great anyway. We were not homeless for the beginning of 2012, it was warm (which could sound unimportant but we really missed sun) and we enjoyed the city a lot.

Next on our list was Guilin and was so difficult to even think of coming back to the cold weather, however there were still few places in China that we really wanted to see. Journey continues then ...

Additional photos below
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7th February 2012
New Year's fireworks from IFC tower

Beautifully captured moment!
9th February 2012

Sounds like a New Year to remember...in hindsight probably the source of many laughs...loved the oyster house...I guess noone hangs around leaning on its walls..! Give yourselves some time in Guilin, Yangshou, Pingan area...good for the soul...interested to see where you go.

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