Squashing into Hong Kong

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Asia » Hong Kong
June 16th 2007
Published: August 20th 2007
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HONG KONG CITY - Tue 12/06 to Sat 16/06

1st Night
We flew to Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific and having heard they are considered one of the best airlines in the world we were really looking forward to it. At this point, having flown with many airlines, it’s fair to say we have plenty to compare them with, unfortunately, they really didn’t impress us, the staff were quite rude and the service and food were nothing to write home about. Quantas and Lan Chile are still on the top of the list for us in terms of airlines.

We arrived in Hong Kong and got the bus from the airport to Hong Kong Island, first impressions of Hong Kong were very good. Looked like a really advanced city but full to the brim with people - it was packed everywhere we looked. We got off the bus in the centre of town as advised by the bus driver. We decided to find a coffee shop so that the bags and I could relax while Maurice went in search of a bed for the night. We found a Starbucks close by and had a coffee before Maurice set off - €3 a coffee - Lordie that was expensive but I guess just a sign of things to come, not to worry we had anticipated this and upped the budget for the few days.

Maurice found a hostel - it was actually a bunch of apartments that had been converted into a hostel. Our room was a bedroom in an apartment - you walked through the front door of the apartment and there were about 4 bedrooms one of which was our bedroom - strange but grand. Costing €36 it was cheap by Hong Kong standards but compared to what we were used to it was daylight robbery!!

We were tired and hungry that evening and after all the Thai food we fancied a bit of good old fashioned bog standard beef, so we found an Australian joint called ‘The Outback’ and settled in for a nice meal. We even treated ourselves to a bottle of wine with dinner, the bill came to over €40, our most expensive yet but hey we were on our holidays (well kinda).

Day 2
For a long time our plan had been to invest in a good camera in Hong Kong, and with another order for a camera from my sister and her husband, our second day had been assigned to researching cameras and prices. Having done a lot of research already on the internet it was clear that there were camera shops in Hong Kong solely out to rip people off especially in tourist spots. ´Buyer beware´. Before we headed off we managed to find a spot on the street serving fresh fruit juice - they blended it there and then in front of you - nothing added but juice - very tasty and healthy! We had heard that the library had free internet so we headed over there but alas it was closed until 2pm that day. Maurice then decided he needed a coffee to kickstart the day and he bought the South China Times to peruse while sipping his coffee. Finally, with the names of the best authentic camera shops in hand we set off on the metro to the other side of the Island in search of them. We wandered from camera shop to camera shop getting a feel for what was what.

By 1 PM we were starved so Maurice ordered some sort of Chinese soup with meat for only €1 on the street, I ate a little of his but not enough to fill me up so shortly afterwards we went to a very packed Café de Coral. It a great chain of food restaurants in Hong Kong that combines east with west in terms of food, it serves all sorts of delights such as duck and rice, spaghetti bolognaise, club sandwiches etc., the menu changes daily and it’s all very reasonably priced. You order your dish, pay for it and then queue up collect you food and find a spot to eat it, fast foodish but delicious and it became our standard dining spot for the next few days.

After visiting all the shops we finally decided which camera we wanted and just had to find the right price. We headed back to base and just for comparison purposes, we went into a few small camera shops near our hostel finding our camera for an unbelievably cheap price, in fact it was getting cheaper and cheaper the more we spoke to the salesman. We did however, get suspicious when we asked to look at the camera and the sales man turned his back and went to a hidden drawer to pull our a battery and when we asked if there was no box he said ‘I can get you a box if you want one’. When we looked at the screen everything was a strange blue colour - quite unlike the natural colour - it was clear it was a fake, ‘no thank you sir’ and we left.

We then took a metro across to the neighbouring island Kowloon & visited the night market, same as every other market - fake this, fake that, however, not as cheap as Thailand markets. As we were wandering the markets the heavens opened & we had to hightail through the rain to the metro to get home. We were quite unlucky with the weather in Hong Kong, it rained every day we were there except the last day when we were catching our flight to leave, there was glorious sunshine. To be honest Hong Kong is not a great place to be in the lashing rain, with so many people and so many umbrellas, there isn’t a whole lot of headroom, especially for Maurice who is considerably taller than the average Hong Kong person and generally at eye level with all the umbrellas. Lethal weapons you could say, liable to take an eye out.

That night we decided to take in a movie and on our way to the cinema we spotted a shop called Broadway which was the name of the shop a guy in Thailand had recommended to us for buying a camera. So we went in there and priced our camera and were pretty impressed with the freebies they were throwing in and especially impressed with the ‘No fakes 2007 approved’ sticker in the window. Having taken note of the price we headed off to the movie - Oceans 13. Not a bad show, it certainly gets a ‘watchable’ tag at least.

Day 3
First thing in the morning it was back to our juice lady again, afterwards it was Mc D’s for a coffee & read of the South China Times. While Maurice sipped his coffee I thought before deciding where to buy our camera it was best to do a cost/benefit analysis (must be the C&B analyst coming out in me!). With that completed it turns out Broadway was offering the best deal so we went straight there and purchased two fine cameras. Later that morning, we purchased 2 more cameras for presents, there really is good value on cameras in HK provided you avoid the fraudsters.

That afternoon we went up the Peak Tram to a spot over looking HK - there is an amazing view up there, or so we’ve heard, we couldn’t see a thing - a dense fog/mist was covering the peak - anyway we wandered around there for a while looking out at the clouds. That evening closer to home we spent some quality time on the internet and later grabbed some dinner in Café de Coral again.

Day 4
Our last day in Hong Kong was quite a busy one with having to change our guarantees on all the cameras to International guarantees - this involved a trip to the Canon and Pentax head offices which were located in two totally opposite ends of the island. Once all our guarantees were in order, the day was nearly over and we decided to pay one last visit to the Kowloon night market to make a few last minute purchases, lucky enough the heavens didn’t open and we wandered around leisurely. After a very busy but productive few days in Hong Kong I was feeling rather stressed and felt a few glasses of vino were called for. We found a nice few bars and enjoyed a drink or two.

Last Day
Next day it was time to pack for our flight to Dubai and as the baggage allowance was 20kgs, we had to perform the miracle of making 100kgs feel like 40kgs.

Hong Kong is a lovely city with a beautiful skyline, the people are very stylish and it is very upmarket. There are numerous shops and shopping centres with all the top (expensive) brands - Gucci, Prada, Chanel etc. etc. but there are plenty of neon signs and it has a real Asian feel about it - it comes to life at night, walking around at midnight and you would think it was 5pm. The thing that struck me most about Hong Kong however, was the number of people, the streets were packed at any time of the day or night, I kept asking Maurice ‘do these people not work’. I can’t imagine what Beijing is like if Hong Kong is like that! At lunch times every restaurant was packed to the brim with queues out the door to get in, this is normal to them. Anyway, with that many people it seems that everyone in the city has learned to look out for themselves, countless times people banged into me and just walked on without even acknowledging it, I was disgusted!! In addition we noticed that the older generation seem so angry all the time, you don’t see too many smiles on their faces. Taxi drivers are particularly angry, if you cross the road when they are about 500m away, they’ll beep and beep and beep their horn at you.

I thoroughly enjoyed my few days in Hong Kong but to be honest it’s so big, bold and busy that for someone who prefers the country, a few days in Hong Kong was enough for me and by the end of it I felt quite wound up. I imagine, it’s the type of place that if I worked there, I would need to get out every weekend and find a quiet spot in the country to unwind.

To sum up I’d say it’s a great city, full of life and well worth the visit, especially if you are camera shopping, we figure we probably saved between €150 and €200 on our camera, cha ching!!

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