Spring Holiday 2011 - Hong Kong

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Asia » Hong Kong
May 23rd 2011
Published: May 31st 2011
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Downhill from hereDownhill from hereDownhill from here

I don't think there are many flat places in HK. All the roads seem to go up and down. A flat place is usually where a switch back makes a 180 degree turn!

We had wanted to go to Inner Mongolia for the Spring Holiday but a couple of teachers who come from this area told us it would be too cold at this time of year. As we were tired of being cold, we decided to change our destination to Hong Kong and Macau which we thought would be a lot warmer. In retrospect, we should have realized that other people’s definition of “too cold” may not match ours. But Hong Kong, it is!

Hong Kong

The first time we went to Hong Kong we flew to Shenzhen, just across the border from HK, and took the bus into the centre of town. While that was an interesting adventure in itself, we decided to fly direct and take the train into the centre of town. The train leaves from just outside the arrivals lounge and whisks you from Landau Island through Kowloon and under Victoria Harbour to Central Station in HK. The trip is incredibly fast and smooth. At the last stop there is a bus depot where all the shuttle busses pick up their passengers. We were staying at the Bishop Lei International Hotel and their shuttle arrived
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen MuseumDr. Sun Yat-Sen MuseumDr. Sun Yat-Sen Museum

One can only imagine the views that Kom Tong Hall must have had when it was built in 1914. Some of the new skyscrapers are neat in their own right but...
shortly after we did and gave us a brief tour of the town (i.e. stopped at three other pick up places) on the way to the hotel.

We had chosen this hotel on the recommendation of friends and it was in a perfect location. We wanted to be near the incredibly long outside escalator that takes people up to the Mid-Level of the Peak as well as the Peak Tram, a funicular, which goes right to the top of the Peak. It is also very close to the Botanical Gardens and Hong Kong Park which were on our to-do list.

After checking in to the hotel, our first walkabout took us to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Museum. Long time readers know we have a great interest in Dr. Sun. The museum is in Kom Tong Hall which was built in the early 1900s and is, in itself, a great visit. We discovered we were both seniors and got appropriate discounts. Woohoo! There were fascinating displays from Dr. Sun’s early career and I am planning to read more about his life in the post-Qing dynasty period when I get back to Canada.

On our way back to the
Old and newOld and newOld and new

Right beside this classic building is evidence of the new HK.
hotel we discovered an Italian deli! We bought prosciutto, mozzarella di bufala, a baguette and a bottle of wine to have an Italian picnic in our room. The streets of HK are very winding and we were having trouble deciding exactly how to get back to the hotel. After taking one short cut, we found ourselves in front of the cathedral which is surrounded by high rises. You lose sight of how big the building is because of the buildings around it. It was Sunday night and Mass had just started so we were able to join the congregation in their celebration. Afterwards we had a nice chat with the priest. Great start to the holiday.

Lamma Island

Monday we took the escalator down to the bottom of the mountain. For a couple of hours in the morning they reverse the direction of the escalator as most people are moving down the mountain on their way to work. I would hate to have to go up against the flow. One of our favourite activities is walking around whatever town we are in. We decided to go to the Macau ferry terminal to buy our tickets for our ferry

Even though it is dwarfed by countless highrises, the cathedral is still a beautiful building. The pastor was a great guy to chat with. It would have been nice to visit longer.
trip on Wednesday and the ferry terminal building is quite an experience.

Being an island, there are lots of ferry terminals. We walked to the one that goes to Lamma Island which is on the “other” side of Hong Kong Island. Lots of tourists were on board but it is also a working ferry and much of Lamma’s daily requirements come over from HK on their ferries. Very interesting to watch the loading process.

Lamma Island has some great beaches and walking trails. The little town at the terminal is pretty busy as is the trail to the main beach. Once we made it past this beach and up the hill to the main view point, the crowds thinned out. There is a circle trail around the north part of the island so we decided to see what we could see. It was a beautiful day, almost too hot and humid. There were lots of flowers in bloom and the remains of some small towns. There are still people living in the area but we couldn’t figure out what they would do for a living.

The trail ends at another small town with a ferry terminal -
Italian deliItalian deliItalian deli

We were pleasantly suprised to run into this deli right by the museum. We still love things Italian and would love to do a blog from there (Italy, not the deli).
and also the Rainbow Seafood Restaurant. The guide book said this was the best place in town so we decided we were too hot and tired to look around. I am not really comfortable with seafood but there didn’t seem to be anything else on the menu (Dianne said there was one chicken dish but I didn’t see it). The prawn dish was delicious but the scallops were absolutely phenomenal. They were covered in a cheese sauce that really went well with our “seasonal vegetables” which turned out to be just baby bok choy. After this great meal and two large bottles of beer we were ready for a nap! We had been chatting off and on with our server who had lived in New York State for some time. On one of his last passes by the table he filled Dianne’s glass from the ubiquitous pot of tea. “Uh, that was beer” said Dianne. He was very upset and really wanted to offer us another beer, “on him”. That was the last thing we needed!

The Peak

Tuesday, we got an early start to make sure we were able to take the Tram to the topic of
Hotel PicnicHotel PicnicHotel Picnic

Yum. Proscuitto, mozzarella di bufala, tomatoes, baguette and red wine, all in the comfort of our hotel room.
the Peak. In 2008 the line-ups were so long it was impossible to get on. This time there were five people on the tram. We had breakfast at Pacific Coffee overlooking Victoria harbour and the rest of Hong Kong. This is a great chain of coffee houses.

The Peak trail takes you around the top of the mountain on a typically Chinese “hiking” trail, flat and well maintained. We passed several workers whose job consisted of sweeping the trail regularly. Apart from neat views of HK and Kowloon, we got to see Lamma Island when we were on the “back side” of the Peak. There are several ways to get back down from the Peak but this time we decided to walk. There is a combination of trails and roads that roughly parallels the funicular and provides an interesting perspective on the journey down. Watching some people walk up is a “better them than me” moment.

We decided to go down the escalator for dinner. As we got to the top of the nearest escalator I asked Dianne what kind of restaurant she was looking for because we were standing outside a Thai restaurant. “Thai” she said and
Dianne on DeckDianne on DeckDianne on Deck

The deck off the dining room was a very nice place to sit and relax. The only problem was we never had time to sit and relax! Too much to do!
a lady immediately came out of the restaurant ask said “”Please come in”. So we did. They had a roof top section which was lovely but very dark. The small candle just didn’t cut it for reading the menu. One of the servers brought another candle over. Still no go. Another server brought over the same kind of flashlight we use when camping in Canada. It was big and orange, and had a very bright fluorescent bulb that did more than light up the menu. We were happy to make our selections so she could shut it off. The food was great.

The rest of the story

Much of the rest of our time in HK was spent visiting the Botanical Gardens and Hong Kong Park. Because it is built on the side of a mountain, the roads in HK consist of a lot of switchbacks. This makes navigating, even on foot, interesting. Then the powers that be arbitrarily add fences to keep pedestrians from cutting across the streets in dangerous places. This means you sometimes have to walk quite a ways to get where you want to go.

On our last morning we had left our
Bamboo scaffoldingBamboo scaffoldingBamboo scaffolding

This stuff is amazing. I can't believe the size of the buildings that are built with it.
bags at the hotel and gone to Hong Kong Park. We realized we had left it a bit late to get back to the hotel, pick up our bags and then cab to the Macau ferry terminal. We knew where we were (Point A) and where the hotel was (Point B) but we weren’t sure how to get from Point A to Point B. Solution? Take a cab! Unlike Dalian and Beijing, HK cab drivers are very happy to pick you up. When we told him “Bishop Lei hotel”, he was astounded! “Just up there?” he asked. Easy for him to say. Even knowing the way it still took him a few minutes to get us there. And we had been there long enough to realize he would be approaching the hotel on the wrong side of the street. As we pulled up, he pointed to the hotel and shrugged his shoulders. “Right here” we cried and jumped out of the cab. We had done this routine in the bus on our first day. We knew it would take him almost 10 minutes to get turned around to deposit us in front of the hotel.

A few minutes later
Things are escalatingThings are escalatingThings are escalating

You can see at least 6 of the escalators in this shot. And we aren't even close to the top.
we were on our way in another cab to the ferry terminal to start the next stage of our adventure. We were early enough to catch the ferry before the one we had tickets for.

Next stop???

Macau, here we come….

(to see more pictures you may have to scroll waaaaaaay down... and watch for the "Next" button.
There are two sets of pictures.)

Additional photos below
Photos: 37, Displayed: 28


Lamma Island HarbourLamma Island Harbour
Lamma Island Harbour

The town that surrounds the ferry terminal is pretty busy.
Going bananasGoing bananas
Going bananas

I am a big fan of bananas but I don't think I have ever seen them growing "in the wild".
Once a teacher...Once a teacher...
Once a teacher...

Dianne couldn't resist talking to this group of middle school girls. Their teacher told me he can't get them to speak English in class but we had no problem.
Hung Shing Ye beachHung Shing Ye beach
Hung Shing Ye beach

The book described this as a popular sandy beach sheltered by trees but spoiled by being in the shadow of the power plant.
Hung Shing Ye from afarHung Shing Ye from afar
Hung Shing Ye from afar

If you don't like the look of the plant, don't look at it! This shot shows the beach and the town behind it. The plant is out of sight (and of mind) on the left.
Sok Kwu WanSok Kwu Wan
Sok Kwu Wan

As we descended from the view point, this town came into view. The trail wasn't that busy but the town sure was.
Almost desertedAlmost deserted
Almost deserted

From Sok Kwu Wan we took another circle trip that showed us all kinds of neat bays, flowers etc. And there were hardly any people, locals or tourists. Peaceful place even though so close to HK.
Garden viewGarden view
Garden view

There are still people living around here thogh as this garden will atest. Lots of evidence of previous inhabitants too.
Interesting foliageInteresting foliage
Interesting foliage

Dianne took many pictures of interesting plants and flowers on our hike. I almost resisted the temptation to say some things looked a bit seedy.

The scallops were as good as they look. The cheese sauce was fabulous on the seasonal vegetables.
Air conditioningAir conditioning
Air conditioning

Normally I am a big fan of airconditioning but these units didn't seem to be much use.

Lots of "wildlife" in evidence here. many pretty colours and patterns/

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