Saturday 7 September
There’s not much to say about a day spent traveling. As it was a Saturday, we’d decided to take the Tube to Heathrow this morning. No peak hour crowds to battle with and it worked well. I don’t know if I’d do it on a weekday or if I had to change, but our dear friend the Piccadilly Line took us there with no problems. Despite our late night we were in much better condition than some fellow travelers who were obviously still on the way home from the night before.
Sunday 8 September
We arrived in Hong Kong, purchased our Octopus Cards and followed the email directions to catch the bus to our hotel. This is a training hotel and not in the centre of town but is on the bus route. Check in wasn’t until 3.00pm but they knew we were arriving on an early flight and, bless their 5 star hearts, had our room ready for us. And what a room it was.
After a brief rest, we thought we should go and do something so that we wouldn’t end up being awake in the middle of the night. At reception they gave us a card with bus numbers and destinations and we were able to make our way to Kowloon.
And now everyone is going to wonder why I agreed to stopover here on the way home when I say … O my how I hate crowded shopping destinations.
We went to the Heritage Museum but were too tired to absorb much of the information. We took it in turns to doze off … reminds me of a previous trip to London when we went to see the Mouse Trap. Neither of us saw it all but between us we saw the whole thing. We found an aviary in a park and, with scant regard for the warnings about bird flu, wandered around it for a while before admitting defeat and heading back for a nap.
This is not the sort of accommodation we’re used to. We usually do self catering or B&B. So to stay in 5 star luxury with doors opened and lifts summoned was something very different for us.
We went for a walk around the area and then back to the hotel for a fantastic dinner. Being a training hotel, a little patience is sometimes required, but we were rewarded with a display on the correct way to open and pour wine, set the table and serve the food.
Monday 9 September
What a wonderful sleep! And because we were so jet lagged and maybe still working on European waking habits, we only just made it to the restaurant in time for breakfast.
We took the bus to Stanley where we walked around the markets, had a drink and chatted to some Aussies then wandered around town. We found out later that there is a Commonwealth War Cemetery here. Disappointed we didn’t find it or know about it at the time. It was much quieter – and therefore better – than Kowloon. Maybe it’s busier on other days but today I liked it.
Back in town we took the Peak Tram to Victoria Peak which, apart from the viewing deck right at the top, is just another huge shopping centre. Thank goodness for the views, even with the haze.
We took a taxi home and checked out harbour cruises to view the Symphony of Lights. We decided on the cheap option – just the cruise rather than a dinner cruise. So glad we did. The light show was a HUGE! – and I cannot emphasise that enough – disappointment. I can’t see why anyone would make a fuss about a show of illuminated ads (no matter how pretty) for the sponsors which was, as far as I could tell, all it was.
Back home we braved the “Ping of Death” at the pedestrian crossing. Once the walk light starts flashing and the ping changes, you’d better hurry. Because once it stops flashing there’s no margin for error. The traffic lights change at that very second.
Tuesday 10 September
Lantau Island today. The cable cars were closed for maintenance so we caught the local bus to the fishing village of Tai O. Since getting home, we’ve seen this village featured on Hairy Bikers. But they just went to the grand Colonial building out on the point, so missed the real experience of this village.
This is definitely not touristy, despite being approached for a boat ride as soon as we got off the bus. If it was touristy, it would have cost more than $20HK (about $3 in Oz) and wouldn’t have been in someone’s runabout. Best deal yet. We went for a trip up through the village where the conditions may not quite be as primitive as you first suspect. The air conditioners are a bit of a give away. Then out into the bay to see the dolphins. I don’t know why I expected them to be grey. But they weren’t. They are pink. Not a really close up experience, but close enough.
Back on dry land we walked through the village out to the point and back. The smells were too much even for Stu, who expressed the wish that he still smoked. And he wondered why I’d been smoking the whole way.
I named one street “Secretary Street”. Its real name? Tai Ping Street. Sorry, couldn’t help it.
Not all the smells were so bad, so we chose a restaurant and ordered lunch and a beer. After we had started eating we noticed that all the Chinese – that was everyone except us – were given a dish of hot water. Presumably this was to “sterilise” their chopsticks. Presumably they didn’t care what happened to us. Which, fortunately, was nothing. We just enjoyed our meal and, as it’s now months later that I’m writing this, survived unscathed.
After a visit to the small local museum we headed home on the bus and train and dinner again at the hotel. A very satisfying day.
Wednesday 11 September
Our last day. With a late flight we left our bags at the hotel and headed to the Maritime Museum. We didn’t expect to be there a long time, but the 3 floors have excellent displays and we spent hours going through them. The highlight for me was a tiny snippet of film of Dad’s ship sailing into Hong Kong harbour after the Japanese surrender. The other display I particularly enjoyed was about piracy through the ages. So interesting to see that although the modes of transport have changed, the methods used by the pirates and their motivations have changed little.
The other museum we wanted to see was the Museum of History. This is so big that we realised at once that we had no hope of seeing it all in the short time we had left. So, instead of trying to see a little of a lot, decided to concentrate on just one area. We chose Folk History which tells the stories of people of many different cultures. Very well presented and, as a bonus, this museum is free on Wednesdays.
We were later than we should have been getting back to the hotel, but we were able to shower and change before getting a taxi … or at least that’s what we thought. Turns out that Hong Kong has an excellent transit system where you check your bags in at the train station and then don’t have to worry about them as you catch the train to the airport.
Our taxi driver was keen to know what we had done in Hong Kong and, I think, expected us to say “Shopping”. He was quite pleased when we listed the places we’d been and told us that “Hong Kong needs more tourists like you”.
And so, after nearly 9 weeks, we were on our way home. Poorer but wiser – and with a long list of places to go back to plus lots that we haven’t been to yet. Hopefully we won’t have to wait till we’ve been married another 30 years before we have another holiday like this one.