views, views and more hazy views
15.10.2012 - 19.10.2012 25 °C
The train to Hong Kong, which is my last train journey of my trip was a massive dissapointment. I had booked hard bed as opposed to the soft bed that I had to Xian and found it a much less enjoyable experience. The bunks are 3 high and it is all open. Perhaps this is just because I expect more, and it's not that it's uncomfortable, I was able to sleep but I felt very exposed - the guy opposite kept taking pictures of me - and I could never leave my bags, and it was loud noises and smells the whole journey. Also the train running 4 hours over schedule was very frustrating, primarily because I had no food till I got off the train after 2:30pm. We all know I can eat, and I get grumpy when I have no food and this was a prime example but there was nothing I could do.
Eventually, finally we reached Shenzhen and I met up with Rodrigo again who had been elsewhere on the train and we headed on the walk through many corridors past immigration and over the border and through a very slow Hong Kong border and then caught the metro into Hong Kong. I also managed to pick up some quick food on the way which helped!!!
It was so exciting to actually be in Hong Kong but it took ages on the metro to get to my hostel. I left Rodrigo, with a bit of relief at one metro station and continued on my way to Causeway bay on Hong Kong island. I came out of the station and was assaulted with noise and building chaos everywhere, this city seemed absolutely fascinating! I found my hostel quickly and managed to drop my bags and head out for an early dinner.
I love this city as although they are 95% cantonese and cantonese is everywhere, there is english everywhere and they all understand it AND they don't spit on the streets, in fact it is heavily fined if caught. Hong Kong is like all the best of China meeting the west! After only a very short time did I feel like this is a city I could live in.
I had an early night, having dinner and a little walk around the city, being in awe of the huge skyscrappers and all the life going on, also doing a bit of shopping to replace some overly feral travel clothes, taking a tram ride and then off to bed. Travel days always take it out of you.
My first full day in Hong Kong and I had no idea what to do. Hong Kong is a shoppers paradise, with enormous shopping malls, department stores, streets of shops and all the way to market stalls everywhere! and although the shopping can be pretty good and I did do a bit of it, I wanted to see more, so I boarded a bus to Stanley, an area on the south of the island with beaches and nice little promenades on the water giving away lovely views. The first thing you have to walk past though is a market! I had a walk around the area, visiting a couple of the little beaches and noticing all the expat wives driving expensive cars in the area, before boarding a double decker bus (they are all double decker buses here, the english influence I presume) to Repulse Bay, half way back to the chaos of downtown Hong Kong. Here the beach was massive, although with flat water and large apartment towers surrounding it. It was actually really lovely and I had been recommended to go there by an english man who had lived in Hong Kong for 15 years that I met in Yangshuo. I was probably one of about 6 people swimming in the massive bay, which had warm water that I was instanly able to walk in. Afterwards I was laying on the beach taking in the views and watching all the tourist groups coming for their 5 minute visit to the beach. I would of stayed on the beach much longer but all the chinese tour groups kept taking pictures of me or wanting pictures with me. Not a particularly restful place then.
I headed back into central to have a walk around the area. It did not fail to strike me how much central hong kong, the financial business centre of the country felt like Sydney CBD. Huge office skyscrapers, with only some mildly interesting shops on ground floor and people in suits everywhere. The joy of hong kong is that thankfully this is only a small part of the city as opposed Sydney's being it. I left the area pretty fast and had a walk around the mid levels, a lively district immediately out of central where I was able to get an amazing and cheap noodle dish for lunch and go exploring through a kaliediscope of different shops and restaurants. This area is heavily influenced by the west, with lots of white people at at a huge variety of different restaurants. It was actually a strangely comforting sight to see. I became a proper tourist also by visiting a little temple in the area, which was full of beautiful spiral incense coils. A nice pause amongst the city.
I continued my epic day of wandering visiting a few other districts before heading for the peak tram. The peak tram is a very steep line that runs up Victoria Peak to a lookout point over the city. It is incredibly touristy, pricey but one of those things you have to do. It only takes a few minutes to get up there and then you are given a glorious view out over Hong Kong and Kowloon. I had overcast hazy weather almost all the time I was in Hong Kong and so it wasn't crystal clear, I couldn't see any of the mountains but it didn't matter, it was all still spectacular. I stayed up there for ages to watch the sunset and the lights of the city turn on. Many of the buildings put on a light show at night too.
Once I came down off the peak, I was starving and headed back to causeway bay on the tram and had dinner at Times Square, a big shopping mall and office tower in causeway bay. I had some dim sum which Hong Kong is famous for and it was delicious. Probably the best pork and prawn dumplings I've ever had. Afterwards I headed to my hostel and up onto the rooftop terrace where I hung out for several hours with a huge bunch of tourists. 3 months on and it's still fascinating to hear everyone's stories.
In the morning I headed off to the Big Buddha and Po Lin Monestary. Hong Kong is made up of lots of islands and on Lantau, a large although rather unpopulated island where the airport and Hong Kong disneyland are there is a giant buddha statue at the top of one of the peaks. I caught the MTR, the amazingly efficient and clean and pretty cheap metro line to the island and then because I am too cheap and it was really really hazy took the bus up instead of the cable car that would give views over the whole area. At the top, after a large set of stairs really is a giant buddha (built in 1997) sitting in a lotus leaf. Pretty cool, just so annoying it was hazy. Then there was also the Po Lin Monestary, a small little place that was enjoyable as almost no one was in it. They all come see the buddha and then leave. The colours and smells of a buddist temple are so beautiful. I headed back down the mountain in the bus, after a walk through the "village" which was like disneyland main street and went back on the metro to Kowloon. The kowloon side is much larger than Hong Kong island and is from what I can see, purely for shopping. I started off up the top on goldfish street. Literally a street for selling fish and aquariams. They sell the fish in plastic bags hung up on the wall, and they have them in all breeds and colours. What was strange to me was they were all really busy.
After a quick lunch I found the street markets which spread for ages in the area and are packed. There is all sorts of stuff (pretty much all of which I have seen somewhere else on my trip) but it was enjoyable and tempting to walk amongst it. I slowly made my way down through the markets and the throngs of people and headed to the water on the Kowloon side to take in the view of Hong Kong. It is pretty spectacular seeing all the buildings of central and it stretching all the way along in huge highrises. I was attempting to take some horrible selfies when Jose Manuel, a mexican american I had met in the hostel the other night walked by and he was able to firstly help take my picture but then we spent the rest of the afternoon walking around Kowloon, through the hectic and enormous shopping area, admiring the huge mix of architecture - shiny shopping mall opposite delapidated residential building with clothes hanging off the electric wires to dry and onwards through Kowloon park which was ok and towards the temple street night market area. I thought these were food street markets but no it was more markets selling more of the same stuff but it had lots of seafood restaurants with their tables flooding out onto the street so we had dinner at one of these which was lovely.
We walked slowly back down to the waterfront, aiming to catch the light show, but missed it by minutes but instead sat down and chatted taking in the view. I sorely wished I had a tripod at this moment to capture the great view, but I did what I could. It was pretty spectacular seeing it all lit up! We also caught the star ferry, the short little ferry ride across to the other side, which is nice as you can see both sides lit up at once.
Jose Manuel and I spent the next day out at Lamma island. I wasn't sure if I should head to Maccau or not, but casino's aren't really my thing so Lamma it was. After breakfast at the same restaurant I've eaten at 3 times now (they can do good chain fast food restaurants here) we caught the tram and then the ferry to Lamma. This took ages longer than I hoped and by the time we got there we were hungry again! This island has a very small population and lots of little beaches and walks to do (and also a power plant). We walked quickly through the little town and headed off on the track south going for a swim at the first beach we came across which was really nice. The water is flat everywhere in Hong Kong and nice and warm - really love being able to walk straight in.
After a while swimming there we continued on our walk, up over the hills with gorgeous views out, although it was very overcast and finally back down over the other side to the other little town on the island. By now we were absolutely starving and so settled in for a big seafood lunch at one of the restaurants. They were all really empty and desperate for our patronage so we got a great deal and a table with a view and some wonderful seafood served really fast! We sat there eating for ages enjoying the seafood and ended up missing our planned ferry back so we had to wait an 1.5hr extra, chilling out in a park before getting the ferry.
Back in Hong Kong I was in a massive rush as I planned to meet up with Jarred from back home. By a brilliant stroke of timing, he was in Hong Kong for work and we were able to go out for dinner and catch up and take in the lovely Hong Kong skyline. So nice to see someone from home and hear how everyone is doing. Of course it was over too quickly and he headed back to work functions and I to my hostel to continue being a tourist and also pack my bags for my flight the next day.
After breakfast, once again at the same restaurant, I headed off on the airport bus to get my flight to Shanghai. I checked in and moved through security and immigration really quickly only to find out my flight has been delayed by an hour. So I spent many bored hours walking around the far too expensive shops, eating some actually decently priced decent food and then doing whatever I could to entertain myself - mainly reading trashy mags in the newsagency. Eventually the flight was underway and I had great views looking out over the chinese coastline all the way up to Shanghai. The only other eventful thing on the plane was that they gave out ice-cream to everyone! woohoo! delicous! See it was a thrilling day when ice-cream is the most exciting thing! I was looking forward to finally 10 months late, getting to Shanghai