Near our hostel
17.01.2008 - 21.01.2008 21 °C
I'm off again!
21.01.2008 - 21.01.2008 21 °C
Today we decided to do another of the enjoyable Lonely Planet walking tours, and chose the one around Kowloon which lasted around 2 hours.
The first stop was the Yuen Po Bird garden which was interesting; it's a popular pastime (mainly for men) in HK to own a bird in a cage, and this market had hundreds of cages of the little things on about 70 stalls, plus live crickets and grasshoppers etc for people to feed to their pets, and elaborate teak cages for them to live in.
Adjacent to this is the flower market which has around 50 florists' stalls. Nearby was the goldfish market which again has hundreds of stalls selling all different kinds of fish - not just goldfish! the tour then took us around various other street markets in Kowloon - it was a nice way of seeing the city.
We had Japanese (again!) for lunch, and then got the train a few stops out of Kowloon to Diamond Hill MTR to visit The Chi Lin (Buddhist) Nunnery. It was a gorgeous place - very peaceful and tranquil which is especially welcome in somewhere like Hong Kong. It was originally built in the 1930s but was rebuilt entirely out of teak in the 1990s. There is also a pretty garden surrounding it. It's a shame that the high-rise apartment blocks surrounding the complex get in the way of most photos!
By the time we had walked around the complex it was time to head back to the hostel to collect our bags. Stanley ordered a taxi for us and we set off for the airport. When we checked in at the Cathay Pacific desk, they informed us that the flight was overbooked and would we like to get tomorrow's flight; for this we were offered HK $1500 each (NZ $260), a night in a hotel and possible upgrade to business class! We declined as Stephen's Mum had taken the day off work to meet us, but when we saw her the next day she said we should have done it! It would have been great as we could have done with another day in HK. Cathay were pretty good too, as we had 53KG in baggage, way over the limit, and they did not charge us. We could not sit together on the plane though due to the flight being full.
20.01.2008 - 20.01.2008 21 °C
We set off for the Star Ferry again around 11ish for the boat to Macau from the other side. Just managed to catch the 12pm sailing to Macau; it was a bit of a rush as you need to go through passport control before you board the boat. It's a high-speed boat and takes around an hour to reach Macau.
Macau was handed over to the Chinese by the Portuguese in 1999 and the post- handover government has spent a lot of money improving the infrastructure and tourist facilities. There are serveral large casinos here and glitzy hotels to match, but it has much more to offer. There are loads of interesting colonial buildings and history so it's well worth spending a day or two here. After clearing immigration we got the bus from outside the terminal to the main square, where we started a walking tour recommended by our guidebook (always a good way of taking in the main sights!).
The walking tour started in the Largo de Senado (Square of the Senate), in the heart of Macau.The square is bustling and is surrounded by some lovely colonial buildings.
Most of the streets still have Portuguese names such as Rua de Sao Domingos and Rua de Sau Paulo.
It was an interesting walk, the highlight being the facade of the ruins of hte Church of St Paul. This is a Jesuit Church built in the early 17th Century and the facade is really impressive. Some consider the ruins to be the greatest monument to Christianity in Asia.
Along the way we tried a custard tart which are quite popular here as well as HK, and stopped for a gorgeous fresh fruit juice.
We had a lunch at a sushi bar and then carried on with the tour, seeing the lovely A- Ma temple, some nice churches and a pretty sqaure called Largo do Lilau where a cluster of old women had gathered to chat.
We got a taxi back to the ferry terminal and had a 45 minute wait for the next available one (ferries are often full in spite of several running each hour, virtually 24 hours a day) so got back to HK around 8ish. We ate in the same restaurant as last night seeing as it was so nice, and then went by the harbour to get our photo taken. There are a line of people with tripods who will take photos and sell them for various prices depending on the size. We bought two and then headed back to the hostel.
19.01.2008 - 19.01.2008 20 °C
We met Craig and Kandace again at the Star Ferry terminal at 10am, and got the next boat over to Hong Kong Island. From there we took the boat to Lamma Island which takes around 20 minutes. The island has a population of 5000 - many of them fisherman and farmers. We had a wander round the little village, which felt like proper rurual China - so different to Hong Kong, and then did a 4km walk which is known as the 'family trail'. It's quite a nice walk and the island is quite pretty in parts, although unfortunately there is a huge power station there which is shame as it's a blot on the landscape. Lamma is renowned for its seafood restaurants so after the walk we had some deep fried squid and fresh crab in one of the many restaurants lining the sea front.
Back in Hong Kong Island we went for a wander round Hong Kong Park which although artificial in parts was quite pretty. We then went for a wander down to the harbour where, at 8pm every night, there is a display on the HK Island side called the symphony of lights which is done with laser beams and flashing lights coming from several of the office blocks - it lasts around 15 minutes. It's something done by the government purely for the tourists and was quite good. The harbour is a dramatic place by night too so it was nice to stand there for a while taking in the view.
For dinner we found a delicious Japanese place within a shopping mall where I had a bento box of sushi and other snacks.
Later we went to Delaney's Irish pub in Tsim Sha Tsui to watch the United V Reading game (score 2-0 to United) and then got a taxi back to the hostel around 2am.
18.01.2008 - 18.01.2008 16 °C
We were up early today as the jet lagged kicked in a little and we couldn't sleep, so we went for a wander down Nathan Road. It's a glitsy street and although it hasn't got any tourist sites as such, it's an interesting walk. There are numerous huge ramshackle buildings - some are apartment blocks and others contain seedy little guesthouses- as well as top- end hotels and some expensive shops towards the Hong Kong Island end. We were approached at least 8 times on the walk down by Indian men trying to encourage us to visit their tailor shops, and others trying to sell us fake Rolex watches. One of the most infamous buildings on Nathan Road is Chungking Mansions, a huge ramshackle building containing mainly cheap backpacker-type hostels but also curry houses, cheap hairdressers and more. It looks hideous from the outside and Lonely Planet describes it as smelling of 'cooking fat, incense and shit'. Much of the building was renovated in 1993 after a crackdown on fire regulations - for years there was talk of pullling it down due to it being an eye sore and death trap and many places had to close after the crackdown. It's the cheapest place to stay in HK and houses many workers from India aswell as backpackers.
After Nathan Road it's a short walk to the Star Ferry terminal where little deisel boats leave every few minutes for Hong Kong Island. It's quicker to get the MRT (underground) from one side to the other but the Star Ferry is one of those touristy things that you just have to do in HK. It's quite dramatic at night when the HK Island skyline is all lit up. It costs HK$1.7 (about 12p) and takes around 10 minutes. The harbour is half the size it was in the mid 19th Century, due to land reclamation - whereby parts of the harbour is filled in with land to make room for more buildings. Many locals are concerned that Hong Kong's most scenic and important spot could one day be lost forever.
At the other side we met two of Stephen's friend's, Craig and Kandace, who were passing through on their way from Korea to China. We then made the short walk to Victoria Peak - another 'must see' in Hong Kong as it provides the best views of the city. It's the highest point on HK Island at 552m and it's worth re-visiting at night. In spite of being much more commercialised than when I was last there 8 years ago, with a huge shopping centre now there, it's still worth doing. The best way to get up there is using the Peak tram, which has been running continuously since 1888 (apart from during WW11 and in 1966 when landslides washed some of the mountain away). We spent some time up here taking photos, had some food and then got the tram back down.
We then had a late lunch in Japanese noodle bar in the trendy restaurant district of Soho before heading to the Museum of Art. There wasn't much that I found interesting in this place, but was too tired to enjoy it anyway as by this stage I was really feeling the effects of the jet lag. After a couple of hours sleep at the hostel we found another cheap noodle place similar to last night in busy Mong Kok and then had another wander round the night markets.