30-31 Oct 11 - We arrived in Hong Kong after a long and cramped, very full, overnight flight from Heathrow. How Mike yearned for the days when the old, very 'hairy' Kai Tak Airport was the main gateway to Hong Kong! Sadly that iconic airport was decommissioned in 1998 and is no more. We were transported from the new Chek Lap Kok Airport (based on a man-made island to the west of Kowloon) by a ‘Tour East’ coach, complete with ‘Tour Guide’ Wendy Yip, and taken to the Eaton Smart Hotel in the Jordan district of Kowloon through our first taste of H-K’s horrendous traffic! Despite the time change we hit the ground running and have not really stopped to draw breath since! Hong Kong is a real ‘one off’ - the sheer number of high rise buildings on both sides of Victoria Harbour is jaw dropping, most of the skyscrapers seem to be constructed solely of glass.
We met up with Ron & Pat and Jerry & Val in the hotel bar. They were also on their first day of a Scenic Tours holiday but, rather sadly, they were off to join the New Zealand Tour when they left H-K. We spent a very pleasant evening with them on the terrace bar in a lovely warm breeze. A very late, very cheap and very authentic meal for us in a side street restaurant close to the hotel rounded off the day perfectly.
01 Nov 11 - An organised coach tour was laid on the morning after our arrival. It started with an 8.00 am sharp pickup followed by the first hour in heavy traffic whilst we picked up other folk from their hotels! After passing by the famous Happy Valley Racecourse first stop was Aberdeen Harbour for a trip in a sampan round the harbour, around the amazing floating restaurants moored there and around the shanty town of fishing boats, some adorned with lines of drying fish. Our sampan driver looked just like an archetypical Chinese pirate!
We went to a jewellery factory, visited a large street market, had a drink overlooking the waterfront and then went up to the top of Victoria Mountain on Hong Kong Island for a spectacular view of Hong Kong and Kowloon - quite amazing. We took the funicular railway down - very steep and very fast!
Overall it was quite an interesting tour but Wendy seemed to think that all we wanted to do was shop - no mention was made of the history or culture of Hong Kong or of China, she just endlessly droned on about the virtues of each of the various shopping areas that we passed, in particular the street markets. Frankly once you've seen one you've seen them all! All the time we had an extremely boring commentary detailing really interesting (!) stuff such as the cost per square foot of virtually every building on every street that we travelled along ...
After much searching for a suitable place, eight of us (Ron, Pat, Jerry, Val, Vivienne, David and us) had an evening meal at a large, rather up market and very busy basement Chinese restaurant on the way back to the hotel We each chose a different dish which we then shared. The cost per head was less than £15. A good time was had by all!
02 Nov 11 - The next day we had a ‘free day’ so Mike and I joined with Val and Jerry and took the ferry across from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island where we walked for about a mile until we came upon the ‘Central Mid-level Escalators’ which is a sequence of escalators and travelators, the combined distance of which (2,600 feet) makes it apparently the longest covered outdoor escalator system in the world! It certainly seemed almost endless for we were always moving up, and up, and up - that part of Hong Kong Island is very hilly. The total vertical climb amounted to around 440 feet. Of course, after reaching the top, we then had to walk all the way back down! It was very hot so we stopped for a drink in a side street which was heaving with people eating all manner of things - rice, egg, fish, noodles, all cooked amazingly quickly just a few feet away and all out of doors! The service was excellent and the meals were not expensive. We bought some Portuguese Egg Tarts at the shop (35 Lyndhurst Road) where Chris Patton (when he was H-K Governor) is reputed to have bought a couple whenever he was in the vicinity.
We took a tram and then the underground train back under the harbour to the mainland, went round the Space Museum which was free - Mike found the exhibits relating to the Chinese space programme very interesting - and then we took a taxi back to the hotel and had a brief sit down to rest our feet before going out to the local late Night Market with Val & Jerry (the others had been on a day trip to Macao and were late getting back) where we had more authentic Chinese food, including 'Squealers' which we think were a sort of local crayfish! I didn't have any as the sight of the live ones wriggling a few feet away from me put me off, but Mike loved them!
03 Nov 11 - We have met several couples at the same hotel who are also travelling with Scenic Tours but, unfortunately, all the folk that we have met are going on to the New Zealand tour, so we will all be parting company this evening when we leave Hong Kong for Australia and they leave for Auckland. It is a real shame as we felt that we would really have enjoyed the company of Val & Jerry and Ron & Pat over the following weeks. Never mind, maybe there will be others on ‘our’ tour with whom we will get on just as well!
After saying “Goodbye” to the folks who were off to NZ we decided to have a quiet day as the time difference was catching up with us (not to mention the very poor air quality and high humidity today!).
After a meal at the Hotel we did venture out briefly and visited the Jade Market, the inside of which was incredibly hot and humid - we didn’t stay long! We also visited the Temple Street Night Market again before retreating back to the sanity of our hotel.
Our overnight flight to Perth isn't until 11.00 pm and will be about seven hours long - we’re due to be picked up at 8.15 pm - hopefully we'll be able to sleep a bit on the flight but I find it almost impossible to sleep sitting almost upright with my head lolling - not a pretty sight!
Anyway, that's all for now folks! We will endeavour to send further updates in a few days.
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