thereadrovers

Our retirement adventures

Hong Kong

27 January

Now here’s a first. We have to leave a day early for our next adventure due to forecast boat cancellation (or at least disruption) for bad weather on our scheduled departure day.

Ferry changed, hotels for two nights booked ( just as well we hadn’t already booked the first night!) in about 10 minutes and a mad rush around to complete the packing in 6 hours instead of 29! Hope we have everything!

Tidal conditions at Heysham mean we arrive 75 minutes later than scheduled but drive to Holiday Inn Express Preston uneventful and we have a good night’s sleep. Drive following day to Shrewsbury for another overnight in a slightly less comfortable bed stopping off for a lunch at Tootsies just south of Preston, a place to be recommended.

Tootsies

Tootsies

A lazy morning for a change the following day, and we head off South only to be hit with a snowstorm on the M5 SW of Birmingham with traffic crawling along at under 5mph.

Poor cold car

Poor cold car

60 miles away in Reading we understand it is sunny – how weird is Britain’s weather.

By the time we get to Reading, the snow starts and a fair smattering settles on our car.

Final adjustments to luggage and we drive to Heathrow hotel for an overnight pre flight to Hong Kong.

Excited? You bet !

Hong Kong

Another new country which we arrive in at about 7:30am. Long queue to pass immigration but it moves quickly and we are soon through, collect baggage and make our way out. John, Deirdre and Alex are there to meet us which is a nice surprise and we are soon on our way to Alex’s flat to meet up with Natasha & Ben. After breakfast and a shower we sightsee for a few hours, first following the escalators down hill and then the Star Ferry to Kowloon, cost, only about 25p each way.

Shame the weather is misty but we get the general lay of the land.

Hong Kong high risers

Hong Kong high risers

So many high rise buildings many looking like overgrown “stickle bricks”.

The Central–Mid-Levels escalator and walkway system in Hong Kong is the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world. The entire system covers over 800 metres (2,600 ft) in distance and elevates over 135 metres (443 ft) from bottom to top. It was constructed in 1993 to provide a better commute by linking areas within the Central and Western District on Hong Kong Island, goes downhill in the morning but is reversed by 10am which is good news for those who don’t like climbing hills.

It was escalator up time and as we were going down, our legs, and especially knees, suffered in the long walk down. No doubt the locals get used to it. We never did get to ride the escalators.

College graduation?

College graduation?

A Confucius festival on the Kowloon side is definitely aimed at locals, not an English word in site.

Some lovely costumes worn by, mainly, girls but we head back to Alex’s for lunch and a taxi ride to our hotel, the Marco Polo.

I think I must have made an expensive booboo here as we have a large room, Club lounge access with afternoon tea, evening nibbles and lovely Australian red wine included. Oh well, spending the kids inheritance.

After a brief walk outside, hit bed at 8:30pm and really don’t get fully awake until about 7:00am the next day which is strange as 7:00am is 11pm UK time so maybe we have adjusted quicker than normal.

Sunday 1 February

Breakfast in the club lounge is all you could ask for, but without the view we had in Lucerne last year. A bit overcast but dry again today and following call from John, head over on the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island and the Conrad Hotel which is near the British consulate before dropping down through the adjacent shops to the bus routes for a No. 6 bus to Stanley.

Colourful Star ferry

Colourful Star ferry

Very crowded and standing room only until virtually the whole of the top floor exit at one stop, perhaps to go walking.

The bus races along around tight curves, ever climbing as we catch glimpses of stickle brick like high rise apartments, a few sports grounds, the Happy Valley horse race track and some wonderful mansions.

Stanley isn’t at all what I expected but a bay area at the sea front with low rise buildings, lots of eateries, which being Sunday, were full. Ben not feeling 100% so it is just as well Alex & Natasha have a pushchair for him. Stroll along sea front and into market area that is not unlike a Moroccan Souk without the pressure from the vendors.

Stanley Bay

Stanley Bay

A few purchases made and find a spare table in a French Restaurant for lunch.

By now, area quite crowded and Ben rallies to play on the overcrowded play area before we head back to the bus stop. For those of you who have never been to Hong Kong and who don’t have their travel card – an Octopus Card, like London’s Oyster card – you need coins for the buses, notes are not accepted.

So whilst Deirdre gets on the bus waiting for us to follow, we search around for coins, and whilst doing so, the bus drives off. Deirdre has no phone with her, no money and is on a bus to Central HK not knowing where she is to get off to meet us.

What is worse, before the next bus we can catch arrives, we see her pass by on the bus which has gone up the road, turned round and come back on the other side of the road speeding off towards town. When will we see her again?

Decide to all catch next bus and wait at bus terminal in Central for her in the hope she will do same. Next bus is 6X, a slightly different route but this time we have the coins ready and the bus speeds off. This time we all have seats but still the bus goes fast round new, to us, bays and back into town.

Pass over bridge where below us, crowds of people are marching with yellow umbrellas. it is the pro democracy marchers with their trademark yellow umbrellas.

Hong Kong pro democracy marchers

Hong Kong pro democracy marchers

Arrive at bus station and, quite remarkably, Deirdre arrives a few minutes later. Phew, that was a relief.

Alex & Natasha take Ben home and we go to the 100th floor of the International Commerce Centre above Kowloon station for an observation on HK, tea and cakes, and a wait until sunset to watch the lights of HK followed by the 8pm laser show on the foreshore near our hotel.

Many lights on buildings turn on and off in time to music and the green laser lights cross the water in a free show that has brought in crowds but is probably fair to say, worth seeing only once.

A quick walk around hotel’s adjacent shops which, even at 8:30pm on a Sunday has a queue to be let into the Hermes shop. Chocolate from M & S bought!

Monday 2 February.

Less cloud today but Ben still not well enough to venture out so just the four of us for the Big Buddah visit. Although taxi all the way there for the 4 of us is more expensive than the train, it is probably quicker and we get to see a bit more of the outside world.

Cable car to Big Buddah

Cable car to Big Buddah

Queue for the cable car to get to The Big Buddah takes virtually an hour to negotiate but 20 minute trip worthwhile. ( we now have done cable car trips in Switzerland, Andorra and Hong Kong inside 4 months ) glass bottomed gondolas more popular but more expensive so we opt for traditional which involves less queues. At other end we find ourselves in a little village of souvenir shops and eateries including a Starbucks which for some strange reason attracts at least 3 people I see taking photos of – bizarre.

The whole place is very commercialised for a place of worship.

Big Buddah shops

Big Buddah shops

All but Sally climb the steps to the base of Buddah which for some strange reason has a Nazi emblem on it.

Take in temple of a thousand Buddahs which is much more ornate than anything we had seen in Thailand, Cambodia or Laos but is much younger.

Big Buddah and us!

Big Buddah and us!

Lots of incense sticks sold to be burnt. Retrace steps past the 12 generals guarding the big Buddah, lunch in Starbucks, cable car back and this time catch train to Kowloon at a cost of HK$19 each.

John & Deirdre head back to Alex & Natasha’s and we collapse for a kip after our afternoon tea before an evening snack with wine in the Club Lounge and a stroll out to see the laser show which is slightly better as there are less clouds.

Stroll for a bit past hotel looking at shops and people watching. Still queues waiting to be allowed into the Hermes shop at 8:30 pm!

Tuesday 3 February

Our last day in HK and weather is kind. Meet J & D at cable car station to go up Peak Mountain.

Hong Kong from the Peak

Hong Kong from the Peak

Efficient method of getting people into two car train but we have to stand which is not easy bearing in mind some of the journey is at 1:4.

Reach top, listen to as much as possible the commentary but appliances not particularly good and sun blocks out visability on tablets anyway. After some time at top, not windy at all, retreat to Bubba Gump’s for coffee ( expensive) and the gift shop for a present for Lizzie.

Artist at work

Artist at work

Shop worker / owner drew dragon on card which he did so quickly I nearly missed the photo.

Down on cable car, less crowded than up, met Alex (Ben still unwell so Natasha at home) and walked to town park wig it’s artificial lake.

Lots of fish in the rather splendid oasis of green and water and in stark contrast to the concrete mass that is Central HK.

Hong Kong park

Hong Kong park

Picnic lunch and then taxi, Star Ferry back to hotel for last afternoon tea, pick up bags, shuttle to Kowloon, train to airport and flight to Sydney.

A very pleasant few days, perhaps we will return at some stage, there were a few things we didn’t get to see.

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