Category Archives: Redgrove
Just a quick blog to update where we are. After a protracted and arduous 10 day journey from Chagos to Seychelles we finally arrived on Tuesday 14th June. After checking in and fulfilling all the normal formalities we were able to explore the town. As most of you know I like my cappuccinos and a nice coffee shop was found.
The next task was find somewhere to put Camomile so she would be secure for 3 weeks because we were planning a trip.
Where are we going?
Within 2 days Camomile was ensconced in Eden marina and we had booked our airline tickets. This is the airplane we flew on. It’s an A380 with Ethiad. The sky looks a bit bleak doesn’t it?
Where are we?
This looks like the London tube. Bill was a bit sleepy, he’s also wearing a coat!
This was our goal. Our youngest son Thomas was 30 last week and his fiancee Sonal had arranged a surprise party for him and we were the surprise guests. He had absolutely no idea we were in the country. We didn’t tell anyone, in fact we only knew ourselves the day before. It was impossible to plan and say for certain we could come because we had to make sure Camomile was secure first.
Our eldest son James didn’t know we were coming either and Bill and I managed to get to Maidstone without being seen despite the fact that James had been walking around Victoria station at the same time as us! Sonal was informing us of his whereabouts so we didn’t bump into him by accident. Once we knew he was on the train we caught the next one and Sonal secured us in her Mum’s house just a little way down the road. We organised an amazing entrance. James was filming the ‘Surprise’ for me live on skype thinking we were still in the Seychelles. At the same time we were walking around to the back gate and I walked in to face James. The look on his face was amazing and he shouted ‘what are you doing here?’ then when Thomas saw me his face was fantastic as well. Meanwhile Bill was still standing outside. I opened the gate and said ‘look who’s here’ Thomas was so excited to see Bill here too and then James joined them and there were lots of group hugs.
This morning Thomas cooked an amazing Father’s day breakfast for Bill and we ate it sitting in the sunshine.
We’ve got 3 weeks here so if you’ve got a spare room be careful you might get a pair of church mice standing on your door step!
Finally got a decent signal to update the website. I’m still writing the Chinese story but first a quick blog on what we’ve been up to. After arriving back in Terengganu on 20th September. We spent a couple of days unpacking, shopping, washing and fueling before leaving on 22nd. Terengganu was a nice town with a good supermarket and also a very nice Chinatown area. The buildings have been nicely restored.
How about this classic car? Isn’t it pretty?
After spending a couple of days at Kapas, one of our favourite islands, we did an overnighter down to Tioman island arriving at the little marina Saturday lunchtime. Bill’s sister Kate, her new fiancee Mark and our niece Daisy were due to arrive the next day. Sadly the Indonesian fires were causing a bad haze and the beautiful views of the island were no where to be seen. After a difficult journey they finally arrived in the evening all hot and sweaty. We decided to go straight out for a meal because it was pointless having a shower and going out and getting all sweaty again. They were grateful for our air-conditioning unit.
The first day of their mini holiday with us was spent diving. Kate has a Padi certificate but was a bit rusty and Daisy wanted to do a try dive. There was a dive school just along the beach from the marina that didn’t have any customers on that Monday and were happy to take us all out. First Kate and Daisy had a little skills test in the water in front of the dive school. Yn pronounced yen was very pleased with them. It was great to get his undivided attention
Considering Daisy hadn’t dived before she did very well.
After a little bite to eat (not to much) Yn sketched out a chart of where we were going. There was a diving plan for Bill, Kate and Daisy while Mark and I were going to snorkel.
All the equipment was loaded into the boat and off we went. As they didn’t have any thing to do that afternoon two of the other dive masters decided to join us so the three of them had a dive master each and it wasn’t an expensive day either. Bill has his own kit but Kate and Daisy hired their’s so with the skills test, the dive and the 5 of us in the boat it came to about £75 – bargain.
Daisy was very brave and went in first performing a perfect back roll out of the boat first time.
Followed by Kate who also did a perfect back roll.
They all disappeared below the water down to about 6 metres so not too deep but deep enough to enjoy the fish. Meanwhile Mark and I were taken to the shallower side of the island so we could snorkel. Mark was amazed by the fish and the coral, he said it was like being in an aquarium.
Even without the sun the colours were amazing and so many fish.
Everyone had a great time. The boat even took us back to the marina to save us having to walk back in our wet swimmers.
The next day, Tuesday, we took Camomile out to Sri buat commonly known as the butterfly islands because there are two islands of a similar size and shape with a delightful anchorage in between them. When the tide goes out a large area in the middle of the islands dries out giving us good protection from the weather coming in from the south. When we were there in July it looked like this
Sadly with the Indonesian fires causing a really bad smog across the whole area it looked like this
In a way it was good that the sun was blotted out because they would have all burnt to a frazzle. As soon as the anchor went down they were in the water. Although we didn’t have the sun it was still far hotter than they were used to and getting in the water was a good way to cool down even with a water temperature of 26C!
I spent the afternoon preparing food for a bbq which Bill and Mark were in charge of while it was cooking along with quite a few beers. Normally we could have sat and watched the stars but the smog scuppered that idea. The disadvantage of coming out of the marina was that the air conditioning unit had to go off and even when it got dark it was still very hot. Poor Kate and Mark didn’t have a very good night’s sleep as they had arrived from a New Zealand winter into 32C without time to adjust to the temperature so the next day it was decided to head back to the marina and get the air conditioning back on.
Before we left Bill took them for a little explore in the dinghy. There’s a little island in the channel where someone has built a hut but sadly the beach is covered with plastic washed in from the sea. They went onto the beach where there’s a nice little bay for snorkeling, although not as good as the island the dive team took us to, it was still fun for them exploring the crevices and rock pools.
Once back in the marina we headed out into the village for a meal ashore on our last evening.
Daisy and I went looking for monkeys before dinner and although it was already getting dark there were quite a few sitting in the trees above the road. Kate and Daisy went for a better look at them in the morning.
All too soon their visit was over and it was back to the little ferry port so they could catch the ferry back to the mainland then take the coach back to Singapore for their onward journey. They fitted quite a bit into their 4 days but it had gone very quickly. Photos were taken in different combinations.
The ferry arrived and it was time for final goodbyes.
Goodbye Kate it was great to see you and to meet Mark.
It was nice getting to know you Daisy.
As today is our last day in Hong Kong we were going to try and mop up the things that we’ve missed. It was still cloudy, I’m going to get SAD syndrome if I stay here much longer, but it wasn’t raining so it was the Peak tram first. Having been there once already we knew the way and walked straight down there. The gates were open – we were in luck. There a good display in the entrance of the workings. The gravity-defying Peak tram was the first funicular railway in Asia and has trundled up the side of Victoria peak at a steep 27˚ incline for over a century.
The tram arrived and we jumped on. There isn’t any where for the tram to turn round so you face forwards going up and the driver walks to the controls at the other end of the tram. We got in behind a tour and they had all the seats on the right hand side but the left looked over the woodland on the way up. We hadn’t had any breakfast so sat in the Pacific coffee lounge and watched the tram go back down again.
After breakfast we were ready for our walk and started off on the well signposted Peak circuit which is a flat 2 mile circuit giving breathtaking views over Victoria harbour and the city skyscrapers.
It was a bit hazy but not bad for the time of year. Bill was fascinated by this building, not sure if you’ll be able to make it out but it’s entirely clad in bamboo scaffolding. It has netting around the outside to contain any debris but as these building are 30 or 40 stories high it seemed amazing that they had used bamboo.
This was a little waterfall coming out of the peak
and this huge spider had spun his web next to the waterfall. It was easily the size of my hand, not nice. The circuit gives views over the islands south of Hong Kong island that we could just see over the trees.
A steep trudge towards the summit leads to Victoria Peak gardens that were once part of the Governor’s lodge. Sadly the summit is fenced off and has an array of phone masts on top of it. It was very peaceful up there and decidedly cooler than the city with a nice breeze blowing through.
This puss cat was enjoying the sunshine.
As the weather was hazy and we were a bit short of time we decided not to visit the Peak tower which apparently gives good views of the city. After doing the walk we felt that was the best view. There was another great view out of the window going down. You travel backwards going down the hill but we managed to get the front seat and watched the tram descend the hill. It’s difficult to see how steep it is but you could feel the gradient as we traveled down.
Once back down again we looked for some lunch which isn’t always easy in Hong Kong. Many of the malls along the water front either don’t have any where to eat or they were way over our budget. Eventually we found somewhere after what felt like ages.
Once back out again I wanted to walk around the banking district because some of them have viewing floors but sadly it was a bank holiday for the 70th anniversary of VJ day and they were closed. I rubbed the lions paw outside the HSBC building for luck and then we moved on.
The Landmark is a very expensive mall with very expensive shops in it but it was interesting looking in the windows.
With some expensive cars outside
We walked through Statue square and passed the neo-classical Legislative building with the Hong Kong cenotaph in front of it. It’s difficult to photograph these building close up because they are so tall.
The building to the right is the modernistic but feng shui-friendly girders of the HSBC building. Designed by Bristish architect Sir Norman Foster and completed in 1985 it was one of the most expensive buildings of the time costing more than HK$5 billion.
Our time in Hong Kong was coming to a close and tomorrow we fly to Beijing in China. There is a lot to see in and around the city and I feel we will have to come back.
The last job of the day was pick up our passports from the China Travel company with our Chinese visas in them. I had been nervous all day in case there was a problem but they were ready and waiting for us. So tomorrow it’s China here we come.
Wednesday 2nd September was our 37th wedding Anniversary. I had planned our trip around this date and the plan for the day was to take the Star ferry to Kowloon, walk along the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade, visit the Hong Kong museum of history, visit the Wong Tai Sin temple, tea at the Peninsular hotel, visit the jade market and the Temple street night market. Seems like a lot but they were all fairly close together but we woke up to this. Grey skies and pouring with rain. We sat in our hotel room wondering if we should revise our plan but it would be difficult to change things now. Any way we’re British and a bit of rain hasn’t stopped us in the past and it wasn’t going to start now. Luckily the bus for the ferry stopped right outside our hotel so we jumped on.
The Star ferry was started in 1898 by a gentleman called Mr Dorabjee Nowrojee. At that time the only people allowed on the first class upper deck were Europeans and a collar and tie was mandatory. These days any one can enjoy the 10 minute journey and at $2.50 a little over 20p, it must be the cheapest cruise in the world. The present 1960’s fleet are still berthed in the same fashion with a hemp rope being caught by a billhook. The ferry has two entry points without a public stairway between the two floors. We inadvertently got on the lower deck and rode as second class passengers. It was still raining.
The rain had eased briefly and we started walking along the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade which gave spectacular views back across Victoria harbour to Hong Kong island but the storm clouds were building. We managed to get to shelter before this view….
……became like this. Could have been Brighton on a bank holiday!!
We sheltered for about 15 minutes then decided to abandon the walk and head for the Hong Kong Museum of History. Fortunately Hong Kong is used to the rain and it’s possible to walk large swathes of the town either underground via the underground train system or over a series of covered walkways and we managed to get to the museum only a little damp. The museum takes you on a fascinating journey through Hong Kong’s past from prehistoric times to 1997. As luck would have it museums are free on Wednesdays – lucky us. We spent several hours looking at the exhibits, it was very well done except for this life size model of a junk rig which, as Bill had to point out, didn’t have it’s mainsheet attached properly – what a geek!
Also he noticed this model boat wasn’t rigged properly!
There was a lot of information on typhoons in the area and that many homes were lost and replaced with these temporary homes. Didn’t look like a lot of room for 8 or so people.
The display dedicated to the British handover of Hong Kong to the Chinese government in 1997 was very moving with a short film showing old film clips of the day with Chris Pattern making his moving speech and then joining Prince Charles on Britannia with his family and sailing out of the harbour. It looked like a very emotional time for them all.
We came out of the museum to find it STILL raining and decided to abandon the trip to Tai Sin temple and go straight to the Peninsula hotel. Most of this journey was completed underground and when we emerged next to the hotel it had stopped raining. The Peninsular is very grand and we were worried we wouldn’t get in and had taken some slightly smarter clothes to change into but there were people looking more bedraggled then us so stayed as we were.
There was a gallery for the musicians to sit in as they played nice ‘soft’ music. We chose Peninsular afternoon tea with a selection of sandwiches and cakes. The three tier cake stand arrived with two of everything and four warm and freshly baked scones on the bottom tier with jam and clotted cream. We took it in turns to decide which ones we ate, some of the cakes were very rich; we didn’t leave any for Mr Manners. We really enjoyed it and everything was delicious but decided it didn’t beat our tea party in Raffles last year for my birthday.
By the time we left it was 4pm and the sun was even trying to come out a little bit. It was too late to go to the temple but Bill said it would be good to have a look around the Jade market and see if there were some ear rings I might like. I found some really pretty blue mauve ones which he kindly bought me as a memory of our anniversary spent in Hong Kong as well as a nice pink and pearl necklace and a beautiful scarf. I’m very lucky.
We wandered through the Temple street market as they were setting up for the evening.
Back at the water front the clouds had lifted and it was now possible to see the tops of the sky scrappers and Victoria peak behind them. It was an amazing sight. As it got darker each building had a set of LED lights creating it’s own little light show and altogether forming a spectacular display. The tall building left of centre with the diamond patterns is the Bank of China headquarters, the smaller building to the right with the red lights is the HSBC building and the circle is a big wheel. We waited until 8pm for the laser show which was also really clever. Returning on the Star ferry we sat on the upper deck on the way back.
Once back in the city we made our way back up the escalator system to the Italian restaurant we found in SoHo on the first night, the Sole Mio for an amazing dinner. What a wonderful day we had.
There was a bit of a shaky start this morning because the original plan had been to take the Peak tram to Victoria peak and walk round the circuit to see the view but when we got there the tram was closed for the day. We were offered a bus but chose not to go up. Hopefully we can do the tram on the 3rd. We stopped for coffee to look through the guide book and decided to take a tram out to the Sheung Wan area to do a walking tour.
The Hong trams have been in operation since 1904 and represent the only all double decker wooden sided tram fleet in the world. They operate on routes running east – west along the northern side of Hong Kong island. They cost HK$2.40 about 20p a journey and are very popular.
It looks very strange to see these lovely old trams running in between the glass fronted buildings and alongside the modern buses. As they have their on tracks often they are moving faster than the modern buses although they still have to wait for traffic lights. We sat on the top deck and enjoyed our ride. My Dad would have loved it. I found it difficult not to imagine Dad and his friend Jimmy sitting in front of us.
Our walking tour led us through a journey into Hong Kong’s past as we passed dried seafood shops and herbal medicine wholesalers. They had some fairly dodgy looking things in their windows. Despite what these look like we think these were dried sea cucumbers.
We visited several old temples but this is the Man Mo temple, it was the centre of civil life in the 19th century. It was built between 1847 and 1862 by Chinese merchants and dedicated to the gods of literature ‘man’ and of war ‘mo’. Back in the early colonial days the government only accepted oaths taken here rather than in a court of law. Smoke curls from giant spirals of incense hanging from the ceiling that contain paper offerings to the dead. The atmosphere was very thick with incense inside and we couldn’t stay in there long.
The walk took about an hour then we got back on the MTR (underground) and took the train to Wan Chai area and had lunch in an English pub called the Queen Victoria in the red light district although all the girlie bars were closed.. It seems like an odd choice but we both choose PORK sausage with mash. We just don’t get pork sausages in Malaysia. It was delicious. After lunch we wandered around the street markets which was really interesting. These two men were playing some sort of board game which looks like a cross between chess and draughts. There was a lot of shouting involved.
The stalls were selling everything from plastic flowers to underwear. There were the usual tourist tat stalls but all very friendly. Bill looked up over the top of the stalls and spotted these guys erecting bamboo scaffolding. He counted about 20 floors up and we couldn’t tell if they had harnesses on or not. Even so it looked pretty risky.
We found an indoor market selling the most wonderful looking fruit and vegetables. I wanted to take some home! The stalls on the right had lots of tanks containing live fish. They looked fairly health but I felt a bit sorry for them lying there waiting to be killed. They were also selling meat in an open stall but it looked a bit more appetising than the Malaysian meat and wasn’t covered in flies. They had red lamps in the lights to make it look good.
Finally we walked passed this dear little building sitting between all the high rises and next door to a very modern post office but this was the original Wan Chai post office and one of Hong Kong’s oldest. It has now been preserved and isn’t in use any more.
Back to the MRT and onto Exchange square to catch the No6 bus out to the seaside town of Stanley. It was a great journey for just $8.40 each about 70p. Once we’d left the city the road weaved through much smaller towns with lovely views across Repulse bay. It was a double decker and we sat upstairs to get a good view. There were quite a few upmarket apartment blocks that would have had wonderful views across the bay. The journey took about an hour and was a good ride.
Stanley is reminiscent of an English seaside town complete with pier. We walked along the promenade to the market which had some lovely jewelery stalls but I managed to resist, I have so many already. There were a little group of local boats moored in the bay which we felt drawn to. Shame the sun wasn’t out but at least it wasn’t raining.
We stopped for some delicious waffles with ice cream before boarding the bus back to the city. I really didn’t expect to find such diversification in Hong Kong but it was interesting and we enjoyed our afternoon there.
This morning started with a low when Bill’s alarm went off at 04.45 a quarter of an hour early! We hadn’t had a very good night because we both kept dreaming we’d overslept and missed our flight but after showering and getting sorted out we realised today we were going to tick off an item on our bucket list. Today we were flying to Hong Kong on the second flight of our adventure. It was due to leave at 7.10 our time and left right on time. After a bit of sleep we landed at 11.05 – again on time. It was a bit cloudy as we landed but nothing was going to spoil our day – or so we thought.
Bill had always wanted to come to Hong Kong and here he is there. Amazing airport, very efficient. We made our way through to immigration without any problems and as soon as we reached the luggage carousel Bill’s bag was already there but not mine. I was thinking Oh no I’ll have nothing to wear but then more bags came through and there it was, that was a relief. As we entered the arrival hall there was my favourite – Starbucks, coffee time!
Bill decided to go and raid the ATM for some money. Oh dear the first two wouldn’t give him any. Luckily third time lucky. All on his own without my assistance, was this wise? We’ll see…..
The next job was get from the airport to the city. That was made very easy by buying an Airport Express travel pass which allowed us unlimited travel for three days plus a return journey from and to the airport. On the train into the city all was going very well.
The first stop in the city was the China Travel service where we intended to apply for our Chinese visas. I have spent the last few months pawing through my Lonely planet China and had memorised a lot of stuff one of which was the route to the CTS office and we found it first go. I had everything ready, a form for each of us downloaded and filled in, a passport photo for each of us, a typed out itinerary and finally had printed all the hotel bookings, train tickets, flight tickets etc and had it all sitting in a wallet ready. I handed it all over with our passports which she started to shake. ‘Where is his entry visa?’ she was shaking Bill’s passport. She shook mine and out fell a piece of paper but where was Bill’s. We went through the bag, his pockets, every where, NOTHING. Then she said she couldn’t process our application without it. DISASTER. His passport had been in his pocket with his wallet and we realised that while getting cross with the ATM machines it must have dropped out. The lady said our option was to go to immigration downtown to try to get another one or take a daytrip to Macau and get one on our way back, which would be too late for our visa for China!!!
We both hit a real low. At this point we still had all our bags with us so we continued on to our hotel to check in. It turned out the hotel had a free shuttle bus that could drop us right next to the Immigration tower, someone was watching over us after all. We dropped our bags in our room and jumped in the bus. I had the bit between my teeth at this point. I hadn’t come this far to fall at the first hurdle. I marched into the building and, after explaining what had happened and eventually being pointed in the right direction, we found a friendly immigration officer with a pre-printed form (this had obviously happened before) who issued Bill with a reprinted entry visa. RELIEF. I was so relieved I burst into tears, I could see all my plans floating away.
We made our way back to the CTS who processed our visa application. What a day. That’s why Bill isn’t allowed to wander off on his own!!! By this time it was 5pm and it was too late to do the tour I had planned. So we amused ourselves with travelling on The Escalator. This is the longest covered outdoor escalator system in the world and is the best way to travel between the central area, up through the mid levels and SoHo. It took two and a half years to build at a cost of HK$205 million roughly about £20 million.
This street market had lots of beautiful fruit for sale. I liked the building next to it. Can you guess why?
The view looking down from the top was really good.
So our first day in Hong Kong went from wonderful to awful to wonderful again and Bill took me for a delicious Italian meal to make up for all the stress of the day. Bless him he’d been so upset that he’d spoilt everything but it all worked out in the end. Tomorrow we can start enjoying Hong Kong.