We are back on the boat now and have moved her down to Tioman to meet up with Bill’s sister. We are up against our usual problem of lack of signal but I want to start uploading my blogs. So going back to the end of Hong Kong…..
Friday 4th September
We spent our last morning in Hong Kong packing although finally the sun had come out. I wanted to run round and take photos of all the sights in the sun but it wasn’t practical. We had stayed in the Bishop Lei Hotel up in the mid-levels. It was a short walk from the top of the escalator system that goes up through the mid levels and was quite close to the nice eating area of SoHo. Having been recommended to us I would continue the recommendation but with the following comments.
The staff were helpful although a little formal. Our room was on the 21st floor, which felt a bit strange being that high up. The rooms are quite small but clean, the bathroom was very nice. It was quite expensive at £260 for 4 nights but I wanted to be near the city centre and it’s difficult to find anything cheaper. We hadn’t paid the extra for a front room with a view and I believe they are bigger but it would have been a waste because we were only there in the evenings. There’s a bus stop outside the front door. It has a pool but it’s small so we didn’t bother. We also didn’t bother with the breakfast at £10 a head for bacon and egg, toast, juice and coffee, extra for French toast or fruit, there are much better value places in town but on the whole we liked it there and I would stay there again.
Our flight was leaving at 1.20pm and we had to get the airport express train. Fortunately the Bishop Lei runs a free shuttle bus to the entrance of the underground system that leads to the airport express (as well as one to the downtown area) and we caught the 10.00 and made our way to the airport.
Everything went smoothly until we got on the plane. Everyone was on board, the doors were shut, we were ready to leave on time, the plane was pushed onto the taxi road and then nothing, we sat there and we sat there. The pilot moved the plane twice to different parts of the airport and each time we thought we were off but then we sat there again. An hour and a half later we finally took off, we think the air traffic controllers forgot us.
The plane banked round and flew over Hong Kong, I managed to get some good photos of the city.
As China and Hong Kong are in the same time zone as Malaysia jet lag hasn’t been a problem. The plane landed in Beijing just after 6pm and it was RAINING. The cloud cover was so bad that we didn’t see the airport until the last minute. I had memorised the train route to the hotel but as it was late AND raining I reluctantly agreed to take a taxi to our hotel. I felt it was cheating. I had printed everything for China for the visa application and bookings.com supplied the hotel name in Chinese so after showing this to the taxi driver he put it in his gps and off we went on the next part of our adventure.
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.