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.
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.