Saturday, 3 December 2011

Sat 3 Dec - Depart Hong Kong for Sydney

Well, it's time to go home.
Packing up, checking out and leaving the bags with the hotel at around 8.30am until we need to pick them up around 3pm to go Hong Kong International for the flight to leave by 19.10.

We decided to just walk down the waterfront on the other side of Victoria Park and slowly wander towards Central. Beautiful and cool morning, not a single cloud.

Construction work everywhere and they are now moving the whole freeway from Causeway Bay to Central underground and partly under the water. It will be replaced by a waterfront promenade and various park and water activities at ground level. There were some pictures and overviews of how it will look once finished and it will be truly amazing.  Again, where are the visionaries of Sydney? Why can't we do something similar there. That's right, feasibility report, then politicians announcing a "blue print" or "master plan", debate it and then... park the report on a shelf to gather dust and do it all over again. Today's rant completed!

What the...?
Sign board along the waterfront. Swiss watch, Sydney motif, in Hong Kong...
We walked until we reached the Wan Chai sports and pool complex.  Very nice looking down on the pool and seeing Saturday morning swimming coaching, just like in Sydney, but with 20 lanes across the 25 metre wide pool rather than 10 lanes of 50 metres.  Makes sense for coaching.

We realised we were next to the AXA building and Di remembered that Lisa Lovich in Melbourne who used to work here at AXA, mentioned that there is a good coffee shop at the back of that building. We wandered around towards the back and found Zambra coffee shop. A quick phone call to Lisa in Melbourne confirmed that this is the right place (it was) and we were in.
Note Hans in the background, being silly again...

Pretty good coffee (for China), best so far this trip, and cinnamon snail to go with it.  Thanks Lisa.

We then caught the Star Ferry from Wan Chai to Kowloon and then back to Central - just because it's a beautiful day and we love the Star Ferries.

Off at Central and tried to quickly escape the exclusive shopping district - all Prada, Chanel and Armani daaahhhling... Too much, just too much.

Walked up Wyndham street and then to Battery Path to find St Paul's Cathedral.  Lovely. 
The Royal bench below...

Then onto Hong Kong Park.  We've said it before but parks here are done really well and this was no exception.  Ponds had terapins and fish, and lovely fountains and paths. 

Stumbled onto Flagstaff House - now the Tea Museum.  We wanted to see the building but also found the tea exhibits and information interesting.  Ended up buying a lovely chinese tea set at the gift shop - hand made and painted.  Very nice souvenir for the home.

Next to Hong Kong Park is Fountain Park. This one is probably used a lot by the kids in summer.

Then down into Admiralty district and onto the back streets of Wan Chai.  Queens Road and some more market areas.  We were looking for lunch and found King Ludwig's Bier Halle but with only $200HK remaining we could not really afford it. Instead, we found a local place called Delicious Good Value restaurant - and it was definitely good value. For $79HK we both ate full meals and had hot lemon tea, which was really good. BTW, their email address was

The last walking stretch back to the hotel was no fun for us.  We don't like shopping and this district is packed with shops and browsing chinese people and since this is a Saturday, it seemed to drag on as we made our way back.

Now our final 20 minutes at the hotel with free wifi so our final blog for this trip (we think).  We realised we've walked quite a bit today which is pleasing before spending 9 hours on a plane. 

Bye for now. Over and out for this blog. Will be continued in a not too distant future... :-)

Friday, 2 December 2011

Fri 2 Dec - Hong Kong

Today, our last full day of our holidays, we decided to get a bit touristy and go to Lantau Island to check out the Big Buddha.

We saw it in 2007 the last time when we were here, but the difference now is that there is a 5.7 km long cable car line that connects the area with Tung Chung, the local MTR station out there.

The weather forecast was for a "rather cool" morning, but fine and dry day (gotta love that English influence)

Again, we were in MTR peak hour (albeit early), but it was still very orderly. One of umpteen tunnels at Central connecting the various lines below.

At Tung Chung, we were there too early at 9am for the cable car start at 10am, so we were convinced to purchase 2 day pass packages (unlimited bus on the island + one cable car ride) by a determined lady salesperson down from the cable car entry.
That turned out to be a winner and 9.15am we were on our way in a local bus 23 to Ngong Ping which is the area where the Giant Buddha is.

Hence, we ended up walking around the area before all the crowds arrived by cable car about 45 minutes later, which was very nice and peaceful.

 All these colourful flags were also new since we were there in 2007, but after the initial Disneyland comparison, it kind of worked and looked nice.

Great views in all directions from the platform around the Big Buddha. It made you want to go hiking in the area.

The local monks are building a new temple of 10,000 buddhas but we think the existing temple is very nice already. They were looking for donations (of course) and you could buy anything from a brick for HKD200 to half the temple or thereabout for lots and lots of money.

And of course being buddist there are some rules , which would never work for us...

Down again to the maine entry path, and there were the 12 generals asociated with the Zodiac including th statue for the General associated with the Year of the Dog...
 Highly appropriately there were dogs lying around on the ground just next to him.

Learning for the day was that the 24 hours of the day were also divided into 2 hour blocks, each block associated with one of the zodiacs and generals.

Around 11am we head to the cable car to go down to Tung Chung again, in the opposite direction of all the school classes and tour groups...

This took all Di's willpower to get on. The trip takes about 35 minutes and goes over the top of the mountain and down the other side.  The views are amazing and photos don't do it justice. 

You can see the whole of Hong Kong International Airport from the cable car.

Di "shit-scared" but faking it for the camera...

This section is one long cable between two staunchions on different parts of the island - nothing in between...

We decided this was well worth every cent (very cool) and were tempted to ride it again (costs $86HK one way) but chose to use our bus tickets to explore more of Lantau Island.

After a quick coffee/snack break in Tung Chung we hopped onto Bus 11 to Tai O. Again, it's a local bus and the driver clearly knows the road because even in 30 zones and on steep hills he's doing 60km/hour or more.
Trip across still takes about 50 minutes once you dodge a few cows and some road repairs.

Tai O is an old stilt fishing village and we loved it immediately.  We have to limit photos here as Hans took so many because it's so interesting.

We set out to explore - and eat snacks from road side stalls along the way - fish balls, Shu Mai and the most fantastic fresh scallops, which are cooked directly on the BBQ on their shells with crushed garlic smeared over them, and a little salt and pepper.  So good we had to have another.  We think the young lady cooking them was pleased with our reaction.

Of course we quickly find our usual dried seafood district but this time with some key differences (they breed them tough here) as this is a whole dried shark.

Stay away from the helipad when a helicopter approaches...

Sometimes it felt like you were walking into someone's home because the lanes were very narrow corridors between houses and the locals expand their storage space into these areas.  We wander up and down more, find a great coffee place on the water selling "syphon coffee" and playing french music. Aahhh this is the life... we could stay here longer!

We find the path to the public cemetery - which we explore on our own because it's up on the hill behind the town - and you face about 200 stairs to get there.  Great views for the your old deceased ancestors.


And the view for the living...

We reluctantly head back to the bus to Mui Wo to take the ferry home again instead of the MTR.  First ferry was fine, but no photos through the windows as they were all are salt encrusted.

Back at the ferry terminal near Central on Hong Kong Island, we were walking on footbridges towards the Central MTR station to get back home.

Friday afternoon, 5.30pm or so, and construction is in full swing. If only Barangaroo could look like this. They are not mucking around here and producing another feasibility report, they are building. The water front here is just to the left.

We also saw the local Apple store. A bit like the one in Sydney, but with much more people in it.

Decided on a nice dinner out for our final night and we track down a recommended "old style" Cantonese restuarant using Google (how did we survive before the internet?). 
It's called the Manor Restaurant, on Jaffe Road, and is supposed to be popular with old Chinese film stars.  We thought we recognised the guy at the next table - he looked like a "bad guy" from some chinese movies. Excellent food, crispy Roast Pork and the house specialty of tea-smoked chicken.  Delicious.

Back to the hotel with a bottle of South African red wine from the supermarket (no corkscrew but we managed) and watched some fussball on TV.  A great day and sad to be our last.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Thu 1 Dec - Hong Kong

Today, we decided to go east, young man.
Double decker tram was the choice of transport and the destination was Shaukeiwan, east Hong Kong Island on the water.

Funny pieces of transport these, they are very narrow and run on very narrow tracks and being two storey high  they look like they been squeezed from either side.  Hmmm... two storeys for short people but as each deck is about 175cm high they suit short-arses, no way Hans can stand upright on either level.  On a crowded tram he's jammed onto the back "loading deck." Trams come in a variety of different colour and motifs.

A lot of the tram is sort of in the open and these are the turnstyles to get in at the back of the tram. There are no windows here, and the tram can take off with people still trying to board. Collateral damage occurs regularly - we saw several people squeezed between doors during our trip.

Here is the tram driver adjusting his left side mirror while having stopped at red light. Of course, he sits on the right side of the tram. Two storey tram so we are sitting right on top of him.

 Very cheap they are, the trams...

We were out quite early, around 8.20am, and got stuck in rush hour traffic, with more and more people came onto the tram and when we passed the MTR station of Quarry Bay, an ocean of humanity appeared from the train station. I wouldn't like to have to go the other way...

Eventually, we got to Shaukeiwan, which was end of the line for that tram, and the local markets were in full swing there. No whities, and no tourist bull, just a market for the locals, with prices to match. Fresh and fresher was the motto here.

There was the butcher.This guy had a seriouly big knife and could he just handle it. Mr Chop Chop indeed. We loved this but if you're squeamish you should skip the next 3 photos.

This was his mate - he was pretty damn good with the knife too.

And who doesn't want to buy a freshly chopped goat's head? For your next satanic ritual perhaps?

This lady was cleaning and chopping of pieces from... who knows what. Some root fruit of some kind. Looked tedious and strange, but what do we know?

The fish was so fresh that many were flapping around and gasping for air in boxes where there was no water. The prawns likewise, where some of the prawns had made an escape to the fish boxes.  In this photo the white fish on the left was gasping and flapping around.

These really cool dudes were unloading something, and appearance is everything here.

We ended up buying 3 Jack Wolfskin jackets (first for Hans, then 1 for Di then went back for 1 for Jeremy too), for a total of HKD380, which is around A$50. Bargain. Looks and feels authentic - probably came out of the back door of the factory where they are made rather than through the front.

We thought earlier about going to The Peninsula in Kowloon for High Tea, but decided to give it a miss and instead wander along...  the shipyards. Much more fun, with a row of boat and car workshops along the water next to Shaukeiwan.
Some of these guys were restoring and repairing old boats and junks, and even though it does not come across in pictures, it was all very cool. Di was so fascinated she wandered right in to one workshop.

Nearby, there was a wharf with pretty clear instructions on how to fish. Note that you have to leave your explosives at home if you want to fish here.

Nice harbour though - looking out across to East Kowloon.

The little park next to the wharf and its rules and regulations leaves Mosman Council in Sydney clearly 2nd best when it comes to signage and what you can not do. Fourteen separate prohibited activities. Beat that Balmoral!

and another lovely park around the corner - lovely but a bit sterile with the same number of rules.

We wandered around the foreshore and through another park before getting on the tram again to go back to our hotel and drop off our shopping.

15 minutes later, we were on our way again, to look for an area called Tai Hang on Tai Hang Road which we had read about in Sydney Morning Herald (featured in Travel section on the day we left Sydney) that it is an emerging cool area of Hong Kong and according to our map, just around the corner from us.  Well, it was just around the corner from us, but we got there the "scenic" route as the maps are awful. Tai Hang does not make it to the map, and we figured Tai Hang Road would take us there - nope.  We ended up walking up the hill and then back down again as there was nothing but apartment blocks there. Nice views though over HK stadium.

After a Dim Sum lunch, where there was a surcharge for eating during "rush hour" between 12pm and 2pm, we went down some "scary" steps on the side of a cliff (well, Di thought it was scary) and found our way into a temple called Lin Fa Kung in Tai Hang. All by accident and very nice.

The temple is built into the cliff - so inside is part rock surface and the temple is on 2 levels.  It also had a loverly dragon in the ceiling, proudly pointed out to us by one of the blokes who worked there.

Next to the temple was the area of Tai Hang that we read about. The area consists of perhaps 5 by 5 small blocks of around 4 storey apartment blocks, in an interesting mix of motor mechanics workshops and trendy design outlets and eateries.

The funniest thing was this guy's workshop. Talk about maximising your space. It's about 1 metre deep at most.

Every where you look there are Mercedes Benz and other european luxury cars.  No joke - count out of 5 cars, 2 or 3 will be Mercedes, 1 BMW and something else.

We had 2 espresso coffees in one place and it cost us HKD88. You could feed a family for that in Hong Kong, but the coffee wasn't too bad, not burnt and tasted OK, but not temperature hot enough.

We then walked through Victoria Park, where they were setting up something that looked like it would be for Christmas celebrations. We wandered through, walked a couple of laps on one of the foot massage tracks (pebbles concreted into the ground that you walk on with bare feet - or for Di - in socks) and checked out the blokes racing the remote control driven boats.

There is an Ikea store just next to Victoria Park and we had a quick (no, nothing is ever quick about Ikea) walk through to get to the food shop to see what they had on offer. Same limited supply as in Sydney so we ended up buying an apple cider and a bag of Ikea winegums (or similar).

As usual, almost impossible to find the exit...

Di claims the place gave her a headache (no way out!) so we headed back to the hotel for a break.

About 6.15pm we head out again and decide to take tram to Wan Chai.  We were pleased to see local markets still going at 7pm and also some cheap clothing and shoe shops.  It's finally time to shop a bit and we both end up with a pair of shoes (Reeboks for Hans at $40 and black casual boots for Di for less than $20). Hans also bought long sleeved tshirts for himself and Jeremy.

Dinner was a stand up casual meal, as we used our principle of look for the crowds and the line up was at the Hot Star Chicken takeaway shop (since 1992). 
All they do is fried chook pieces - legs and wings - with a spicy batter and cayenne pepper, 3 pieces for $HK25 (or about $3.50).  Colonel Sanders got it wrong - the chicken these guys do it much much better. It was really nice, hot and spicy and we went back for a second serving. 
If you visit Wan Chai this is in a street parellel to Johnston Street, near the Wan Chai markets, about 1 block south.  Worth tracking down if you like fried chicken.

Home again on the tram being pleased with our evening shopping and $7 dinner. A cup of tea and the football channel on TV (BTW, if we haven't mentioned it before, China LOVES football). UEFA Europa League at the moment....