Hello all, we have had a great time catching up with Mark Robertson and his sister Karen again (Karen lives here), and rushing around sightseeing as we have booked a ticket to Melbourne for Thursday morning. We have both been to Hong Kong before(although it was a few years ago for both of us..) so we did not have a huge to do list. Just really enjoyed being back in the western world and Mark and Karens' tour guides of places they recommend, including lots of walking... (Karen is a fitness freak!!).
Hong Kong is a fab place, and we enjoyed it even more due to the people here having a lifestyle which is much closer to what we had in London, but unfortunately also at London prices (a bit stiff on our travel budget, but at least it will prepare us for being in Australia and NZ again). Life for us seemed to return to normality as we and Mark all stayed at Karen's place on Lantau Island. Being in an apartment again made us feel like we were home again, and this was thanks so much to Karen for letting us stay and for looking after us so well. Her and Mark were great tour guides as well.
Got to Hong Kong (HK) via a 12 hour overnight sleeper bus via China's border city - Shenzhen, which is an SEZ. Being an SEZ, Special Economic Zone, makes it one of the richest, and fastest growing cities, in China. ie It connects the mainland with its latest (re) acquisition Hong Kong. So business all comes through here, and of course, the HK people all come here to shop! The weather changed dramatically as we made our journey, so by the end, we were arriving in the middle of a very big HK storm, and the heat (Autumn Tiger) had finally broken completely. We then had pretty cool conditions for our whole time in HK, which as we agreed with the locals, was a blessed relief for all. Still around 22-23 degrees for the most part. The storm was pretty severe when we arrived - it is the end of the typhoon season here, but it is not too much a problem getting around, when nearly everything is indoors. To get to Lantau, we had to go on the KCR train from the border, which was just like crossing a border on the underground, which was a bit bizarre. Then we went on the MTR, the proper HK underground, under the ocean to Central, and finally a fast ferry trip to Lantau for half an hour. We were glad when we finally ditched our packs at the end of all that. We got very used to catching the ferry the next four days, with fine views over HK Island and of Kowloon, when the weather was clear.
So what did we do for 5 days...
Just the (many) highlights:
Got boozed on our first night on HK Island (Saturday), which was pretty tiring, after the bus journey the night before, but lots and lots of fun. Had a fine Malaysian curry in Lan Kwai Fong, and went to some ex-pat filled sports bars. Beware, the drinks cost more here than in a central London bar. Then taxi over to Wan Chai, another well known drinking haunt of HK, and went to Meis Amis bar, and would you believe we ran into the only other person we know of in HK, Richard Wyber (aka Dr. Green to ex Willesden Green folk). Amazing that this should happen in a city of 7 million, and we had even forgotten he was here. After a bit of an emotional re-union, Richard had to buy shots (as he always has!) which finished us all off pretty much for the evening. Mark also knows Richard from NZ days, but he had forgotten to contact him regarding our visit! So all in all, it was hilarious to run into Richard (not surprising it was in a pub mind) and really really great to see him again. We all met him again for a great Thai lunch on the Monday. Thanks for treating us Richard - you helped some backpackers out big time!
Sunday was spent visiting the sights of Lantau Island, after a hang over morning! Staying here was a real eye opener for HK. The island is bigger than HK Island, but only has 50,000 residents! It is very hilly, lush green and has the biggest beaches in HK. Makes for great hiking country. So we caught the bus to the other side of the island to visit the small fishing village of Tai O, and then up to the main tourist attraction of Lantau, the Tian Tan Buddha Statue which is sitting on top of a large hill, next to Lantau Peak (highest peak on Lantau at about 950m) and overlooks a very large reservoir and the sea. Apparently the Statue is the world's largest outdoor seated bronze buddha - not sure which of those three it is the largest, or if it is all three, but it is bloody big! I do not think it was bigger than the seated buddha we saw in Leshan, China which also claims that title! We then briskly hiked the 5.5kms from the hill, down through the bush and past the reservoir to the road. It was a lot like the hiking country you get in NZ and the cooler conditions reminded us of home as well. It was a brisk hike as we were getting worried about the disappearing daylight. Then we ate at the South African owned Stoep Restaurant at a superb location sitting on Cheung Sha Beach, HK's largest beach.
Monday, we went into town for a sightseeing day with Mark. Much of which we were re-visiting from 8-10 years ago. Went up the Peak Tram for the compulsory visit to Victoria Peak, to soak in the magnificent views of Hong Kong City and harbour. Then a quick walk into Hong Kong Park before lunch with Richard. Visited the HK Convention and Exhibition Centre before going over to Kowloon side for the even more compulsory shopping expedition down the markets. That night we had a superb dinner at Mark & Karens' Dads place - the Tiger prawns were massive, and tasted great!
And our best fun day was on Tuesday when we all went to Ocean Park, near Aberdeen on the south side of HK Island. It was a long and thoroughly entertaining day all round. We would definitely recommend this place, especially for value for money. Ocean Park has the world's largest aquarium, and the Atoll Reef replication is superb. They also had a dolphin and sea lion show, and once again Pandas. They were in an even better A/C enclosure than the other places we have seen them. These ones were called JiaJia and AnAn. Then there is a gondola ride that takes you over a small mountain to get to the Ocean Park proper with great views over Repulse and Deep Water Bays.
But best of all was the fun we had on the amusement park rides. A great way to let our hair down. We kept returning to the Dragon Rollercoaster, and to the very scary Abyss. A 20 storey instant drop, leaving you just above the ground. Fantastic views while you nervously wait at the top though - over Aberdeen Harbour and out to the Pacific Ocean. Also went on several other joy rides, among them the river rapids ride, at which the vehicle may have been built for smaller chinese people, as we got totally drenched on the final run in! Thank heavens it is warm around here. We also had an announcement that we were on Typhoon Level 1 warning while there, but were relieved to hear that this means the typhoon is still about 500kms away! Overall, Ocean Park is a great place to mix the heart stopping fun rides with the more relaxed aquarium viewing. Ended that day with a meal on Lantau eating Mezze's at a Turkish restaurant. Great day all round!
Final day in HK - the typhoon went up to level 3, and to us on Lantau, it meant pouring rain all day. Meant we did not get to do our planned trip into town to go up the highest building in HK - especially not a good idea when you could not possibly see anything. But we did get plenty of time to relax and to pack. Mark was leaving that evening for Auckland and us the next morning for Melbourne. The weather cleared sufficiently for us to take our wonderful host Karen to dinner down on the Lantau harbour that evening for one last chinese dinner. Next stop for us - Aussie!