May 24th to 28th
Up way too early today to catch our flight to Hong Kong and we went to bed late that night after taking in the Symphony of Lights show on the promenade in Kowloon of some of the Hong Kong skyscrapers. Was a little disappointing as there are actually not that many buildings involved when you see how many buildings there are but was unique to see the external lighting of some 15 or skyscrapers controlled and set to music.
The city of Hong Kong as you probably know is on an island. We stayed in a hostel in Kowloon on the mainland in the middle of the hustle and bustle, close to markets and the MTR (subway). During the first day we did two self-guided walking tours of Kowloon, taking in: the bird, flower, jade & tropical fish, ladies and night markets, temples, historical buildings, Kowloon Park (very nice respite from the hustle/bustle). It is very large and besides gardens and water, has both an indoor and outdoor pool. We walked the Avenue of Stars (we only recognized the name of Jackie Chan) and the Cultural Center area. The skyline of Hong Kong with its forest of skyscrapers and mountains behind was very cool. Opposite to Vancouver, BC, the downtown is against the mountains and the residential area is across the harbour and flatter.
We did two more self-guided walking tours the next day, but of Hong Kong Island, taking in: colonial buildings, Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, skyscrapers (too many to mention), churches, temples, Western market, stores selling bird’s nests and many other unusual items for consumption, Hollywood Road area, and the Mid-Levels Escalators which goes up the slope part of the day and down the other (it’s over 800m long! and not actually ONE escalator but a series of them). We then took a bus south east to Repulse Bay beach, but didn’t swim as we didn’t want to add salt to all the sweat! The ride provided awesome views and a thrilling ride due to all the hairpin turns, narrow roads and steep drop offs. We then took another enjoyable bus ride from there west out to Aberdeen where we took a sampan tour for an hour of that harbor (just the two of us) giving us interesting insights to how reliant so many are on the ocean. There was quiet a disparity between the fishing vessels, the sampans that are actually homes and the luxury yachts all docked together with million dollar condos on shore.
One interesting sight that we experienced on Sunday, was the thousands and thousands of women picnicking all over the city, wherever there was shade. It being Sunday it was the maids’ only day off (shame on Hong Kongers). We also learned that the majority of the maids are Filipino – again putting the Filipino men to shame, as they do in the Nursing and Hospitality industries around the world. These ladies all gather to socialize together sitting on the ground in tunnels, in parks, in squares, pretty much wherever they can find open space downtown.
The next day we set off for Victoria Peak. After a subway ride and a walk we arrived at and enjoyed seeing Kowloon and Hong Kong from the water aboard the short Star Ferry ride. We then opted to take the recommended bus to the top of the Peak – it provided views from the East, West and South side of the peak, and as before was a thrilling ride. Others confirmed we got lucky with a clear, smog-free view. It was unusual to us to see so many shopping stores on top of the mountain, but it did not take away from our views – quite spectacular. We rode the tramcar down the hill – 45 degree slope, at least! We then toured the Hong Kong Park – lots of climbing. Has a very nice aviary that spectators walk through, and some nice lakes and fountains, amongst others things not of interest to us.
We were unable to go up the Bank of China Tower as planned as Doug did not have his DL or passport with him – others be advised to always carry some form of ID. We then tried out the historic East/West tram, which lived up to expectations: slow, cheap, uncomfortable but able to see a lot and experience what it was/is like for others to travel with the tram as their main mode of transportation. We ended the day touring the Hong Kong History Museum – many excellent exhibits and many great insights into the history of Hong Kong.