Ok so China to Hong Kong, I’m so sorry but this wont be brief 🙂
Waking up with quite a hangover from the drinks we had the night before with my client Michael, we packed our bags for the next leg of our journey – walking over the border into Hong Kong. I couldn’t imagine how we were going to just stroll in, surely we had to get a bus, ferry or something? It seemed too easy…and it was. We kissed goodbye to Chairman Mao and China, went through immigration and walked over an enclosed bridge into Hong Kong. BOSH! Another stamp in my passport, yay! After changing up our Chinese Yuan into HK Dollars, we had to get onto the shuttle train out of the border, then onto the metro to our side of town (Kowloon) where our hotel was. That’s when we instantly realised Hong Kong was going to be a bit pricier when the train tickets were almost ten times the price as those in China. Gulp! People queued for the trains, there was no pushing or shoving and certainly no spitting. That was the first thing I noticed. Then there were signs everywhere on our carriage saying ‘no eating’, ‘no smoking’ ‘no spitting’ or you’d be fined. ‘If you have a cold, wear a mask’, ‘if you sneeze, cover your mouth, use a tissue and throw it into a bin’. Wow, no more dodging grollies on pavements then in this country. People sat in silence or when they spoke it was at a nice level, not shouting at each other like I had gotten used to over the last month. If it was this orderly underground, what was it going to be like once we emerged onto street level?!
We got off at our stop – Yau Ma Tai and prepared for the normal long slog to find our hotel. We threw on our waterproofs as it was pouring down outside, covered our bags and got the map out. Walking out of the station, there where signs everywhere in both traditional Mandarin (slightly more detailed than the simplified characters in mainland China) and in English telling you where you were, what you could find left on the street as well as right, and that was when we spotted our hotel name. Yep in big bold writing on the station wall would you believe it? When we stepped outside, the bloody front door of our hotel was right there! It was too easy. Cheers Hong Kong, you are my new best friend. Our bedroom was on the 10th floor and we could just about fit inside the lift with our backpacks on. It was slightly bigger than the room we had in Shenzhen, but this time we had tons of freebies – tea, shampoo, jasmine shower gel, pens, slippers and a kettle that was blue when it was off, but turned red when you switched it on. How cool is that eh?! Ha ha! After unpacking, we went straight out as we were so excited about seeing more of this amazing place that was so user-friendly. We walked down Nathan road (the road we were staying on, which also carries onto the harbour) and turned into Temple street to find something to eat. This experience was nothing like China, as the menus were all in English and the staff were super friendly and not scared of me and Andy, constantly saying ‘hello, welcome to Hong Kong, enjoy your stay’. There were no deep-fried rabbit heads, jellied chicken feet or pig intestine noodles in sight, it was all the amazing Chinese food we are used to eating back in the UK and more, and obviously better!
For the rest of the day we walked round Kowloon park, a free area for everyone to use, full of greenery and Banyan trees. People do Tai Chi in the mornings here and chill out during the day. There was a free exotic bird aviary, beautiful stone sculptures, flowers and a public swimming pool that knocked the socks off any I’d ever seen before. Don’t get me started on the wild birds here, they were everywhere! Some were red, black and blue, and all were signing the most wonderful songs. We were in heaven. Sorry to always change the subject to toilets though (I do like a good ole toilet story!), but I used the public loo in the park and was shocked to find western toilets in there, stocked with reams of toilet paper and hand soap. Outside were two toilet attendants with a rota behind them on the wall which showed that they cleaned and disinfected the toilets every hour. Amazing! Anyway, enough of me bigging up their shiters, we carried onto the harbour and I nearly fell over when I saw the stunning view. Words cannot describe how awesome this ruddy place is, just check out the pictures in our gallery below. Look at that architecture! We wandered down the ‘Avenue of the Stars’ along the seafront, which like Hollywood, had actors names, signatures and hand prints in the pavement. I spotted Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee to name a couple. Above us were tons of black Kites (sorry I’m back to talking about birds again! What a nerd!), who would circle the city from high above, swoop down and skim the water looking for food. Their wingspan must have been nearly 2 meters across, they were massive. We then took the 5 min ferry over to Hong Kong island and walked to the bottom of Victoria Peak, where we took the old Victorian tram up to the top. It was so steep, I just couldn’t imagine how they made this back in the 1800’s. At the top, I nearly fell over again at the sight of the view (I keep doing that here!). You could see the city beneath sprawling out into the distance with different coloured metallic skyscrapers reflecting the sun. We stayed here till the sun set, admiring the view on the city side as well as the other side of the peak, looking out onto the sea and the other islands in the distance. This side was covered in jungle, it was green and untouched and I hoped that it would be left that way and not built on in the future. We tried a few restaurants and bars, searching for a reasonably priced beer, but everything was £5 plus for a tiny glass. So we dived into the 7/11 and got two tinnies for £1.20, and drank them sat in an empty playground. I felt like I was 15 again ha ha, but when you each have a budget of £30 a day for accommodation, food, drink and activities, you need to cut corners, so the 7/11 has become our new place to go for a cheap drink 🙂 Oh yes, we know how to party! After downing our beers, we walked back over to the viewing platform and saw for the first time, the city glowing at night with all its twinkling lights and lasers in the sky. So mesmerizing. We watched the nightly 8pm light show which was cool – all the hotels and businesses along with the harbour sync their lighting for 15mins, stunning the crowds with all the colours of the rainbow. After, we wandered back to the harbour and was shocked to find the ferry was still working as it was past 11pm by now. We had fun taking tons (and I mean TONS) of photos of the city at night and must have got back into our hotel room at 1am. What a day!!!
After such an epic first day in Hong Kong, we were absolutely shattered when we woke up. With achy feet and tired legs, I guess flip flops were a bad choice to go hiking round a city for 13 hours! That didn’t stop us from island hopping and exploring what the rest of this fantastic place had to offer. Taking the metro out to Lantau (an island that features Disney Land, the Giant Buddha and old fishing villages) we took the 25 min long cable car up to the famous Tian Tan Buddha, sat serenely on top of the Ngong Ping plateau. He was absolutely huge and incredibly stunning! A great place to just sit like him and contemplate life…well in Andy’s case what he wanted to eat for dinner that night 🙂 Later, we rode the cable car back down and took a local bus (leather seats, air con…. ahhhhhh Hong Kong!) to Tai O, an old fishing village where they live on either wooden stilted houses or tiny aluminium huts by the sea. It was so quiet here, hardly any tourists and the people were just going about their day the way they have always done for centuries. Stalls sold dried fish of all kinds, I even saw a whole shark hanging up in the back of someones house! Outside one old lady’s hut were barrels of stinky dried out minced shrimp. There were so many barrels of shrimp, she must have sold them all to the mainland restaurants. Even though you couldn’t even swing cat in their tiny little homes, most had the biggest LCD TV’s I’ve ever seen on their walls. These dudes obviously like their TV soaps! We found a wall by a beach and just sat listening to the waves and watching white Egrets fish on the rocks while the sun set on our last day in Hong Kong. We were a little sad that we didn’t have longer here 🙁 Slightly apprehensive about flying to Bangkok the next day, we went to sleep absolutely shattered and buzzing on how cool Hong Kong had been for us. I would defo like to go back one day and take my sister there – Bex you would go crazy in their night markets love, the fake handbags were everywhere!!! OMG!!! 🙂
Sorry I’ve banged on about Hong Kong, but if you kinda want a taste of China but are too scared to go to the mainland, you have to visit. Here are some facts/observations I made during our stay –
Good: It has the flavour of China with the order of the UK…but much much better. There are no bikes on the roads, just posh cars, red double-decker buses and taxi’s, so there is no chaos or constant beeping. A green man on a crossing means you can cross without fear of your life! Toilets are super clean and you have a choice of either squat or western style. Like I pointed out before, toilets have paper and soap too unlike China! No pushing or shoving, everyone forms an orderly que…again unlike China. Food is so yummy. Depending on what island you visit, there’s a good mix of breathtaking architecture and wild green land. Loved the bird life here. They speak Cantonese here as well as Mandarin and English.
Bad: It’s a bit expensive to stay, eat, drink and visit anywhere. Was a bit of a shock coming from China. Also, I saw a lot of shark fin soup on menus and dried out in jars in traditional medicine shops. Come on Hong Kong, this really shouldn’t be going on in such a high-tech modern city. Slightly disappointed in you there.
Slightly crazy but good I guess: There are fines for nearly everything – smoking in public, littering, eating and drinking on underground etc. I saw cleaners bleaching city walkways and people cleaning the handrails on escalators going into the metro. Even our lift in our hotel was disinfected every hour, this city is so so clean its insane!
Anyway, better let you get back to work, go to bed or give you a break. That was a mammoth novel you just read! Emmy xxx