About Me

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I'm an Aussie who likes wandering all over the world but keeps coming back home to paradise and my family. If you are reading this on one of my travel blogs, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you are reading the Diabetes and weight loss blog - I hope it helps in your battle with the beast. Cheers, Alan

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hong Kong

Travel Date 12th-14th March 2008.
Click on any picture to see a large version.

The flight from Bangkok was uneventful and short on Cathay Pacific. One little thing is worth noting for travellers. The final security screen for Bangkok Airport gate lounges is at the gate lounge - after the Duty Free stores. Any liquids in bottles greater than 100ml bought at the Duty Free stores can not be passed through security. That certainly perplexed a lot of people in front of me, especially those who had bought duty free elsewhere and were transferring at Bangkok. Luckily, I had not bought any.

Arrival in Hong Kong was similar to anywhere else; a long queue waiting to get through immigration. After a while you learn to go with the flow; it's still a pain. I was unfortunate to be behind an elderly couple with a problem. The man was being assisted by the lady beside him in discussing their difficulty with the immigration officer. His wife had given up long ago and decided to get dinner out of their bag. Which she did; a bowl, some noodles to put in it, some hot soup from a thermos to cover them - and started feeding him while he talked. She looked quite annoyed a few minutes later when he resolved the problem and they had to move on when she hadn't finished feeding him. No-one, including the immigration officer, paid any attention at any stage.

A little research on the web can sometimes be very helpful. As soon as I was through the formalities I went straight to the Octopus counter. For HK$300 I bought a card that gave me return Express train travel to downtown and 3 days unlimited travel on the MTR; when I returned on departure I received HK$50 back on return of the card. Excellent value for a net cost of about AU$35.

The train was ultra-modern, fast and only had two stops before arriving in downtown Hong Kong; I could have taken the MTR to the hotel, but it was only on arrival by cab from the station that I realised there was an MTR station directly opposite.

I booked at L'Hotel Causeway Bay via the net using http://www.asiareservations.net/, the price was great at AU$101 per night. I had not used them before so I was a little nervous but there were no difficulties. As the booking was run-of-the-house I was very pleased to be upgraded to a half-harbour view room. It was excellent; just above where the line runs across towards the top. The hotel wasn't downtown but it was close to everything I needed. Within a block were dozens of restaurants, a laundry that charged by the kilo, shops where I could buy almost anything and the doctor, the MTR and the tram were opposite the doors.

The night shots don't do the harbour lights display justice - mainly because I was downtown watching for the main part of the event.

I was in Hong Kong for two full days, arriving mid-afternoon Wednesday and leaving late at night on Friday, so I had time to wander. As I like to do.

I tried all the means of transport, using my Octopus on the MTR, the HK$2 trams, the ferries, and of course, shanks's pony. For the non-Aussies - that's my feet.

The MTR was fast, clean and crowded. I never had to wait more than five minutes for a train to turn up, no matter what part of town I was in. For the Aussies, this sign was on the subway wall; I hope it was working. And everywhere I went were ads for Aussie Universities. RMIT was very prominent.

I must admit I eventually lost track of the parts of town I was in, so the photos are a little random. I've decided to group them by type, rather than in the sequence I wandered in .

First, the trams. They were fascinating, frequent and cheap. But whoever designed them presumed nobody over 5' 6" tall would travel upstairs. I have very little padding on top; I had slightly less after my first tram experience. But the view as it travelled along was almost voyeuristic, looking down on people's lives in the crowded side streets as we trundled along.

Then there were the buildings. I enjoy looking at buildings, old and new, comparing styles and architecture. I have no qualifications in the field at all, apart from designing a couple of my homes and renovating several others over the years, but I'm fascinated by the endless variety of ways architects can create variations on the spaces we live and work in. I found some of the Hong Kong examples just stunning. I started getting a crick in my neck, something I thought I'd only get in Times Square.

I spent hours hopping on and off the MTR or trams and then walking around neighbourhoods.

Several parts of the city were exclusive to very specific products. There were several blocks where every shop seemed to be floor coverings, mainly tiles. Then others where every shop sold plumbing goods. And others were all electrical. I came across an extensive market, which had more variety. They sold absolutely everything; not just foods but clothes, hardware, live animals, shoes, herbs, herbal medications, everything.

The hygiene rules in foreign lands are often a shock for us, brought up in different cultures. Here we have live chickens and other animals right beside the fresh meat butcher's shop.

Maybe that had something to do with Hong Kong being my first brush with the traveller's curse. Actually, it was probably more to do with my penchant for avoiding tourist restaurants. Wherever I travel I try to eat with the locals, in the tiny restaurants, not the tourist restaurants. In most countries that works very well but in Hong Kong it turned out to be a mistake. I ate the worst chinese food I've ever had in Hong Kong, and spent my first morning gaining an intimate knowledge of the small room in my hotel suite. Sorry if that's too much information for you - but it's an aspect of foreign travel that can't be ignored. I had the right tablets with me and all was well by lunchtime.

No trip to Hong Kong is complete without a trip to the Peak on the Peak Tram. It is quite an experience, both the ride there and back and the wonderful views from the Peak. Unfortunately the ever-present smog spoiled the far view, but the view towards Kowloon was still spectacular. And the grumpy look is the result of me thinking I had set the timer wrong. Of course that was the moment when the shutter clicked.

On the final afternoon I took the Star Ferry Harbour Tour. It takes about an hour around the harbour; the route is on the first photo. It's from the harbour that you really start to understand the energy of this city - the retreating vista of skyscraper apartments into the distance as soon as you leave the downtown districts, the industrial districts, the extremely busy port, both for container/cargo ships and cruise ships.

And it is constantly being remade - this is beside the ferry wharves. There did not seem to be many very old buildings downtown apart from a few with historical markers.

Later I will write a post on medical matters for travellers. Hong Kong brings that to mind, because I decided to get treatment for a leg problem. Without going into all the gory details, a tiny wound on my leg decided not to heal and had become steadily worse while I was in Thailand and Cambodia and was no longer tiny.

That's not a wise thing for a diabetic to ignore, so I rather nervously went to the doctor in a tiny surgery opposite the hotel. I felt a bit more comfortable when I noticed the Australian qualifications on his window. I wasn't quite as cheerful when he mentioned, while he had the scalpel doing it's work, that those were from a correspondence course. However, his treatment was excellent and the leg started healing again and was better within a few weeks. The price was good too - HK$400, about AU$56. That included his consultation, minor surgery, two packets of medication to take with me, a surgical dressing kit for me to use, a small bottle of antiseptic and some ointment. I'm glad I needed it there and not in New York City.

After my trials with Chinese cuisine I found a wonderful Thai restaurant near the hotel; the meals were as good as Bangkok, so I ate there for two dinners. This was dinner on the final night.
Despite the minor medical mishaps I thoroughly enjoyed my short stay in Hong Kong; but if I return to China I think it will probably be to the interior. I'd love to see the heartland. Maybe some day.

Next, to India

Cheers, Alan


  1. Anonymous5:18 pm

    Hi Mate - just came back from a week in HK for business. I had not been there in 11 years and your blog was great ... all the best for future adventures!

  2. Anonymous11:43 am

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