24.07.2015 - 28.07.2015
That wasn't the best nights sleep, it was too hot and at one point I was being attacked by a ruddy mosquito - I could hear the little bugger zooming past every so often and woke up with six bites - grr! We're on our travels again today, leaving China and heading to Hong Kong - I have only a week of my fabulous adventure left - noooooooo!
We were packed and down in reception for 6.30, ready for the minibus to take us to the train station which took about an hour. Our journey today is made up of two bullet trains and then two metro trains and we'll be in Hong Kong.
I've enjoyed China and the things we've seen have been absolutely amazing BUT three weeks have been long enough, I have had enough of the place now, it's all way too big and busy and crowded and the cities aren't really pretty places and the people aren't particularly that friendly or nice (sorry, I know that's a big sweeping generalisation!), I think it's all a bit too big and crowded for little old me! I know Hong Kong is big and will be just as crowded and mad but I'm looking forward to getting there, I've been before so think It will feel a bit familiar and I'm also looking forward to being able to unpack a bit and be in one place for a week rather than being on the move every couple of days, don't get me wrong, I love love love travelling and seeing all these amazing places I'm just a bit tired I think.
The journey to Hong Kong was pretty easy, other than lugging my bags with me - they feel super heavy today, no idea why. The two bullet trains were great - very clean and big. We were on the first one for two and half hours and that one got up to 246kmph and we were on the second one for about 45 minutes - that one reached 305kmph. All the stations were new and very clean and have been built specially for the bullet trains so weren't mad busy like the other train stations we've been through so made a refreshing change.
The border crossing into Hong Kong was super smooth too, it only took about half an hour. One thing that made us laugh were signs telling people they could only take so 1.8kg of baby milk formula (of all things!) across the borders back from Hong Kong to China, but it turns out that apparently smuggling baby milk is a big thing because the stuff produced in China isn't very good quality - as well as the officials signs there are also loads of adverts for baby milk everywhere in the airport which seems a bit mean. Our group got through easily but poor Jakkie, being Chinese, doesn't have it so easy - the immigration people made her shift her bag and show her tummy to prove she wasn't pregnant and scooting over to Hong Kong to give birth!!
Sadly, one of the great things about being over the border in Hong long is that I can use my phone like I'm at home - good old 3 feel at home service - so I have unlimited 3G, phone calls, texts etc - hooraaaah!! I know it's very sad to be so chuffed about something so trivial but after being so restricted in China it is very very nice!
Our hotel was just round the corner from the subway station and is nice and clean but has super hard beds - as in there's more cushioning on my carpeted floor at home!! We headed out for lunch at Tsui Wah restaurant (a famous chain restaurant which apparently are scattered all over Hong Kong) it wasn't the fanciest of places but the food was good and the portions were huge, I had a noodle dish with mushrooms, tofu and veggies, it was delicious but very expensive compared what we've been paying in China - something like about £7, I know that's probably still a bit cheaper than it would be at home we've been paying about £2 for similar over the last few weeks - ha ha!
We went back to the hotel and got ready to meet up again at 7pm and had our last group outing together, we all went together to see the symphony of lights which is a light and laser display done to music - the lights and lasers are on all the skyscrapers at both sides of the harbour, it's pretty impressive. Ben got talking to a German lady while we were watching the display so we got her to take some group pictures for us and then we said our goodbyes to Jakkie, our CEO, Who is heading back to China first thing and Jackie and Gary who are heading off to some nice sounding beach resort tomorrow. The rest of the group are leaving at different times over the next few days and then it'll just be little old me here! I love these trips but never like getting to the goodbye bit. :-(
The rest of us walked back to the hotel via Temple street market which sells lots of tat, and I'm guessing this is where lots of the stuff from eBay comes from!! I did find a fruit stall which sold some very delicious lychees and treated myself to a bag - yummy! I plodded through the market somehow losing the others on my way, it was about eleven by this time so I scooted back to the hotel and to bed.
Well to say that was the hardest bed in the world, I had such a good nights sleep, we've not got much planned today so I didn't set my alarm and slept in til 10.30 - very nice - Elin slept even longer!! We dawdled getting ready and met up with some of the remaining gang in the lobby at 12. We headed out for breakfast / brunch / lunch and found a place nearby, me and Elin had a pineapple bun and French toast and coffee - I'm a bit worried that after three weeks being roomies we're morphing into one another, we're ordering the same food and I can finish off her sentences - ha ha!!
Nemo and Maria then say goodbye and six of us go for a wander, we find Kowloon Park which is a nice tranquil park in the middle of the chaos and then we head towards the main shopping street where we find M&S which even has a food hall - hmmmmmm! It's all a lot more expensive that at home but it's nice to see the familiarity and I might possibly come back here to buy a nice M&S salad for tea one day. Its funny they have a Taste of Britain section and there's all the traditional British food like Battenburg cake (is that really British?), strawberries and cream sweets, Pontefract cakes - made in Pontefract - that's got to be all of ten miles away from my house - ha ha! Outside on the street there are hundreds of men trying to sell fake handbags and watches, I'm sure last time I came they just wanted to sell tailor made suits, this time it seems to be fake everything.
Then it was time to wave Nat n Jordan off - boo hoo, they were the first folk i bumped into on this trip and have both been crackers the entire way through the trip! Then there were four! Me, Elin, Rachel and Declan found ourselves in a really good book shop and must be been in for the best part of an hour just reading the backs of books, there were some really random ones which I've written down and will be looking for when I get home.
We headed for a drink at a German bar which Elin had spotted, and after that Rachel and Declan went off to their next hotel and Elin helped me find my new hotel and helped me carry my bags - bless her! My new hotel is laaaaarvely, I'd originally booked it thinking that some friends were joining me in Hong Kong, when it turned our they weren't coming I went to cancel it cos it was a bit out of my price range on my own but as I was cancelling, out of curiosity I had a look how much it'd be if I booked it again then, it was a cheaper price and with a discount I managed to get it for about £175 less than the original price so I rebooked it and I'm glad I did. It's in a pretty good part of town, close to everything, is very clean and comfortable, super modern with a fridge and microwave, it has little butterflies on the pillows to show you which are the soft pillows and which are the hard ones (little things like that make me smile!!) and it's kind of a similar colour scheme to my bedroom so is sort of gently getting me ready to go home (I still don't wanna go hoooooooooooome!!!).
After Elin has helped herself to some bits and bobs from my room (water which I won't drink and I think a toothbrush?!) we head back to pick her stuff up and I go with her to the airport express terminal which is super swanky and she can check and drop her bags off at the train station and they'll get taken straight to her plane - how neat is that?!? I wave another fabulous roommate goodbye - I have been lucky with my roomies on this entire trip and I'm sure I've got some new lifelong friends (Elin was super great cos looking at my side of the room compared to hers, she made me look tidy - ha ha ha!!)
On my lonesome I wander back to my hotel, we'd walked past a veggie restaurant earlier so I decided to go there for my tea. I've still no concept of times, days or dates so didn't really realise it was 8pm on a Saturday night and the place was jam packed but they managed to squeeze me into a corner under an air con vent, the man who sat me down was quite pleasant but the rest of the staff looked like they were sucking lemons and tried their best not to make eye contact with any of the customers. I ordered sweet and sour Vegetarian "prawns" made out of soya and seaweed and almond rice, it was delicious but huge. I'd asked for the drinks menu which had lots of nice sounding juices on but the only things they actually had were full fat coke and tea so I passed on them, a teapot of hot water was dropped off at my table though (by one of the sour faced waitresses), I didn't drink it cos I don't like water let alone hot water but when I went to pay it turned out I'd been charged for it - my bill for the "prawn" things, rice, unwanted water and service charge came to about £18 - ouch, I've been used to paying less than £3 for a bellyful plus a big beer and generally much better service than that - the trip adviser review will be pretty scathing!
It was about 9pm by this time to I call back at the lovely m&s for bottle of wine (which is very reasonable considering how expensive the food is!) cracked it open back at the hotel and then head to bed.
Ooh I did have a good nights sleep in my lovely hotel room last night and was awake bright n breezy this morning. I'm spending the day with Mary, Mairead and Ben doing the hop on hop off bus today, they went to Macau yesterday. Im meeting them at 10 so I have a leisurely hour getting. Ready and then head to McDs just up the road from my hotel for breakfast - egg McMuffin and hash brown and a coffee, I'm not a fan of McDs usually but they're pretty spot on for a good breakfast.
I'm at our meeting point a bit early so have a quick look around and find the Big Bus lady, when the others arrive we get our tickets, we end up getting a two day pass which had loads of free stuff chucked in and works out to be a really good deal - the Big Bus sales lady is a really good sales woman but really nice too, Mairead manages to get us a discount and when I've done the maths I think we got a pretty good deal. We decide to do the Green line first and plan to get off at Stanley market and Aberdeen where we get a free samper (little boat) ride. The market is quite cute but after a while I remember I've been here before and Aberdeen is a fishing village on the river where people live and work on junks, it's great to visit but the river is filthy with loads of rubbish floating in it, not exactly a nice place to live and fish to eat and earn for a living.
Our next stop is the peak tram to take us up to Victoria Peak, the tram is a funicular tram (ie one that goes up a very steep hill!), the queue is huge but because we're Big Bus customers we get taken to almost the front of the queue. The tram is great, you don't get to see much because if the trees so me and Mairead entertained ourselves by photo bombing the selfies that the girls in front of us were taking - hee hee!
Some of the others were starving (they'd obviously not started the day with a McDs like me!) so after a while they decided that we needed pizza so we went to a pizza place at the top of the peak. It was a pretty nice but expensive meal - £85 for four of us to have a pizza and a drink each. Although the view we had while we were eating said pizza was pretty spectacular so I guess we were paying for that.
I decided To leave the others to get back down to the hop on hop off bus but when I got to the peak tram queue, it was huge (40 mins wait) so I decided I'd walk down instead, it was quite a nice walk although walking on a steep down hill track in flip flips isn't ideal - my trusty flips are doing an amazing job but the toe posts are taking some hammering! The Old peak road is quite a nice path although I was amazed at the amount if mad folk jogging past me uphill rather than downhill - wow impressive!! I got to the bottom and had missed the bus I wanted by a minute - grr! I had a drink waiting for the next one and hopped back on the bus, the one I'd missed was the last one to do the full loop so I only got chance to see half of the red loop, I'll come back and finish it off the day after tomorrow. The bus stopped at the Central pier which conveniently has a big Ferris wheel very nearby so I decided to go on that, it was just turning to dusk which is my favourite time to go on stuff like this - you get to see all the city lights coming on - Hong Kong skyline is definitely one of the best in the world. Next to the Ferris wheel was a temporary amusement park to commemorate one of Hong Kong's old amusement park from the days before all the big roller coasters so was just lots of hook a duck stalls and the likes, apparently the park had animals too and there were the stories about them too in a little tent which was lovely to stroll round.
I caught the ferry back to Kowloon and headed back to my hotel to get freshened up and then was straight back out to say a final farewell to the remaining G group - we do milk these farewells - ha ha! Mary had chosen an Irish bar near my hotel (turns our most of us were in the same area) cos she wanted to watch some Irish sports match, it turned out they didn't have it on (poor show for an Irish bar!!), I had massive de Ja Vue when I walked in the pub and it turned out that it was one which me and Paula had spent quite a bit of time in last time we were here. The crew left were Ernest, Tammy, Mary, Mairead, Rachel, Declan and Ben, we had a couple of drinks and shared a big bowl of chips and nattered about the highs and lows of the trip before saying our final goodbyes and all going our separate ways. I toddled back to my hotel and hit the sack - it's been a loch day but I'm a bit sad at swing goodbye to my new friends!
I felt a bit squiffy this morning - I must be out of wine drinking practice! I'm off out doing a hike this morning, yesterday I'd emailed the company I'm doing it with saying we could start earlier if they wanted so we'd moved our start time from eleven to ten - when my alarm went off I soooooo wished I'd left it at eleven!!!
I decided a hike needs a pretty substantial breakfast so called to McDs again for egg mcmuffin and hash brown - filling, yummy and quick! Then I head to the subway to find my way to the metro station where I'm meeting Rory from wild Hong Kong for my hike. The Hong Kong metro is really easy to use and very well organised so I get there with time to spare, as I was hanging round a little group of Asian hikers started congregating (well they looked like,they were in hiking gear!) so I went over to ask them if they were my group - they weren't woops! Bang on ten of clock a young man who looked very much like prince Harry headed towards me and introduced himself (in a British accent not far off prince Harry's!) as Rory my hiking guide.
We needed to get a bus to the start of the hike so jumped on a double decker and off we went, we were at our stop at the start of the Dragons Back after about fifteen minutes. It was quite a nice hike, not too strenuous, there were lots of steps for the first maybe quarter of a mile but then it just turned into a well walked path, to be honest if I'd have known how to get there I didn't really need a guide, it was such a good path and well signposted it was impossible to get lost. Rory was very interesting though, I'd say he's late twenties, born in Hong Kong but went to school in Scotland (not sure how that explains his queens English accent!) and loves his adventures - last year he cycled round Africa - on his own! It sounded like a pretty epic experience and he said he'd not had many problems while he'd been doing it (other than catching someone rifling through his bag once and a couple of pick pocket attempts!) - cool!!
The hike took about three hours and most of that three hours we swapped travel stories and talked about Hong Kong. We stopped a few times so I could take some photos, there was a good view over Stanley harbour where we'd been yesterday and also you could see the ICC building peeping over the hills in the distance - it was weird to think that this peaceful countryside was so close to the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong city.
The weather was quite weird too, it didn't feel particularly hot but was very very humid, we both sweated buckets, at one point, disgustingly, I had sweat dripping off my eyelashes which I've never experienced before - obviously my eyebrows are doing the job they're meant to be doing!!
The walk finished at Big Wave Bay which is a lovely little beach and very clean with blue sea, I did have my bikini with me but decided to just go for a paddle instead, the sea was lovely and warm. We cooled off with a cold drink (mango smoothie- mmm!) at a little cafe and then went to catch a minibus to take us back to the metro station. It was a really nice morning and definitely blew away the cobwebs.
I said goodbye to Rory and got on the metro to take me back to Central station on Hong Kong Island, it was only about 2pm and I'd not really thought about what I was going to do for the rest of the day. I'd got my flip flops with me so swapped into them and decided to have a wander round the city before going back over to Kowloon, the city is huge and it's not easy to keep your bearings because the buildings are so big you can't easily see the landmarks from street level so I got lost a couple of times and had to consult my good friend google to work out where I was!
I'd spotted there was a botanical and zoological gardens (both free entry!) somewhere near the peak tram so went to investigate them. The gardens aren't huge but big enough and it's nice that it's there, all peaceful smack bang in the middle of all the high rise skyscrapers. The zoo isn't a big one but there were quite a few bird species, primates, lemurs and tortoises and apparently the zoo is involved In Captive breeding of endangered species so that's a good thing. The funniest / best bit of wandering round was watching a Pygmy orang-utan passing a sack through the bars to a monkey in the next enclosure, the monkey wasn't putting as much effort in as the orang-utan and the orang-utan ended up getting fed up and chucked the sack away, it then came to investigate a few of us who were stood watching, he climbed up the bars of his enclosure and peed - purposely aiming his stream of wee directly at us, thankfully the little bugger missed but only by inches!!
I had a look round the rest of the park and then wandered back to the ferry via the HSBC head office, yesterday on the bus the narrative mentioned the HSBC lions who have been sat outside the building since they were commissioned from Britain in 1935. The lions, called Stephen and Stitt, after former managers of the Bank, have seen and survived lots including being used as target practice by the Japanese when they invaded and took control of Hong Kong in 1941 so I went to see and sure enough you can see the bullet marks in the bronze!!
My little feet were starting to throb a bit (turns out by the end of the day, according to the pedometer on my phone, I've walked 23km today!) so I jumped on the ferry back to Kowloon calling at subway for a sarnie for my tea (I forgot how good a veggie pattie on Italian herb bread with onion, olives, jalapeños and sweet onion sauce actually is) and sat on the promenade while inmate it watching the world go by.
On my way back to my hotel I bumped into Mairead, it's funny, this is a huge city but I still keep seeing / bumping into people I know. We had a ten minute natter, another goodbye hug (they're off home an hour or so later) and I flip flopped back to my hotel - quickly calling at a supermarket for some snacks and a bottle of wine, I was being good with snacks - apple, blueberries and dragon fruit but then I spotted garlic flavoured Pringles - wowsers!! First jalapeño ones in South America and now garlic ones here - such divine flavours, why are they not sold at home?!?!? Although really it's probably a good job they're not, I'd end up looking like a Pringle!
It was about eight o clock by the time I got back so I had a nice chilled rest of evening in my hotel room.
I first woke up at about 4.30 this morning but made myself go back to sleep for a couple of hours, I'd just nodded back off at about 6am when the hotel fire alarm went off - grrr! I waited for a minute hoping it was just a test but it didn't stop so I reluctantly got up and chucked some clothes on, went to open my bedroom door and that's when it was switched off - double grr!! My feet and legs are still a bit achey today so I'm not planning on doing too much walking, I've got the second day of my hop on hop off bus to use which is probably a good thing otherwise I may have just stayed in bed.
My breakfast is a healthy punnet of blueberries and an apple as I walk to the Big Bus stop which is only just round the corner from my hotel. This is the blue loop which is the route round Kowloon, my plan is to stop on the bus and just get off at the ICC which is the current highest skyscraper in Hong Kong and the seventh tallest building in the world, I was planning to go up it anyway but it turned out that the entrance was included in my hop on hop off bus ticket - bonus! It was completed in 2010 and is still all very new and sparky looking, the public viewing area is on the 100th floor, 393m above sea level (there's another eight floors above) and is the only building in Hong Kong to have 360* views in a public viewing gallery. It was nice up there and the weather was perfect viewing weather, it's been a bit cloudy and misty for the last few days so I definitely picked the best day to come up here. There was also some interactive thing when you downloaded their app and you could have daft pictures taken, I had one taken being the big kid that I am!!
I wandered round admiring the view and came across the cafe, I was going to just have a coffee but then spotted they did cheese and mushroom quiche with a coffee for just a couple of quid more - so I treated myself, kind of an early lunch and sat eating a delicious mini quiche overlooking Victoria Harbour, it was very pleasant. While I was up there I was watching something in the water moving about, it was big and grey and bit fish shaped but was moving quite slowly but I couldn't make out exactly what it was, perhaps it was a seal or something, will have to do a bit of research to see if animals like that do come this close to the harbour.
I finished my food, had one last look around and went back down to the bus stop..... Just as the bus was pulling away, Hells bells so I nipped back up into the shopping centre for ten minutes - it's soooo posh in there, dolce and gabana, prada, Vivian Westwood, Rolex....... All a bit much so I went back down to the bus stop to chat to the Big Bus lady - she's the one who sold us our tickets the other day and as well as being a blummin good sales woman, she is also very helpful too suggesting best routes, bargaining techniques etc, she's lovely so nice to natter to.
I had only a couple of stops left on the blue line so got off at the pier and hopped on the ferry and went across to Hong Kong island to finish the red route, I only managed to do a bit of it the other day. I had thought that I'd hop off at a couple of places but I ended up getting myself quite comfy, the temperature was a stifling 35 degrees and I couldn't be bothered doing much walking so just stayed on the bus and did the entire route, it was nice listening to the narrative and music as we were driving, in fact I think this is the best hop on hop off bus I've been on. After I'd done the full route I jumped back in the ferry back across to Kowloon, I was planning to go back to my hotel but then got side tracked by another shopping mall, it had a lot of designer shops in it too but also some more normal shops and stalls too so I mosied round them just browsing. Tea was at a Thai restaurant I stumbled across in the shopping centre - coconut shoots (still no idea what they are even after I ate them) mushrooms, fungus and steamed rice which was nice but I wish I'd have picked something a bit spicier. Then I hauled my weary self back to the hotel and crashed on the bed for the entire evening - it was lovely!! Hopefully after a lovely rest I'll be full of beans to do more exploring tomorrow.