29.07.2015 - 01.08.2015
Well I'm not sure if I was full of beans this morning, I hit snooze a few times before getting out of bed and then had a bit of lazy morning. I've not got any plans today, I'm just going to wander about Kowloon. I left the hotel at twelve thinking I'd go straight for lunch to set me up for the day. I'd seen an Indian restaurant across the road which mentioned veggie food but when I got there they only did take away at lunchtime which wasn't any good, it was raining so I couldn't get something and say sit in the park.
I remembered I'd seen a veggie restaurant as I walked through Kowloon Park the other day so decided to go track that down. There are thousands and thousands of restaurants in Hong Kong , lots of them hidden away in big buildings, this one was up a little alley, up some scuzzy steps and on the second floor of a not too glamorous The restaurant wasn't the most well presented of places either but it was pretty packed with locals, there were quite a few empty tables but the waitress sat me opposite a lady already eating. The menu was massive with a huge selection of stuff and it took me ages to choose. I eventually chose a spring roll and "beef" and mushroom in a black pepper sauce. It turned up in minutes and was pretty darn good but took some eating with chopsticks, the mushrooms were the long stringy ones which could have done with being chopped up with a knife and fork, embarrassingly my side of the table wasn't quite as nice and clean as the lady at the opposite side of the table to me. I could see it absolutely chucking it down outside so I dawdled a bit til it baited a bit.
When the rain had turned into drizzle I decided to have a wander through the park opposite, it was a really nice walk and again it just amazes me how peaceful these parks are in the middle of this huge city. There was a lovely pond with flamingos and black necked swans - I've never seen them before, the had white bodies and black necks and heads, it looked like they'd been dipped in a pot of paint.
After that I spent the next few hours walking round Kowloon, finding some of the famous markets like Ladies Market which is just a bigger version of Temple Street Market selling alsorts of tat and fake stuff (how they managed to sell anything is beyond me), the Flower market which was mainly shut because it was late afternoon and I think you need to go there in a morning to see it at it's best. Then I accidentally stumbled across the Goldfish Market which I'd not planned to go to, it wasn't really a market just lots of shops selling fish and pets. The fish were stuffed into little bags with not much water in - poor things.
I carried on walking and someone stopped me to ask for directions which I found really funny, even funnier I happened to know where he wanted to go and sent him on his way - ha! I headed back through Temple street night market, walking round Hong Kong, no matter what time it is, feels very safe, probably because there are always loads and loads of people everywhere although in the night market I did have my bum pinched by a Chinese man - he pinched my bum then said "ooh sorry, was an accident!!" It blummin wasn't the cheeky rat!!
It turned out I'd been walking for seven and half hours and my poor flip flopped feet were aching so headed back to the hotel via M&S. Earlier I'd called in a shop which had a really good veggie section and I'd bought a can of veggie "tuna" so was going to make myself a "tuna" sarnie for tea, I called at M&S for bread, most bread in China is quite sweet but I knew the stuff in M&S would be proper bread. Back in the hotel I made myself my sarnie, I read the ingredients and it was made out if mushrooms and soya, I've absolutely no idea if it tasted like real tuna and to be honest it looked like cat food but it tasted quite nice.
I struggled getting up again this morning, much as I don't want to go home and face real life again, I am looking forward to having a rest. I felt like staying in bed all day today (and my poor feet would love that) but that seems like a waste of a day in this fabulous city. I finished off the cat food, erm veggie stuff for breakfast, got ready and was out and about for about half ten. As part of my Big Bus ticket that I went on the other day there was a couple of extra stuff with it so I was doing them today, first off a harbour boat cruise which was a nice hour cruising up and down Victoria harbour, the weather was really nice too. I got off at Central pier on Hong Kong Island and called at the Maritime Museum (also included in the bus ticket) which was a good little museum with really well presented exhibitions.
When I'd finished in there, I decided to go and find the Mid Point Escalators (via Subway for a sarnie for my lunch). The escalators are 800m long and are the longest outdoor escalators in the world. Hong Kong Island is basically a big hill so the escalators were built to take Hong Kong residents who live on the hill backwards and forwards to the offices at the bottom of the hill. Between 6am and 10am the escalators run downhill and from 10am to midnight the run uphill. I'm not sure what I was expecting but it wasn't anything special they were just escalators but I went to the top anyway and then walked back down just as it started raining again.
I had a "food safari" trip booked so had to get back to the top of Kowloon to for 6pm so jumped on the ferry to take me back across the water (the ferry journeys were all included in my bus ticket too - bargain!!) I got to where the tour was meeting 45 minutes early so headed to McDs for a coffee to pass a bit of time.
At 6 I got to the subway station to meet my food safari group, there was the tour leader Danny, a couple of other women and a couple from London on the tour. I had prewarned the tour leader that I was veggie so he was prepared to have an awkward bugger on his trip.
The first snack we tried was at a street stall and was a tea infused boiled egg - which was just an egg that had been boiled in tea, it tasted better than it looked. Next we went to another stall for a drink of (cold) tea to take with us - I got a ginseng tea - the Chinese doctor I'd seen in Yangshuo had said I should drink ginseng tea to balance the ying and yang in my digestive system so I tried it, it was rotten so I think I'll just leave my ying and yang as they are and stick to coffee! We then called at another street stall which sold pastries and sweet buns, our tour leader recommended the pineapple buns and egg custards, I'd had a pineapple bun the other day (it doesn't have pineapple in it, it's just a sweet tea cake) so I bought an egg custard but decided to save it til later.
Next stop was a dumpling cafe, the dumplings were served in a soup like broth, there were no veggie dumplings so I had a plate of Kai-lan with soy sauce - kai-lan is a kind of green veg, a bit like a cross between broccoli and spinach which was ok but would have been better as a side dish to something else.
Apparently, the next place we were going didn't have a veggie option either so before heading there Danny took me to a veggie place where I could get something to take away - he recommended a selection of different stuff made from bean curd / soya - it didn't look too appetising but when I sat down to eat it at the next place most of it tasted really good (there was just one that I didn't eat which was supposed to be a mock fish - it didn't really taste of anything and was like a lump of jelly, the others had another soup thing this time with noodles in - there bowls were huge, it looked enough to be one meal never mind just a snack on a food tour!
It was another sit down place next which was famous for fish balls (fish balls are actually fish cakes made of all the low quality, bony fish that are caught that no one is bothered about eating on their own. The menu also had loads of other random stuff on like slimy spinefoot congee, swim bladder congee, fish lips congee..... All sounds delightful, I'm glad I don't eat meat!! My option her was something called gailan, Danny described it as a kind of fried dough wrapped in rice paper - sounds rancid BUT it was absolutely yummy, it was like Yorkshire pudding wrapped in rice pasta and served with soy sauce - I guess that description doesn't make sound any more appetising but it really was tasty (and made me miss Yorkshire puddings!). Finally (thankfully cos by this time I was pretty stuffed), we called at another cafe which only sold sweet stuff, the recommended dish here was sweet rice balls - I had a good idea they were the same things I'd tried at the Chinese opera (the ones which had the consistency of globules of hot bubble gum) so I went for a Mango sago with pomelo cream which was pretty tasty and quite light so just nice to finish off with. Danny took us back to the metro station but I decided I needed to walk to help some of the food to settle - we'd just eaten non stop for three hours. It turned out that Elaina, one of the other ladies on the tour, was in a hotel near me so we rolled / walked back that way together chattering about the best things to do in Hong Kong.
I had planned to do my packing when I got back to my hotel - packing my case for the last time on this trip - boo hoo! - but decided that it could wait and dived into bed, absolutely stuffed with achey feet I didn't take much rocking!
This is it, my last day of my travels and I got up, ready and sadly pack my suitcase for the last time of my epic trip. I say sadly, I would actually like to keep on travelling to more amazing places but I'm also a bit looking forward to going home. Seeing my folks, cats and friends and having a bit of a rest after my four fabulous months trip trapping round this amazing world we live in.
I checked out of the lovely hotel - I've enjoyed staying here, in fact if I had to design my perfect hotel room this would almost be it - I say almost, to make it perfect it would have had an amazing harbour view from the window - in reality my view was overlooking a grubby street so I kept the blind shut but really if I had had an amazing view the hotel would most likely have been well out of my price range and anyway, 95% of the time I've been in the room I've been asleep so not long enough to appreciate an amazing view!!
I'm not actually completely done with my trip, I don't actually fly until 1am tomorrow morning so I still have a full day left to do a bit more exploring so I leave my bags at the hotel and head out. My plan is to go to Lantau Island where there is a cable car ride to Po Lin monastery and a giant seated Buddha, I've been here before but it's a nice day and I really fancied doing the cable car ride. I got myself to the cable car station on two metro trains which was easy peasy, at the cable car station I nipped into Starbucks for breakfast of toasted cheese and mushroom sarnie and coffee and then went to get in the queue for the cable car. Two and half hours later I finally got on the cable car - wowsers, that was some queue!! The cable car journey 5.7 miles in total and is a nice journey, it was a bit misty but still the views are pretty spectacular and it takes you over the hills, forests and past the airport. There was someone in my cabin who I don't think liked heights, He sat with his eyes shut most of the time and I'm sure went a bit green at one point. The cable car ends at a Ngong Ping village which is a newly built tourist trap absolutely swarmed with visitors so I quickly walked through and headed to see the giant seated Buddha, which is apparently one of the largest seated Buddhas in the world!! It's quite a nice Buddha and inside is a relic which is supposed to be some of the cremated remains of a Buddha - this is tiny and kept under a little glass bell shaped thing so you don't get to see it really.
It was about 5.30 by now and I thought I better head back just in case there was the same sized queue for the return cable car journey, my plan is to get back to Kowloon, go to another veggie restaurant I'd spotted for a good tea before picking up my bags and getting to the airport. The queue wasn't as bad going back, only just over an hour but it was a bit of a pain because I was stood in front of a family with a load of kids, these people have absolutely no concept of personal space and I got trod on, banged into, elbowed, head butted by a kid - grrrr! Thankfully I wasn't in the same cabin as them otherwise I might have quite happily chucked them out!!
I got the metro back to Kowloon to the stop near Sino vegetarian cafe which according to Tripadvisor is the third best one in HK. I was sat down at a table with three ladies, one a Buddhist monk (nun?). I decided to have two courses, this will be my last chance for Buddhist veggie food for awhile (there aren't any Buddhist restaurants at home that I know of) so I ordered deep fried tofu for starters which was yummy and then a baked "duck" dish - this came and was huge, a massive plate of veggies and some soya "meat" in a creamy, cheesy sauce which I wasn't expecting, it was nice but much too big - I think I only managed a quarter of it.
I walked back to hotel and got there at 8.45, I'd planned to be back at 9 so was pretty chuffed with my time keeping. On the way I'd called at the supermarket near the hotel to buy a couple of tins of garlic Pringles to take home with me - I'm going to write to Pringles asking why they don't sell them in the uk - they should!! I was full so the Pringles were safe for the time being, I'm not sure whether they'll survive the journey home though.
Loaded up with my bags I set off to airport. I'd checked the route out earlier, there were two ways I could go - I chose one which I thought was quickest - it possibly turned out not to be!! It didn't help that I went out of the station at wrong place and had to pay to get back in - grr!! I was going on the airport express route so I used one of the in city checking in points, which is in the train station but you check your bags in and they send them direct to the airport for you - pretty cool and helpful when your bags seem to weigh a ton, althiufh according to the scales my big bag going home was 2.8kg lighter than when I set off.
Security at the actual airport was a bit of a pain, they asked me to empty my hand luggage and were looking for something metal - they didn't find anything metal! They did take my deodorant, suntan spray and tooth paste off me though cos they were all over 100ml (well the bottles were although there was hardly anything in any of them. At the "other side" I found a bar and had a pint, I would have had time for another but the place shut at eleven so I got turfed out.
I had a look in my purse and I had 158.20 Hong Kong dollars left, I couldn't buy more drinks so I ventured to duty free, everything was more than I had left so I was just heading out when I spotted a bottle of limited edition Absolute Vodka reduced to 158hk dollars - it was meant be ha ha!! I checked the board and it turned out my flight was delayed for half an hour. As I boarded the plane I was given another boarding pass and told I'd been upgraded - hooraaaaah, on my last and longest flight I was well chuffed. When I got on the plane I realised I'd only been upgraded to Premium Economy - so the only extra perks were more leg room, more bum space cos the seats are bigger, a bigger pillow and a fluffier blanket - ha ha, it was still nice though!
There was another slight delay once we were on the plane because someone's seat wasn't working correctly, apparently the plane can't take off if the seats aren't working 100% so there were alsorts of maintenance men messing with the seat! they eventually fixed it and we could take off. Home sweet home here I come!!
The plane journey was pretty uneventful although to say we set off two hours later than scheduled we only landed half an hour late, how does that happen? Does the pilot fly faster than planned or does he take a slightly quicker route?
We had two onboard meals - the first one almost as soon as we got on - mine was mashed potatoes and veg, with a little dish of melon and then some banana and cream hagan daaz, I'm not usually a fan of banana flavoured stuff but it was lovely. The other meal was breakfast, mine was potato wedges and beans, melon and a croissant. I watched a couple of films - Danny Collins where Al Pacino plats an ageing rock star which was really good and Son of a Gun with Ewan McGregor which was alright but a bit predictable. The rest of the time I slept.
The plane route took us over land from Hull to Manchester so we must have flown pretty close to over home, We went over Drax power station but then we were above clouds til we got to Manchester so I didn't get to see any other landmarks. Getting through the immigration was pretty straight forward, cos I have a new chipped passport I could use the electronic system so there was no queuing and my bag came off the belt pretty quickly and that's it I was back on English soil - the pilot had said it was 12degrees and it felt a bit nippy - so much for British summertime!! I had a bit of an issue when I got through the nothing to declare door, I couldn't remember what my taxi driver looked like, it is four months since I last saw him and then it was dark and I only really saw the back of his head. Just as I phoned mum to ask if she could describe him, he sent me a text telling me to look out for his bald head and red jacket - ha ha, he obviously he couldn't remember what I looked like either!!
The drive over woodhead was pretty, it was nice and bright (but still cloudy!) and there was no traffic - I've seen some amazing places the last four months but the countryside over woodhead is still very lovely. As we got closer to home it started feeling like I'd never been away - ha ha! I got back to my lovely house and my lovely mum n dad and fabby BFF Paula were there waiting for me - aww it was lovely to see them! Paula had put welcome home banners up and mum n dad had stocked up my fridge and cupboard with my favourite things - mushrooms, jacket potatoes and cheese (that's my lunch sorted - mmmmmm mmmmm!!) and crumpets for breakfast. I even spotted a couple of bottles of wine in the fridge - they know me soooooo well!! The cats weren't quite so welcoming though, they spotted me and both walked off in a huff! I bet Thomas will come found first and Sam will take a day or so!!
When they'd all gone I chucked in a couple of loads of washing - the joy of being able to do my own washing again and promptly nodded off on the sofa for six hours - with Thomas curled up next to me - ahhhhh!
And that's it, my four month round the world adventure is over and done with.
I've visited twelve different countries, stayed in 42 different hotels, 3 ships, 2 home stays, 1 hammock, 2 salt buildings, 1 tent, 1 brothers apartment, 1 monastery, 4 overnight trains, 2 overnight buses, a couple of planes and a few airport floors - wowsers!!
I've had the most amazing time, met up with some fantastic old friends, made lovely new ones, spent some quality sibling time with my gorgeous kid brother and seen some of the most amazing places and wonders of this fabulous world we live in! Back to real life and my next adventure - finding a new job, I never had my lightbulb moment while I was travelling telling me what I should do with the rest of my life but I have a few ideas of things I'm going to look into - more exciting times!
If you're still reading my rambling diary (it started out just as my diary to remind me what I'd been up to so I've no doubt I waffled on a bit in some places - sorry) I hope you've enjoyed coming along for the ride! I still have a few more photos to upload (pesky China's internet restrictions made it difficult) and then I have to create my photo albums - whittling just over 4500 photos into my favourite favourites will keep me out of mischief for a while!
Toodlepip for now!