*Long blog entry warning*
09/04/2013 - 16/04/2013 26 °C
Getting to Hong Kong I found myself in an airport for the first time since travelling from Perth to Singapore in November. I always find the experience of flying exciting but it was nice to spend so much time using land and sea transport to maintain an idea of where I was and how big the continent is. It was only right to be feeling more 'international' as I departed my flight and found the airport express trainline to take me in to the big city.
For my week in Hong Kong I had the pleasures of being joined by an old friend from home and staying in my cousin's apartment. It was great to catch up with them as well as having their company and a good guide for the city. People from home will also help, I'm sure, for my impending reintegration back into normal life.
Day one we visited the fantastic Hong Kong Museum of History. Inside they've reconstructed an ancient tomb as well as a late 19th century street containing tea shop, bank, post office and medicine shop. After the museum we went for a walk down the Avenue Of Stars - Hong Kong's answer to the Hollywood walk of fame - and bumped into Bruce Lee. That evening we ate at a Michelin star dim sum restaurant for about the cost of a decent meal back home. It was once considered one of the world's top 10 restaurants according to the New York Times. After that I had my first experience of horse racing (me betting a little money, not actually riding) at Happy Valley.
The morning after we took the ferry to Hong Kong island for a good wander through the streets. A good 10-15 minutes was spent soaking up the ambience and incense in Man Ho temple followed by a rummage through the "antique" stalls of Cat Street. Evening entertainment was $30 (£2.50) cocktails and pizza.
On Friday we went to the huge Wong Tai Sin temple (Chinese temple on steroids) and the stunning Chi Lin Nunnery and park. We had a walk through the night market and got some street food later.
I even managed to fit in a 9th country on my trip with a day on the nearby peninsula of Macau. It's one part pretty old town and another part casino resort. In the last 5 years they've built replicas of Vegas casinos on an astonishing scale. The Venetian was the second largest building in the world at the time of it's construction. I'm not a massive gambler but met some great Danish people and a little game I loved called Sic Bo.
Getting back from Macau at 4am meant a late start on Sunday. Walking through HK island taking photos of the modern/old architecture mix we were treated to the peculiar sight of thousands of Filipino maids covering the streets, parks and pathways. Sunday is their only day off during the week and rather stay in their rooms at their host family's house they go out and socialise. It's so funny just how many there are! Also very telling about how much money people are earning here. Another night in HK, another amazing value meal at a Michelin 'Bibs Gourmands' rated szechuan restaurant (just under 1 star, offers great value).
The weather so far in Hong Kong has been sunny but very comfortable. On Monday morning we were hoping to get a good view of the city at the top of a mountain on the island. Unfortunately there was a bit of mist but we took the cable car up nevertheless. The view was still good but conditions weren't ideal. We later found out that it wasn't mist but actually pollution! Air quality bad enough to close a school playground. In the afternoon we went to the other side of the island to see a nice little town/fishing harbour called Stanley. A delicious evening meal was had on the brilliantly gaudy "Jumbo Floating Restaurant."
On our final day in Hong Kong, before our red-eye flight home, we saw the huge Buddha statue and monastery on Lantau island. This time the 'genuine' mist created a peaceful atmosphere that makes me want to fit the word 'mysticism' into a sentence. My final meal of my travelling was some amazing Thai food, very appropriate as it's my favourite cuisine.
Overall I really enjoyed my time in Hong Kong and love the city. I found it a bit less Asian than I expected but that's due to it being a worldwide banking capital with a strong and recent colonial history. In this respect it's far more liveable for western people as you also don't receive the constant haranguing from street peddlers or have to be as wary for scams. There's plenty to keep you busy day and night and your stomach constantly filled.