Smell it - taste it - this is Hong Kong.
After catching a double decker bus (a legacy of the British I presume) from the airport to our hotel in Kowloon it was late and we were happy to crash in our surprisingly comfortable and spacious hotel room. In my previous visit to Hong Kong, the room I got was smaller than a ship's cabin.
Saturday 15th August - Time for the wandera, and friend, to wander.
We're staying at Novatel Nathan Road, so walked from Jordan where we are, along Nathan Road to the Star ferry pier, stopping for a Chinese breakfast of steamed dumplings and various rice thingies.
Catching the ferry across the harbour to HK Island is a 'must do' and brought back memories for both of us. Amanda lived in Hong Kong for 9 years before moving to Perth.
We wandered through Soho and then explored the Mid-levels. All very steep streets and interesting things to see everywhere you looked.
What's Seng done? I keep seeing signs saying, "Hang Seng."
SENSES - Smell was the sense I used the most today. What a variety of smells there were; star anise and BBQ chicken aromas, pungent dried seafood, fragrences wafting out of pharmacies and the intermittent but everpresent stagnent puddle pongs. Welcome to Hong Kong. The one smell that makes me dry reach is tripe. I'm known to try most things and have a penchant for black pudding, but tripe? Unfortunately the noodle houses all seem to include it in their beef soup. Guess what I haven't ordered.
Hong Kong was once a British colony, but around here COLONY is the new C-word. Funny that though because it does still feel like a colony, just the ant variety with millions of people living in nests, sorry high-rise apartments, all scurrying around like worker ants.
CONTRASTS - Hong Kong has been a real place of contrasts - from areas of old markets and street vendors unchanged over time alongside brand new boutiques selling the latest fashion, tall buildings and a crush of people one minute and finding yourself alone and surrounded by a green oasis the next, paranoid locals disinfecting every communal surface such as buttons and handrails and wearing facemasks being the same people who purchase and eat food that is on display streetside unprotected and covered with city smog and muck at best.
Whilst travelling through Sweden a few years back, I said in my Scandinavian blog (You can see it here on this site if you wish to read it.) at the time that I wondered where they'd hidden all the ugly women. Here in Hong Kong, Amanda and I played a game of who could spot the most number of pretty HK women. We gave up and drew at nil all.
Our evening tonight was catching up with some of Amanda's friends from the dive club here in HK. Bar first - of couse - then onto dinner at the Chilli Club, a Thai restaurant that lived up to it's name. That was the hottest Tom Yum I've ever had, even in Thailand.
Wise words for today from The Wandera - Just because water drops fall on your head and there are puddles on the footpath, does not mean it is raining. High rise buildings soar above you, and hanging out the side like bird nests on a cliff face are airconditioners, all dripping the water they've removed from this humid environment.
Sunday 16th - day trip to the seaside fishing village of Pak Wai
We walked along Nathan Rd the opposite way to Mong Kok and from there we caught a bus to the house of Amanda's friend Irene, who lives near Pak Wai, a popular day trip for HK locals.
After a brief catch up for those two, we went into Sai Kung and walked along the waterfront promenade passing seafood restaurants with all manner of seafood all alive and on display.
We stopped at Tung Kee Seafood for a delicious seafood buffet.
SENSES - if yesterday was smell, today was all about taste. We ate the freshest seafood I've eaten that I haven't caught myself. Prawns, clams, abalone, crab and whole fish were served up one after another and each was fished out of the tank just prior to cooking. I hadn't tried abalone or clams before, so my list of new foods eaten has begun.
I had a San Miguel beer with lunch, only because the label said, "The only beer that nourishes true friendship." Isn't that just lovely?
Back in Kowloon, we spent the evening browsing the shopping areas for which Hong Kong is famous.
Monday - a day of Hong Kong views to remember.
I'd avoided going to The Peak on my first visit to HK, thinking it a tourist trap, but on Amanda's assurance that the view was worth it and her telling me of a pleasant hike on top too, I relented. So whilst she went for lunch with old work colleagues, I caught the Peak Tram upwards. With a track that hits 45 degrees, it doesn't take long before you are off the tram and being fed through the gauntlet of shops to reach the view. I was right about the tourist kitsch. This place is 19/20 cliche tourist trap. (It would get 20/20 except there is actually a reason to come here.) There's a shopping centre, cheesy 'amusements' and all sorts of other tourist traps to take your money. Madame Tussauds anyone?
Leaving that all behind the Wandera did, taking a walk around the Victoria Peak. As each gap appeared in the lush vegetation, I was treated to a different view of Hong Kong. It was supposed to take an hour, but with stopping to take photos, and time spent in contemplation watching expansive views it took me twice that, but who's racing?
Still at The Peak, I stopped for lunch with a view of the sea of skyscrapers that is Hong Kong. Why is it that the world over, the better view, the worse the food?
Thought for the day - If you can't pour a beer from the bottle properly, let the customer do it themselves. 75% head on a beer is not right in ANY culture.
Our day of views to remember was rounded out with sunset cocktails at AquaSpirit, a bar on the top floor of a skyscraper overlooking HK harbour. With names for our cocktails like Hong Kong Mariachi & Typhoon #10 made with chilli and lemongrass, this was no local pub. We stayed for the nightly HK sound and light show of lasers off the buildings before heading to the other extreme for dinner.
Other extreme? In terms of 'sense of space' and price, the dinner at Delhi Club in Chungking Mansions was far removed from our high-altitude harbour views with a price to match. Dinner in the Delhi Club was delicious, but the windowless room could have been anywhere. The bill? About one of our cocktails at AquaSpirit.
Monday - Good-bye Hong Kong
We spent our morning exploring the market regions near Prince Edward. Flower market, bird market and the goldfish market. I found the bird market and park unusual. Men bring their caged birds out to the park and hang them up next to other birds. While they chat with other men, the birds chat with each other. The avian version of taking your dog for a walk, just no picking up do-do.
At the hotel, we were each given 20 minutes internet access per day. "Fast, easy, reliable broadband in our hotel lobby."......apparently. We left with 2 hours unused because the connection was so slow as to be unusable. I lost emails on their way to being sent it was that slow.
That being the case, we grabbed a cab to the HK ferry terminal to catch a fast ferry to Macau. 60 kms in an hour.
Having fun and my next blog will be Macau, the casino island and Asia's answer to Vegas.