We were really tired from the fourteen hour trip from Guilin so we took our first day in Hong Kong handy. A quick wander around the town to orientate ourselves and a bite to eat was all we could manage. Impressions… if Shanghai is a mix between Vancouver and Tokyo, I would describe HK as the Asian version of New York. The city is filled with skyscrapers and narrow streets. And plenty of hills for good measure. HK itself is quite small so the only way to expand is to build up. There are bars, restaurants and shops everywhere. The locals are spoilt for choice. The quality of the food is top notch and as we anticipated you'll pay handsomely for it. There are more Western ex-pats floating around than anywhere else we’ve visited but unfortunately the two communities appear to be quite segregated. The humidity in September is something else. We were sweating within minutes of leaving John’s apartment every day. Air con is a must.
We were very fortunate to be invited by John and a friend of his to a boat trip circling HK Island on Friday evening. There were more than twenty of us. We all brought our own drink and picked up pizza on the way. Unashamedly, the drinks came from Marks and Spencers and the pizza from Pizza Express! Britain’s colonial influence, you have to love it. Afterwards we took a taxi to Lan Kwai Fong (LKF), otherwise known as HK’s answer to Temple Bar. It’s mental and a must visit. It took Alberto two days to recover from his hangover.
With John as our own personal tour guide we were able to pack in the sightseeing on Saturday. We visited a few public parks, a Buddhist nunnery in Diamond Hill and the bird, fish and flower markets in Mongkok. That evening we watched the Symphony of Lights show down near the harbour. It’s free of charge and on daily. We had dinner up near the peak and were brought off the beaten track to some of the best views of HK.
The following day we took part in a small hike with John and his friends from Dragon’s Back to Deep Water Bay, followed by a trip to the beach and a night in town for a few drinks.
On Monday John was back in work again so Alberto and I took a boat to neighbouring Macau for the day. It’s only a one hour boat ride away over the Pearl River Delta. Once a famous Portuguese shipping port it’s now best known as a gambling haven. We spent the early part of the day roaming through some of the old ruins (a temple, church, cemetery, fortress etc.). The most famous ruin is St. Paul’s Cathedral which was built in 1602 but mostly destroyed in a fire, save for the very front part of the church. We’ve never seen so many people taking trout lip selfies in front of a religious attraction before.
[We take all our sightseeing very seriously]
[Dried meat, a very popular snack in Macau. We tried some. I think we'll pass next time]
That evening we headed over to some of the hotels. There is certainly a feel of Las Vegas about it, but it lacks the fun factor. There’s no free alcohol when you gamble. Sorry I didn’t understand? And the Chinese take it all very seriously. Still, it would be rude not to play a couple of games. I won just over one hundred and fifty Euro in Black Jack and actually managed to walk away. I spent half the money on a posh seafood buffet. We could barely walk afterwards. A lot of people spend a few nights here. I think a day trip is spot on. You can book a late boat and always come back early by going on standby if you want.
[The level of decadence is unreal. The above is taken from the MGM]
We weren't overly impressed with Macau. Much of the island is extremely run down while the ‘other side’, the lush hotels/casinos/jewellery stores etc. are as luxurious and pretentious as they come. The money generated by the gambling industry is not being invested back into the local community which is a real shame. The Portuguese influence is impossible to ignore, most of the signs are written in the language as well as Chinese. And you’ll see plenty of old colonial architecture. Alberto had a go at asking a few locals for directions in Portuguese but they looked at him as if he had ten heads. It’s meant to be their 2nd language. We spent a lot of time trying to find a Portuguese restaurant but to not avail. It’s disappointing they haven’t embraced this more as the cultural fusion is really interesting.
Our final day in HK was spent at Ocean Park, China’s answer to Sea World. Don’t judge, it can’t all be historical attractions and temples you know. It offered a nice change in scenery but it was no Alton Towers or Universal Studios.
We’ve spent three weeks in China and it’s been awesome. The cultural challenges are there (mainly Beijing from our experience) but everywhere we visited had something special to offer. China is such a huge country you can’t see everything in one go, so it’s time for us to move on as we fly west to Thailand. We’re getting away from city life for a while as our next stop takes us to the mountainous region of Chiang Mai.
'To the Chinese, a great bunch of lads!'
John - if you’re reading thank you for your hospitality over the past week. We owe you one.