I’ve arrived back home after a great trip. Myanmar is a country I have wanted to visit for a long time and even though I didn’t see much of the country itself as it was a sailing trip I had such a great time. I also ticked off three new places on my list – Myanmar, Thailand and Hong Kong which was great. I even found a way to get around Hong Kong not stamping passports anymore and have just glued by arrival paper into my passport as a permanent proof that I have been to the city.
Unfortunately my time in the city wasn’t as productive as I would have liked. When I woke up this morning I saw that the fog was just as thick so most of the things I had planned to do – the Victoria Peak, sailing across the harbour, enjoying the skyline etc, would all have to be abandoned. Instead I decided to just wander round and enjoy the atmosphere of the city before grabbing food at the airport.
After checking out I wandered towards Central Station via the back roads to take in the atmosphere. Even though it has been more than a decade since Hong Kong was ruled by the UK the British influence is still felt here – from the language use to the side of the road you drive on all the way to the use of double decker buses which until now I thought were a purely British thing. It’s a weird mixture of Chinese and British cultures that’s fast paced and I really liked it. The city felt like somewhere that I could wander forever and still not see anything but as I had a flight to catch that evening I had to walk with a purpose.
I spent some time sitting in Statue Square, outside the Hong Kong Parliament, watching the world go by and assessing my options as I wanted to make the most of my time in the city but most of the things I had planned to do relied on good visibility. I decided that there was one thing I couldn’t miss and that was the Star Ferry to Kowloon. I knew that I would be unable to see the skyline but my friend who has visited Hong Kong told me it’s something I had to do and so off I went.
The ferry ride was really cheap and only takes a few minutes. The boats are in good condition but have that old maritime feel to them which I liked. As we sailed across the harbour the Hong Kong skyline quickly faded into the fog and was replaced by nothing more than a grey blur by the time we arrived in Kowloon. I decided to spend some time walking around, taking in the sights, and enjoying the atmosphere for a little while before heading back to Hong Kong Island. Among the things I saw were the Museum of Art, the Space Museum, the Cultural Centre and Nathan Road which is the Hong Kong equivalent of Regent Street or Fifth Avenue – nothing but a long road flanked by high rise buildings containing brand name shops. If I had more time I might have popped into the Space Museum as that’s a topic I’m interested in but it was also school outing day so I would have shared the museum with several hundred screaming children.
Before heading back I had to have a photo taken, even though the skyline wasn’t visible, so spoke to a Canadian couple who were in the same predicament as me – they were in Hong Kong for an overnight stopover and were a bit lost on what to do because they wanted to do the same things as me. The photo came out a bit grey but I had to at least have one photo of me while in Hong Kong.
After arriving back on Hong Kong Island I decided to check out another unique Hong Kong experience – the mid-level escalators. As Hong Kong is very mountainous most of the commuters live in apartments built high up on the hills. This leaves a predicament about how to get to and from work and the Hong Kong authorities decided that a kilometre long series of escalators would be the key. During the morning rush hour the escalators go downhill to bring people to work but for the rest of the day they travel uphill. I decided to ride them all the way from the bottom to the top to take in some more sights and to see a more residential side of Hong Kong.
As I rode up the escalators the buildings changed from glitzy Dior shops to smaller shops and bars, then to office buildings and finally to run-down apartment buildings where the locals live. There isn’t much to see up there so I wandered around for a bit taking photos before heading through the botanical gardens and back towards the city.
By this time I had run out of things I could do when time pressured in Hong Kong on a day with low visibility so decided to head back to the airport for some food. I made my way back to Hong Kong station and not long afterwards I was being whisked at high speed towards the airport on the Airport Express train. Why we can’t have something as efficient as that in London I don’t know.
I bought a few souvenirs and had dinner at Pizza Express before walking around the terminal to stretch my legs and get the blood flowing before my flight. I doubted that I would be lucky enough to have a row to myself on the way back again and I was right – I was next to an elderly Chinese couple who couldn’t work their interactive TV and kept interrupting me while I was watching my movie to ask for help. I didn’t mind just it happened far too often but I wasn’t planning on sleeping anyway and wanted to watch movies all night to get my body back into the correct time zone again.
The flight was uneventful and quick and we arrived back in London on schedule early this evening. I’m now back in my room and thoroughly exhausted but I couldn’t be happier that this trip went well considering the problems I had before departure. In my usual fashion this blog is written in note form so will take some time before it’s typed up online but when it’s finally online I hope you find it informative and that it helps you make a decision about whether a trip like this is right for you.