Johanne Brookes

Occasional traveller: cities, history, culture, food. So many places so little time
Living in: Birmingham, United Kingdom
  • Day12

    Big Buddha

    November 15, 2017 in Hong Kong ⋅ ⛅ 75 °F

    The last time I saw the Buddha it was at the end of an epic ferry/bus ride. Now the MTR has been extended and you hop off that and take a 25 minute cable-car ride. Which is a high and spectacular ride over green hills covered with tropical vegetation. There is obviously a walking trail to the Buddha, far below us we saw a jogger and a strolling couple, which might not seem noteworthy but the path is tiny, remote and you appear to have to leap over a small waterfall at one point.

    As it was late in the day we got a car to ourselves and at one point we were in the clouds. Soon the Buddha could be seen on the horizon. Eventually we clambered out of the car and walked through a hideous overpriced plaza of dubious souvenirs. Bizarrely thus path took the foot traffic past a set of decorative drums mounted on a bridge... Which had sharp instructions not to tap them... Why put drums if you don't want them played..... Once through the plaza we ended up on a path marked by statues of various generals associated with the Chinese horoscope years... Didn't seem very Buddhist to me. The whole thing felt fairly awful, I really liked BB last time relatively quiet, very uncommercial but the village just seemed like another money making scheme.. Wonder if the monks had a hand in it or are fuming? On the upside the cable car must bring more visitors and more donations for them. The other odd thing were the buffalo/cows ambling about on the path to the Buddha... No explanation given. The other thing going on was that ITV / Amazon Prime were filming something there... Can't remember what it was called and we were not allowed to take photos, so chances of me ever seeing it are slim.

    Eventually we came to the bottom of the steps that lead to BB. A total 268 steps up... Slow and steady got us to the top. It is impressive even if it does only date from 1993. A very kind woman we had spoken to earlier decided that Dad and I needed a photo to capture the occasion... She spent an age lining us up. Photo on the big camera though so will try to upload tomorrow. We had a good admire of the Buddha, and a wander about and the we creaked Dad's knees back to the main temple. He took photos I lit some incense that hadn't caught and then we headed back to try to catch the last cable car.

    Huge queues but we got on after a not very long wait and were rewarded with a spectacular sunset. (big camera). The clouds had lifted and we had great views for the whole journey. Once down we ride back to Hong Kong Station to track down the Michelin starred Dim sum that I found on TripAdvisor. We had some trouble finding it... It is tucked away in the station and looks like a fast food place in many ways, but there was a queue for a table. We were lucky and got a table to ourselves... Lots of them were long shared tables and I would have felt embarrassed wielding my chopsticks so publicly. Great food esp the pork stuffed eggplant.. Reluctantly after that we decided that it was more sensible to head to the airport as the time required to get back to the Star Ferry, ride it and get back was just a bit too cosy.

    Smooth ride out, an easy passage through security and into the lounge to await our flight. Now we are at 35000 feet having dinner. The Sky Chef comes and takes your order.. 😀
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  • Day11

    A Last Day in Hong Kong

    November 14, 2017 in Hong Kong ⋅ ⛅ 73 °F

    So in an attempt to pack as much in as possible we set the alarm for 7am. Up, finally packed and in for breakfast before 8am. Th weather was overcast but not wet so we rashly packed our waterproofs, deposited our cases and headed out for another star ferry ride. From the Ferry we wandered through the commuters to find the bus to Stanley, we dropped in the tourism office to pick up a new map (the last one having become papier mache) and the guide helpfully told us to get the 260 express bus rather than the standard service which I recall as a) long and b) hair-raising. Not that the 260 was necessarily going to be better on the latter count - we got the front seats on the top deck and they had seatbelts - no other seats did, and there was a notice suggesting we should wear them.

    The bus ride was great, fabulous views over Repulse Bay and into the mega-mansions that occasionally dotted the hillsides. the road is narrow and rollercoaster-like and very quick - about 30 mins. When we arrived in Stanley the sun was shining and the sea was a turquoise colour. We wandered around the promenade and admired the views, took photos, ate ice-cream (which I heartlessly sent Dad to buy) and generally enjoyed ourselves. A quick walk through the market, which is smaller than Temple Street but mostly has the same stuff, and we thought we could head back - and we got the front seat again :-). No photos - if the bus was moving then it was too rocky to photograph and if we were at a bus stop something was always blocking the view.

    The bus ride did give fabulous views of Hong Kong. There was a very promising looking graveyard right by the exit from the Aberdeen tunnel, absolutely packed and very, very tightly packed. Some of the architecture is spectacular but it is often right next door to something that looks pretty squalid. I don't know quite where HK sits on the list of economically divided cities but I would suspect is must be one of the most. Maseratis in WanChai and coffin apartments by the docks..

    We got back to Central and I offered Dad the choice of another trip to Wong Tai Sin or a ride on the world's longest escalators... So we rode the escalators to to the top.. All 25 minutes of it, again fabulous looks at tiny alleys, expensive apartments, and bamboo scaffolding. Then we walked down the steep streets back to Des Voeux Road, past the Sun Yat Sen museum... Didn't look very busy and the smallest hardware shop I have ever seen. It was about the size of a telephone box and stuffed with taps, hoses, piping, fans....

    Back at Central we walked to the MTR and caught it back to the hotel to pick up our cases. We then trundled back to the in-town check-in to deposit our stuff. Armed with boarding passes and lounge tickets we dived back on to the MTR to go out to NingPo and Big Buddha
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  • Day10

    Drying out and haggling.

    November 13, 2017 in Hong Kong ⋅ ⛅ 73 °F

    So drying out and getting changed seemed to drop us in another time zone... We were aiming to get back out by 4pm and go to Wong Tai Sin Temple (one of my favourites... Full of fortune tellers, people praying, lighting incense and paper objects being ritually burnt. However despite a relatively short MTR ride we did not get there till after it had closed. Pah!
    We decided to head for the Temple Street night market for a bit of tat shopping. But by the time we got there things were frazzling and we needed a restorative starbucks again.
    Fortified we set off again and launched into the melee. Dad wanted another T-shirt and I wanted some bits and pieces. The place was full of Australians who didn't seem to be haggling and I got the impression that the stall holders missed the wrangling.. I was complemented on my haggling skills at a couple of stalls. Lots of hand-shaking and congratulations to Dad on having a good haggling woman with him! Best bargain was a new case... Lily was lovely but she insisted on dragging my bag for me... Sadly the wrong way... And two trips like that and the nylon was starting to hole... So for £20 I got a rather excellent hard-shell case in lime green... No problem spotting that on the luggage return belt.
    We had dinner at the Spicy Crab stall on the edge of the market. Food was good although they seemed to be increasing their income by subtly increasing the bill and then having a failure to understand the tourists. We didn't care, what we had was good and it was a great people watching spot. A very pernickety group arrived on the table next door and didn't stop whining... We need an extra stool (they could have grabbed one themselves, we need the table wiping again... Then when it was wiped they wiped it again with their own stash of tissues...... If you're going to eat at a street food type place you just have to be relaxed about it all... They were the sort of people who give tourists a bad name. We left them whingeing and headed back to the hotel via the 7-11 where we got a beer each, with the intention of taking in the harbour view with a beer once we had sorted the packing.

    Can't add photos from the big camera... Will follow when home...
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  • Day10

    Soaked

    November 13, 2017 in Hong Kong ⋅ ⛅ 72 °F

    We go down from the peak and found a convenient bus stop heading to Central, we would have walked but we would have been soaked. At Central we hopped off on Des Voeux road so we could ride a ding ding tram. We trundled along hoping that the rain would stop but it kept on coming. We hopped off to walk up to Man Mo on Hollywood Rd. The first street was fascinating.. All rubber stamps and Chinese chop sales... Definitely local not for tourists. We tried to dodge from canopy to canopy having made the excellent decision to trust the weather forecast and leave our waterproofs at home. We hoped to see an umbrella or too for sale but we were near Cat St and it was all sodding antiques.. Which might have been interesting if we weren't dripping. Soaked to the point of it being so funny we are bordering on hysteria. Ladder street nearly did for us, climbing to Man Mo temple was like walking in a waterfall. Man Mo is the God of Literature so I had to pay my respects though. We dripped back to the tram and decided that the sensible thing to do was to go back to the hotel, get changed and pick up our waterproofs.
    Not many photos - too wet. And the last update will have to wait till tomorrow.. I need to pack, flight home tomorrow night.
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  • Day10

    Peak Time

    November 13, 2017 in Hong Kong ⋅ 🌧 70 °F

    Slack start this morning so we didn't get up till gone 7:30. A leisurely start then down from North Tower where our room is to the dining room in South Tower. Excellent breakfast and attentive staff who greet you by name. Trying to work out the best use of our time given the weather.. It is very grey and overcast this morning.

    We decided to ride the star ferry to Central and try the peak anyway. So an interesting walk across huge new reclaimed area that didn't exist 12 years ago as along a raised walkway that gave views of skyscrapers and traffic before we arrived at Central.. A quick bob down to buy an octopus card (another sodding no change incident at the star ferry convinced us that what ever yesterday's guide said it was just easier even for 2 days). Round Central is peak shopping country for the wealthy denizens of HK: Gucci, Harvey Nicks etc etc. Then a walk to the peak tram past the Cathedral, a relic of HK's colonial times,. We then walked along Battery Path... Past the missionary headquarters and just below government house... All so colonial.

    Huge queues at the tram but after a short while we realised that if you had an octopus card you could skip the cash desk and go to the gate.. We had to wait for a member of staff to drop the rope but it saved a bit of queueing. Sadly we then ended up with a large noisy party who irritated Dad and who occupied all the decent seats so we were spread up the tram. By the time we got to the top it was intermittently cloudy. Then we saw the enormous queue to go back down stretching for miles. We walked to the viewpoint and took some photos but there were more vocal tourists and by now Dad was very grumpy. So we went for a restorative Starbucks coffee and muffin (well Dad did, I had a cup of tea and a blueberry yogurt). Balance restored we wandered to see if the queue had decreased or whether we should play hunt the bus. Hallelujah the queue was nothing, we got seats on the view side and all was well. The only down side was the lashing rain....
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  • Day10

    How could I forget?

    November 13, 2017 in Hong Kong ⋅ ⛅ 73 °F

    Last night we walked back from the museum area all along the harbour causeway (on the Kowloon side) so we had the spectacular Hong Kong sky line to look at. Then we watched the Symphony of Lights around the harbour. Which wasn't as impressive as I remembered but still fun, and huge crowds of people all around the star ferry area watching it too.Read more

  • Day9

    A damp arrival in Hong Kong

    November 12, 2017 in Hong Kong ⋅ ⛅ 72 °F

    So we arrived about 3/4 hr early at HK airport an we walked down the steps and into warm rain, slow bus to the terminal some distance away and we were fed into a very efficient immigration system. Even stopping to fill in an arrival card we were through in 5 mins despite long queues and thus optimistic we would be out and away very shortly. But the bags took ages to come out about 45 mins. Just as we were beginning to twitch they appeared and we scooted to arrivals to find our lift. The poor woman was frantic, apparently she had been phoning to make sure we were still coming to HK. For the first 20 mins in the car what we got apart from welcome to HK was an explanation of how many phone calls she had made ...and on a sunday too. I felt quite guilty, but we had no way of knowing a) that it was excessive (it was still quicker than any baggage arrival at Fumicino) B) how to contact her. Anyway after that we srttled in for a slow drive to our hotel. I hate to say but I didnt catch her name and we won't see her again - we are on our own now. but she gave us subway maps and a map of Kowloon and Central. Much of the traffic was caused by roadworks restricing the roads from Lamma & the airport whilst they build a new Arts and cultural centre. Ms Guide was very scathing - "I dont know why they are building another one, we have one already and we aren't interested in art". Anyhow at about 3:30pm we arrived at the Salisbury.

    The Salisbury is he Kowloon YMCA! but actually it is a good hotel and we got upgraded to a partial harbour view, we even have a bowl of fruit. Also it feels very plush after China, all the hotels were fine but just slightly below par in someway - a patched up bath or grubby corners.

    After we had admired our view we set off in the rain to visit the Hong Kong History Museum. I didn't have enormous expectations but it was excellent, lots of information about Hong Kong's development, it was very good on recent stuff opium wars and early colonialism ...enough to push my guilt buttons ..and reminded me of the scratched pots in the Forbidden City. It also had a whole recreated turn of the 20th C or so street. All in all good and we both enjoyed it. Also it was free (not sure why) - always cheers Dad up.

    After that we went to find money - we needed HK $ now. We found an ATM but it was a Union Pay one (which is the big Chinese ATM system), I didn't have this problem last time I'm sure. Anyway eventually we found an HSBC and could therefore go and get dinner. Beef, pistachios and asparagus for me, prawns and crabmeat in spicy sauce for dad. Plus fried rice and eggplant with minced pork all washed down with copious quantities of tea. We came back via the 7-11 with a beer each for consumption whilst admiring the view.
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