Hong Kong

Sheung Wan

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  • Day10

    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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  • Day4

    Hello from the coastal city of Xiamen.

    We had a very pleasant day Sunday with Maria’s folks walking around the Olympic Site and visiting the Llama temple. On our previous visit we had stopped only for a quick photo of the birdnest stadium in the rain during a jammed packed tour day so it was nice to see it in more detail. Lots of lovely public art. Also lots of new building happening for the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics. Poor Maria was done being a translator by the end of the day. Admittedly, it’s very hard to even begin to know people if you can’t communicate. Maria’s Dad had lots of questions about my Mom’s place, and who’s was paying and what she is doing etc. Maria’s Mom has decided that we should move to Beijing because it’s much cheaper to live. She offered me a key to one of their flats. Very generous people indeed. However, in addition to many major reasons for not moving to China, the main day-to-day barriers for me would be a lack of good, affordable coffee and ditto for white wine.

    We left Beijing on Monday morning bright and early. That is everything left Beijing except for my iPad which I left in the security area which was beyond busy. We were checked, ID etc at least 3 Times. Fortunately, a friend of Maria picked it up yesterday on his way through to Vancouver and we’ll recover it there from him. There is security and checks everywhere here and we were reminded by Maria that we must have Passports on us at all times. We don’t normally think about it. The Chinese have ID cards that they use for everything.

    We are in another great hotel here in Xiamen in what seems to be a kind of expat district in this city. Nice lowers profile city and We have a beautiful view across the river to the main city. There is a Starbucks next door where we found decent coffee. Xiamen is a port city across the strait from Taiwan. There are essentially 2 islands- the larger one with the city and the smaller one was a British Treaty Port from 1842to 1912. Today we took the ferry to this smaller, car-free island called Golangyu. We put on lots of miles steps wandering around the island which is now a UNESCO site because of the many old colonial buildings. We visited a lovely small piano museum which had amongst the collection a Chickering piano - the same brand as mine! The island became a unique hub for pianists because of the large number of pianos brought to the area by the Brits. A number of world famous Chinese pianists came from the area.

    We stopped for some interesting take out food. Fried things mostly . We are wary because of some of the crazy things that are on offer but also because of Mike’s allergy to shellfish.
    Much of the food here is as Jon would say- greasy but good. We’ve tried a few unfamiliar things but mostly on the veg side - bitter melons. We had spicy fish head the other night. We left the lips and eyes to Maria who. Is very adventurous when it comes to eating. Tonight we went in search of some weird sea worms.... evidently a local dish. Everything is served family style and people just pick away at things. I’m getting much better with my cop sticks. The smells here are very strong and I have them hard time with them at times. The Duran fruit and the really smelly tofu just knock you over.

    . Today we head inland on the bullet train inland to a place called Wuyishan. On the way we are stopping at another island . Wuyishan is a Chinese resort city in Fujian province's Wuyi Mountains. It's popular for bamboo rafting on the 9-Bend River and viewing the range's 36 peaks, including high points like Great King Peak.
    That’s it for now.
    Love Heather (Mom)
    Fi, hope the trip to the Uk was uneventful.
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  • Day11

    On Friday we travelled by fast train to Huangshan -which literally means yellow mountain. Located in Eastern China, Huangshan is a frequent subject of traditional Chinese paintings and literature, as well as modern photography. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of China's major tourist destinations.
    There is a “ scenic area “ ( think National Park) which hosts most of the tourists in a rather grubby town near the entrance . We stayed in a cheap but cheerful hotel run by a young couple very keen to practice their English and attract western customers. They were typical of all the Chinese people, sincere, warm and very helpful. We even got a “Western style breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast although the concept of jam was a bit confusing for them.
    The Saturday morning bus ride half way up the mountain was the first test of our nerves. We weaved and swerved up a very steep mountain road. Finally we arrived at the gondola station and did the, by now, routine gauntlet of ticket purchases, then security checks then line ups. We were amply rewarded at the top of the gondola ride when we popped through the heavy rain and clouds and enjoyed spectacular views in every direction. After lots of photos, we started what turned out to be 6 tough hours of walking up, down, then up then down, etc a total of nearly 30,000, steps that day said the lovely Maria. Turns out the gondola that was supposed to take us down the hill after 4 hours of hiking was broken and we ended up hiking an extra 2 hours down hill. Tough on the body!The trails were crowded and the toilets very basic. We did stop mid-way for a veeery expensive lunch(everything is hauled up the mountain so you can understand why the prices. ). Our bodies are still feeling the effects of our hiking but it was an experience. Our quads are still screaming at us.
    Yesterday was Sunday and we, again rode the speedy bullet trains - this time to Shanghai our final China stop. Have to say of all the places we have been in China, Shanghai is my favorite. Most likely due to the fact that coffee is readily a available and there is wine for sale in most stores - I know, call me shallow. The feel here is much more international and Westerners feels relatively more at comfortable.
    We are safely ensconced in a hotel near the former French Concession area. Lots of things to see near by. Today we wandered around and hit our favorite dumpling shop for lunch. The Shanghai dumplings contain broth and meat. Then they are steamed and fried. Mmmm m delicious and cheap. We visited a fascinating little museum devoted to preserving Chinese propaganda posters . The posters really reveal the history of China from the Second World War. Very few of the posters survived for various reasons and they are quite interesting.
    Tonight we went on a night cruise on the Huangpu River which cuts through Shanghai. We were treated to a spectacular view of the many magnificent and architecturally diverse buildings in this world class city. Jonathan tells us that Shanghai is actually, at 25 million people, likely the largest metropolis in the world. It is a vibrant, international city with every brand of store, hotel, business you could imagine. Prices are accordingly high. A bit of a shock after our experiences in the rest of China.
    It goes without saying that we’ve really enjoyed our time with Jon and Maria these past 2 weeks. Unfortunately we lost our translator and excellent travel guide Maria yesterday as she had to return to work in Beijing. Jon has patiently stuck with us and will continue to guide us until we are safely in the arms of Air Canada on Wednesday afternoon.

    That’s about all for now.
    Love Heather xx
    Happy Birthday Lindsay xx
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  • Day3

    New lesson of the day. When you're two 'English Roses' you shouldn't wait to ask 'am I getting pink?' Before putting sun cream and a cap on even if it's shady. Especially if one of you is bald.

    We dragged out pink neck and nose out of bed after a better night's sleep for some early-ish morning Dim Sum at Tim Ho Wan. Other branches of this small chain have Michelin stars making them apparently the cheapest Michelin starred restaurants in the world (we're such tourists). We were near a non-starred one so went with it. It was really delicious. Their specialist BBQ porks buns are a bargain food highlight and recommended if you're ever in HK.

    After breakfast we continued ticking off our tourist info card and went up Victoria Peak on the tram. The tram line first opened in 1888 but I think they've updated the system since then (though probably not that recently). It basically is two carriages being pulled 45degrees up Victoria Peak with a feeling something could snap any minute and send you plummeting roller coaster style to the bottom (don't worry Mum, spoiler alert, that didn't happen). At the top we checked out the slightly cloudy 428m above sea level view. I'm not sure what it is about the need to see major cities from a high point but I still buy into it every time.

    We had to cut out trip to the Peak fairly short for our afternoon plans so caught the tram back down and headed to Happy Valley to meet Matt's friend Tom who'd invited him to play football with some friends and work colleagues. I played WAG and half watched the football and half watched the kites (the bird type) circling overhead.

    We headed back to Tom's place and hung out with him and his wife Angela for a while before hitting happy hour at Saint Germain. Several wines later we went to Keung Kee restaurant for more BBQ pork, noodles and duck fried rice. Yum.

    We caught the star ferry home after some MTR disruption (can't get over the 25p bargain price). It's apparently the coolest day of winter so far in HK. At least we won't get more burnt.... wear sunscreen kids. That's almost as good as the advice I got from the Drainage Services Department today. 'Do it from the heart' they say. Whilst sorting the drains.
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  • Day58

    Hong Kong seems much nicer after a night's sleep! Not a cloud in the sky, and really, really hot - we'd forgotten what 35 degrees and 90% humidity felt like! Forecast is not too great after today, so we tried to do all the outdoor things today. First of all, took the Peak Tram to Victoria Peak. Completely bonkers funicular tram which pulls you up the hillside at 45 degrees. Seats all face one way and you face backwards on the way down or otherwise you'd fall off your seat! Great fun, and stunning views at the top. Typhoon? What typhoon!Read more

  • Day131

    Slept in a bit after our late night last night. After another hotel breakfast and lazy morning, we only made it out again in time for the 11am shuttle bus downtown! So we hopped on that and jumped out at the same stop - China HK City shopping mall, where the ferries between Kowloon and Hong Kong Harbour depart. After a bit of wandering around we made it onto a ferry for the brief trip across to Hong Kong Island.

    This side is very different to Kowloon - it's much cleaner, newer, shinier and clearly wealthier. Most of the large corporations in Hong Kong have their headquarters here, and it rather felt like Sydney's finance district around Martin Place and Bridge Street. We wandered aimlessly at first, not really knowing what we wanted to see, and indeed there aren't many historic sites left on this side. After 30 minutes or so of wandering and looking at shops, we hopped on a tram with no destination in mind. The trams are fairly classic, well-maintained double-decker 70s relics, and we sat upstairs rolling slowly through the city. Stops are frequent and they seem very well utilised, so progress was a bit frustratingly slow. Eventually we got sick of it and hopped off near an MTR station.

    Grabbed some more baked goods for lunch (savoury bakeries are everywhere - think of the hot dogs buns or pork floss buns at BreadTop and you're pretty close) before heading back to Central on the MTR. We also wandered around a district called Wan Chai which is apparently hipster central these days in Hong Kong, with fancy eateries and trendy bars - most of which were of course closed at 2pm on a Monday!

    Since we were over on Hong Kong Island we figured we should visit The Peak - a furnicular ride up to the peak of Hong Kong Island's main mountain (about 480 metres high). We'd been advised not to do it on Sunday as it would be crowded, so hopefully Monday would be okay, right? Wrong! There was an enormous queue for tickets, probably 45 minutes long, and once you've waited in that queue there's a second queue to actually get on the furnicular! It's fairly well organised at least, but man it was a lot of queuing. You can pay extra to skip the ticket line, but you don't get to retire at 35 by paying extra for impatience.

    Finally after about 70 minutes, we arrived up at the Peak. It's very touristy, a large multi-level shopping centre with fancy shops, food and drink, a tacky 3D art gallery, and finally after many escalators you can get out on the roof and enjoy the view. It's a pretty magnificent view too, with Hong Kong Island below you, the harbour spread out, and Kowloon glittering across the water. Since it had taken so long to ascend, it was once again approaching evening, meaning that we could watch the sun set and the city lights start illuminating, this time from the opposite side. I took a nice couple of time lapses, and we had a drink in one of the crappy coffee chain places.

    Had a quick go through the "free" tacky 3D art gallery, where you can take goofy photos from forced perspectives. But of course the best set-ups are reserved for their cameras only, and then you get the absurd hard sell of a $50 glossy 6x8" picture featuring you and your wife "falling off a building". Definitely one for the album! We declined under much duress.

    As it was now dark we headed back down into the city (after a thankfully brief wait for the return furnicular). I'd arranged to have after-dinner drinks with someone I vaguely knew from the internet, so Shandos and I had dinner at a new-school dim sum place I managed to find. This place featured lots of dumplings etc with cutesy faces on them. Very different from the serious waiters and chicken feet of Sydney's trolley-based yum cha!

    Shandos headed home on the MTR while I waited for my friend to finish work. We had a good night out - first at a craft beer bar in Wan Chai, then hopped on the metro to another craft beer place in Mong Kok back on Kowloon side. After a few drinks he needed food (he's Asian so can't drink heavily), so we caught a taxi to a random noodle house that he knew down an alleyway in Olympic district. This was the kind of place where you had to know Cantonese to get by - that's all the waiters could speak, and the menu was entirely in Cantonese too. I let Abe do the ordering! Nothing quite like a bowl of steaming hot wonton noodles post beers at midnight.

    Exhausted and a little tipsy, we called it a night. He was heading back to his place on Hong Kong Island so dropped me off on the way in an Uber. And when our UberX car turned up - a BMW X1. Nice! Pretty late one for me, I don't think I've been out at 12:30am for a long time! And it's going to be another long exhausting day tomorrow.
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  • Day4

    Spent the whole morning walking around in SoHo (South of Hollywood Road (no joke :-) and Lan Kwai Fong quarter. The old quarters of Hongkong; even if developed and modernized over the last decades; I feel and sense they preserved their original character. You discover small, narrow roads, busy life, tiny restaurants and bars, small businesses of all kind, art galleries ... the quarter is not posh at all - but very intimate and sometime queer. Had a nice lunch with a spectacular view at Stauntons - just have a look :-)Read more

  • Day4

    A hill close to the city which we drove up with the bus instead of a pretty expensive, crowded, but more famous tram.

    So we spend up there most of the time of our day with hiking up to the very top, walking a loop around a lower part of the hill and watching the city illuminate I the dark of the evening.

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