Parks, Peaks, Beaches & Tai Chi
04.11.2012 - 07.11.2012 29 °C
What a fantastic city! The last 4 days have been amazing and a massive assault on the senses, particularly coming straight from Guilin! There is just so much to take in here, from the impossibly tall skyscrapers and bright neon lights to the dense green parks with colourful butterflies and birds. Every now and then you just have to stop and take a moment to look around and marvel at it all. Jawdropping stuff, I ve never been to a place like it. We also have had great weather and the added bonus of being reunited with Jo from our China trip to share the fun. I ll try and sum up our time here for you...
As it was a Sunday and we were still tired from our long trip from Guilin we decided to give the Peak a miss as we had heard it is best to avoid it at the weekend due to the crowds (turned out was a good choice as when we passed the peak tram stop later in the day the queues were really long). Instead we opted for a chilled day exploring the parks and streets of Hong Kong Island. As we were staying Kowloon side we headed to the harbour to get the Star Ferry across, which was surprising easy to work out and so cheap at $2 (approx 20p)! A lovely way to start the morning.
As there is so much more traffic and large busy roads on Hong Kong Island there is a myriad of raised walkways to navigate that were a bit confusing for us newcomers but we eventually worked it out to make our way across to find Hong Kong Park.
Hong Kong Park is such a tranquil place in comparison the craziness elsewhere in the city and at times the trees and plants are so dense and the park is so quiet that it is a shock when you look up and see a skyscraper through the leaves! It is a lot smaller though than I expected with the "artificial lake" really being a pond, but it was very pretty none the less with waterfalls and fountains.
It was a great place to wander and also has an aviary that you can walk through with about 600 birds flying around and calling to each other (and they seemed to speak to Dan too!)
Our next stop was further up the steep slopes of HK island, the Hong Kong Zoological & Botanical gardens. There is also an aviary here but not as large as the one in HK Park but it has larger birds such as cranes. There were several groups of students painting the birds and it wasn't until we got closer that we realised that the artists had varying disabilities and it was inspiring to see that this did not hold them back in being creative.
As well as the birds there are also monkeys, gibbons and even a couple of orangutans, but they looked so dejected, so think I preferred HK park.
After an awesome lunch we explored the mid levels making use of the longest escalator in the world and the longest staircase to go up and down the slopes. It was great to see the other side to HK from the shining skyscrapers and in the narrow streets everyday life still resumes with the bustling market on Graham street where people buy and sell all sorts of vegtables, fruits, meat and fish....even frogs! Another aspect on HK which again juxtas the old with the new is that they still use bamboo as scaffolding poles! Even tens of storeys up!
After a much needed cold glass of wine we carried on our exploring along Hollywood Road and stumbled across Man Mo temple built in 27th year of Emperor Daoguang, Qing dynasty.
Before you even entered the temple you could smell the incense burning but once you got inside it was overwhelming so we only stayed in for a few minutes. The reason for this is that at this temple prayers/wishes are attached to coils of incense which are hung up and lit. There are 100s of them, from small ones to massive ones!
So we needed the refreshing breeze on the ferry trip back across the harbour to clear our heads, which was made even better by the dramatic sky.
Today we would take the steep tram up to the Peak to check out the views over HK. Having been able to get in touch with Jo (what would we do without the Internet!) we waited outside Chungking Mansions to be reunited! What we hadn't realised was just how many exits there were at our nearest metro station! So Jo had a little adventure trying to find us but got there in the end. As she had arrived the night before we acted as her tour guides for the day and we caught up on each others travels whilst on the Ferry to HK island side!
We had spotted a bakery the day before and decided to head their first so we could have a picnic on top of the Peak and Jo was excited to see they had scones! With supplies in hand we headed up the slopes to the peak tram, and we were glad to see that the queues were no way near as long as the day before.
We were all amazed by how steep the tram journey was and at times it felt like you were almost vertical, like when you are slowly heading to the top of a roller coaster, but fortunately there wasnt a big drop at the top (although a few times i did wonder "there is only a cable stopping us from falling back....what if...."), as we looked back we could see the sky scrapers becoming smaller behind us.
The views at the top of the peak didn't disappoint and although it was hazy in the distance you could still get a feel for this huge city and it was odd to be above all the skyscrapers that had been towering over us and to be above helicopters!
We decided to take the 2 hour walk around the peak to see the views from all the sides and work an appetite for lunch. It was a lovely walk and we had great weather for it too. The path took you through all the intertwining trees that grow all around the peak and if you looked over the edge you could see how far down their trunks went and how tall they are.
Every now and then there would be a break through the canopy and you could see spectacular views and watch the kites circling overhead.
At one of these spots we decided to sit and have lunch with 3 or 4 black kites flying in front of us overlooking the sides of the peak and the sea below. Spectacular! I spent an age trying to get photos of butterflies and black kites, so thanks to Dan and Jo for their patience but I managed to get a couple!
As we had saved money bringing our own food up the peak we decided the only thing to do was to have some cocktails... I mean when are we next going to be sitting looking over HK, it would be rude not to!
It was going to be another scorcher of a day and so Dan and I decided to make a trip to Lamma Island to find a beach and chill out in the sun. It is about half an hour ferry ride from HK island and again we had opted for taking our own picnic along. The difference between Lamma island and Hong Kong is huge, this small island made up of fishing villages does not have any cars and the only way to get around is to walk, cycle or use quad bike like mini tractor things.
It was nice to be somewhere more laid back in comparison to the frantic goings in the city. We took a leisurely stroll through the fist village Yuang Shue Wan until we got to the beach and as it was 29 degrees it was a welcome sight, and there was only 20 people to share it with!
After several hours chillin, swimming, reading and catching some rays we decided to take trail over the mountain to the other side of Lamma Island to Sok Kwu Yan. It was about 4pm when we headed of so the sun was starting to lower in the sky, which was a relief as some of the trail was steep! As we headed for the trail we noticed this sign......
... I think we may have thought twice about swimming, although I think I would have been safe as Dan had seemed to have become a super hero!
I'm not going to lie the trail doesn't have amazing views all the way through and the power station could be seen as a bit of an eyesore but we found some little gems on the way and had a laugh as we made our way to have a sea food supper in the next village.
It was an early wake up to make it to our morning Tai Chi lesson, not so easy to do when you are staying in a box with no window to let any light in but we made it! The lesson was free as part of the Cultural Kaleidoscope programme they have in Hong Kong and was outside the Museum of Art. We had organised to meet Jo again and as we came round the corner she was already there practising.
As we got closer a small man jumped out at us enthusiastically shouting into his microphone "Good morning, good morning! Join our Tai Chi lesson! Good morning!", this was William who would be our Tai Chi instructor for the morning. Such a lovely guy. As he took us through the movements of Tai Chi from holding a ball, flapping arms like crane and picking up a needle from the sea we had the amazing back drop of the harbour. Throughout the hour lesson there were several displays of Tai Chi which were very impressive and the flowing movements were hypnotic.
They also demonstrated Tai Chi using silk fans which was very impressive, particularly the sound they made when they were all opened at the same time. William told us how the fan could be used as a weapon to strike when it was closed but then if you weren't fighting you could us it to keep your cool.
We spent the rest of the morning exploring the free museums with Jo before making sure we were all packed up and ready to leave the next morning.
Then it was time for going to Happy Valley Racecourse!!
Jo had never been to the races before and placed a bet so it was with excitement that we entered the public part of the race course just in time to place our first bets. After working out the race cards and where to go amongst the crowds we anxiously watched the horses go into the gates and soon they were off... And would you believe it Jo had beginners luck and Dan one on the first race too.
The atmosphere at the racecourse was electric. It is huge and so bright with all the lights on the track as well as those of the city all around us. It was also Octoberfest and so the race course was soon heaving with the crowds who danced along to the odd German band that were playing songs with weird actions of swimming and jumping, but we joined in with the rest of them!
It was a fantastic night and a great way to end our stay in Hong Kong.
So lovely to catch up with you Jo, thanks for joining us and making HK even better, safe travels in India and who knows hopefully we ll meet up in Australia! For the Melbourne cup?
Tips for HK
- If you re staying more than a couple of days get yourself an Octopus card, it can be used on the metro, bus, tram, ferries and gets you a discount on the peak tram too. You can also use it to make payments in some shops and fast food places. It's 150 HK Dollars with 50 being a deposit that you get back however there is a sneaky 9 dollar refund charge we did not know about so we were a little short on cash for snacks for our onward journey.
- Le Velo the baker - great place to grab a sandwich for a picnic! Tuna mayo baguette ...yum! So nice not to have sweet bread after a month in China!
- Wednesdays several of the museums are free, Hong Kong Museum of History is worth a visit for the story of HK.
- Cultural Kaleidoscope provides several free activities where you can learn things like Tai Chi, tea ceremony, cultural walks etc... Quite a few happen at the weekend so we had missed a lot but the Tai Chi lesson is worth getting up early for!
- if you go to the cinema the one on Kowloon side is cheaper! But if you each the new Bond movie whilst travelling it ll make u miss the UK!