Hong Kong - a stop over for three days on the way to the Philippines.
16/3/05 (Paul writes...)
Arrived at Hong Kong's new international airport, Chek Lap Kok, in the early afternoon. I say new, it's been open for quite a few years now, but when we were last in Hong Kong we flew in and out of the old airport, nearer the centre of town. The new airport is some ways out of town, but only 45 minutes on the bus to Hong Kong Central District.
We'd taken the unusual step of booking ahead for our guesthouse in Hong Kong. Budget places on Hong Kong island are in short supply, and we didn't want to end upin Kowloon again like the last two times, no offence to anybody who lives there.
Our room turned out to be slightly better than our previous experiences, at least it has a window. Two in fact. But like our previous places in Kowloon, the "guesthouse" is actually a flat in a tall apartment block. All the rooms in the flat are rented out to tourists, and the reception is in another block of flats across the road. We're a bit higher up this time, on the 12th floor, but at least there's a lift that works, and its quite clean, and there's no noisy neighbours. (We had a sewing factory forneighbours last time). So actually, thinking about it, its a whole lot better than our previous stays in Hong Kong.
Our guesthouse is in the Causeway Bay area of HK Island, about 15 minutes by tram from the Central District. Its stacked high (literally) with multi level shopping complexes packed out with all sorts of shops from clothes to mobile phones, shoes to mobile phones, books to mobile phones. In case you haven't got the picture yet, they're big into mobile phones here! The expensive, big names shops are in the more upmarket areas near Central, but this area certainly packs the punters in.
Back to our favourite topic, for dinner we ate at a great little Indonesian restaurant, both of us settling for a lovely plate of Nasi goring, basically fried rice with spices and prawn, chicken and egg mixed in.
17/03/05 (Paul writes...)
Time to do a bit of shopping. Quick breakfast of macarroni soup with a couple of slices of ham and pork (why? because it was what all the locals were eating) and we set off with a short list of camera and computer gadgets to purchase. Our Lonely Planet Hong Kong guide book recommended a couple of stores nearer the Central district, so we made our way down there by foot and a couple of trams. I say a couple because we jumped on the first one that came along without checking its destination on the front. Needless to say, two minutes later it turned off towards the Happy Valley Race Course, so we jumped off at the next stop and walked back to the main drag and caught the next tram into Central. Perhaps we should have stayed on the first tram and spent a day at the races. I think we might have broken our daily budget if we had!
After Rita had a quick Marks and Spencer shopping fix in the Times Square shopping mall, where she only came out with one new item of clothing, we discovered that the two recommended shops had moved or closed down, and they actually laughed when I asked about where I could find a portable keyboard for our PDA's. 'You wont find those in Central' he snorted. Why not? This is Hong Kong, isn't it? Home of all things cheap and electric.
Gave up on shopping for the day and headed up to the Victoria Peak, using the Peak Tramway, established since 1888. A lot of other people seemed to have got the same idea, so the tram was packed, as was the viewing platform at the top. But it was quite a clear day, by Hong Kong standards, from my limited experience anyway, so that would attract more people. We could see beyond Kowloon, and the view of Hong Kong Island was excellent.
The food and drink at the Peak were far too expensive for our tight budget, so we had one small drink each and returned down by tram
Dinner/tea/supper, whatever you want to call it, was at a great Vietnamese restaurant we'd spotted earlier in the day. It's appeal was that we could read the menu, which also had pictures on it, and it looked clean and well frequented, and it was quite cheap. Ordered curry noodles for myself, Rita plumped for the fried rice because she could see some prawns in the picture, and to share we had a side order of chicken satay. The food arrived very quickly, and we stunned by the size of the portions. Looking around the restaurant at what other people had ordered and were consuming, we had ordered no more than anybody else and they all seemed to be managing. How do they manage to stay so small when they eat so much? Beats me. Anyway, the food was delicious and we managed most of it. My fine rice noodles were quite spicy and had been fried with an assortment of shredded chicken, egg, and Vietnamese sausage. Rita's rice came with similar ingredients but with a few prawns thrown in, and the satay was covered, as it should be, with a lovely thick peanut sauce. To crown it all, even though they didn't sell beer, they sent someone out to pick up a couple of bottles for us. Now that's what I call service.
Down the street from the Vietnamese, we came across a 24 hour internet cafe, which seemed to specialise in very loud internet games. We only wanted to quickly check our emails and do a search for PDA keyboard sellers in Hong Kong, but we emerged after 10 minutes with our ears ringing from the constant sounds of explosions, gun fire, screaming and the occasional piece of dramatic music. Quite how the 15 people in the room playing the 15 different games could filter out the noises from their own machines I just donÄ‚ËĂ‚ÂĂ˘âžËt know, especially when there sat a foot apart. I think I must be getting old, although the policemen here don't look too young to me.
18/03/05 (Paul writes...)
Picked up a nice hot and cheap breakfast from our local supermarket, a container of curried noodles (what, again? Yes, I like them) and sat in Victoria Park eating them, watching various group of locals doing their tai chi (not sure how you spell that).
Our agenda for the day was to check out some of the suppliers of PDA keyboards I'd found on the internet last night, make up a parcel of guide books and photo CDs and send it my mate Clive back in England, and if time permitted, try and get out to see some of the Rugby Sevens World Cup. We hadn't planned to be in Hong Kong for the Rugby Sevens, but I had heard about it many times before and it would be nice to get to see some of it if we could fit it in.
The PDS keyboard took far longer than anticipated to buy, mainly because we couldn't find the specific type that worked with our model of PDA. In the end we made do with a smaller thumb-board, which is the only one I could find that worked OK with our PDAs. The type we really wanted unfolded into a full size keyboard, but after using the thumb-board for a short while we realised it had a number of benefits over the full size ones that particularly suited us, e.g. it was easier to use on buses, planes and trains and didn't take up so much space. And it was 20 quid cheaper!
By the time we'd made up and posted our parcel, it was after 4pm, so we scratched the idea of going to the rugby sevens and went to Royals Pub for their happy hour instead.
For tea we dropped in on the Curry King Restaurant, which we'd spotted during our travels during the day. Wasn't much of a description on the menu, in English anyway, just 'Chicken Curry with noodles'. Turned out to be quite a watery offering, but it was fairly spicy, although I couldn't quite place the origins of the flavours. Complete with noodles as well. Mmmm, my favourite.
19/03/05 (Paul writes...)
Early start to get to the airport for our 9:05 flight to Cebu in the Philippines. Struggled to find the A11 bus stop, eventually being told by a helpful passer by that the E11 also went to the airport. What he didn't mention was that the E11 is the local stopping bus, so it took half an hour longer than the A11, even with very little traffic. Good job we set off at 6am, it might have been a bit tight otherwise.
We'd left our bags in left luggage at the airport, save carrying all the way into town and Hong Kong city centre is really not for cyclists, believe me. Checked in with no problems, then only had time for a quick snack before we had to start our lengthy trek out to our departure gate. There was a sign saying allow twenty minutes from the passport control / security checks to gate 69, and they were not exaggerating. 20 minutes of down escalators, up escalators, moving walkways, trains, and no small amount of walking, we arrived at the gate as they were boarding.
Nice flight, didn't have window seats this time so we didn't see much, but it was steady most of the way and was under 3 hours for the 1000 mile journey.