OK, so it is time to wrap up the last section of our trip. When we were booking the flights to get us to India and we realised that we would be passing through Hong Kong it was a very easy decision to stay for a couple of nights on the way back to New Zealand. We last visited Hong Kong in 2007 where it was the end point of a train journey that had taken us from Holyhead in Wales ( we had been living in Dublin so it was a short ferry ride from Dublin to Holyhead ), via London, Brussels, Berlin, Moscow, Beijing and Shanghai over a period of about 3 weeks. So this was a couple of days for us to revisit a place we knew ( which always makes it easier than when you visit somewhere for the 1st time ) and enjoy the controlled bustle that is Hong Kong.
HK$5 = NZ$1
Day 19 - Cloudy, thunderstorms, 31°C - Hong Kong
So we pick the story up on the flight from Delhi. The flight was a pretty bumpy one ( and being at the very back of the plane probably made it feel worse ) and the combination of that and my not feeling well meant that I didn’t sleep at all on this flight. Liz got a few hours sleep which was good, but we knew with the short flight, early morning landing in an earlier time zone ( our 7:30am landing in Hong Kong was 5am in Delhi, and we left Delhi at 11pm ) we would be pretty tired when we arrived.
We landed at 7:30am, walked what felt like the length of the terminal, went through immigration, grabbed our bags and headed for the train. In some ways it felt like it had only been a few days since we had boarded our plane to Delhi, but in other ways so much had happened it felt like 3 months had passed. But as I said earlier it was nice to know our way around and how everything worked, so we bought tickets for the train to town ( $100 ea ) and jumped on board the next train to arrive.
I don’t remember much about the 1/2 hour train ride except I kept waking up at the stations. So we jumped off the train at Hong Kong Station, transferred to Central MRT Station through what felt like a couple of miles of underground walkways, and then bought a ticket to Sheung Wan station ( just 1 stop on the Island Line ), popped up at the best exit at Sheun Wan ( like all underground stations Sheung Wan has multiple exits / entrances and getting the right one makes a big difference to finding where you want to get to ) and walked a couple of blocks to our hotel ( Holiday Inn Express Soho, NZ$200 for 2 nights including breakfast ).
As it was only 9am our room wasn’t ready so we left our bags and went for a walk around the area we were staying in. Sheung Wan seems to be a typical HK area, a mix of shops selling Chinese medicine, French Crepe restaurants, McDonalds, narrow alleys with market stalls, offices etc. We found somewhere to grab some breakfast ( we hadn’t been served a morning meal on the plane ), and most importantly somewhere that sold bacon and eggs. After 2 1/2 weeks of vegetable curries we both had a craving for some meat.
So after re-westernising our stomachs a little we wandered around the streets looking at the local life, drew $1000 from an ATM, and then headed back to the hotel at 11am. Our room was now ready so we headed up to the 15th floor and unloaded all our gear. We went straight to bed and slept.
We got up at 3pm and headed out at 5pm. The plan was to head up the Peak Tram for sunset and to watch the Lightshow at 8pm from on top of the Peak. We caught the MTR to Central and then walked the 5 minutes to the Victoria Peak tram station, only to find the queue was enormous and we probably wouldn’t have even got on the tram before the Lightshow started at 8pm ( it was now 5:30pm ), so we abandoned that idea and walked to Admiralty Station to catch the MTR. Anyone who has tried walking around Hong Kong will probably agree: the city is not designed for walking. It took us about 20 minutes to walk the 500m from the tram stop to Admiralty Station because every time we wanted to cross a road we had to go up and over a bridge or through a building, and in some cases we just couldn’t cross the road at all so we had to double back and try a different route.
So we eventually got to Admiralty and caught the MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui station on the other side of the harbour in Kowloon. As we came up out of the station we realised that in the 10 minutes we had been underground the sky had erupted into a thunderstorm. We walked the short distance to the edge of the harbour and took some photos before the rain started and then made our way to the Harbour City Mall for some tea. We found a Thai restaurant ( Greyhound Cafe ) and had beers and Thai dishes for a change ( $330 ). We headed back outside ( the rain had stopped now ) and watched the Lightshow across the Harbour. We have seen this Lightshow before but it is always an impressive sight to see the co-ordination of lights on so many buildings. Sadly because we had been a little late getting out for the Lightshow we didn’t get a great photography spot so we thought we would probably come back again tomorrow night.
We joined the crowds and head back to Tsim Sha Tsui station and caught the MTR 3 stops back to Sheung Wan and back to the hotel at 9pm.
Day 20 - Cloudy, 31°C - Hong Kong
We got up at 9am and went downstairs for breakfast in the hotel. To add to my troubles I am now starting to get the effects of a head cold.
Back up to the room and got ourselves organised and headed out at 10:30am, caught the MTR to Central and walked back to the Peak Tram terminal. This time the queue was much shorter ( although it still took 45 minutes to get on the tram ). Bought our tickets for the tram and viewing platform ( combined ticket $100 ea ) and waited. We got on the tram and headed up the surprisingly steep track to the new terminal at the top, arriving at 12pm.
We grabbed a drink at a cafe and then headed up to the roof to take in the view. It was a bit of grey cloudy day so the view wasn’t great but still spectacular to see all the high-rise buildings crammed into a small area of flat ground between Victoria Peak and the harbour. We walked around on top of the building for a while and then headed back down and out on to one of the many walking tracks that criss-cross the hill and went to the Lion Pavilion lookout. We walked back into the Peak Tower and jumped on the tram to head back down at 1:30pm ( no queue on the way down ). Once we got to the bottom we walked back to Central MTR Station and headed back to the hotel to rest.
At 5pm we headed out again with a plan to capture the Lightshow again, so we caught the MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui and walked to the harbour, and then back to the Harbour City Mall for tea. This time we found an old favourite of ours from our days living in the UK: Pizza Express. So we had pizza and beer and walked back to the harbour to watch the sunset and wait for the Lightshow to start. Unfortunately Liz had left her camera in the hotel and couldn’t be bothered to go back and get it, so there was just one of us with a tripod set up. After watching the Lightshow we headed back to the hotel via MTR and arrived at 9pm.
Day 21 - Cloudy, 31°C - Hong Kong to Flight CX7401
We got up at 9am and went downstairs for breakfast, then back to the room to pack and relax for a bit. We checked out at 11:15am, left our bags at the hotel and caught the MTR to Tai Koo. After getting up onto the street we walked along Kings Road to the Oceanic Building. This is a complex of public apartment buildings ( or mansions as they are called ) which have become famous in photographic circles for the courtyards that are between them. The buildings are 20 odd storeys high and the courtyards between then are quite small so when looking up they provide a very unique Hong Kong kind of view.
We took some photos then walked back to the mall above the MTR station and grabbed some lunch and a drink, then took the MTR back to the hotel at 1:30pm
We grabbed our bags and on the MTR again to Central, switched to Hong Kong Station and caught the airport express train back to the airport.
Again we had to wait for the check into open, checked in, through security etc. Liz did some shopping in the Mall / Terminal building and then we walked out to the end of the terminal to our gate for our flight home. We got on board at 5:30pm and had to wait for a slot to get off the gate, which we didn’t get until 6:45pm.
Took off on flight No 7 for the trip, this time heading out of Asia.
The flight was another bumpy one with big thunderstorms over the Philippines that we had to weave between, and at one stage they stopped serving the meal because of the turbulence ( there seems to be 3 levels of turbulence that we have experiences on planes: “seat belts on”, “we are stopping service of food / drink” and the most serious “cabin crew take your seats NOW!” ).
We landed in Auckland at 8:30am and we did the usual collect bags / immigration / customs etc and then checked our bags in for the flight to Napier and walked to the domestic terminal and waited. Both Liz and I were having trouble keeping our eyes open. We got on our little plane bound for Napier, but neither of us remember much of the 1 hour flight. We landed in Napier at 1pm ( it is a bit of a shock to come from one of the busiest airports in the world to one of the smallest in the space of what seems like a few hours ), jumped in a taxi and headed home.