Size: 1100 sqkm
Capital: Hong Kong
Time Zone: GMT +8
Part of 2006 World Trip, arriving from India
and going on to China
The bright lights and bustle of an ex-colonial giant mixed with the calm of the outlying islands.
Use the navigation bar on the left or the map-links to select a place. Alternatively scroll down to see all the entries. Click on photos to enlarge. See all Hong Kong photos here
Central Hong Kong
I was really quite excited about arriving in Hong Kong, and the ultra-modern airport compounded this feeling. I had been organised enough to pre-booked a few nights accommodation after each of my major flight to save some hassle when jet lagged (ok Paula at STA had recommended it) and now discovered how great this was. Somehow STA gets massive discounts on their accommodation, and so for about twice what I would pay for a dorm I always got classy (for me) hotels. The one in Hong Kong was in the town of Silvermine on Lantau Island. The town is right by the sea and the hotel almost touched the sandy beach. The room was massive with air-conditioning and a large soft bed. I had booked two nights and asked if I could book another but the girl at reception took one look at me and explained it was too expensive!
It is rather odd being in places that looks a lot like England - cars, road signs etc, but is hot, humid and generally a whole lot more tropical. That night I wandered down to the food markets on the quay and got a bowl of excellent local shrimps with rice. Over this I was considering whether I needed mosquito replant and decided that on the sea, near a big city I probably did not. Just as I was thinking this I felt a stabbing pain in my hand and looked down to see the largest mosquito I would see on the whole of my travels jab a hypodermic needle of a beak into me! I was never quite so convinced in the rest of Asia the small midge-like insects, which continuously bit you, were real mosquitoes after this.
I was already taking malaria tablets and had been inoculated against every know disease (except Japanese encephalitis and guess what the large signs all around the bay warned about) so wasn't too worried. As soon as I had hastily sprayed myself liberally with Deet I looked over to see a group of the next table carefully washing their chop sticks and plates with boiling water - I later discovered this behaviour is due to some people's paranoia, not some sort of poor cleanliness record of the venue. On my way back I considered having a pint in the hotel bar but one look a the price list sent me scurrying to my room, not yet owning a house I could re-mortgage to pay for such a trip.
The following day I got up early and caught a ferry over the central Hong Kong.
It is easy to see why pirating was big business in these waters
before the Portuguese put an end to it; there are many small islands and everything is shrouded in a thick mist making visibility almost zero. That was a long time ago but the fog still provides a sense of mystery.
Then through the mist my first glimpse of the skyscrapers of Hong Kong. It was a Sunday, and so the streets were quiet and I wandered the old part of the city then caught the train up to Victoria Peak. This boasts the best views over Hong Kong, or at least a better view of the clouds covering it in my case, but the gardens and nice - the picture is of a flower I saw growing at the roadside but the parks were equally nice.
After lunch I returned to the city and found the botanical gardens and zoo, all free of charge. There are also many small parks and spectacular fountains. This picture is in the new Olympic park and is looking towards my favourite building - China Bank, the triangular one. The design of Hong Kong is consistent with the rules of Feng Shui, but the China Bank opted to built this tower how they wanted, destroying the energy balance of the surrounding buildings, or so it is said. I continued my trip (I walked quite a few miles this day) down to the Convention centre, back on the waters edge, a good place to watch the sunset, unfortunately the centre was closed and there was no sunset - again too much cloud. After dinner I headed into the bright lights of the early evening to dabble in a spot of long-exposure photograph, the results of which I'm rather proud of.
The next day I explored Lantau Island. This started with a trek into the hills behind the hotel to see the silver mine that gives the town its name. The plaque informed me that the mine was based on an old cave and was really extensive with large caverns. However, to protect the public steel bars had been put over the entrance. Presumable because this was an insufficient safety feature the whole front of the mine had also been concreted in. Slightly miffed I continued on to see a waterfall that was slightly inappropriately named, given that there was no water. After this I caught a bus over to the Tian Tan monastery to see the Big Buddha. This was indeed large although only built about 20 years ago. The temples were rather older and built in a traditional style, which I really liked.
After lunch I hurried back to my hotel, collected my rucksack and caught a ferry to Hong Kong and then the Star ferry over to Kowloon, where the cheap accommodation is located. I found a place for a reasonable rate, although was a little on the small size - 2 bunk beds and little room for anything else. The place was clean and air-conditioning though, and being unaccustomed to the heat and humidity this was a bonus. Unfortunately, one of the four people in the room was a man from the Philippines who had to sleep with the conditioner off, so I sweltered and slept very little over the next two nights. The next day was spent in Kowloon where I enjoyed all things western - an art museum and the cinema - before heading into China
I returned to Hong Kong in November of 2006 for Matt and Lai wedding. This was a great weekend and Mat and Lai took everyone out to dinner each night and even organised a trip on Hong Kong's only remaining Junk. Their reception was also quite fine, even featuring shark fin soup.
Over the two mornings I decided to head out into the New Territories and then over to Lamma Island
for some sightseeing.
One of the biggest attractions of the New Territories is the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. Whilst I didn't count then, there are certainly a lot of statues here; most are close to life size but some are of an even grander scale, and every single one is individually made to a slightly different design. I took tea here and enjoyed the warmth of the tropics for the first snows were threatening back in Sapporo.
Since I was in the area my guide book detailed a walled village not far from Yuen Long station which sounded interesting. I set off on foot from the station enjoying the feeling of being backing in the travelling spirit. And like much in the old times I got side tracked investigating a path out into the fields that ended up on a main road which I then had to hike down for half an hour in the mid day sun to find my back to Kam Tin. Finally, after getting suitably lost, a girl at a bus stop was very helpful and gave me directions. The walled village of Kat Hing Wai is only about 100 square meters in size but is packed with small houses which are still lived in. There was a gaggle of old ladies wearing traditional hat at the entrance who demanded a dollar for a photo with then. Truly flash-packing now, and for the first time in my life, I agreed to this; I'm not sure why, perhaps it was the excess of sun.
Many people have recommended Lamma Island to me over the course of my travels. I was thus keen to visit and have lunch at one of the small ports, whose food is critically acclaimed. Besides the food, the leisurely stroll over the Island is the other attraction. Interestingly this is dominated by a large power station which struggles to add to the ambience, but does provides a continuous talking point with the myriad of other holiday makers who also disembarked from the ferry with the same plans as myself. I enjoyed the walk mainly because of the tropical atmosphere and the food was indeed good, as fresh sea food always is.
On my world trip a short train ride took me over into China