Tag Archives: Hong Kong

The Day I Took a Tourist Bus.

Here I am, Saturday morning, hard to believe I only arrived on Thursday night. Afraid to say that the adrenalin has worn off and I feel a bit beat. So, taking the easy way round and taking one of those open top tourist buses. Yes I know, a bit tacky, but you gotta do what you gotta do. Bear with me…….
Ok, thanks. Actually it was quite rewarding, dare I say interesting. I certainly got to see way more than I would have done on foot. Plugged my headphones into the audio jack at the seat and received all sorts of tips, hints, history and anecdotes. I especially liked the advance warnings about upcoming photo opps that lasted a second or two.
I hopped off to take the tram to the “Peak”. The tram was installed in 1888 and is still running on the same tracks with the same cars. The view from the observation tower was spectacular despite the murky weather. They do say that one should step out of one’s comfort zone on this type of trip, I did. I have a mortal fear of heights, I usually close the blind if I am in a window seat when flying until I feel up to opening it (know what I mean?). So there I am, right on the top of this tower, waist height glass wall all round, and I actually lent on the railing and took a photo. This from a guy who didn’t get higher than the first deck of the Eiffel Tower!
I wish, at this point that I could make the blogging software app (WordPress) accept inserted photos. If any one has a clue, please let me know as I am beginning to think I shoulda brought a laptop, or even a MacBook Air. I will persevere and did actually email myself a couple of photos, then went to the business center and uploaded them from the computer to yesterday’s post. Such a chore and the formatting seems to have gone all pear shaped. Sigh.
So it’s bye bye Hong Kong in the morning. I am thrilled to have been here, it is so dynamic, so intense, so energetic, the people are all in a mad hurry, in fact I don’t think anyone has noticed me at all, heck, why should they. It has the aura of Manhattan, the sophistication of London or Paris and even the eccentricities and charm of San Francisco.
Tell you something, I haven’t been hassled once, I haven’t seen a panhandler nor any begging whatsoever. I have seen maybe three cops. The escalator into the mall outside the hotel is jammed, constantly.
They gotta be doing something right here in Hong Kong.
Next post from Saigon. I know I know, Ho Chi Minh City, but downtown retains the old name or so I have read.
We shall find out.

First day out on the Far Side of the World

Day one. The morning ferry to Macau.

Not surprising really but even with the aid of a map I keep getting lost. After a satisfying breakfast of soup with fried egg, ham, noodles and some sort of green leafery in it for about 40 cents US I headed for the Macau ferry. My concierge changed his mind about the Visa, apparently Brits don’t need one to enter Macau.
Walked and walked until I ended up on Austin Street, I recognized it from the airport bus ride last night and thought, this ain’t right. Reversed route and then found the right building emblazoned with huge letters China Ferry Building. How did I miss it ? Joined the 10.30 ferry line and looked about, everyone was clutching a ticket. Bailed from the queue and found the ticket office, bought ticket and rejoined embarking line. Went through immigration, found correct dock and then MISTAKE.
With 20 minutes to go before sailing I looked around for a loo, saw sign, got on elevator, noted floor number one and descended. No loo. Went to top floor, no loo. Then, oops, couldn’t get back to floor one. Obvious really as I would have avoided Immigration. Raced down the Arrivals Concourse thinking I’m about to get arrested for illegally arriving before I had left ! Explained situation to Immigration Lady, got the “foolish foreigner” smile and was escorted back to Dock 12 on floor one through all the security doors. Phew.
Off to Macau. Well it’s no Staten Island nor even a Larkspur to San Francisco ferry. It’s all enclosed, you can’t get outside. Very disappointing. The sea was quite choppy, people were sick and I didn’t see a Junk. Arriving in Macau I was confronted with huge Sands and Jai Alai casinos and thought uh oh, this ain’t for me. Reminded me of the famous quote from one of those Brit sisters, the Mitfords, about a certain Bay Area City, but better not go there for fear of offending.

These ferries are over 100 years old

The afternoon was quite eye opening. I took one of the famous Star ferries across the harbor to the Central Pier in Hong Kong, what a tremendous experience. It was rather like riding on British Railways back in the days of steam. If that doesn’t help, think Harry Potter. All polished mahogany, mechanical cranking noises, the smell was amazing.

It's a Porsche I know but you get the point.

Then a long wander through the streets and back alleys of downtown. The juxtaposition between the old and the new is what struck me the most. Seeing Bentleys parked outside what appeared to be falling down tenements, besuited bankers perched on street stools eating lunch, on their phones, stilettoed secretaries

Such vibrancy everywhere

tackling steep uneven alleyways, it was all sensory overload.
The noise is overwhelming, everywhere there is building, cranes, cement mixing, hydraulics and that on top of the horrendous traffic. Double decker buses grinding uphill, flying through intersections, trams, clanging, pedestrian crossing buzzers. Quite a cacophony.

I deserved it !

Returned to hotel in Kowloon to spend some time keeping in touch and tea ! I can’t say enough about Skype, though additionally the Tunein Radio App is really useful, I can listen to KALW and KQED from back home in the Bay.
Off now to watch the Orchestra of Lights and find dinner.
What a stimulating day and never a sight of a Windows PC !

First 11 hours in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong first Impressions

British power sockets and car license plates
The queues to gain access to Prada, Chanel, Ferragamo and the other fashion houses.
Canton Street, where I am staying , has the feel of the Rue St Honore in Paris, the Via Condotti, Rome, Knightsbridge or High St Kensington in London. Not to worry, I am only here for a couple of nights then Saigon. I cannot imagine that City will be like this.
The docks, I knew they were big, but they went on for miles and miles as we drove in from the airport.
I am not actually in Hong Kong at all ! I am in Kowloon. Taking a ferry later to H/K and ride the cable car to “The Peak”
There are lots and lots of people, for instance I was passed through 5 people to get from the hotel check in at the airport to the bus. 6 if you include the driver. The shopping crowds last night at 9.00pm rivaled Union Square/Oxford St on a Saturday afternoon.
Must remember to take my Spork when I go out, chopstick skills under developed.
I need a visa to go to Macau, it only takes a day to issue so tomorrow I get to ride the Macau Ferry. I hear it rivals the Staten Island ferry ride, I wonder if it is free ?
I must look at the signs on the elevators. I inadvertently took the Service elevator last night and ended up in the kitchens.
Everyone takes photos. It’s like Edinburgh at Festival time, walking along and suddenly the people in front stop to photograph something, anything. Mind you the front of the Esprit store is pretty impressive, it is one huge tv screen on three sides.
Ok, it’s getting light, yes, all these first impressions were gained in darkness so I am off to catch my first glimpse of a Junk.
I have jet lag.

Cathay Pacific flight 879

Flight CX879 San Francisco to Hong Kong.

Never read this legendary newspaper before

What a pleasure it is to fly with Cathay Pacific after so many years with British Airways. The seats are comfortable, the flight crew polite and helpful unlike some of the Tartars I have encountered on other Airlines. The tv screen is HUGE and the movie choices fill a small book. I am very impressed that I can watch Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as I was thinking of going to the movie theatre to see it.
The menu is extremely well presented and the choices are a vast improvement on “meat, fish or chicken”. I’m liking the look of the wine list too…..
The seat is a gadget lover’s dream.

Everything one needs for the flight !

It features a multi national power socket so I can keep the iPad charged all the way. I was disappointed when it didn’t work on the ground but once airborne a little green light came on and everything is charging. There is also a video/audio input so if I had brought a laptop I could watch movies on the fore mentioned tv. Heck, it even has a USB port which will allow me to plug in the iPad/iPod and enjoy my movies or look at photos. Pause for playing, ha, it works, cabin crew like the wedding photos Sara. Outstanding.
The onscreen map is very well thought out presenting an ever changing series of different views of our position. It looks as if we are going to head up the coast to about Ukiah and then swing East. Yep, that is exactly what we just did, so no waving to the Seattleites, hi Nat, hi Erin. Quite impressive as all there will be to see for the next 14 hours will be the North Pacific Oceon. There is a view from an outside camera, which, predictably is rather dull as we are heading straight into the sun.
Bit of a pause there for lunch (maybe) enjoyed a crab thingy for starters followed by a quite reasonable chop. Now the cheese and a glass of St Emilion. All accompanied by “the Sound of Goodbye” on my headphones. Seems appropriate don’t you think Sebastian ? “sometimes the sound of goodbye is louder than any drumbeat”.
Lordy I am going to miss you all.
Ok, lights are dimmed and everyone is going to attempt to sleep, I know I shall. This is absolutely brilliant and I can’t wait to reach our destination, Hong Kong, wow. So from somewhere South of the Aleutians, approaching Kodiak Seamount (letmegooglethatforyou) at 30,000 feet and 576 MPH with 5,752 miles to go I bid you goodnight.
See you later on the flight.
slept for two or three hours, watched Tinker Taylor and now approaching Vladivostok. Guess this as close as I will get, always wanted to visit and jump on the Trans Siberian Railway to Moscow. Also saw the Sea of Ohkotsk and Kamchatka. Remember, I am a geography nerd !
Time passed. Another meal, another nap.
Now we have Shanghai to starboard and Hong Kong is a mere 800 miles ahead. Unfortunately I shall be deprived of a good photo opportunity as we approach as it will be dark. But there is always tomorrow, or even this evening.
So let’s leave flight 879, a really long flight but the food was good, the seat accommodating, crew helpful and attentive. I have endured worse. So, thanks Cathay Pacific.
Tonight in Hong Kong.

Nightmares, Hallucinations and Fainting.

One week to go and things seem to be falling into place.

I went to a Travel Clinic last week to check what I needed in the way of shots and meds. Very pleasant and knowledgeable nurse advised me that I really only needed a Hep’ A shot so we did that and then got to talking about anti Malaria pills. The first ones she offered boasted the side effects of nightmares, hallucinations and fainting. I did not feel quite up to all that! The second batch apparently had the same side effects but without the fainting, another no. We eventually settled on Malarone, with the warning that I might suffer headaches. At $12.00 per pill I have a week’s worth and will replenish the supply before heading to Laos on February 11th.

I have read that this last week is the time of the most intense and frenetic activities with a million and one things to do and, yes, I second that. So many little details to take care of. For instance, did you know that tickets for trains in India go on sale three months before the departure date ? So, yes, I have booked my ticket from Kochi to Goa. Will I get to (Snooty) Ooty? yes, but only if there are tickets available when I am ready to go. Same situation with Jaisalmer, but I really hope to get to both, amongst others. It is also the most exciting time. As my fictional friend, Dr Maturin, would say “I am with child” to see Hong Kong’s Symphony of Lights, The Mekong Delta, The Cu Chi Tunnels, the rooftop bar at the Caravelle Hotel and HaLong Bay. And that is only the first week!

Cambodian Visa

The Visas are coming through successfully after all my angst. I like how Cambodia issues Visas electronically, simply fill in the online form, attach a photo.jpg, upload the lot and three days later the Visa appears in inbox to print and staple into passport. Keep it simple.

A note here to the handful of you who may be reading this. I am in a kind of test phase here with this blog and really would be interested in any feedback you may have. Are the posts too long, too short, gibberish, dull or what ? Do feel free to use the comment box and don’w worry your email address remains confidential. If it looks alright I will push it out to the rest of the World next week before I leave so comment comment comment. Also of course feel free to use the “follow” button. If you were to do this you will be informed via email of any new posts from me.Thanks.

The more eagle eyed of you will have noticed a reference above to the novels of Patrick O’Brian. Yes, I am reading the “Aubreyad” again. I feel that the 20 book series is just right to take on a long trip and I am already up to book #7. Of course I am reading them on the Kindle App’ on my tablet, otherwise I would have to take an extra suitcase. Never thought I would make the switch to digital books , but when I saw my Sister with her Kindle I was amazed. During the early days of e-readers she evinced a slightly Luddite view of the devices. But now she is a firm fan and is, I am sure, already loading up her device for her trip to the Ngorongoro Crater next month.