Hong Kong - 7 Sept 2008 to 10 Sept 2008

After a long flight of 11.5 hours, we finally made it to our hotel. It was still over 32 degrees C at 5:00pm so we headed to the pool for a swim to cool off after some drinks in the hotel lobby bar - won't do that again - HKD$200 for 1 beer, 1 wine and two Cokes (That's nearly NZ$50!).

Too tired to go anywhere tonight, so settled for McD's for dinner and off to bed ready for an early start in the morning.
Early start in the morning, stating with breakfast in the hotel. Ian tried Shark Fin Dumplings (why not)

Caught hotel shuttle to Tsim Sha Tsui, then Star Ferry across harbour to Hong Kong Island (cheap -NZD$9 for 4). For a big city, its transport is fantastic.
Walked to Peak Tram for tram ride to top of Victoria Peak.
Some great views over harbour and out to Kowloon. Very smoggy- that's the haze in the photos.
Caught the express bus through to Stanley and explored the markets there. Some beautiful beaches on the way - this photo is of Repulse Bay
Next we travelled back to Kowloon and explored Nathan Road - the main thoroughfare through Kowloon.
Stopping for a rest at Kowloon Park - a huge area full of trees, aviaries, ponds and water features
After heading back to the hotel for another swim, we decided to explore some of the local markets.

Bamboo is used everywhere - from supporting shop signs, to being used as scaffolding - some extending up 50 floors around the massive buildings going up here
Many of the streets have markets of a fixed theme - this is the Ladies Market
This is the goldfish market - many of the shops had hundreds of little plastic bags with fish inside

We'll that's all for the moment. Tomorrow we catch the train to Lintau Island to explore the Po Lin Monastry - more photos soon!
Finally - this really had us laughing. Look at the brand on this toilet paper - Its called Vinda - an obvious connection between a toilet and a hot Indian Curry (Vindaloo)!
Day two - Hong Kong

Early start, this time avoiding the expensive hotel breakfast, we headed to McD's. Usual fare there, except you could also have chicken with noodles!

Next we tried out the MTR railway to head out to Tai Chung on Lantau Island. This is really an efficient system - just walk up to a ticket machine, press on the required destination and fare type, feed in your money and away you go. Very similar system to the London tube with several lines, and we had to change once on our way.
On arrival to Tai Chung,there was a short walk to the cable car. There were many hawkers trying to sell us on the bus trip, but we already knew the best choice was the cable car. HKD$440 for us all, and we were off. The views were spectacular, especially over the airport as we climbed.
The giant Buddha at the Po Lin Monastry was as spectacular as we had been told. Despite the near 40 degree heat and high humidity, the climb to the top was worth every step
Danielle was able to tell us all about the various statues offering gifts to the Buddha, and what they meant, from her lessons at school - Thanks Mr E!
After the Buddha, we explored the Po Lin Monastry
Even at sacred places, some of the translations can be humouress! No Aloohol instead of No Alcohol
After the Monastry, we explored the Po Lin Village. Whilst quite commercialised (there is even a Starbucks here), the Walking with Buddha display depicting the life of Buddha and his teachings is worth seeing.
Heading back to Kowloon we left the MTR at Prince Edward station and walked the few blocks to the Flower Market and Bird Market close to the Hotel
After a quick dip in the pool to freshen up, we caught the Hotel Shuttle to the Waterfront to catch the daily light show on the building on both sides of Victoria Harbour at 8pm. Dinner consisted of a quick burger and catching the MTR back to Mong Kok East and our Hotel. Long day ahead tomorrow for our flight to London
Well that was Hong Kong for us.

Highs? The transport, the Markets, the atmosphere, the Tram to Victoria Peak, and especially Po Lin Buddha and Monastry. Kids enjoyed the pool, as well as some of the markets (Goldfish and Bird)

The not so Highs? The crowds, the traffic, some of the strange smells coming from the street vendors selling food, and some of the smells coming from the sewers!! Joys of visiting a highly populated city! Bit of a culture shock for Danielle when we arrived - seeing a lot of poverty, all the washing hanging from the thousands of apartments, as well as people sleeping under bridges, but you cannot fault the Chinese work ethic. The place reeks of commerce, from the high flyers with all the name brands, to those who make whatever living they can from selling obviously wild/caught birds and those who beg.

Truly a wonderful experience, and well worth the stopover. Now for Europe!
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