Hong Kong, China
Bit of a long day today – at least yesterday’s rain had stopped and we even saw a bit of sun. We did this tour of HK Island with Gray Lines as a quick way of seeing as much as possible in the little time we have here. It was a good choice since they packed a lot in and then kept us for 8 hours. Pick up at the hotel was prompt at 10am, but due to the crazy traffic it was another 45 mins before we collected the last of our small group (at the Luk Kwok in Wan Chai – yay, where I stayed last time – glad to see it’s still going strong). First visit was to the Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road. I don’t recall going there before. Pretty interesting in an Old Chinese Temple sort of way. They were in the middle of redecoration (maybe the first time in a few hundred years?) so the whole place was full of scaffolding (bamboo) and ‘wet paint’ signs (accurate). And smoke from the blasted incense of course.
Anyway, 20 mins of smoky gloom and we were were off again to the peak tram. Tickets were included so we just had to get on and ride it to the top. View is petty spectacular at any time – must be one of the ‘must see’ sights in the world, I reckon. The guide insisted he take our picture with the skyscrapers in the background – we knew there was a scheme coming, but more anon. From the peak it was back on the bus for a very twisty ride down to Aberdeen harbour, where we were invited to take an ‘optional’ sampan ride. Since the end of the ride was lunch at the Jumbo floating restaurant, which is in the middle of the harbour, I was a at a bit of a loss how anyone would get there if they decided to forego the sampan(*). Luckily we didn’t. A quick chug round the harbour, which was much cleaner and tidier than I recall from last time (sadly), and we were dropped at Jumbo.
(*) Yes, I know, there’s a free water taxi.
Now that hasn’t changed a bit. Same opulent surroundings, sam dim sum (I hope not literally!), and same absolutley foul jasmine tea. I learned my lesson about that last time – one sip and my hand goes up; “One Coke, one Sprite please” – sorted. Actually it was quite nice and Wendy had the veggie option so she didn’t have to deal with any of the crustaceans. Talking about how small a world it is sometimes, the woman on our trip sat next to Wendy at the table turned out to have been born in Macclesfield and her husband was from near Matlock. I mean there’s all the world to choose from and they’re basically from down the road. But it was at this point the guide sprung his suprise on us – a picture of us on the top of the peak printed on paper AND on a plate. Normally I am very Yorkshire about this sort of thing but this was opportunisum of such brilliance and tat of such excellence that I had to have it. I don’t think the plate is dishwasher proof though.
From here we went to what I think was the only mistake of the trip – a jewellery factory. I’ve since found that all the trips do this, but all it is really is a thinly disguised attempt to sell you some what seemed to me to be quite pricey jewellery. There was just about every precious and semi-precious stone on offer in different setting, but with prices going from the hundeds to the thousands… sorry, no thanks. Fed up of being ‘Can I help you’d?’ evey time we accidentally strayed near a jewellery case, we left early and went and sat back on the coach. Nearly everyone else joined us pretty much at the same time, so I reckon the feeling was shared. Still, I got a couple of nice pictures of chaps working on the stones.
Finally we motored on to Stanley Market on the far side of the island. More tee shirts, more pashminas, more soapstone carved with your name in Chinese – in fact more of everything of that nature. Nice to walk round but virtually every stall had the words “No Photo” stuck up somewhere. Well, excuse me, but if you want to sell to tourists… I took a couple surreptiously (and got a finger-wagging for my pains from some old bat). From there is was a bit of a long blat back hrough the harbour tunnel to the hotel. Home for 6pm on the dot.
But we’re not stopping there. After a cuppa it was back out into a taxi and down to the harbour for the light show. That’s a pretty nifty thing they are doing, I have to say, though the harbourfront is teeming with folk at the time. Basically all the buildings on both sides of the harbour (though it’s hard to see them on your side) fire off lasers and stuff in time to some music. Sounds tacky like Blackpool, but Hong Kong is big with about a hundred illuminated ‘Blackpool Towers’ to fire them off. Starting to get a bit jiggered by this time, so taxi back to the hotel and day 2 done!