Scribbles in the Sand

All About My Life in Taiwan


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Hong Kong Day 2

The previous day I had made a list of things to see in Hong Kong,  and so the first thing on the agenda was to see The Peak.  A giant hill in the centre of Hong Kong, home to the rich and famous.  Doris’ sister drove us up the ridiculously steep slopes to the very top where there is giant viewing platform.

This is the real home of the western tourist, which in comparison to the asian tourists, look like giant blond buffalos.  I’m so used to seeing a foreigner and expecting them to be American that it was nice hearing German, Swedish, and British English accents for a change.  We took some snaps then looked around the shopping centre before taking the peak tram back down into the city.

 

View from “The Peak”

Inside the peak tram

This ancient railway descends almost vertically at points, and offers amazing views down across the harbour through the thicket of trees.  A Chinese tourist was so overwhelmed by this beauty that he insisted on standing for the entire journey snapping pictures with his overly large camera.

When the tram suddenly descended steeply, he fell back several meters, but luckily a hairy italian stuck out his arm and propped the man up.  Even this near death experience (or rather, broken camera experience) didn’t deter him and he continued with his pictures.

Once at the bottom, we crossed the road and entered one of Hong Kong park’s.  Inside this mosquito haven was a giant Eden project style Avery,  full of exotic birds, and even more exotic cameras.  After being bit one too many times we took a tram to a coffee shop, and then to a giant computer emporium filled with all manner of computer accessories and apple connector cables.  Approaching nightfall we walked to the harbour.

All of the party boats chartered by white bankers were returning as nightfall descended and we and took a 1o minute boat ride over the Kowloon in order to look back across the harbour at HK island from the promenade.  The viewing gallery gradually filled up with thousands of tourists and the show began.

It was a bit slow to start with, and didn’t really end with a massive bang, but seeing lasers and LED’s put to the sound of pumping music on world-famous buildings was worth seeing.  It happens every night at 8pm so I recommend it if you ever go.

After the show finished we walked along some busy shopping streets and entered one of the many many restaurants.  We both had beef noodles and milk tea, and later got picked up by her parents and drove home after a long day of walking about town.

 

Here is a video teaser of the light show.  https://dl.dropbox.com/u/8504439/HK%20Light%20Show.MOV

The boat we took across harbour

Nathan Road, the longest road in HK, filed with expensive shops.

Beef Noodle Joint

Every Night at 8pm. See the Attached video

 

 

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Hong Kong Day 1

Woke at 7am, collected my key deposit and took the MRT from Shandao Temple to Taipei Main Station (10mins).  Walked to the Kuo Kuang 國光 bus station and booked my tickets to Taoyuan airport.

A nice man tried helping me buy my bus tickets assuming I was another clueless foreigner, but the ticket lady said there was no need because my Chinese was very good. I was chuffed.

Boarded the bus and took the 55min journey out of town.  With plenty of time to spare I headed into one of the gadget shops to try out all the latest smart phones and tablets and practice my Chinese.  They even had the new  Google Nexus 7 tablet which I had been dying to try out having read great reviews.  The shop assistant’s english was not great but he had an impressive technical vocabulary with words like graphics chip, near field technology and retina display.

Luckily my flight was announced because I was close to buying it there and then.   Boarding the plane I chose the Chinese newspaper to make me look smart, but mainly to look at pictures of the new iPhone.

The plane was the type you would normally take on a long haul journey, but the trip to Hong Kong (HK) is only 1hour 19 mins so they didn’t even give access to any movies. I only had time to watch 2 episodes of 30 Rock, eat my lovely warm chicken baguette and sip on some green tea.

My bag was the last onto the carousel and I followed the herd towards the transport links.  I couldn’t see any signs for bus stations, and was funnelled into the ticket office for the high speed rail service.  My experience of Taiwan with its cheap subway fairs lead me to think it would be a reasonable price.  It wasn’t.  Not knowing the local currency, I assumed the 5 brightly coloured notes that Laurie had given me was enough to cover a single ticket.  It wasn’t.  $100HK dolla.  So expensive la!  (£8).

(on refection it wasn’t too bad a price, but relative to what i’m used to spending it seems a lot.  Needless to say, it was a smooth air conditioned ride through valleys, along the coast and into the centre of HK island.

I took the elevator out and entered into one of HK’s many luxury shopping malls.  I was struck by how multicultural it was, with at least a third of the people being white, as well as quite a lot of indian and middle eastern people, which is a rare sight in Taipei which is much more uni-cultural. Also, everyone seemed to be dressed up for a fashion shoot, but luckily my new outfit from the day before didn’t make me look too out of place.  All I now needed to fit in was a pin-stripe suit, suitcase and pointy brown shoes.

Doris had arranged lunch with her sister so I had some time to kill until she finished up.  I found a massive Apple store but soon got bored inside the shop because it was packed with people debating whether to spend a lot of money or a ton of money.

I waited outside the shop soaking up the free wifi and catching up on emails.  Standing there for 10 mins, a man with a polishing cloth came out at least 3 times to buff the aluminium fascia of the shop removing any stray bit of dust.  I decided to move on, feeling like I was dirtying his lovely shop.

I met with Doris and we took the MTR to Times Square, a central department store area filled with flagship shops.  We even discover a recently opened Jack Wills shop flying a 3 storey union jack.  Much as i dislike this brand, I couldn’t help feeling pride when I saw the “Made in Salcome, Devon” label.

After a quick snack of curried tripe and fish balls, we took a taxi to her grans house.  It was a lovely small apartment house in the hills of the city, with impossibly steep roads which required dropping down into number 1 and 2 on the gear box.  Most apartments are gated and houses fenced off.  Each building has its own guard and all the doors are pin coded.  I was greeted by their lovely maid who prepared us a drink, (most households have a Philippino maid).

In the evening we stayed at the grandmothers for dinner. We ate with Doris’ two cousins, her sister who arrived later from work, and her parents who had been out buying me a camp-bed despite me saying that I was happy to sleep on the floor.

The maids brought out lots of lovely dishes, and afterwards we relaxed on the sofa and watched one of their favourite period dramas. It felt odd having the maids clean up after us, but they’re treated well and receive a better wage than if they were elsewhere. I’m not condoning it, but most households can afford a live-in maid for about £300 each month and it’s definitely good for older people.

Downloaded the Stay.com city guide app for my iPhone (recommend) and made a checklist of all the things I wanted to see during my weeks stay.

After dinner the parents drove us home in their lovely new merc and her dad gave me a quick tour of HK as we drove out into the new territories.  I hadn’t actually looked at a map before arriving, so it was very helpful.  Hong Kong is made up of 3 main areas, HK island which has all the impressive skyscrapers. Then we move across into Kowloon (九龍) “9 dragons”  which is much the same as the island, and all brand new and modern.  Then we have “the peak” which are massive hills in the centre of HK island and the location of the most expensive property prices in the world.  After we cross some massive suspension brigades (their cables wrap around the world many times) and through the longest tunnel I’ve been in, (under the harbour and mountains) we are into the new territories which are outside of Kowloon, in the country side, and are rapidly becoming built up.

The parents live in a town/village off from the motorway in a brand new housing complex in an ultra modern building that they’ve designed just the way they wanted.  I was amazed by brand new Sony Bravia that takes up most of the wall.

I had a quick shower, broke their sink and then set up my bed downstairs in the living room, and slept like Jesus, surrounded by many animals, two old Labradors (bobby/jojo, their two cats, ding ding, dong dong, and another dog, Mocha.  Her dogs snore louder than humans but I got a good nights sleep nether the less.