Hong Kong Trip – Day 18 – Everything catches up

Last night I slept very badly and spent most of the time in the toilet.  I think the amount of different food has finally caught me and I’ve got a little food poisoning.  This morning we decided to cancel all our activities and have a restful day so I would feel better for the flight.

We went out to the pharmacy to buy some tablets to help if my stomach still stays bad on the flight, I also bought a newspaper to read and some very boring bread to eat.  By lunch time I was feeling a little better and the pharmacist just advised me to drink lots of water before the flight.

By mid-afternoon I was feeling a little better and after eating some bread (how exciting!) and taking the medication I was feeling well enough to fly.  After finishing packing Clara and her parents had their last meal together and I rested watching TV.  I took a shower and prepared for the long journey home, I was hoping it would be boring and uneventful!

We set off for the airport at 8pm by taxi from Clara’s parents house.  The taxi managed to cram both bags into the boot and held the boot closed with an elastic band – this was better than when we arrived and I had much more faith our bags would actually still be there when we got to the station!  The taxi took us to the Hong Kong Airport Express Station which is just under the IFC2 building we had been to the night before.  The airport in Hong Kong works a little differently to other airports – being Hong Kong this has to be expected!  When we got to the MTR station we had to buy tickets for the Airport Express.  One of the perks of travelling by Airport Express is that you can actually do what is called ‘City Check’ and check in for your flight at the MTR station.  We went to the Virgin desk where there was no queue and checked in – our bags were a little heavier than when we came but we still managed to just about be under the limit!  It also seemed that the hand baggage regulations did not count on the return flight – more on this later!

After the quick check in we had our boarding cards and the desk was able to tell us which gate the plane would board from and at what time.  We went back through the turnstiles and walked down to the platform for the Airport Express train.  We now had to say our goodbyes to Polly and Andrew who were not coming to the airport.  This was quite upsetting for Clara and it was sad to leave them as they had looked after me so well!

We boarded the next Airport Express train and set off for the journey to the airport.  Of course the benefit of City Check is that we did not have our heavy luggage with us – however it was probably on the back of the train travelling with us to the airport!  The journey took the usual 23 minutes and was as punctual as ever.  The train wasn’t too busy, which was strange as once we got to the airport there seemed to be plenty of people around.

At the airport we went straight through immigration and the security check and then took a look round a few of the shops in the airport.  There were about 2 hours until the plane left and we needed to board in just over an hour.  The airport in Hong Kong is very different to many other airports.  As it was newly built it feels much better and the sense of space is massive!  The roof of the airport is around 10 meters above where we were walking and you could see across large areas making the terminal seem massive!  This is definitely something more terminal designers should learn from as its a pleasure to walk around the terminal and I think it makes you feel much calmer.

After the shops we took a walk down to the boarding gate.  The layout of the gates in the terminal is a big Y shape.  When we landed we were at one of the gates on the two arms of the Y and so we had to take a train back to the arrivals lounge.  This time our gate was on the join of the three prongs and we decided to walk as we had plenty of time.  The walk is fairly long and while we were walking I wondered how much it had cost to carpet the whole terminal!  We sat at the gate for a while and looked out of the window at the plane.  It was now obvious that the hand baggage regulations were not in place as many of the Hong Kong people travelling back to the UK had about 3 pieces of hand luggage – some people take way too much!

We boarded the plane about 11pm and were sat in the same seats as when we came (we choose these through the Virgin website on booking).  As we sat waiting for the plane to set off it was obvious this flight was much fuller than when we were coming and it seemed every seat was taken.  The captain made an announcement that a passenger had not turned up so they had to take the luggage out again and take out their bags – this is a very annoying situation as we sat waiting on the tarmac – how can someone not turn up at the plane after checkin?!  We eventually set off about 11.45pm (20 minutes late) for the 12.5 hour flight to the UK – an hour longer than going due to the wind direction.

The flight went much as the outward journey with an evening meal served – Clara had mashed potatoes and beef but said it wasn’t as good as the outgoing meal, I had plain bread and crackers to be on the safe side!  After the meal the lights went out and we settled down to sleep.  We both slept quite well although we woke up many times we managed to get a few hours sleep.  We were both still sleeping when the lights came on about 10 hours into the flight at 3.30am BST.  We were then served breakfast – unfortunately they ran out of English breakfast – so I had an omelette and clara dim-sum.  I was feeling better now and decided it was probably time to try and eat a proper meal.  Once breakfast had finished and we watched a little TV it was just about time to land, the approach to London was quite good in the dark and we could see a number of the sights including London Eye, Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf all lit up.

The landing was a good one and as we landed the rain was pouring down – looks like the British weather had come to welcome us!  We got off the plane and passed through immigration – this was the easiest one I’d done and no more forms to fill in – yippee!  Our bags arrived about 5 minutes later and we moved through customs and walked to the London Underground.  We boarded a train in the station and set off on our 24 station journey to Kings Cross.  The time was now 7.30am and the trains were starting to fill up with some commuters, it seemed they were mostly migrant workers from Eastern Europe and Africa and a couple of Businessmen.  As we approached Piccadilly station the driver came over the tannoy that a train had broken down ahead and there might be some slight delays – typical we though, we never had one delay on the MTR in Hong Kong!  As it happened the delay was about 10 minutes and we were in no rush!

We arrived at Kings Cross in the middle of rush hour and managed to fight our way up the stairs with our heavy bags to the station concourse.  We found the new GNER waiting room – worse than the old one and in a strange place outside the station – and sat down to wait.  We both got some breakfast from Upper Crust and a paper to catch up on the news – the most shocking of which was the news about Richard Hammond, looks like its been a bad time for celebrities after Steve Irwin!

We were booked on the 10.30am train and as our tickets were cheap we had no way of going earlier.  Karen, Clara’s sister came into Kings Cross about 9am and met up with Clara for a quick chat in the station.  At 10.15am we were allowed to board the train, which seemed very busy, this seemed odd at 10am in a morning.  The journey was pretty uneventful and the train was quite fast so we arrived in York about 12.30pm.  We took a taxi back from the station to our house and finally ended the mammoth journey!

So that’s where the holiday ends.  I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and hopefully learned a little along the way.  If you find anything useful or enjoyed what you read please let me know by emailing me at ben@ben-brown.co.uk.  Let’s hope I can go somewhere just as interesting soon!

Hong Kong Trip – Day 17 Evening – A drink with a view

After spending a couple of hours packing this afternoon we had a home cooked dinner of sweet and sour fish, beef balls with veg and soup and chicken with cashew nuts.  The meal was very nice and I managed to only eat a little to not get too full!

After dinner we were meeting up with a number of Clara’s friends for the last time before going home.  We took a taxi down to the International Finance Centre (IFC2), the tallest building in Hong Kong.  We were going for a drink in a bar called Red which is on the roof of the shopping centre at the bottom of IFC2.  We met Grace in the shopping centre and walked up to the fifth floor where the bar is located.  The inside area of the bar is inside the IFC2 tower and we sat outside on seats under the towers (see the pictures).  After a while Clara’s friend OJ and Cindy came along to join us.  The bar had quite a good view but was a little strange as we sat down and ordered the waitress told me my drink was ready and I had to go get it from the bar.  It turned out they were not allowed to serve alcoholic drinks in a certain area and so I had to go pick it up and bring it back to the table – yes I tough it was strange too!

After a couple of drinks we took some pictures, but came home quite early as everyone was tired.  We took a taxi back up from the IFC to home and went to bed quite exhausted.

Tomorrow we are going to meet up with Grace for lunch, do a little shopping and then get ready for our flight…

Hong Kong Trip – Day 17 – A Little Culture

This morning Clara and myself were both off separately, Clara with Polly and myself with Andrew.  Clara went to have a haircut with her mum and then went to pick up her ID card from Causeway Bay Immigration Centre.  After breakfast I went with Andrew to visit the Hong Kong History Museum located in Kowloon.

We took a number 40 bus down the hill to Admiralty and then interchanged to the MTR to go over to Tsim Sha Tsui.  We came out of the MTR station on a side street and walked over to the History Museum which is also next to the Science Museum (similar to in the UK in London).  We got to the museum and found that it was actually a free day to enter and so we went into the History museum first.  The museum takes a history of Hong Kong right from prehistoric times up to the current day and takes a look at many galleries including prehistoric times, Japanese occupation and then handover to China.

We looked around many of the galleries for about 2 hours and also watched some of the films that were shown.  It was quite interesting to see and well worth a visit if you don’t know that much about the history of Hong Kong.  During the more recent galleries Andrew was able to tell me more about some of the photos shown as he had seen these events and even reported on some in his first jobs.

After we finished in the history museum we decided to take a short look around the science museum, before we had some lunch.  This turned out to be a very short look around, as the museum seemed to be aimed more at younger children and contained many hands on exhibits – most of which I’d done before at school.

We left the science museum (which was also free) and moved on to have some lunch.  We took a walk down a few streets in Kowloon to find somewhere.  Andrew saw a Japanese pub and we decided to go inside.  I ordered a Bento box, which is like a traditional Japanese lunch box and consists of many small portions of different foods including bean curd, sausage, a baked egg meal in a pot and some rice and miso soup.  Andrew had some smoked fish and we washed it all down with a bottle of Taru Sake.  The food was very good and the sake quite strong but it was a good meal.

After the meal we walked back to Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station and then took the MTR back to Admiralty and then a taxi back home.  It had been quite a tiring day as we had been on our feet for a while.  Tonight we’re off out for a last drink with Clara’s friends…

Hong Kong Trip – Day 16 Evening – Ging Bao

This evening we went out for Vietnamese food in a local Vietnamese restaurant in Central.  We walked down to the restaurant via the steps next to the mid-levels escalator and when we arrived the restaurant was quite full but we got a table in the window.

For food we had some cold vermicelli rice noodles with prawns and also some with beef.  These are served with fried garlic and also some vegetables shredded, and then fish sauce poured over.  Following this we had some beef served with peanut sauce which was wrapped in lettuce leaves and some meats wrapped up in thin pancakes that are also served with peanuts.  The food was very nice, but by now I was quite full after another heavy day of eating!

After the meal, myself and Clara went out for a drink with Bonnie and Jean who we had eaten Singapore food with last week.  We went out to a bar in Lan Kwai Fong which was situated on a balcony covered with shades and with air conditioning.  The bar was quite strange with cushions on the seats and a strange female manager who insisted on coming to speak to people (and only annoying them I think).  Jean and Bonnie had only just finished work so they were ordering some food and trying to get myself and Clara to eat some more!  I tried a bit of fried Puffer Fish, which was quite nice and tasted a little like fish and a bit like meat.  After a couple of drinks we went to another small Chinese cafe where they could eat dessert.  I had a milkshake and everyone else had different Chinese desserts and by the end I was so full it was uncomfortable (hence Ging Bao which means Super Full!).

After the drinks we came home via the mid-levels escalator and went to bed, very full!  Tomorrow I am going to the Hong Kong Museum with Andrew, while Clara is going for a haircut and also to pick up her ID card from the immigration office…

Hong Kong Trip – Day 16 – Lamma Island

Today I awoke to a fairly sunny day with a few clouds around in the sky.  Visibility across the harbour was quite bad and you couldn’t really see too much of Kowloon.  After our normal breakfast of cereal and buns (today I had hotdog sausage, tartar sauce and gherkins – nicer than I expected!), we set off with Polly and Andrew to go visit Lamma Island.

Lamma Island is the third largest island that makes up Hong Kong (after Hong Kong and Lantau Island) and is one of only five islands that are inhabited.  The island is located about 2 miles south west of Hong Kong Island and to get there we have to take a ferry.

We caught the number 12 bus down the hill and to the outlying island piers in central, where we had been before to get the ferry to Lantau.  Today we had to take the ferry from pier 4 to Lamma Island.  There are two places that you can take the ferry to, as well as two types of ferry, both fast and slow.  We were out of luck when we got there and the next ferry didn’t leave for 45 minutes, so we sat down and waited for it to arrive.  Luckily it was a fast ferry, which costs a little extra ($16) but only takes 20-30 minutes to get to Lamma Island.

While we waited in the ferry pier, quite a few people started to gather and the ferry looked as though it would be fuller than when we went to Lantau Island.  The ferry piers are strange places, quite dingy and full of everyone from locals to tourists, all of whom use the only method of transport to get to Lamma.  We got on board the ferry, which was smaller than we had been on before, and also a bit older, there were also no TV’s inside, which is rare for Hong Kong transport!

The journey lasted 30 minutes and was quite bumpy at times as the ferry seemed to be smaller and much more susceptible to the waves in the harbour.  The ferry goes close to Hong Kong Island and turns around the western tip and then goes across the Western Approach to Yung Shue Wan on Lamma Island.

When we got off the ferry it was already possible to see this island was much smaller and quieter than Hong Kong Island.  Andrew told me that houses here can only be a maximum of 700 square feet in size and up to 2 stories high, in order to try and keep some of the character of the island.  This seems to have worked slightly but Andrew also told me that the island used to have many fields that were worked by local farmers, but now most of these are just left more like jungle as the owners wait for a developer to offer to buy the land from them for houses.  The other strange thing about Lamma Island is that there are no cars (or very few) on the island so instead locals use a mixture of bicycles and small vans that the locals call VV vans (due to them all having number plates starting with VV).  These are basically small vans with a lawnmower engine and seem to do everything from transporting goods to moving people.

The ferry pier in Yung Shue Wan sticks out quite far into the water as the bay has a shallow area where smaller boats are moored.  We walked through the small town which has now mostly become touristy, apparently during the weekends this area is busy with Hong Kongers who come for the weekend to eat in the seafood restaurants!  The town seemed quite run down apart from some restaurants and many of them have fish outside for you to pick and then eat.

On getting to the other end of town we exited and were immediately brought into the countryside.  Like every other part of Hong Kong, Lamma Island is also very hilly and so leaving the town requires you to start going up hill.  The whole island has a number of concrete paths – which act like roads – and are good to walk along.  Although it seems like countryside there are fire hydrants and bins along most of the paths and you really don’t feel like you are in the country.

We walked for a while along the path and passed a number of overgrown field with banana trees and other plants.  A little way along we passed a small road that had a car on it.  This road leads to the power station on one side of the island.  The power station can be seen from most of the island (or at least the three chimneys can) and it looks like it has been placed here as there is more room.  Continuing along further we passed a number of houses, some of which had small cafes outside which are full at weekends, but today were empty.  We also passed a police post – complete with police bikes – the police use bikes as this is the quickest way around the island.

After about 30 minutes we arrived in another small village and walking to the other side we came out on a small beach, complete with shark net and lifeguard.  The beach looked very nice and the sea looked cool but we hadn’t brought any swimming things.  Climbing some steep steps from the beach we reached a small restaurant with a view over the bay where we were going to have lunch.  The speciality of the restaurant is pigeon which was served to us roasted complete with heads!  The pigeon was nice (Andrew ate the heads) and we also had some pork chops with onions (a bit like sausage and onion to be honest) and some friend rice and vegetables.  This restaurant has been around for about 40 years and Polly’s mum and dad used to live on the island, so Clara has been here when she was young with her grandparents.

After lunch we walked back down the stairs and back to the concrete path.  We took the same path back towards the ferry for a while and then went up a hill.  We were going for a walk to find Clara’s grandparents old house.  When we eventually got there we had walked up to the top of some hills, many new houses had been built in the area.  We also passed a fire station complete with very small fire engines and ambulance (see the pictures).  When we got to the area, we could no longer find the house as so many new houses had been built it was difficult to find our way around.

We went for a short detour (courtesy of Andrew tours) and saw some more banana trees, complete with green bananas, some papaya trees and also some pomegranate trees.  Also on the floor in the middle of the path we saw a praying mantis (a female according to a local westerner who lived here).  It didn’t really seem scared of us and let me take some pictures whilst sitting on the path.

By now we were very hot and we walked back down the hill and eventually found our way back to Yung Shue Wan where we had a cold drink.  Just outside the town there are still some fields that are tended by locals and we saw spring onions, Chinese leaves and sweet potatoes growing in the soil.  This area seemed to be treated more like an allotment and wasn’t on a scale much above providing for themselves.  We had another quick look around Yung Shue Wan and to be honest its not very pretty.  The bay is quite nice to look at, but the houses are in disrepair and some look as though they are falling down!

We got back on the 3.45pm ferry back to Central, this time the journey only took 20 minutes as we had a larger (and faster) ferry.  After getting off at the Central piers we took a taxi back home for a quick rest before going out again this evening…

Hong Kong Trip – Day 15 Evening – Buffet Number 2

This evening myself, Clara and Grace were off for buffet number two at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Wan Chai.  The Grand Hyatt is located next to the Hong Kong convention centre which was built just in time for the 1997 hand-over on reclaimed land in the harbour.

We took a taxi to the hotel and as we were a few minutes early we had a walk around the block to take a quick look around the convention centre.  As we entered the hotel it is obvious that it is a very posh hotel (I believe its 5*), as the hallway is all marble and decoration very plush.  We walked up the grand staircase to the first floor where the dessert buffet was held.  The area was normally a lounge in the hotel but every evening the dessert buffet is held here.  We were a little early and and waiter showed us to a table and explained that our table (by the window with a good view over Hong Kong) was still occupied and we could wait until it was empty.  To get to the table we had to pass the desserts, most of which were small single portions, but there were also cakes cut ready to be eaten.  Grace had already called to explain she would be late and so we sat and waited for our table and looked out at the skyline.  The buffet started at 8pm and so as we looked out of the window we could see some of the light show that takes place (although without the music it was a little bit strange)!

After 25 minutes and after having to ask the waitress, the table we were supposed to eat at had still not been vacated.  There was a man on the phone who had been told to leave, but seemed like he had decided to ignore them.  This made us a unhappy at the service as the waiters seemed to ignore the fact that we had the table booked for 8pm and were happy to let the other customer continue.  Eventually about 8.30pm we were shown to the table, but we couldn’t help but feel annoyed at the service so far!

Luckily the food was much better than the service and we tucked into plates of desserts.  There was every dessert available including chocolate desserts, eclairs, profiteroles, chocolates, cakes, cheesecake, apple tarts, ice-cream cake, a chocolate fountain complete with many things to dip in it, souffles, cheese and biscuits, ice-cream and fresh fruit.  All three of us ate 4 or 5 plates of the desserts, all of which were very nice!  The setting for the buffet was very grand, with big plush sofas, low table and dimmed candlelight.  There was also a live piano player through most of the night playing relaxing music.

We eventually finished about 11pm and when we came to get the bill it appeared all the staff had disappeared.  When we had been at the buffet this afternoon at Hong Kong Football Club it actually seemed like the staff cared and wanted to look after the people, here it seemed that they were not really bothered, especially by people who had only come for one meal!  This was slightly off putting and would definitely make me think twice about going again in the future, for whatever reason!

So if I was a restaurant reviewer I would be saying, great food, nice atmosphere, spoiled by poor service and attention to detail of the staff – not really what I expected from a 5* hotel with 5* hotel prices!  Take note Grand Hyatt!

After the meal, Grace went home as she has work tomorrow, and myself and Clara went for a quick look at the waterfront at the front of the Convention Centre.  This area is called Golden Bohemia Square and has a statue of a Golden Bohemia (a plant) that was erected on the hand-over and creation of the SAR of Hong Kong.  We took a couple of pictures and took a look at the waterfront and Kowloon side in the dark.

By now it was getting late and we took a taxi back home and went straight to bed.  Tomorrow we are off to Lamma Island to look around one of the smaller outlying islands, that doesn’t have any cars…

Hong Kong Trip – Day 15 – Buffet Day

This morning we woke up fairly late, today we were not going out in the morning and so after our hectic day yesterday we stayed in bed for a while, but were still tired when we got up!  After a light breakfast we got ready, for lunch today we were going out with a number of Clara’s aunties (her mum’s sisters) and her grandma for a buffet at the Hong Kong Football Club.

We set off by taxi about 11.30am and travelled down to the football club which is situated in Happy Valley, next to the famous Happy Valley Racecourse.  When we arrived the first thing we saw was a notice telling you to switch off your mobile phones.  If a phone rings inside the club it will cost you $200 fine!  The club is quite posh, and is really a throw back to British rule!  To call it Hong Kong Football Club is a bit strange as its not really that professional and more like a posh health club where people can play for teams such as football, rugby, tennis, basketball, bowling and many more.

When we entered the club the lobby is plush with marble walls and floors.  There are many plaques on the walls of past presidents and honorary members, none of which I actually recognised!  We went up to the second floor to the cafe bar.  The cafe bar led out onto a terrace next to a large outdoor swimming pool that looked very inviting!  We were seated at our table by waiters who were very attentive and a few minutes later Auntie Catherine and Uncle Edmond brought grandma along.  After we had said our hellos it was time for the buffet to begin!  At first we though we might have the whole buffet to ourselves as there were no other people in the restaurant.  The buffet runs from 12-2.30pm and has everything from starters to desserts.

We had a quick look around the buffet and this is what you could have:

  • Many types of cold cut including smoked salmon
  • Fresh muscles on ice
  • Many types of salad including pasta salads and caesar salads
  • Sushi – lots of different types
  • Freshly cooked udon noodles with vegetables
  • Numerous types of curry, popadoms and rice
  • Roast beef sirloin (very nice)
  • Potatoes, steamed veg, battered fish
  • Many cakes as desserts including cheesecake and chocolate mousse
  • Fresh fruit
  • Tea and coffee including cappuccino

In other words, as you can see from this list, there was tonnes to eat!  All the food was immaculately presented and very well cooked!  For the next 2 hours we managed to get through many plates and I even managed to fulfil my craving for sweet desserts (although I’ll get more tonight).

After lunch when we were feeling very stuffed, Uncle Edmond took us for a tour of the club.  He is a member (hence us eating here) and he plays Crown Green Bowling here.  We looked at the indoor sports hall, the fitness suits and many squash courts, plus outdoor (artificial) football pitch and bowling greens.  The club seemed to mainly have members consisting of rich English (or western at least) people.  They were the people who were sad to see Hong Kong go back to the Chinese.  When we were walking around I even saw the Jack Charlton had been made an honorary life member, but didn’t recognise anyone else!

When the meal had finished and we had said our goodbyes, we walked to have a look at the Happy Valley Racecourse.  We wanted to go in the horse racing museum but unfortunately it was closed on Monday’s, so we just had a quick look!  We had seen the inside of the track from the football club, which actually has its football pitch inside the race track!  Its worth noting that the Hong Kong Jockey Club is incredibly rich in Hong Kong, but most of their money is actually ploughed back into helping charities, although the racecourse looks pretty spectacular!

Next we moved onto Times Square for a quick look around a couple of shops.  We went to City Super where we had visited before to get some things Clara had wanted.  For the rest of the afternoon we decided to take a tram ride up to the terminus and back to see a little more of the Eastern Part of Hong Kong Island.  We got on the tram and it took us about 1 hour to get to the terminus in Shau Kei Wan.  We got off the tram there for a quick walk around the market where everything was for sale including fresh fruit and veg, meat and fish.  The smell around the market was quite strong, shame that we have no smello-vision again!

This area of Eastern Hong Kong Island is still built up like most of Hong Kong Island but seems much less commercialised than Central, Wan Chai and Causeway Bay.  There are more ‘ordinary’ people living here and the area is served by an MTR line making it an easy commute to the more commercial areas.

We got back onto the tram and took it all the way back into Central.  The journey is quite interesting but gets a little boring at times if you happen to get stuck in traffic or when the tram goes very slow!  The best thing about the journey is that the cost is $2 each way (or less than 30p for both trips!) for about 2 hours entertainment!  When we got off in Central we were a bit tired from the journey and took the mid-levels escalator up to home for a rest.

Tonight we’re off out for the dessert buffet (hence Buffet Day) at the Grand Hyatt Hotel (another posh hotel), so more sweet desserts to come and more weight to put on…

Hong Kong Trip – Day 14 – Pandas

As we got up this morning, a little earlier than normal the sun was shining through the curtains.  We were both still a little tired this morning after going out last night, but today we were off to Ocean Park and we needed to set off early to see everything!  After breakfast we set off on the bus number 12 to Admiralty terminus where we could get on the bus to Ocean Park.

When we got to Admiralty the bus station was busy, today is Sunday and family day, so it was no surprise there was a queue for the buses to Ocean Park.  The bus is a regular bus service that runs to and from Ocean Park and at this time of day there was a queue to get on.  We queued for about 5 minutes as there were plenty of buses waiting to pick people up and the bus soon left for Ocean Park.  The bus travels through Happy Valley then through the Aberdeen tunnel and into Aberdeen where the the entrance to Ocean Park is located.

After getting off the bus there were many people around and we queued for five minutes for our entrance tickets.  We had a special deal from a booklet to get 10% off our entrance fee, making it about 12 pounds for the day.  Ocean Park is visited by many people including lots of Mainland Chinese people come on a day trip, as well as some locals and tourists.  The only problem with this is that they are often quite rude and the Chinese way seems to be to push past everyone else and try to get to the front.

Ocean Park is a mixture of a theme park and zoo, with a number of wildlife exhibits as well as rides.  On entering the park the first place to look at was a giant Aviary.  This was similar to the aviary in Hong Kong Park and we took a quick look around, but after our experience in the Hong Kong Park aviary we didn’t stick around too long!  Ocean Park is also set on a hill and so walking around is quite difficult and Ocean Park has a number of novel ways to get around.  We walked up the hill and saw the Log Flume ride as well as a ride called the Space Wheel.  Clara wasn’t really interested in going on it so I went on on my own.  The ride was quite good and basically was a circle that rotated up into the air and eventually you went upside down.

Next we walked to the Mine Train ride which must be the ride I have been on with the best view.  The ride is situated on the top of some cliffs and looks out over the South China Sea.  I went on this ride too, but it wasn’t that good – again Clara didn’t really want to go so she took the pictures!  We continued to travel up the hill by taking an escalator up the steep part to the next section.  After taking a walk around a scenic road we eventually got to some more ride.  I went on a ride called the Abyss which is like the Playstation ride in Blackpool Pleasure Beach and consists of a 60m vertical fall.  The view from the top was pretty amazing, but it didn’t last long and I was soon plummeting back to Earth!  The ride was actually quite scary, and I think Clara was definitely glad she didn’t go on!

I also went on the ‘Longest Rollercoaster in Hong Kong’ (not hard to be the longest really!) called the Dragon, which had 3 loops and was the best ride there.  As the Dragon was set on a hill at the end of the ride you actually had to take a mechanised pully to pull the train back to the station.

By now the temperature was rising and the sun was beating down and it was very hot.  We needed somewhere to cool down ad so we went into the ‘Atoll Reef’ a large aquarium that has many fish to see, both from above and below the water level.  It was quite interesting but not really much different to the exhibits you can see in other aquariums around the world.  After exiting it was lunch time so we sat down and ate our lunch we had brought from home, some buns and some fruit.  The food in Ocean Park was fairly expensive by Hong Kong standards, which is very cheap for an English theme park but is limited to burgers, hotdogs and chips.

After lunch we continued to the top of the hill where we looked around the Shark aquarium, complete with underwater tunnel.  Sadly the tunnel was only about 10m long and pretty poor!  There was also a sea-lion aquarium where we could see the sea-lions swimming, again from above and below.  We walked past the large outdoor theatre where shows took place every day and decided to have a look at the 5pm show.

After this we had mostly finished one side of the park.  To get to the other side, which is situated on the other side of a mountain, we had to take a cable car.  We walked to the station and got into the car.  This is Clara’s nightmare as she really does not like the cable cars, although the view is pretty amazing!  The cable cars were not busy and we immediately got into a car and started on the trip.  The cars go flat for a while with a good view of the sea and Repulse Bay, a popular beach on the South of Hong Kong Island.  Eventually the cars go up and over a mountain and then take a steep drop over the other side and back to the other section of the park.

This section of the park contains the main entrance but is the smaller part and doesn’t have as much to see.  When we got off the cable car we went to the part of Ocean Park that Clara had been looking forward to most, the Pandas!  The Panda house has two Pandas, Jai Jai, a 26 year old female – who is getting very old, and An An, an 18 year old male, who is getting old now, but is still okay.  As Pandas are solitary animals apart from when mating, the house is split into two with one Panda on each side.  Firstly we got to Jai Jai, who was lazing around on a small wooden platform in the middle of her pen.  She didn’t move for a few minutes and so we decided to move on!  After reading a poster we saw that Pandas sleep for 41% of the time, eat for 55% of the time and only spend 4% of the time doing other things!

An An was next, and today we were in luck, as he appeared to be in quite a lively mood!  Clara had told me that often the Pandas are just lying around but today An An was pacing around the pen.  After a while he stood outside the door to his indoor area and the keepers opened it.  The keepers came into his pen and put down some food for him.  After going back inside they opened his door and he came out and started to feed on the food.  It was quite strange watching the pandas at such close quarters, and I thought they looked quite fake in many ways.  We spent about 30 minutes watching An An eating and moving around the pen before we moved outside to look around the gift shop.  Clara bought a couple of Panda items and then we moved on.

Next was an exhibit on Dinosaurs where there were some fake dinosaurs and some present day animals that are most closely linked to them.  This included some lizards and crocodiles and a few fish, and the exhibit finished with a massive animated Tyrannosaurus roaring at us!  Next door to the dinosaurs was the Butterfly house.  This was a large area of trees covered with a net to stop the butterflies getting out.  We walked inside and were surprised at the amount of butterflies around!  They flew everywhere and it was often quite off-putting to see them flying towards you!

The next exhibit was about the Amazon and had some of the animals from the Amazon to see, mostly birds, and a 3D amazon adventure (which was pretty rubbish, you put on 3D specs and walked through a dark hall!).  Finally on this side of the park was the Dolphin University.  This is where the young dolphins are trained for the shows that take place in the park.  It was interesting to see them being trained and the method they used to get the dolphins to do the tricks  they did seem to enjoy it though!

After a quick look around some shops we got back into the cable cars to return to the Headland part of the park.  There were a couple of things left for us to see and we also wanted to go see the dolphin show in the Ocean Theatre.  We got there a little early and it was a good job we did!  The theatre was filling up fast, and there was a live Spanish band to entertain us before the show.  The show lasted about 20 minutes and involved 4 dolphins and 2 sea-lions.  To be honest, they didn’t really do too many tricks, but it was quite fun to see anyway.  After the show we went to have a look at an exhibit on jellyfish.  This was new and had large queues earlier in the day, but we managed to get in after a short wait.  The exhibit was quite dark and had lights to light up the jellyfish in different colours.  It was quite hard to move around as it was very dark and there were many mirrors to reflect the glowing jellyfish!

By now it was 6pm and the park was closing soon and the sun going down.  We walked back towards the entrance to get our bus and I took a quick ride on the Dragon rollercoaster once again (it was worse the second time).  We took the escalators back down the hill to the entrance and got back onto the number 692 bus to Admiralty.  The traffic was quite bad and the journey took quite a long time, but we eventually arrived back at took a taxi home.

We arrived back about 7.15pm thoroughly tired and ready for a rest.  We had a home cooked meal of somerset pork, salad and garlic bread, freshly baked by Polly and slumped into the sofa to rest for the evening!  Tomorrow we are having an easier day, meeting some more family and having a bit of a rest…

Hong Kong Trip – Day 13 Evening – Korean BBQ

This evening we went out with Clara’s parents for a Korean meal.  The restaurant was called Korea Garden Restaurant and is situated in Central.  We took a taxi to the restaurant and got out outside the Wing On department store (Clara calls this the Pearsons – a department store in Enfield – of Hong Kong).  The restaurant was located on the first floor and apparently there are two restaurants with the same name, but the one on ground floor is not as good!

When we were seated in the restaurant the table had a small grill in the middle.  Clara had told me that Korean food is BBQ and this grill can be lifted to reveal a small gas BBQ on which you cook your own food.  We started the meal with many small dishes of vegetables, fish balls and small pancakes as well as some that were very spicy such as spicy cabbage in chilli sauce.  Next came three plates of meat, one of beef, one chicken and one squid.  The meat is marinated in sauce and then it is up to you to place the meat on the BBQ and then eat it when ready.  You get two pairs of chopsticks to do this, one for raw meat and then one to eat with – this gets a bit confusing at times and you have to think about it quite hard!  Served with the meat was a large pot bowl of fried rice, this was Korean style rice and this was given to us in a small bowl each.

The BBQ was very nice and quite different from many meals I’d had before.  One problem with the meal is that apparently after you come out of the restaurant you smell of the BBQ smell, but its too difficult to smell it on yourself!  Finally after all the meat had gone we finished with a pancake with vegetables inside, served on a pot plate – like the ones they serve Fajitas on in restaurants.

After the meal myself and Clara took a walk up to Lan Kwai Fong where we were going for a drink with Angel and her husband Andy.  We met them and went into the Fong bar that we had been in the other night with Sunny and Grace.  This time we went upstairs where you could have comfier seats and the bar was quite empty for a while.  Eventually things started to fill up including one table of about 10 Chinese people who took about 30 minutes to work out what to order from the menu – maybe its because the menu is all in English?!  It is obvious that people want to be seen in Lan Kwai Fong, as it is the trendy area so one table of nine Chinese ordered one bottle of red wine and nine glasses, each one only got about half an inch which they didn’t drink until just before they left!  They obviously didn’t have the money to support the lifestyle but want to be seen in these bars!

After a few drinks we left the bar about 11 to go home.  We took a taxi up the hill and for less than 2 pounds we were home.  We went straight to bed as tomorrow we are off to Ocean Park to see the animals and maybe even go on some rides…

Hong Kong Trip – Day 13 – Chinese Sausages

We awoke this morning to a fairly grey and hazy view across the harbour.  The weather was fine and dry but there was no sun and visibility was quite bad!  Our plans for today were to meet up with a friend of Clara’s dad, whose daughter is going to study in York next year.  He wanted to meet up with us to chat a bit about York as he is flying back to the UK on the same evening as us, on a different plane.

After breakfast we set off for a bit of sightseeing and a chance for me to take some pictures of some buildings I had missed so far. We took a number 3B bus down to Admiralty and took some pictures of the Bank of China building.  I also took some pictures of the Former Prince of Wales building, that used to be the barracks for the British garrison stationed in Hong Kong.  The building has now been renamed but is still home to the Chinese battalion.  You will see the building in my pictures as it is shaped like a bomb – I’m not sure why, but it is very distinctive!

Next we moved onto the Legislative Council (LEGCO) building in Central.  This was the building that used to host the ‘government’ of Hong Kong under British rule and is a small colonial style building – one of the only ones left that the Chinese haven’t flattened!  The building is now home to some part of the Chinese Hong Kong Legislative Council and outside there were a few nice cars parked, so the politicians obviously have money.  Opposite the LEGCO building is a war memorial to troops from the first and second world wars, this is quite strange to see and has quite a lot of land for this expensive area!

On the other side of the LEGCO building is the HSBC headquarters.  This building is rumoured to be one of the most expensive ever and is designed in a portcullis style apparently to follow Feng Shui – basically it looks like the Lloyds of London building in London – with some of the inside on the outside!

After taking a few pictures we had a quick look around HMV in the Landmark center.  Unsurprisingly its not much different from the UK, although prices are a little cheaper, which is probably to be expected – you can pick up some bargains, but we’d already bought enough DVD’s so far!  We now walked over to the Star Ferry pier in Central to take the Star Ferry over to Tsim Sha Tsui (say Chim Sar Choy) where we were meeting Peter her dad’s friend.  We got there a little early after a calm Star Ferry ride and so took a look around the Ocean Terminal shopping centre, a shopping centre dedicated to children’s clothes, but very surprisingly it has free internet access and so everyone was sat around with laptops!  There is a large cruise ship which docks here each day and sets off each night and sails out into the South China Sea and once in International Waters opens a casino!  This is one of the ways that Hong Kongers can gamble without having to go all the way to Macau!

We moved onto the restaurant on the third floor of Star House.  The restaurant serves Beijing cuisine and was quite posh!  Beijing cuisine is northern Chinese and different to the South Chinese (Cantonese) cuisine which is what we get in the UK.