I awoke at 7.30am feeling partly refreshed but still a little jaded after the journey. Sleeping wasn’t too difficult, despite the 30 degree heat, as air conditioning comes as standard everywhere in Hong Kong and boy wasn’t I glad! After a breakfast of Char Sui Prok bun I felt ready to face Hong Kong for the day.
Our first stop was Causway Bay on Hong Kong Island and the imigration department. Hong Kong has recently introduced a new, biometric, ID card. Clara had missed getting one as she had not been back to Hong Kong in over a year and so she had to make a visit to get her card. We travelled to Causeway Bay by bus number 23 which leaves from the end of Clara’s road. The bus ride took about 20 minutes on an air conditioned bus, that also had a TV at the front to force more adverts and strange Chinese programming into your brains – if you didn’t get enough from looking out of the window! You won’t be surprised that bus drivers are worse than those in England (and most of them are pretty bad) and with the roads being extremely hilly and having frequent hairpin bends things get a little scary! The journey allowed me to see the many streets, complete with overhanging signs that Hong Kong is famous for.
After getting off the bus it was a short walk to the immigration center, but it was now that we could feel the real heat of Hong Kong and also the bustle of people trying to get down the pavements. The immigration center was chaotic – at the moment it is people over 80 who are getting their identity cards, so it was also full of VERY old people! After waiting in line for 30 minutes we got a ticket that allowed us to return later for Clara to get her card.
We now had to travel to Sheung Wan to book our trip to Macau on Friday where we will be visting our friend Sunny. We made a short walk to Causeway Bay Mass Transit Railway (MTR) (underground) station and walked down the air conditioned corridors to the platform (London underground please take note!). The journey was fast and much like the London underground, apart from the train does not have separate carriages and is like one long snake. It is also possible to take mobile phone calls along the whole route! The journey was very fast and efficient and we paid for it all using an Octopus Card (same as the Oyster card for London Underground), it was also cheap, as the whole day’s travel cost less than $20 (£1.50). We booked our trip at the travel agent and stopped for a dink in a local cafe (complete with geese with heads ready to be carved!).
During the first couple of days we have to visit a number of Clara’s family and today our next appointment was with Clara’s grandma and aunty for lunch in Wan Chai. On the way there we took a walk along one of Hong Kong’s many covered walkways and I took some photos of the buildings, including International Finance Center, the tallest building in Hong Kong (and home to Lehman Brothers HK Office). It was now starting to get really hot and walking around even in the shade was very difficult! We then took our next method of transport, the Hong Kong tram, to the Weston Hotel where we were having lunch. The trams are mostly very old and look as they have done for nearly 100 years. They are not air conditioned but the journey only costs $2 (10p) for any distance along the route. You get on at the rear of the tram and then pay when you get off at the front. We stood upstairs, and due to no air conditioning the journey was uncomfortably hot – despite every window being open.
On arriving at lunch and saying hello to Clara’s grandma (Ma ma, lei ho), I found it was everything I expected. When we entered I was the only Westerner in the restaurant and everyone was sat in large groups around circular tables – most people had come from work. We enjoyed a lunch of dim-sum (Yam Chi) – basically tea and lots of small plates of food. We enjoyed prawns, beef balls, rice, turnip cake and custard tarts – very much like English custards but hot. The lunch was all washed down with plenty of green tea.
After lunch, when we had finally cooled down (I had lost about half my body weight in sweat in the morning alone!) we went for a walk around Wan Chai, back to Causeway Bay and the immigration center. Along the walk we visited a street market, which sold everything from clothes to food. We walked along a number of streets that had fish mongers and butchers, including live chickens (which are now back after bird flu has subsided). The smell takes a little while to get used to (its pretty bad) and in all fish mongers the fish are live and swimming in small bowls of water. Some fish even try to escape, splashing water everywhere. I also saw hundreds of live frogs squashed into a box at $10 each (75p), terapins, and every seafood imaginable! This is definitely the real Hong Kong but not for the faint hearted!
While Clara picked up here ID card I went for a short walk myself around Causeway Bay. I didn’t see too many sights and the temperature was really too hot to stay outside too long! Clara rejoined me after a while and I had my first taste of Hong Kong shopping. Clara wanted to go to the $10 shop (yes, basically its poundland, but bigger and cheaper!), to get some little things. This visit took around 1 hour (yes I did say 1 hour), as the shop is quite big and has lots of things to see! After this we visited Sogo, a large department store to get some food and basically it seemed to be like Debenham’s or House of Frasier.
After finishing our shopping we took the number 23 bus back to the mid-levels escalator (a long mechanised stairway up the hill) which we travelled on up the hill back to Clara’s house.
Tonight I’m off out in Hong Kong – more to come soon…