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Last day in Asia, onto New Zealand

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

I spent my last day in Hong Kong delving deeper into Kowloon, ate at some small Chinese places and even got a haircut from a corner hair shop.  Made me feel like I was in Asia again after the time spent on Hong Kong island with all the non asians…   Went to a sushi train place for dinner which made me miss Japan.   I had some Dim sum at the airport while waiting for my flight to Auckland the next morning, the sharks fin & shrimp steamed dumplings were particularly good.  Then I got some free inflight shopping vouchers just for saying I would take the next flight even though I didn’t have to in the end due to a passenger not showing up, I took use of the vouchers and bought some memory cards for photos since my supply is quite depleted.

I had an exit row on the flight so leg room to spare, no sleep however due to the combination of the timing of the flight and passenger noise.  I have now been awake for about 30 hours straight, spending the whole day here in Auckland walking around in the gorgeous weather here today, eating food with a knife and fork and getting aquainted with New Zealand.

More on that in the next entry….

Now the bad news is that my laptop charger which has been unreliable so far permanantly broke, so right now I have no way to power my laptop rendering it useless until I get this problem solved so I won’t be uploading many pics for a while.

Me on my last night in Hong Kong:


Macau + Victoria Peak

Friday, October 31st, 2008

I took the 40km ferry to Macau today.

Basic info on Macau is: Former Portuguese colony, handed back to the Chinese in 1999 just a couple years after Hong Kong was handed back by Britain and it is now the Macau SAR with a very similar political status to the Hong Kong SAR. Macau was the first established European port in Asia, long before Britain gained Hong Kong.  I thought this was just a simple ferry ride, but you get your passport stamped on departure from Hong Kong & on entry to Macau and vice versa too.  I had no idea I actually had to go through immigration.  I’m getting really good at filling out entry forms for customs now…

The reason most people come to Macau now is for the casinos, the Las Vegas of the East. I walked by them on the way to and from the ferry terminal, that’s all on that. Central Macau looks very much like Portugal, except everyone there is Chinese. The stone streets some with mosaic patterns on them remind me very much of Portugal.

main square

The ruined Sao Paulo cathedral sits on top of a hill near the town centre and is quite impressive even though the front is all that remains.

ruins of Sao Paulo cathedral

I wandered around the back streets, some of which looked like they were taken straight out of Portugal, but were full of traditional Chinese medicinal shops. I found Portuguese custard tarts too… Ate a turtle casserole for dinner which was bloody hard with chopsticks! The city is a remarkable mix of Portuguese and Chinese creating a very interesting place, quite different than the British influenced and now incredibly international Hong Kong.

Upon arrival back in Hong Kong I caught the end of the skyline light show for the 3rd time, this time from the ferry, I noticed it was significantly less smoggy today and decided to take the tram up to Victoria peak to see the view. The peak is the highest point on Hong Kong island at 1800ft. Great view from above, it was still hazy but part, possibly a lot of that was the weather, extremely humid the temp was reaching the dew-point and during the time I spent out on the observatory my shirt collected some moisture! This picture doesn’t really do it justice…

view of Hong Kong from 'the peak'

Here’s a comparison of the smog level..

Earlier this week

Now I’m eating one of the custard tarts I bought in Macau and deciding what to do here tomorrow, which will be my last full day in Asia…

Hong Kong pt2

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Well I have now explored more of the main areas of note around Hong Kong and the surrounding areas. The public transit system here is flawless as far as I can tell. Cean, safe, fast and not expensive. I have used buses, trains, a ferry and a cable car all paid for with the one transit card you buy. It’s so easy, more cities should adopt such a system. Though why they call it the octopus card is beyond me, must be where London got the Oyster idea from?


Lantau Island is by far the largest island in the HK SAR, connected by a bridge to the mainland. I took a cable car over the hills to the ‘big buddha’, the largest outdoor buddha in the world. There’s a couple temples in the quite remote area too, a big contrast to the densely populated and hectic Hong Kong Island.

tian tan buddha

Went back to Soho at night, stumbled onto a Belgian pub and had a beer. Then onto a Chinese place for dinner. I seem to be eating a lot of noodles here, they’re everywhere! What’s amazing to me in the Soho district is the % of Westerners to Asian people, there’s more Westerners here wining and dining. Now once you get off the island and go to Kowloon that number reverses itself dramatically…

Today after a late noodle soup breakfast, I went farther North on the mainland to the New Territories to see the 10,000 buddha monastery. It’s a good walk up to get to, 400+ stairs and the pathway is lined with golden buddhas most of the way up as it winds by jungle.

path up to the monastery

Though the jungle was fenced off unfortunately. The temple is unique simply for the vast amount of buddhas in and around it…

walls of the monastery

I spent the rest of the afternoon on the South side of Hong Kong Island at Stanley walking around the bay and market. After buying a couple things there I caught the bus back across the island, which took twice as long as getting down there due to rush hour traffic. I didn’t care though, I love riding on the top deck of double decker buses. The Los Angeles Philharmonic was in town today and tickets were apparently in such demand that after the shows sold out they decided to broadcast a live relay of the concert outside the concert hall in the piazza overlooking the harbour for free! So I sat outside in the perfect evening weatherwise for it and heard Stravinsky’s “Firebird” which was very good while enjoying the view of HK island. The light show of the skyline was during the concert too, pretty cool evening.

HK Island light show

I’m really enjoying Hong Kong, tomorrow I’m taking a ferry to Macau for the day.

On a funny note, while I was waiting for my order of noodles to be brought this evening after the concert the employees (age 17ish I’d guess) of the restaurant were cleaning up etc since it was about closing time. They were all speaking Cantonese, but I knew exactly what was going on between the manager and a couple employees. Cracked me up no end. Like watching a Hong Kong version of my old job. Nice to see the same stuff goes on in that particular working environment in other parts of the world…

Hong Kong

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

So I got up at 5, got on a nearly empty train to Taipei. Watched to sunrise over the ocean shortly after the journey began which was kind of cool, but I don’t like beating the sun up. I got to the airport roughly 3 1/2 hours before my flight, but when I got to the check in counter they offered to put me on an earlier flight to Hong Kong. 2 hours earlier, so no waiting around for hours at the airport. First thing I noticed in Hong Kong was the smog.

Hong Kong island from Kowloon


It was hot too, not quite as hot as Taipei has been though. I got to the hotel easily enough via airport bus and met the owner who is very friendly and speaks excellent English. All the transport signs are in English and Cantonese and I think anyone I’m likely to be dealing with will speak English, which makes being here pretty easy.

I’m staying near the tip of the mainland peninsula called Kowloon, not on Hong Kong island itself since it’s much cheaper here. Only one stop on the metro from the island anyway. My hotel is on Nathan road, which is the main street through Kowloon.

Nathan road, Kowloon

Full of shops, restaurants, double decker buses, taxis and hawkers. Way too many hawkers, many of whom seem to be originally from India. Foot massages, tailors, jewelry shops, restaurants and fortune tellers seem to be the most popular among them.

After checking in at the hotel I wandered down to the promenade at the end of the peninsula to get a view of Hong Kong itself. Quite impressive. After walking around there for a while I took the metro under the harbour and found one of the nitelife districts very close to the central metro stop. Lots of shops, mainly western, restaurants featuring all sorts of food and plenty of bars. Hadn’t seen this many western people since, well since before I was in Asia. I had some noodles for dinner, and then stumbled on some kind of street carnival. After that started to die down I stepped into a pub where they were showing a live premier league game, I never turn down the possibility of seeing Chelsea lose so I had a couple beers there.

central HK at night

Today I ate lunch at a dim-sum restaurant, mmm pork dumplings, then went to the Hong Kong museum of history. Pretty interesting how the British gained it 160 years ago, all to do with trading and war with China over the opium trade. They even had a video at the end of the display where I could watch good ol’ Price Charles officially handing over Hong Kong to the Chinese in 97. Hong Kong is part of China, but as a “Special Administrative Region” with a high level of autonomy. No visa required to land here, I got 180 days stamp upon arrival.

After that, and finally getting my laundry done so I can put truly clean clothes on tomorrow (first time in a while!) I went down to the promenade again, this time for the night view which is better than the day view.

HK Island at night from Kowloon

They also put on a sound and light show involving a lot of the buildings in the skyline every night, pretty cool.

After that I took the ferry across the bay for the view, and then went to Soho, another top dining and entertainment district on HK island. Not much Chinese food in this area, but whatever is there is a quality place for the most part. I ate Ukrainian, partly because I didn’t want to walk to another region where I could find more local food and partly because, well, how often do you see a Ukrainian restaurant? I think I’ve could’ve eaten something from any continent on earth at a place on this one street. It also has an escalator running through it from the business district to the high rise apt bldgs on the mountain…

an entrance to the escalator up the hill in soho