A Tale Of Four Cities

dolphingirl47

In Search of the Tag Fairy
Joined
Dec 25, 2007
Day 1

We woke up at 4:45, about 15 minutes before our alarm was due to go off. We got up and I had a quick shower. I took the rubbish down while Graham switched off the power and the water supply. The car service I had booked was due to pick us up at 5:30. We were ready just before 5:20 and went downstairs. Just as we were coming out of the front door, our driver called. By the time I got my phone out, the phone had stopped ringing. I called him back and it took a couple of calls for him to find us. We had a clear run to the airport. We only encountered a little bit of traffic when we were on airport property as there is a lot of construction at the moment. Still, we arrived in plenty of time.

Check in was already open when we got there and there was no line. We got checked in and got a new boarding pass for our Manchester Abu Dhabi flight. I really don’t understand why they do this. My luggage was 3kg under the limit so this was a bonus as well as I was planning to do some shopping in China. Graham had even more spare luggage capacity. After we were checked in, we headed for security. As we walked over there, we saw a long line. My heart just sunk. In the end, it was not too bad. They had this well-organized with members of staff organizing the line at various points to make sure that it flows as much as possible. I was more than a little bemused on how close people cut things. There were people behind us with flights that were leaving about 40 minutes later. They got pulled out periodically by staff and fast tracked though. I am sure this slowed down the line a little, but all in all, we were in line for about 45 minutes. We still had time to get some breakfast once we had cleared security.

We visited an old favourite, Giraffe. While we waited to be seated, we saw that our plane had already arrived. This is always a bonus. Breakfast was nice. Graham had Ranch steak with breakfast potatoes, fried egg and salsa washed down with coffee and orange juice. We were amused by his steak knife. I had pulled beef brisket with onions, peppers, breakfast potatoes, fried egg and a side of avocado. I needed a caffeine hit, but did not fancy coffee so I had a Coke. Once we had finished our breakfast, we paid, used the bathroom and then headed over to our gate.









I got caught up online and posted on Facebook and then I played a game on my iPad. Soon we noticed that they had started to board and we got in line. On this flight we were supposed to have a window seat and one next to it in a block of three. Fortunately the aisle seat remained free so we could spread out a little.

The plan had been to stay awake during this flight, watching a couple of films, reading and finishing off typing up my last trip report and then sleep on the second flight. We had not even taken off when I realized that this may be wishful thinking. While we were taxiing out to the runway, I could feel that my eyes were starting to feel heavy. I had a look on what was on offer on the entertainment system. I had checked out what to expect in terms of films on the Etihad website and there were two films that took my fancy: The Greatest Showman and I Tonya. Unfortunately when I checked, it was still May and I Tonya was no longer on the line up for June. I did however spot Moana. Moana is one of three films that I really like, but when combined with movement, they tend to send me to sleep. I decided that I would put Moana on after lunch and have a nap.

For the time being, I got started on working on my trip report, but I just could not focus on this. I read for a bit and then played a game. Soon lunch was served. Graham had spicy coleslaw, lamb curry with rice, Kaiser roll, red wine, water and coffee. I am a bit of a coleslaw snob and a version that looked bright pink did not appeal at all. I had obviously made the right decision as Graham did not like this and he eats pretty much everything. I had chicken with Parmentier potatoes, carrots, mushrooms and green beans, a Kaiser roll, chocolate butterscotch mousse, white wine, water and coffee. Once lunch had been cleared away, I switched on Moana and soon I was asleep. I woke up a couple of times and watched a bit of the film before falling asleep again. When I woke up for good, the film was over and I felt a lot refreshed.



I read for a bit, played a game on my iPad and then I put on The Greatest Showman. I very much enjoyed this. I then spent the rest of the flight reading and playing games. About an hour or so before we were due to land in Abu Dhabi, they came round with snacks. We got a hot chicken and green olive pastry each, which was very tasty. Graham had some water and I had a Coke. Shortly after the rubbish had been cleared away, we started our descent into Abu Dhabi. We spent some time circling. Between this and the late departure from Manchester, we arrived in Abu Dhabi a little late, but we had plenty of time. Our gate was not far from a security check point and we breezed through. I have enjoyed all of my flights with Etihad and would not hesitate to fly with them again, but Emirates will always be by first choice based on the history I have with this airline. However, if it was merely a choice of airport, then Abu Dhabi would win over Dubai any day of the week. Everything at this airport goes like clockwork.

When we got through security, our gate for our connecting flight was not even listed yet. This was due to be listed about half an hour later. We both needed the bathroom and ended up in a satellite terminal that we had not been to before. This was very beautiful. There were various kiosks selling Arabic sweets and cookies and I was seriously tempted, but decided against it as I did not want to carry them with me for the whole trip. We did find a bathroom and once we were on our way back, our gate was listed. We made our way over there. On the way, we came across something quirky. They have kinetic tiles installed on a short stretch of corridor that turn footsteps into energy. There is a big screen in this area that displays how many steps have been registered and how much energy was produced. This is kind of neat.



Our gate was only a couple of gates down from where we were when we flew to Australia. We found some seats and I used the free Wi-Fi to check my emails and get caught up on Facebook. I ended up chatting on Messenger with a former colleague who was due to get on Ovation of the Seas the day we got off. Soon boarding started for our flight and this was a very smooth process again. We waited until the lines had gone down a little and then got in line. A couple of minutes later, we were on our way to the plane. For this flight, we had the Boeing Dreamliner. Our first experience with this was on our short flights between China and Japan and although it was a pleasant enough aircraft, it did not wow me. I liked the long-haul version better, but I still prefer the Airbus A380. We had lucked out on this flight and snagged seats towards the back of the plane where there are only two together. Boarding was completed soon after we were in our seats and we were on our way to Hong Kong.

I alternated reading and playing a game on my iPad until dinner was served. Dinner was pretty good again. We had a rice noodle and sweet peppers salad with soy sauce and garlic dressing, which was tasty. Graham had pasta with tomato and olives, which surprised me as he is not normally into vegetarian food. He says it was OK. I really liked mine. I had Singapore noodles with chicken. I figured I may as well start how I mean to go on. Dessert was rice pudding with pineapple sauce . I am not normally a big friend of rice pudding, but I enjoyed this. We both had white wine and water. Graham went to sleep as soon as dinner had been cleared away and I had hoped to do the same. However, sleep was reluctant to come. I should not have napped on the first flight. I created a playlist and then read until my eyes were starting to feel heavy. Fortunately about 90 minutes later and about 3.5 hours into the flight, I also fell asleep.
 

Pinkocto

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jul 22, 2011
I’m here :wave: but am at work and must come back to read. Looking forward to this.
 

jedijill

Chiefs fan living in Bronco country
Joined
Jan 17, 2005
I'm here! Can't wait to read about another adventure!

Jill in CO
 
  • dolphingirl47

    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Joined
    Dec 25, 2007
    I’m here :wave: but am at work and must come back to read. Looking forward to this.
    Welcome on board. I understand all about work. I did a 15 hour day yesterday and will do 13 hour days on Thursday and Friday. Fortunately I have three installments ready to go and another one is making good progress.

    I'm here! Can't wait to read about another adventure!

    Jill in CO
    Welcome on board.

    Sounds like a great start!
    Welcome on board. It was and in the next installment which I am hoping to post tomorrow, we will definitely hit the floor running.

    Corinna
     

    Pinkocto

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 22, 2011
    Caught up, sounds like a very smooth travel day.

    It always amazes me when in the security line people are panicking saying they have a short time until their flight leaves. I know traffic and things happen but they could never have started off with enough time early if they’re that late...

    I’m with you on the long days, your hours are very similar to mine.
     

    dolphingirl47

    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Joined
    Dec 25, 2007
    Caught up, sounds like a very smooth travel day.
    It was definitely one of the easier travel days.

    It always amazes me when in the security line people are panicking saying they have a short time until their flight leaves. I know traffic and things happen but they could never have started off with enough time early if they’re that late...
    I will never get this either. For an international flight, I always aim to be at the airport 4 hours before departure.

    I’m with you on the long days, your hours are very similar to mine.
    At least I can honestly say that I love what I do.

    Corinna
     
  • dolphingirl47

    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Joined
    Dec 25, 2007
    Day 2

    I did manage to get some sleep. I woke up when the lights came on and they were starting to serve breakfast. Graham was awake as well. I checked on the map where we were and we were somewhere over Vietnam. I played a game for a bit and then we got our breakfast. We both at an apple muffin, which was quite nice. Graham had some orange juice and I had water. I carried on playing the game until they turned off the entertainment system. It did not take long after this before we landed. I admired the scenery from the air.

    Once we had landed, we spent a while taxiing to the terminal. The airport did not look very big and there were mainly regional planes. Once we had arrived at the gate, things happened quite quickly. We were soon inside the terminal building and on our way to immigration. We stopped at a bathroom on the way and I also swapped over SIM cards on my phone to the Hong Kong SIM I got. Then we had to get on a train to go to the main terminal building, which is where we would clear immigration. We had not been given a landing card on the plane, but there were desks near immigration with plenty of landing cards and pens. We filled them out and got into the line. Immigration was quite busy, but the line moved quickly. While we were waiting, I saw something that did not make me happy. In Hong Kong, they do not stamp your passport, but you are given a little square piece of paper that has all the admission details on it. We acquired quite a few of those over the course of the trip. Soon it was our turn and we got one copy of the landing card and the print out and we were on our way. We got our luggage and we retrieved the same number of pieces of luggage that we had checked in, which is always a bonus. Then we went through customs and we were on our way.





    Shortly before we left for this trip, Graham had found out about the Po Lin monastery. The way to get there is via the Ngong Ping cable car. When I had a look at this, I realised that the cable car station is only a short bus ride from the airport. As we could not check into the hotel until 14:00 anyway and arrived shortly after 9:00, we decided that we would visit this on arrival. Once we had cleared all the formalities, we went to get some cash. Then we headed towards the transport interchange. I left Graham with our luggage and got Octopus cards for both of us. Octopus cards are the transportation smart cards in Hong Kong and are valid for all manner of different modes of transport and even in certain shops. There is a small discount for using them as opposed to cash fares for some modes of transport, but the main motivation for getting them was the sheer convenience. Once I had sorted this out, we reorganized the luggage and then went to the left luggage office, which is near the bus station. While Graham sorted out our luggage, I went online on my phone and got tickets for the cable car via a Hong Kong based tour operator called Klook. I had previously used them to get my tickets for Tokyo Disney Resort and also Hong Kong Disneyland. The beauty of using them is that I could get the tickets after we had landed as all I would need was a barcode. As an additional perk, they also have a special VIP line at the Ngong Ping cable car.

    With this all sorted out, we headed to the bus station. I had checked out on Google Map which bus we needed to take. We looked at the map of the bus station and the bus stop we needed was not far away. When we got to the bus stop, the bus was already there. I double-checked with the driver that we had the right bus and he told me that this bus did not go there. He gave me a different bus number and pointed me to the bus stop for this. He also said something about that bus being cheaper. Me made our way over to the other bus stop and again, the bus was already there. It was cheaper. It cost 3.5 Hong Kong Dollar instead of 18. However, as 18 Hong Kong Dollar is just under £1.80, I was really not worried about the price. We got on the bus and it left shortly afterwards. It took about 10 minutes to get to the cable car terminus. Of course as we were walking towards the cable car terminus, the bus that supposedly did not go there, pulled up right next to us and stopped. I really have no idea why the driver did not want us to get on.

    We walked the short distance from the bus stop to the entrance of the cable car terminus. As soon as we got there, I saw the sign for the Klook VIP entrance. I headed in this direction. A security guard intercepted us and checked the barcode on the app. He then waived us through. The normal line looked huge. We went up some stairs and there were a number of different ticket windows there. We headed towards the one marked Klook and only had a very short wait. The person at the ticket window checked our passports and the barcode. She then gave us a wristband and directed us to the correct line for the cable car. There are two different kinds of cabins on the cable car. The standard cabins have a metal floor and the crystal cabins have a glass floor. I had gone with the crystal cabin. We had about a 10 minute wait until it was our turn. Once we were inside the cabin, a professional photographer took a photo and then we were on our way. The views were stunning. Pretty much as soon as we left the station, we were over the sea. The colour of the water was absolutely beautiful. We passed the airport and then crossed another stretch of sea before heading up the mountain. The landscape was so beautiful.











    When we arrived at Ngong Ping Village, we had to walk through the obligatory gift shop. They also showed us the photo. I quite liked it, but as it cost about £30, I passed. I did not like it that much. We then stepped out into the village and I spotted a tea house. I was quite thirsty so I suggested that we should get some tea. Graham was up for this. This was a beautiful and serene space. Graham had some Pu’er tea and a piece of pineapple cake. I was not hungry, but enjoyed the Oolong tea I had very much. I had a look around the attached shop to see if they had the tea I was drinking available to buy. I asked about this and was directed to a shelve with very expensive tea in souvenir tins. I decided to pass as I figured I would have plenty of opportunity to stock up on tea this trip. I went back to Graham, who was just finishing off his tea. We went to pay at the shop. Graham had a look around and he found smaller tins of the roasted Oolong tea that I had enjoyed so much and they were on offer. I got 5 tins for 100 Hong Kong Dollars, which is just under £10 or £2 per tin. I thought that was very fair. The first tin has since been enjoyed, but I have plenty more left.







    Ngong Ping Village is the ultimate tourist trap. It looks quite pretty, but is not very authentic. It was opened in 2005 and is stuffed full with souvenir shops and restaurants including Subway and Starbucks. There are also a number of 4D shows. We bypassed all of this. There was a reason why we had come and Ngong Ping Village was most certainly not it. What had drawn us there was the Po Lin Monastery. Po Lin Monastery was founded in 1906. It became famous when the Tian Tan Buddha or Big Buddha statue opened in 1993. So we walked through the village at a good speed. Outside the village were some market stalls and various food kiosks, which were even less appealing than the village. Then we came to some traditional gates and the atmosphere completely changed. We were now officially on the grounds of the monastery. The path was lined with statues of the Twelve Divine Generals , each of which symbolizes a different animal from the Chinese Zodiac, is armed with a particular weapon, and represents two distinct hours of the day. Soon the Tian Tan Buddha was ahead of us. Unfortunately to get up there involves climbing 260 stairs. It was boiling hot and very humid that day so we passed on this and admired the Buddha from the distance.















    As we pushed on towards the monastery itself, we saw a lot of cattle by the roadside. Graham new that there was something special about them, but could not remember what. They were obviously quite used to people and nobody bothered them. I only found out afterwards that they were actually buffalo, which is kind of neat.





    We walked through another gate and then we were inside the monastery itself. The atmosphere changed again. There was a garden area, with all kinds of statues and seats. Off to one side was a kiosk that sold incense. Closer to the entrance to the actual monastery were racks and big cauldrons where people could leave the incense. Ahead of us was a beautiful building with an arched doorway underneath. There were all manner of buildings in this area including the dormitory for the monks. Straight on was the Hall of Skanda Bodhisattva, which is the formal entrance to the temple complex. Just inside is an altar with a statue of the Buddha and framing this are statues of the four heavenly kings. On the other side of the altar is another arched doorway leading to a smaller courtyard and straight ahead are stairs leading up to the Main Shrine Hall of Buddha. There is a terrace surrounding this building and following this around will lead to the Grand Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Apparently there are a lot of different elements to this building including a meditation hall and a library, but only the shrine hall of this is accessible. It is absolutely beautiful as is the whole of the complex. Again a there is a terrace all around this and from one side, you look down on the koi pond. The monastery is a beautiful and serene place and a far cry from Ngong Ping village and its in your face commercialism.

























    We had a look at a couple of the other buildings and then we made our way back towards the cable car. On the way, we came passed a raised podium that was facing the Tian Tan Buddha. I went up to the top to take some photos. Even those few steps were hard work in the heat. I did get my photos though. We then pushed on towards the cable car terminus. This time we had next to no wait. There was a photographer again, but we politely declined. I enjoyed the ride again. Graham was not quite so keen and was glad when we were back on firm earth. As we were exiting from the building, we saw a really nice outdoor swimming pool. I thought that this was part of some upscale hotel, but apparently, this is a public pool. I so wished that I had a swimsuit with me. This looked heavenly. Instead we walked the short distance to the bus station and we only had a short wait until the bus arrived and took us to the airport.







    When we got there, we went to retrieve our luggage. We then went to the stop for the airport bus to Hong Kong Island. We must just have missed one as we had a bit of a wait, but that was no problem. We both fell asleep on the bus, but fortunately we woke up when we reached Hong Kong Island. I got my first impression of Hong Kong. I had researched which stop we needed to get off at and soon we were approaching that stop. As the hotel we were staying at was a high-rise building, I thought it would be fairly obvious where we needed to go, especially as the hotel was only about 200 yards away. I had not appreciated just how much a 22-storey building can blend in. The fact that there was a lot of construction in the area did not help either. I consulted the Google Maps app and we were actually just around the corner from the hotel.

    When we got to the hotel, we checked in. There was a little snag. I have a couple of pre-paid Mastercards that are incentives from two different cruise lines. I had enough on one of them to pay for the hotel. Unfortunately the card did not work. We put this on our joint credit card and sorted this out when we got back. We were told that we had been upgraded to a bigger room in exchange of being on a lower floor. I did not mind at all which floor we would be on. I do wonder just how small the room we had booked would have been as the room we ended up in was rather compact. It was however very comfortable. We settled down for some sleep.

    We woke up again around 19:00 and decided to go out to find some dinner. There were a number of small restaurants near the hotel, but they were all closed. We wandered down some streets near the hotel, but all we could find were takeaways. Our room was not really suited for having dinner. Some of the food on the menus also looked rather strange. In the end we gave up and headed back to our room. We got ready for bed and called it a night.
     

    franandaj

    I'm so happy, I could BOUNCE!
    Joined
    Nov 15, 2009
    I just got here and I'm already two days behind! :faint:

    I'll have to come back and read, must run errands for the next couple hours.
     

    jedijill

    Chiefs fan living in Bronco country
    Joined
    Jan 17, 2005
    The Buddha statue was really cool. Hong Kong is high on my list to visit!

    Jill in CO
     
  • tiggrbaby

    <font color=deeppink><marquee>We must work harder
    Joined
    Jun 26, 2004
    Another report - yay!

    That crystal cable car is really amazing!

    Your tea looked very nice - glad you were able to score a sale!

    The monastery is beautiful! I would have skipped the stairs as well!
     

    dolphingirl47

    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Joined
    Dec 25, 2007
    I just got here and I'm already two days behind! :faint:
    Welcome on board. Well, my good intentions to update twice a week have already been derailed so that should help you get caught up.

    The Buddha statue was really cool.
    It is definitely a sight to behold.

    Hong Kong is high on my list to visit!
    Hong Kong is a bit of a strange one. The first impression was that it is a city without an identity. I never disliked Hong Kong, but it just did not captivate me like other cities have done. However, it slowly did worm itself into my heart and by the time we left, the decision was made that we would come back later this year. I think this will be a very different trip though. In June we stayed on Hong Kong Island with its skyscrapers and its hustle and bustle. In November, we will stay on Lantau, which is the island where Po Lin Monastery and Hong Kong Disneyland are located. Rather than skyscrapers, the features of this island are mountains, beautiful landscapes and beaches. I may or may not venture over to Hong Kong Island. More likely I will just stay on Lantau.

    Joining in
    Welcome on board.

    Another report - yay!
    Welcome on board.

    That crystal cable car is really amazing!
    I really liked it.

    Your tea looked very nice - glad you were able to score a sale!
    Considering where we were, it was surprisingly hard to get proper tea. Even in Hong Kong and worse still, in China, the curse of the tea bag is quite common. I did get some more proper tea during the second half of the trip though.

    The monastery is beautiful!
    It is an absolute gem.

    Corinna
     

    Flossbolna

    Sea days are just so relaxing!
    Joined
    Sep 8, 2006
    I am finally here, but need to go back and read! Hong Kong is very high on Michael's list of places that he has been to and loved, so I do think we will end up there in the near future - most likely as a stop over on a repeat Japan visit!
     

    dolphingirl47

    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Joined
    Dec 25, 2007
    I am finally here, but need to go back and read!
    Welcome on board. I was hoping to do an update tonight, but I ended up putting some extra hours in at work tonight and I am off to the airport at 4:30 AM tomorrow to fly to Hamburg for a mini cruise.

    Hong Kong is very high on Michael's list of places that he has been to and loved, so I do think we will end up there in the near future
    Hong Kong had to grow on me, but now I can't wait to go back in November especially as we are staying at the Disneyland Hotel.

    - most likely as a stop over on a repeat Japan visit!
    We will combine Hong Kong with a cruise to Okinawa and Nagasaki and then a stay in Shanghai. Of course, I wish I could also go back to Beijing and Guilin and Xi'an is still on my wish list, but there will be other opportunities.

    Corinna
     

    Flossbolna

    Sea days are just so relaxing!
    Joined
    Sep 8, 2006
    Have fun cruising out of Hamburg!! Enjoy the trip out on the Elbe, I would say it must be one of the prettier sail outs.

    I have been eyeing the NCL Norway itineraries for quite a while out of there. Are you going to be on NCL?
     

    dolphingirl47

    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Joined
    Dec 25, 2007
    ave fun cruising out of Hamburg!! Enjoy the trip out on the Elbe, I would say it must be one of the prettier sail outs.
    This was definitely something. We have been absolutely spoiled over the the years having the opportunity to sail into and out of San Francisco, into and out of New York, out of Vancouver and my personal favourite, Sydney, but Hamburg was definitely worth staying up on deck for. What made this even sweeter is that we sailed right past the Airbus plant and I saw the next two Emirates planes just sitting there.

    Are you going to be on NCL?
    Yes, we went on the Norwegian Jade. We did a back to back on the same ship in 2009 after our first two Disney cruise and I hated it, but they have really turned things around and we had a great time.

    Corinna
     

    Flossbolna

    Sea days are just so relaxing!
    Joined
    Sep 8, 2006
    I am really happy to hear that you had a good experience on the NCL Jade. I think since it is a smaller ship that I would really like it. And the idea of taking a train to Hamburg, see Aladdin or the Lion King and then board a ship to Norway sounds like a pretty awesome vacation to me.

    We did a mini cruise to Helgoland once when I was a kid from Hamburg and I remember just loving the trip all the way up to Cuxhaven. Oh, and we did it again when we took the ferry from Hamburg to Harwich once! Where did you board the ship? I have seen cruise ships directly at the Landungsbrücke and there is just something really romantic about it, boarding a ship where people used to get on those ocean liners...
     

    dolphingirl47

    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Joined
    Dec 25, 2007
    Day 3

    We were awake at the crack of dawn, which considering we had pretty slept since mid-afternoon is not all that surprising. Fortunately a while later, we fell asleep again. When we woke up again at 7:00, we got up and ready. We headed out around 7:30 and explored the local area. We then ventured a little further afield into the heart of Causeway Bay. We came across a branch of Pacific Coffee, which is Hong Kong’s answer to Starbucks. We decided that this was as good a place as any to get some breakfast. This turned out to be a good choice. Graham had a strawberry and banana smoothie, a bacon and onion quiche and a slice of New York cheese cake. I had a pink salt vanilla latte, which may well have been the most delicious coffee I ever tasted. I also had a pulled pork Kaiser roll and a salted caramel cheesecake cookie sandwich. Everything was delicious.





    I needed the bathroom. There was no bathroom at the coffee shop. Normally they share the bathroom with the cinema next door, but as it was still quite early, the cinema was not open yet. The barista pointed me to the back door and advised that there is a bathroom at the shopping centre. The back door opened onto a whole maze of alleyways and I was not sure if I would find the shopping centre and if I did, if I would find my way back. So I gave up and returned to the coffee shop. I finished my coffee. By then, Graham had finished as well and we headed out. We went through the back door again. We never did find the shopping centre, but we realised that we were just across the road to one of the entrances to Victoria Park. I was in luck as there was a public bathroom near that entrance. Has we were there anyway and still had time until our first commitment, we decided to go exploring.

    Victoria Park is a beautiful and peaceful oasis in the middle of this bustling city. We only saw a small part of this, but I am glad that we made the effort. There were all kinds of interesting plants and trees. I was quite amused to find a pool for model boats. We ended up near a grassy area that was set up for concert. There were some benches in this area and there were trees all around it. So we decided to sit down and soon we were joined by all kinds of birds. We saw starlings, that looked and behaved like woodpeckers, tiny magpies that are native to Hong Kong, all kinds of doves and even a bird of prey. It was nice to have the chance of getting grounded after a few very hectic weeks and ahead of a jam-packed holiday.





    I could have sat there all day, but we had places to go. We had booked a narrated tour on one of the historical trams in Hong Kong, which are lovingly called Ding Dings. I figured that this would provide a nice overview of Hong Kong. It also came with a two day tram pass for unlimited rides. The tour would start at the Causeway Bay Terminus. When we came out of Victoria Park, there was a tram stop right ahead of us. We decided to consult the network map and realized that the stop we wanted was very close. We quickly debated if we should hop on a tram to get there or walk. With hindsight, it would have been better to go down the tram route. We started walking making sure that we kept the tram line on our left. We ended up near Pacific Coffee again and at this stage, I rechecked the network map and we had overshot. So we backtracked. I could not figure out how we managed to miss the terminus. I decided to consult with Google Maps and that sent us on a wild goose chase down some backstreets. We had plenty of time when we left Victoria Park, but I started to worry that we would miss our tram departure time. I asked a couple of people for help and on the third attempt, found somebody who knew what I was talking about. I pointed across the road to a hotel and said that he thought the Causeway Bay terminus was in front of this. I thanked him and we headed in this direction.

    Fortunately he was right. The tram lines in that area were obscured by construction, which is why we had not seen them. We would never have found this without help. As soon as we crossed the road, we saw banners from the company operating the tour. So we were definitely in the right place. A few other people were waiting as well. The meeting time came and went and there was nobody from the company there. I started to get a little worried again and I was not the only one as other people asked a driver of a normal tram about this. He confirmed that we were in the right place and to just wait. The trams were pretty backed up and eventually the sightseeing tram arrived.



    The conductor checked our voucher and then we were given our two day tram pass, rain ponchos and earphones. Then we had to make up our minds where to sit. All the Hong Kong trams are single car double decker streetcars. What is different about the sightseeing trams is that they have an open top. We knew that the views would be better up top, but rain was forecast and thick black clouds had appeared. In the end we decided to take our chances and headed upstairs. We actually found the best of both worlds. There were four rows of seats that were under cover so we sat down there. That was a wise decision as well as there were a couple of showers while we were on the tour.



    I had mixed feelings about this tour. Some of it was really interesting. I learned a lot about the history of the tram network, the history of Hong Kong and also got a quick crash course about culture in Hong Kong. This I found really interesting. However, we made slow progress as the tram network was seriously congested and as I found out, this does not really lend itself to sightseeing. For the most part, we went just past shops, restaurants and office buildings. The only deviation from this was the Happy Valley. Most of the tram network is just one long straight line along the northern coast of Hong Kong Island, but at some stage a loop was added to cover the Happy Valley area. This loop is quite different from the rest of the network.

    Happy Valley is a sought after residential area with plenty of parks and playgrounds, stadiums and the Hong Kong race track. I figured that it was the stadiums and the race track that gave the area its name. I knew for instance that there is a chain of theme parks in mainland China that is also named Happy Valley. I could not have been more wrong. Happy Valley is actually one of the famous Chinese euphemisms. When British soldiers first came to Hong Kong, a lot of them contracted malaria and subsequently died. What is now called Happy Valley is where they were buried. Indeed, to this day, Happy Valley has the highest concentration of cemeteries in Hong Kong and we passed a couple of them on the tram. All the main religions have a cemetery in Happy Valley.







    Our tram tour ended at the Western Market and we decided to go exploring for a bit. The Western Market itself is a beautiful building. However, we bypassed this and headed down some side streets. There were some rather strange things on display in the shops there. We found out later in the trip that we had been looking at a mix of dried seafood and traditional Chinese medicine. We were amused by the fact that all the shops in that area sold the same stuff. Apparently this is the norm in Hong Kong. I can see both the advantages and disadvantages in this setup. This is great for shopping around to get the best deal, but not so good if you need all kinds of different things and have to travel across the whole of the city. Graham did joke that now we just had to find the street with the tea shops. I had seen just such a street on the way up, but we wanted to explore a bit further.

    We headed back towards one of the bigger streets and I saw water in the distance. So we decided to head over there. We spent a while sitting by the waterfront. I absolutely love the colour if the water in Hong Kong. It is a beautiful turquoise. The closest we have come to this colour was on some of the islands in the South Pacific. We also saw all kinds of interesting birds including some birds of prey. It was nice just sitting and taking it all in.





    After a while, we both started to get too hot. So we made our way back to the closest tram stop. We did not have long to wait. This time round, we sat downstairs. I kept an eye out for the street with all the tea shops I had seen, but never saw them again. I came to the conclusion that they must have been on the Happy Valley loop. Soon we were back at Victoria Park and we got off. Just as we got off the tram, the heavens opened. We got caught up in an impressive downpour. We huddled under one of the bus shelters in the area until the worst had blown over. Then we set off again. I had conveniently forgotten that I had rain ponchos in my hand bag.
     

    dolphingirl47

    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Joined
    Dec 25, 2007
    One interesting titbit that we had learned during our tram tour is that there was a Tin Hau temple near our hotel. Officially, our hotel was located in the Causeway Bay area of Hong Kong Island, but locally the area we stayed at is referred to as Tin Hau, which is also the name of the local MTR station. Both are named after the Tin Hau temple in this area. Tin Hau is the goddess of the sea and there are countless Tin Hau temples in Hong Kong. This one is considered to be one of the most significant. I had wanted to visit some temples while in Hong Kong and this seemed to be a great point to start. I am glad that we made the effort. The building is very beautiful. The inside is a little strange. It is obviously a temple and a spiritual place, but it also seems to be used as storage. I am still glad that we made the point to visit. It was still raining and I did not want to get my phone wet so I had to borrow a photo of the internet and from Graham. What fascinated me the most is that when this temple was built in the early 18th century, it was on a small island. The temple is quite a way inland from where are hotel and Victoria Park are. It is hard to believe that all of this used to be sea.





    There is also a second temple in this area. We learned this when we were looking for the Tin Hau temple as both were listed on a sign post. After we left the Tin Hau temple, we went to find this. We followed a sign post to the temple to a nearby street. We had walked a fair distance into the street, but had seen no evidence of the temple. The rain started to pick up again and we turned around. We realized at the end of our trip while we caught the bus back to the airport that we were about 200 yards from the temple when we gave up. I have researched this since and although it does not have quite the cultural and historical significance of the Tin Hau temple, it looks very beautiful and utterly fascinating. We definitely need to pay it a visit on our upcoming trip.

    We backtracked towards the MTR station. Both of us had plans to take to the MTR the following day and wanted to get a feel on how it works. I am usually pretty happy to explore by public transport on my own, but I was a little worried about this. My plan for the following day was to go to Hong Kong Disneyland. I had researched the route, which involved three different MTR lines, including the Resort Line. What worried me was that my instructions stated that I had to walk from Central station to Hong Kong station. It did not take me long to realise that Hong Kong is a complete rabbit warren. I have very little sense of direction of the best of times so I was worried that I would get lost and never find Disneyland. Graham offered that we should head for Central and check out how to get Hong Kong station. I gratefully accepted the offer. We picked up some water in a convenience store in the station and then headed for the platform. In the end, this was a complete non-event. It is correct that Central and Hong Kong station are different stations, but both of them are linked underground via moving walkways. With this taken care of, we went exploring.

    There was something I really wanted to see near Central station, which were the Central–Mid-Levels escalators. The Central–Mid-Levels escalator and walkway system in Hong Kong is the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world. The system covers over 800 metres in distance and covers an elevation of over 135 metres. It opened in 1993. I was absolutely fascinated by this. As soon as we exited Central station, we saw a signpost to the Central–Mid-Levels escalators. It was not far at all. The starting point was an escalator in a shopping mall, but the majority of it is made up of moving walkways. There are all kinds of quirky bars, shops and restaurants in the area and the views were pretty good, too. The top section is currently closed for refurbishment, but we saw plenty. At some stage, I saw a sign for the Man Mo temple, which was something I was hoping to see before we left on this trip. However, I figured that one temple was enough for the day and neither of us fancied the detour. So we pushed on.



    At some stage, we compared the map of the Central–Mid-Levels escalator and walkway system with the map of Hong Kong that we had and realised that we were actually in the perfect position to get to our final destination for the day. I had purchased skip the line tickets for the Victoria Peak Tram. Our plan was to be up on Victoria Peak for the sunset. So we started to make our way there. Our route took us initially through some residential neighbourhoods before ending up somewhere that was very much the leafy suburbs. We saw some really beautiful old houses. We thoroughly enjoyed that walk. At some stage, we came past a government mansion of some description and Graham asked the guard for permission to take a photo. Not only was permission granted, but the guard even pointed out the best angle to take a photo. We then headed downhill along tree lined streets with more beautiful old houses and a couple of unusual churches before arriving at our destination. What we saw on this walk was completely unlike the rest of Hong Kong.





     

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