Hong Kong and Macau
February, 1st to 13th, 2009
Sunday, February 1’st.
I’m leaving Aarhus with the airport bus to Billund at 8.15. The flight leaves for Amsterdam at 10.55. There are a few hours of waiting at Schiphol before take off for Hong Kong at 15.15.
The trip to Hong Kong takes about 11 hours. It’s a boring trip. The time difference is 7 hours, so somewhere above Mongolia Sunday turnes into Monday.
Monday, February 2’nd
It’s 9:30 local time as I arrive in Hong Kong. I get hold of my luggage, and leave the airport. The first thing I do is buying an Octopus-card, the very useful Travelcard that was invented in Hong Kong.
The airport-train to Kowloon is smooth and fast. From the station there’s a free shuttle-bus for my hotel YMCA Salisbury. I’m a little early, but my room is ready, so I get the key-card to room 1367. It’s on the 13’th floor, and all facilities is included – even a small basket with fruit. There’s a nice view across the Victoria Harbour out the window.
My plan against jetlag is a few hours of sleep now. I haven’t slepped much during the flight, so it works out ok. At 3 the tourist is ready for the firsl look around. The first trip is with one of the green Star Ferries across the harbour to Hong Kong Island. If you didn’t know, you would expect it to be one large shopping-mall.
In the evening I head for the Avenue of Stars. It’s close to my hotel. The views of the skyscrapers across the harbour are spectacular. At 8 they start a show – the Symphony of Lights – which is very nice. All the buildings are lit by blinking colourful lights and from the hills above laser-lights beam across the buildings as well.
Finally I take a walk around neon-lighted Kowloon. I walk up Nathan Road, where there’s every chance to buy an almost real Rolex-watch, having a foot-massage or getting a new suit made by Pakistani tailors that a pretty annoying trying to do a sell.
Tuesday, February 3’rd
It’s a nice hotel. There’s even a free copy of the South China Morning Post outside my door every morning.
Today I have 2 trips to take care of.
The first one is for one of the island that is a part of Hong Kong. This one is Lantau. I take the metro to Tung Chung. From there, there’s a a cable-car to Ngong Ping. There are 2 sights at Ngong Ping. One of them is the Tian Tan Buddha. That’s a huge Buddha-statue on top of a hill. There are 260 steps to the top. The statue is 23 m high, weighs 202 tons, and has ears that reminds of those of Goofy.
The second sight is Po Lam Monastery. When you get there, you expect the whole thing to be on fire. But it’s not. It’s only people burning incense. There’s a lot of life around here and a very strange smell. For the Buddhist their religion is a personal thing. They don’t gather in large groups but keep their religion to themselves. They just pass by, put fire to 3 of the smelly things and usually have 3 prayers – one for a long life, one for good health and one for prosperity.
After this I head back the same way as I came to the place.
The second tour later on the afternoon also includes some different kind of transportation. That’s another something between a cable-car and a tram that is almost vertical. It’s on Hong Kong Island and takes me to “The Peak”. From here, there’s a great view across Hong Kong and Victoria Harbour. As it is the case in this country the whole thing is surrounded by a huge shopping-mall. I am there at the right time of the day. That’s just before the sun goes down. That gives me the chance to see all the buildings in Hong Kong in daylight and in the dark, lightened by all the neon. According to Lonely Planet this should be one of the best views in the world. I haven’t seen them all, but this is certainly nice.
Wednesday, February 4’th
Most people think that Hong Kong is a huge city full of high buildings everywhere. That’s not the case. Hong Kong is also a green area, with hills, nature and places hard to get to. Around this area they have built New Towns. That’s a cluster of skyscrapers – up to 40’Th floor or so. Then they build infrastructure – good roads, and good public transport, and put about ½ mio. people into the New Town.
Tin Shui Wang is such a place. I go there this morning. Actually not to see Tin Shui Wan, but instead to see the Hong Kong Wetlands Park just outside. This is a nature-reserve with birds and other small animals, which has been turned into a semi-sight. I spend a few hours out here in the green nature with high rising buildings in the background.
The second tour of the day is for a sporting-event. The most important sport in Hong Kong is horse-racing. The horse-racing cathedral is Happy Valley. I take a tram to the racecourse. There’s room for about 50.000 spectators and the whole thing is surrounded by huge buildings. Horse racing is for everyone in Hong Kong – high and low. Outside the VIP-entrance the photographers are gathered to take pictures of the local celebrities. All the rest of us take another entrance. When you’re a tourist you don’t have to pay to get inside. Just show your passport. I seems like most people in Hong Kong has turned up tonight. There’s one meeting each week – on Wednesdays – on Happy Valley. The people of Hong Kong are crazy about gambling, and horse-racing is the only thing legal for gambling. Not that it matters for most people.
Thursday, February 5’th.
It’s another day with 2 tours.
The first one starts on my favourite boat fro Star Ferry. For nearly no money you cross the harbour between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. From the Star Ferry terminal I walk to Pier 5. From there I take a “Fast Ferry” to Cheung Chau. Cheung Chau is another Hong Kong island. The trip takes about 30 minutes, and when you arrive it’s like you’re in another world. There are no high buildings, no cars – and no shopping-malls!! Instead there’s a nice little fishing-village that’s really nice. Then there are some local shops run by local families, a few temples, and on the harbour you can buy fresh caught fish directly from the boats. There are no really big sights out here, but the Pak Tai Buddhist-temple is pretty nice. After a few hours of walking around and hanging out on this place, I head back on a “Slow Ferry” for Hong Kong Island. The Slow Ferry takes about an hour.
The second trip is more hectic. It starts at my local metro-station Tsim Sha Tsui, from where I take a small trip to Prince Edward. From there it’s a short walk to Yuen Po Street Bird Garden. Here is a phenomenon that I have also found in Singapore. A lot of men meet with their birds in a cage to talk. The men talk – and so does the birds. The cages are always very nicely made. Right next to the garden you can buy more birds, bird-food etc – so there’s a lot of noise.
From the bird-garden I walk to Tung Choi Street Market – also known as the women's market. That’s a long road full of small stalls selling mainly clothes, shoes and other ordinary products. The crowd is huge, and it’s really a task to get through the market. From there I walk to another market. It’s The Temple Street Night Market. Since it’s not really evening yet, it’s pretty relaxed at the moment. This is the men’s market – full of electronics, gadgets and other strange stuff.
Finally I head down Nathan Road with more neon-shops, and back home to my hotel. The tourist has been busy today, so he rewards himself with the nice international buffet at the hotel.
Friday, February 6’th
The first trip of the day is to Fanling – another New Town. Out there – in the middle of an industrial area – my first tour of the day starts. It’s the Lung Yeuk Tau Heritage Trail. Now I’m really off the beaten track. It’s an exiting walk for about 4-5 km, taking me past the Tang Chun Ling Ancestral Hall. That was built in the memory of the founder of the Tang-clan. From here I head on and pass 5-6 Walled Cities. They are old societies with a protecting wall around the small city. These walls were all made to protect against enemies. Nowadays there are no enemies, so technically you can just walk through the gate and into the city. But in nearly all the cities they’ve placed a nasty dog just at the entrance to make sure no trespassers get inside. I really don’t want to discuss with dogs like that, so I take a look at the cities from the outside.
The walk ends up in Siu Hang Tsuen, from where a green minibus – 56K – takes me back to Fanling.
Where I was almost on my own on tour 1, this is not the case on tour 2. It’s across the harbour to hyper-hectic Hong Kong Island. First I try the escalator to Midlevel. It’s supposed to be the longest escalator in the world. In the morning it runs down to the office-building in central – but they reverse it at 10 am so it runs up to the residential areas. From Midlevel I walk down Hollywood Road to Man Mo Temple. There’s a lot of activity around here, with sticks being burnt and a strange smell all over.
From here I head for the Chinese area of Sheung Wan. Here you’ll find a lot of small shops – and especially Herbal-shops selling alternative medicine. If you’re feeling ill, just get inside a Herbal-shop – tell them what's wrong – and they will cook you a soup to cure it.
Finally I head back for my ferry and back to my hotel at Kowloon.
Saturday, February 7’th
Today’s trip is for the amusement-park Ocean Park. It’s huge and it’s popular. It’s so popular that the new Disneyland really hasn’t been much of a success. You can see that on the people that wants to take route 629 out there. There’s a long line for the bus, but they run all the time, so the queue is moving fast.
At Ocean Park you’ll find everything needed for a place like this. And as a bonus there’s a dolphin show, an aquarium and 4 pandas. So it’s a good place to spend a few hours, before all the kids gets to annoying.
Then my plan was to walk to Aberdeen, which is not a harbour-city in Scotland, but an old fishing-village in Hong Kong, now mainly consisting of tall buildings. The walk is long and not very interesting, so instead I hire a small old boat – a Sampan – to take me there by sea. Then I also get’s the chance to take a look at all the fishing boats and houseboats in the Aberdeen Harbour. Back in the old days, it was common to live on the water in a houseboat. Now it’s rare. I jump off my Sampan at the quay in Aberdeen, where I find a bus that takes me to Central, where my old favourite The Star Ferry takes me back to the hotel.
Sunday, February 8’th
Today’s walk takes place on Hong Kong Island. Usually taking a walk is pretty simple, but that’s not the case when you walk Hong Kong Island. Usually you walk along a pavement along the road, but here things are more complicated. Now and then there’s a pavement, now and then you have to use a bridge which now and then will take you through a shopping-mall to get you anywhere. Then there are the escalators. They are everywhere. I don’t think the good people of Hong Kong would know how to use stairs if they saw some.
This complicated system gives me a great chance to do what I do best – getting lost.
The walk starts at Central and continues east towards Admiralty and Wan Chai. Just east of Central is Statue Square. That’s where all the housekeepers from The Philippines – called Amahs – gather on a Sunday. That’s their day off – they have hardly any money to spend – so that’s how they spend their time instead.
After a small detour I find the nice Hong Kong Park that is full of local people. I walk further on to Admiralty, which is mainly high office-buildings and continue to Wan Chai, which is mainly small shops. In Wan Chai things go crazy this Sunday. It’s the arrival-point of the Hong Kong Marathon, so the place is packed with people.
Finally I arrive at Cause Bay where you’ll find even more shopping-malls. Here you’ll also find more Amahs. They are wearing scarves, so they must be part of the Muslim fraction. Most of them are Indonesians, and they are not popular among the Philippines, because they go for even lesser pay.
From Causeway Bay I take the metro back – and the usual ferry of course.
My late walk is short. Just outside the hotel along the Tim Sha Tsui promenade. Here you’ll find all the fine cultural palaces in Hong Kong. Tonight there’s also a free concert outdoors with local young bands playing. They are pretty good.
Monday, February 9’th
Usually I don’t do tour groups. But today is an exception. I have found something that I must try. It’s a combined off the beaten track tour and photo course. The guide Jackie Peers from Walk Hong Kong is a professional photographer. The tour takes place around Sai Kung. First stop is an abandoned “Hakka-village” in a national-park. The Hakka’s was some of the original people of Hong Kong. They lived with their whole family in houses in this area. Now the place is abandoned, and the houses are left over for a very few tourist – and as good and colourful photo-objects. So the tour-group – which by the way I’m the only one in – uses this setting for practising my photographic technique. Jackie is a good guide teaching me a few new ways to use my camera.
From there the group - Jackie and my self – turns into Sai Kung. This is another small fishing-village, with a nice little harbour, with small boats. Also a great place for practising. Finally we head for the local temple – another good shot.
The tour ends at 2 where I return by minibus and metro to Salisbury. Now it’s time to go to Macau. I leave most of my luggage behind and put the most necessary in my small back-pack. Then it’s off for the ferry.
I get there in time for the 4 o’clock ferry. That means arriving in Macau at 5. Macau is like Hong Kong an old colony. Not British but Portuguese. Like Hong Kong it has been turned over to the Chinese a few years ago. When I arrive I take a taxi to my nice Ole London Hotel located in a nice residential/harbour-area of Macau. Then I head out to take my first look at this place, and what it’s most famous for – the Casinos. My first visit is the Grand Lisboa Casino where I loose a little on the slot-machines.
I’m pretty tired so I return back home for my hotel. A burger and some fries at a street-kitchen is what we call dinner tonight. It’s very cheap. There’s no coffee at the hotel – this is China – so – a cup of tea is ok.
Tuesday, February 10’th
Today's walk is page 314 in Lonely Planets guide for Hong Kong and Macau. It’s a nice walk, taking me to nearly all sight on Macau Peninsula. There are a few old churches, the remains of a fort – called Monte Fort – with a very good view. Then there is the star-sight in Macau, which is the remains of the St. Pauls church. Only one side of the church is left over these days. All these sights are situated close to each other in the central part of Macau Peninsula.
From here there’s a long walk through the island to the Buddhist temple A-Ma. Here the incense is thick, so my eyes can hardly handle it, and I have to leave this nice place again. The whole walk takes about 3-4 hours.
Second trip of the day is another Casino-visit. First I stroll around a little to take a look at what's on offer. Macau has been compared to Las Vegas. It’s not that bad, but there are certainly a few casinos to choose from. But the activity isn’t that high at all places. The financial crisis has probably put a temporary end to that. I walk into the Grand Lisboa Casino. Here there is action going on. There’s a lot of mainland Chinese visiting. They sure know how to gamble. I don’t. It takes me 2 hours to win what is very close to 1 HK$.
When I’m on top I stop, to take a walk around to see what else is going on in the casino. Most action is at the card-tables. They play Baccarat. I don’t know the rules, and is not interested in experimenting, with enthusiastic Chinese players sitting at the tables. Instead I return to my hotel. Dinner is at a Muslim restaurant opposite the hotel. I’m the only guest, they are very friendly and it’s dead-cheap. Then I turn into room 203 for my final cup of tea.
Wednesday, February 11’th
Macau is actually 2 parts. The large one – called Macau Peninsula – is where I’m staying. South of this one there’s the island of Taipa. 3 bridges can take you there. On the southern tip of Taipa you’ll find the small village of Coloane. I take bus no 21A down there this morning. On the way we pass most of the interesting areas of Taipa. On the so called Cotai Strip (guess the influence J ) there are more huge Las Vegas-style Casinos. I don’t get inside, but from the outside they do look a little quiet. Perhaps it’s the financial crisis.
Coloane is a cosy place. There are some fishing huts made out of colourful sheet metal, a promenade along the beach with views across to “real China”, a small square with nice restaurants and a few temples. I hang out in the nice village for a few hours ending with a nice lunch at the market square.
Then I take another bus back. It sets me off right outside Grand Emperor Casino, which gives me an opportunity to visit this place before heading back to the hotel for a break.
Later I return to “Casino-area” and looses a little more. Dinner is a pizza, and the final final cup of tea is at room 203.
Thursday, February 12’th
This trip is getting closer to the end. I leave Macau – a strange mix between China, Las Vegas and Portugal – the same way as I arrived. That’s a Fast Ferry to Kowloon – Hong Kong. From the quay there’s a short walk to my old hotel – YMCA Salisbury. I pick up my luggage left behind, and get’s a room for my last night – the same room as I left.
I think I have seen most of what Hong Kong has on offer, so I spend the last afternoon strolling around with no real purpose. Instead I want to practice my photo skills here and there. I have learned a few tricks that I have to try out. It turns out to be another Star Ferry trip to Hong Kong Island and another walk on foot-bridges and escalators in the areas of Central and Sheung Wan. Central is full of business-people and shopping-malls. But just 2 blocks away, you will find small Chinese shops selling herbal medicine and other things.
The shopping-malls are very Westernly. I had an idea that I had to buy “something” when you were in shopping-paradise. But I fail again. I can’t find anything that I need – so I will return empty-handed, with no shopping at all.
Late afternoon I return to YMCA. On this last night it’s time for another go at the big buffet at the restaurant.
Friday, February 13’th.
Get up at 7 am. Taxi to Kowloon Railway Station. Train to the airport. Check in. 12 hours to Amsterdam. 4 hours of waiting time. 1 hour to Billund. 1½ hour by bus to Aarhus. Hans Schourups Gade at 1 am. That makes it an 25 hour trip. Tired – tired – tired – but worth the trouble.