Location: Hong Kong
It was around 9am that we arrived at our hotel in Hong Kong and though we both felt tired from the long flight and the seven hour time difference we decided to head out and see some sights or rather the many shops around the area. Despite two visits to Starbucks we only lasted a few hours of walking the streets of Kowloon (mainly Nathan Road) before we returned to the hotel for a couple of hours sleep. The sleep definitely did the trick and we felt fine for the evening where we headed down to the promenade (also know as the Avenue of Stars referring to the Hong Kong film stars who wed never heard of) to see the sun set over Hong Kong harbour. We then walked up to the Temple Street night market that Amber was eagerly looking forward to! It proved to be a bit of let down with Amber saying Its all just crap and we left empty handed.
We booked ourselves the standard half day tour of Hong Kong and the Friday was spent on this where our first stop was for a Sanpan boat tour around the old fishing village where many people still live and work in their small boats. This was then followed by a short stop at a jewellery factory where Amber was able to find a souvenir to remember Hong Kong by (generously paid for by her lovely Paul). The bus then took us to the Stanley Markets where again we came away empty handed though it was definitely an improvement on the previous night market. Our final stop on the tour was at The Peak where we had a fantastic view of Hong Kong before heading down the mountain in the famous Peak Tram. The afternoon was spent walking through the Ladies Market which was probably the best market we visited and a few purchases were made. In the evening we went on our first trip on the Star Ferry from Kowloon across to Honk Kong Island for a Chinese dinner. The ferry trip gave us a great view of the bright lights of Hong Kong.
Our final day of the entire trip and we were pretty tired and starting to look forward to coming home. We hadnt explored Hong Kong Island during the day so we headed over on the Star Ferry and wandered through the many streets and markets. A final trip on the Star Ferry was very relaxing as we were on the ferry for an hour and got a great view of the harbour. We finished our time in Hong Kong with a final fling of shopping on our way back to the hotel.
Arriving at the airport for our final flight home we were able to think back on the fantastic time wed had over the past five and a half weeks. After 12 flights, five different countries and an extra two suitcases we were now ready to go home.
Location: London, England
Thursday ended up being a very long day taking into account the time difference between London and Athens and having to endure another hour and a half tube journey to Clapham South where Bruce and Emma again were kind enough to let us stay.
We spent Friday morning doing a couple of loads of washing before heading to St Albans in Hertfordshire which involved a half hour fast train journey from Kings Cross station. Here we were met by Nan Jean and Tony along with the most ferocious storm weve seen since the trip began. We spent two nights at St Albans and experienced the famous pub/restaurant The Bull that Amber has visited on her two previous visits to England on the Friday night. The Saturday morning was then spent visiting the St Albans markets where we managed to find an extra suitcase for only 5.99 pounds! We also walked the streets before heading back to Nan and Tonys for a quiet afternoon before an enormous Indian meal followed by a homemade blackberry pie which was superb.
Sunday was also a quiet day and we got the midday train back to London where we lazed about at Bruce and Emmas before going for a long walk around Clapham and down to the dodgy Clapham Park area and past Clarence Crescent or better known as The Ghetto where Paul lived with his Australian friends Nick and Tim. We both agreed theres no way we could live there today as it felt like one of the dodgiest places we have ever visited! The evening was spent at dinner with Bruce and Emma where we were served by the rudest waitress in London.
Our last two full days in London were spent visiting central London. We also were able to head up to Harringay in North London where Paul lived for six months. Again, this was a very dodgy area! We went into the local known as The Old Ale though only for a soft drink before heading to the new Arsenal stadium. Luckily we were able to catch up for lunch with Pauls cousin Elizabeth at Baker Street before then making it to Harrods to gawk at all the over priced products. Our final evening was spent in The Alexander pub at Clapham Common where we were joined by Bruce, Emma, Tim, Pip, Ainhoa and her brother (whos name we cant pronounce and therefore wont attempt to spell!).
The week in England flew by and we couldnt believe it was already time to head back to Heathrow and the twelve hour flight to Hong Kong. We both loved the time in London and look forward to making a journey back in the future.
Location: Athens, Greece
We arrived at Pireus, the port of Athens on Wednesday night and took the Metro to the Plaka area where we walked through the streets to find our hotel. As soon as we came out of the metro we were struck by the magnificent Acropolis that was light up. We only had a couple of hours to have a quick look around and have something to eat. By midnight everything started to close down.
We thought that we would get off to an early start on our last day in Greece and were at the Acropolis by 8:30 and already the crowds of tourists were everywhere. There was scaffolding all through the site and cranes moving marble and stone around. We wonder if there will ever be a day where it doesn't look more like a construction site. It's so hard to comprehend how all that marble and stone was moved and the detailed construction that took place 2500 years ago.
We then walked to the Ancient Agora site that was the focal point of political and administrative affairs in ancient times. Again, the history was a little overwhelming as the site just went on and on. The next step was to see the Panathenaic Stadium which was used to host the first modern olympics in 1896 (also used for archery and the finishing point of the marathon at the 2004 games). Unfortunately we couldn't go onto the track but never the less got a good view of the stadium. The final stop on our history tour of Athens was the Temply of Olympian Zeus. This was completed in the 2nd century AD after being a work in progress for nearly 700 years. Of the original 104 Corinthian columns only 15 are still standing though the height of these is very impressive.
It was then time for our final chicken gyros (Greek kebab) and how we will both miss these! We think we'll have to find a restaurant in Sydney that sell these. Our last couple of hours was spent getting lost in the many market type shops that are littered under the Acropolis. Incredibly every Greek souvenir we had seen on all the islands (many of course we were told being unique to that island!) was all available within these two blocks. We could have almost just left all our shopping until Athens and still would have had everything covered.
Although we spent less than 24 hours in Athens we still felt we had visited and experienced enough to give us a reasonable flavour of the city. We used the metro to get to the airport and our scepticisim in the Greek transport systems caused us to be three hours early but once again we've been able to use the business lounge and relax before our flight back to London.
Location: Mykonos, Greece
Arrived mid afternoon in Mykonos and found our hotel quite easily - that we had thankfully pre-booked. Once again the Lonely Planet ( they will have to start charging us an endorcement fee) has done us well and the hotel was situated right on the waterfront but at a quieter end of the town. Still only being a few hundred metres walk. We dumped our bags and hit the cobbled narrow alleyways of Mykonos (similar to those of Santorini) and were amazed at the number of American tourists. That night there must have been at least 3 cruise liners docked full of wealthy Americans that causes Mykonos to be one of the most expensive Greek Islands, however it didn't dampen the atmosphere. It is supposedly the "Gay Island" though we didn't really notice this as much as we were expecting, although we are at the end of summer. There was a real buzz to the town with plenty of crowds and generally a very friendly atmosphere.
After a late start to the morning we raced to catch the public bus to Paradise Beach, one of the most famous of Mykonos' beaches. We found a spot early and enjoyed the soft relaxing music coming from one of the many bars on the beach. It wasn't until around 5pm when things started to heat up and the young crowds flocked to the table top dance floor of the Tropicana Bar that is positioned only metres from the water itself. The host of the bar was a rather confident tall, tanned European man by the name of Sasa who swanned around the bar with only a microphone and an "animal themed g-string" who entertained the crowd. It really was a sight to be seen. Although not as enjoyable to the men or as one American guy put it " I really did not need to see that!". That evening we thought we would treat ourselves to a nice meal at one of the fancy restaurants on the water however the meal itself did not meet the expectations of the final bill. The view did make up for it.
Sasa didn't scare us that easily as we headed back on Tuesday for our final beach day in Greece. Paradise beach really does get packed and is quite small compared to our Aussie beaches. Three quarters of the beach is filled with deck chairs and large straw umbrellas that can be hired at four Euros a deck chair. It is a very relaxing experience as you've "paid" for your space on the beach together with waitresses constantly trying to con more money out of you and not to forget the chinese masseurs roaming the sands! This was probably our most enjoyable beach experience as we finally had the perfect hot day with still clear blue skies. Sure enough, as 5 o'clock hit the music was turned up and out paraded Sasa for another performance but this time with a different animal. We assume this goes on every night. Having already witnessed the performance we decided to head back on the bus of death where safety is not an issue and the driver has no problem squashing 90 people onto a 45 seater. We were the last two on board and were literally sitting on the dashboard. We had elected to wait for the next bus but the bus driver assured us it was ok. We didn't dare ask the entertaining driver how the large cracks in the windscreen appeared. He did however seem to have full control of this 1960's model even when needing our assistance when approaching an intersection. It was all too comical to be frightening.
Being our last day in Mykonos, we woke up early to make the most of it. It certainly was a tight squueze packing our bags which had been reasonably empty when we arrived in Athens. We then headed for the archeological island of Delos which is hard to believe was the home to 30,000 and one of the wealthiest islands back in the 3rd century BC. It's also hard to believe the island was then abandoned in the 1st century and even now it's only purpose is as an island museum. Through the centuries looters have removed and destroyed anything significant so all that is left today is ruins but you still get a good feel for the layout of the streets and how it once prospered. It was extremely hot and humid. Without a guide and with only a dissapointing map and descriptions of places we could only last under two hours before we were back on the boat to Mykonos.
With the HiSpeed 4 ferry due at 5pm, we spent the last few hours wandering the streets before relaxing with a coffee on the water front. We spent 15 minutes in the taxi rank (only 3 taxis came in that time) before deciding we'd be better off taking our chances with a bus (10 minute walk away). The gamble paid off as a bus was leaving as we arrived. We made the ferry with 20 minutes to spare as this was the last that could get us to Athens in time for our departure flight the next day.
Location: Naxos, Greece
Arrived in Naxos from Ios just after lunch time and the hotel we had selected from the Lonely Planet was full but we were able to stay across the street for the 1st night and the move over to Pension Irene II for the next two nights. Which also meant access to their pool The afternoon was spent wandering around the streets of Naxos town and visiting the unfinished temple of Apollo, Naxos' most famous landmark. Again, it was an incredibly windy day. The Naxos town streets are very narrow, especially those leading up to Kastro (buildings in the centre of town from the Venetian period). This was the first town where we really experienced the 2-5pm siesta where the majority of the shops simply closed down and the town comes to a stop. Then at 5pm the shops re-open until as late as 2 or 3 am during the summer time and around midnight in the cooler months. We tried a traditional souvlaki meal at Poppis Restaurant on the waterfront and also tested out Poppi's own wine from the grapes grown in Naxos.
The next morning we got up reasonably early to hit the beaches but with the day only reaching highs of 25 it was a bit too cool so we resorted to breakfast on the beach (it's incredible how the restaurants simply take over large portions of the beach with their table and chairs. The rest of the day was fairly slow with us moving hotels and relaxing by the pool. We did spend nearly 2 hours in the internet cafe writing up the diary and uploading photos. The internet cafe is run by a couple who originally lived in Albury and moved to Naxos two years ago. Writing a diary took longer than we could have imagined but Las Vegas now feels so long ago there is no way we could have remembered everything. After the slow day we took some sunset photos at the port which proved quite difficult with the wind gusting and causing havoc. Lets just say that didn't last long.
Saturday morning we woke early to take a bus tour of Naxos as both of us are way too scared to try riding scooters on the wrong side of the road and after having witnessed so many near misses on the bus we were glad we didn't. The tour involved a stop at a traditional pottery workshop, the town of Chalki with it's old citron distillary and venetian town. We tasted some of the ouzo's- not to our liking. The highlight was the Panagia Drossianh- Our Lady of Refreshment (yep that's the translation) one of the oldest of the some 600 churches in Naxos (we think we have seen at least 100 so far). The church dates back to between the 5th and 7th century with original artwork inscribed on the walls still visible. We stopped at the beach town of Apollona for lunch which was extremely quiet and a little dissapointing, but we did enjoy a nice gyros sitting on the rocks looking out to sea. Our final trip was at Kauros, an ancient quary where an 11metre long statue has been left half constructed from around 6th century BC. It appears that a worker made a mistake causing a huge crack in the middle of the statue so the work just stopped. The guide had a very strong acccet and every time he described the origins of the word he would start with "and this comes from the Greek word meaning.....". This made Amber think of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and the Greek Father. Was very comical.
We departed Naxos around midday on the Sunday for our final Island Mykonos. Again, Naxos was completely different to Santorini and Ios. It was much greater with several local industries and not just relying on tourism.