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Craig's 30th Birthday Trip to Hong Kong and Macau

We're spending a week in Hong Kong and Macau for Craig's 30th birthday (on 11 August). Check back for daily updates and photos!

Diary Entries

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Our last day. We fly out at 9.10pm tonight and arrive in Sydney at 7.45am tomorrow morning and land in Canberra at 10.30am.

We've got a late check-out - 3pm - so we're thinking we might go to to the Hong Kong Exhibition Centre and see the Tea and Food Fair. Might be interesting, might not. We'll see.

Either way, this is probably the last post.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Despite, once again, pouring rain this morning, we decided to make the trip to Macau for the day. We've got travelling around the city down pat now, so getting to the ferry terminal was easy. Just a quick tram ride. The trams are cute (see photos). We decided to splruge on the premium jetfoil ticket, which gives you access to the VIP lounge and, apparently, better seating on the boat. It's fair to say the VIP lounge was, well, not overly VIP-ish. It was a waiting oom that wasn't really near the customs entry point and it really didn't have anything in it, either.

Getting through customs was easy and we were quickly on the boat. Only 3 people, including us, sat in the premium sections. But, 50 minuts later, we were in Macau. Finding our way into the city was a huge challengem but eventually we settled on a taxi that dropped us at the ruins of St Paul (see photos).

It was raining very hard but today we decided to take an umbrella. For half the day, we really needed it. We didn't really have a plan for Macau, so we just wandered the streets to see where they took us. It was raining, hot and extremely humid, so we didn't walk with any haste. We visited the A-Ma Temple and then made the very long walk to the Macau Tower. The view from the top of the tower was brilliant. It gave a great view across the river of China's mainland. It's a strange feeling to know you're standing only metres from China itself.

We ate lunch at a restaurant at the tower, called Singing Bean Cafe, a Japanese owned restaurant. Afterwards, a taxi trip to some public gardens on the city, which was cool, then the ferry back to Hong Kong. We decided to just buy the cheaper economy ticket back. Really, it's what we should have bough for the trip over. The seats were comfy and nice.

By the time we arrived back in Hong Kong and made our way through customs again it was nearly 6pm. Earlier in the week we'd notice a tea shop at the bottom of the steps up to the Man Mo Temple and Cat Street markets, so given the ferry port wasn't far away we decided to wander up and see if it was open. It was, and the most refreshing thing about the shop was the shop attendant. She clearly wasn't the owner of the shop, but she didn't hover around us making suggestions about what to buy. She made us some tea while we looked around and answered questions without being pushy. We found some cups and a tea put we liked and we bought them.

Today was our very last full day. Tomorrow night we fly home. We've seen everything we want to see, though, so we're pretty happy to head home and sleep in our own bed.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

9.30am - Breakfast in the lounge. The weather is decidly unimpressive today. It is raining heavier than it has any other day this week and there is thunder and lightening right above us, so loud we can hear it ove the music and noise of the lounge. We've decided not to make the ferry trip to Macau today, with the weather so bad. We'll have to go tomorrow - regardless of the weather, tomorrow is our last chance. Hopefully it is better tomorrow than it is today.

So what to do today? There's still a few things we want to see across in Kowloon, so we'll probably head over there today and see the Naural Museum and then probably go shopping. We want to buy a tea set, but can't find a good shop.

Later - We spent most of the day in Kowloon. We went looking for a shop that sells tea, recommended by the head butler in the Lounge, but when we finally found it, it was no longer there.

The weather, as usual, was horrible. The morning was pouring rain and without an umbrella, we were often found waiting it out under an awning or inside a shopping centre.

We walked through the Flower Market - as the name implies, rows and rows of shops selling all kinds of freshly cut and presented flowers - to get to the Bird Market - where, also as the name implies, they sell caged birds - before flagging down a taxi to head to the Museum.

At the Museum, we walked through the 'History of Hong Kong' exhibition, which presented Hong Kong's history through 8 rooms. It was quite interesting, beginning with the formation of the land around Hong Kong and the islands through vulvanoes, etc, the first inhabitants of Hong Kong then on to the various dynasties that ruled China, then the British "invasion" after the Opium Wars and the Japanese occupation during World War II, ending with the handover to China in 1997. Fascinating.

Although there were other exhibitions, we'd spent a long time at the Museum so we didn't take a look at anything else and decided to walk back to Tsim Sha Tsui, where the ferry leaves for Hong Kong Island. We found a Hong Kong Arts and Crafts store which, from the outside, looked quite small. So, we wandered in, thinking we'd give it a quick glance ove then leave. But, turns out the store was huge, spread over two huge floors. Upstairs, we found various tea sets, teapots, cups and the various acoutrements of the tea ceremony. We probably spent more than an hour in the store looking at various tea sets. As happens in most shops in Hong Kong, as soon as you walk in, the shop assistants are all over you, rarely leaving your side, trying to sell you anything. This shop, despite its more upmarket and more expensive outlook, was no different. Three sales women hovered, ready with an explanation for anythng our eyes might glance at. When we first arrived in Hong Kong we found it particularly annoying, but as the week progressed it became obvious that this was how business is done, from the smallest shop selling cigarettes and magazines through to the most prestigous of shops selling expensive items like fine china wares, etc. It's just how it's done, annoying as it is. The sales woman in this shop was particularly keen to sell us the tea set we were after. She brought out various sets, tried to mix-and-match items, even putting two different-coloured items side-by-side, that was like putting bright red next to neon blue and then trying to tell you there is no discernible difference between the two. In the end, we bought a few items, but not a tea set. As always happens in Hing Kong shops, we offers a discount, we think about it and decide it just isn't the exact set we are after. We tell herno, we won't buy it. She says, "But why?" They seem never to understand why you wouldn't want to buy something of they offer a discount.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

We started the day with a tram trip up to the Central district to see the Man Mo Temple, famous for its many incense coils hanging from the roof. They are various sizes (see the photos) and when we arrived around 10am, they wee just starting to go around and light each of them. It's fair to say that the smoke from a million coils when combined with the oppressive humidity, made it near impossible to breath properly. We stayed at Man Mo Temple only long enough to get some photos. Still, it was an amazing sight. Not one you see every day.

Despite the pouring rain (it's been our fate all week to be walking around in the rain) we wandered through the Cat Street markets, but only a few had set up their stalls at that hour. We just wandered the streets, taking in the bizarre smells and the strange displays in shop windows, including a live snake in a cage, bottles and botles of dead snakes in alcohol (are you sensing a theme here?), things called "edible birds nests" (don't ask, because we didn't, so we don't know!), and man other bizarre so-called foods. Needless to say, we didn't buy any!

A tram ride back past where we got on earlier, near our hotel, took us to the Noon Day Gun, supposedly a gun that is fired at the harbour at, well, noon every day. However, when we got there, it was decidedly unimpressive, looking more like a kid's water pistol, so with the rain all around us we decided not to wait the 40 mins until midday.

After a break for a muffin and a hot chocolate we were off again in search of a shop that But it's cool!!!

By the time we got back to the hotel room, at 11.30pm, we were exhausted and realised we hadn't even eaten dinner. An apple and a slice of left-over birthday cake later, it was the land of zzzzzz for us.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Happy birthday to Craig, Happy birthday too Craig......

7.45am - Josh woke up at 6am and decided to go up to the lounge and do some work on his thesis while Craig slept in. It is his 30th birthday after all. Before I left I told him I would call down to reception to get them to send up a zimmer frame. I told him I would call ahead to the lounge for breakfast, to make sure they served his food in liquid form. I told him that the good news is that now people will stand up for him on public transport to offer him their seat!! haha

The weather is atrocious today. There is a thunder storm over Hong Kong. Visibility is poor. I can't even see the harbour out the window, it is pouring with rain and there is lightening and thunder. According to the weather forecast, it is supposed to rain all day with periodic thunderstorms. Not sure what our plans are for the day, but they may involve somewhere indoors, I suspect. Tonight is Craig's birthday dinner at a restaurant called Felix. It is across the harbour in Kowloon. Although you can get the Metro over, we had planned to catch the ferry Hong Kong is famous for its harbour ferries, after all. But we'll see how the weather is tonight.

Tomorrow we had planned on going to Macau, but the weather forecast is for more of the same. We might put it off until Thursday.

I'm going back down to the room now to give Craig his birthday present (a new mobile phone) and get ready for breakfast.

5pm - Sitting in the Lounge. Craig was happ with his new birthdy present - a new phone.

We had a couple of firsts today. First time catching a tram and first trip on a ferry. We decided to go see the Giant Buddha today. We walked from the hotel to the tram stop and caught the tram a few stops down, then walked down to the wharf, where we caught the ferry to Lan Tau Island (50 min trip). Josh slept most of the way. The ferry was pretty ordinary, spewing out its ugly pollution into the air as it chugged along. In fact, Victoria Harbour was full of pollution. Crap floated in the harbour - like garbage and bottles and the like. It was everywhere. Really ugly and really disappointing to see.

At Lan Tau we found the bus we needed for the next part of the trip, but as we got to the front of the line the grumpy man, who had clearly only learned 2 words of English - NO CHANGE - pointed to a shop across the road where we could get money changed so we could pay exactly the right fare to the drive. $17.20. Because everyone carries exactly $17.20 with them in case they need to catch a bus. So, we head over to the 7-eleven type store, buy a botle of water and 2 ice creams, get the corrct change for the bus. But, as we walked into the store, the driver watching us walk over the road, he started the bus and drove off as we got into the store. Such is life, I suppose. We caught the next one 20 minute later.

The giant Buddha was, well, giant. See the photos page. We wandered, ate a vegetarian lunch at the monestery up on the mountain and decided not to catch the bus back (ha! We showed Mr Grumpy!!!). Instead, we caught the cable car back down. The same cable car that crashed some years ago, killing people and closing it all down for a few years. But it was up and running agian now, so we braved it! It is 5km long and quite a view down from the mountains. In fact, it comes down from a mountain right beside Hong Kong Airport - brilliant view of planes landing and leaving.

That was our day. We caught the metro back home, had a swim in the pool and now here we are in the Lounge for afternoon tea.

11pm - Just back from Craig's birthday dinner at Felix, a swanky restaurant in Kowloon. Again, we caught the tram a few stops, walked down to the wharf and caught the ferry across to Kowloon. Took 10 mins. The rain cleared and the smog cleared and the view of the city skyline, on both sides, was amazing. We had a window table at the restaurant, looking back to Hong Kong Island. Just beautiful. Dinner was very yummy and we had a good night. We're both very sleepy!

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