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Jungle Boys’s Travel Diary

Monday, 10 Aug 2009

Location: Hong Kong

Map9am - Josh is writing this while we eat breakfast in the Club lounge, one floor up from our room - accessible by a lovely spiral staircase outside our room. At one point we were the only two eating here and the 500 waiters all fawned over us - very attentive.

We wandered up the street last night (still 33 degrees at 8pm) and came to a large shopping centre and immediately escaped inside out of the heat. Given it was only 50 metres from the hotel and we were already covered in sweat and in need of respite, it doesn't auger well for full days out exploring Hong Kong!! As an interesting juxtaposition, we found a Thai restaurant for dinner and after some fine food an a nice bottle of Italian Pinot Grigio, sleepiness had well and truly set in.

Back in the room after dinner the smog was so great that the view from the hotel room across Victoria Harbour to Kowloon was not so spectacular. Hopefully this smog will clear before we leave. We were fast asleep by 9.30pm and didn't wake up until 7.30am this morning. Much needed sleep, given neither of us slept a wink on the flight over (by choice - there were just too many good movies to choose from!!!)

The one observation I can make of Hong Kong, after only 12 hours in the country, is that clearly it must be one of the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases. The city is covered in smog, it is over 30 degrees every day in summer and when you walk into any buiding, the air cons are blarely to the point of it being almost too cold and needing a light sweater.

Our other observation, just discussed over breakfast, is that they seem not to care at all about heritage conservation. It's high rise buildings and down with the old to make way for the new. It's a shame, in a way. As Craig out it, they are mostly concerned with the here and now - not the past, not the future.

So, time for us to decide what we will do today. I'd thought we'd go up to The Peak, but one of our 500 waiters assured me first thing in the morning or at night is best, because through the day it is too hot and hard to breath from the smog. Maybe we'll go see the giant Buddha?

I've updated some photos of the view from our room.

8.30pm – After breakfast (yummy!) we left the hotel with no clearly defined plan for the day. We just wandered, making it about 100 metres from the hotel before we came to the Hong Kong Park. We decided to head in. The park is very large and quite famous, so it was worth a look. At that early hour of the day – around 9am – there were hardly any people about and we had free reign of the park. There are some interesting water features and a cute pond with carp.

About 10 minutes into our day, Josh was covered in sweat. After an hour or so, his t-shirt was soaked. We’d heard stories of visitors who carry a change of clothes and a towel with them through the day. After today’s horrid humidity, we can see why.

After a look at the gardens we walked through the very large walk-in aviary – the Edward Youde Aviary (named after a former Governor of Hong Kong – its 3,000 square metres with 600 birds) - where we came across our first hurdle. Every time we removed the lens cap from the camera, it steamed up and we couldn’t see through the viewfinder. As soon as we wiped it clean, it fogged up again. That’s how humid it was today. To be fair, Craig fared much better with the humidity than Josh. Craig, at least, has spent a lot of time in humid climes like Cairns and Darwin, 2 places Josh hasn’t been to. In fact, Josh has never been anywhere as humid as it is here in Hong Kong. As soon as we walk outside any air conditioned environment, the sweat starts up for Josh.

After the bird aviary we headed to Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware. Now, Craig and I are big tea drinkers and we have a number of more exotic types of tea in our collection, but the true attraction of Flagstaff House was its sub-arctic air conditioning. By the time we got there, Josh’s shirt was literally dripping with sweat and the building was a welcome relief. After 2 floors of learning the history of tea in China, his shirt still wasn’t dry, but it was getting there. After all that tea, we decided we needed a cup of tea, so we went to the tea cafe next door for Yum Cha – some lovely dim sum and we chose a beautiful green tea from Taiwan.

We braved the humidity again for a walk through the botanical gardens. We were particularly looking forward to seeing the green house, to see if it was even more humid inside than the air outside. Turns out it wasn’t humid at all and it was 10 degrees less than outside. Nice.

By early afternoon the sun had came out so we decided to make a trip up to The Peak to see if the view was any good. We caught the tram up – very steep – and enjoyed the amazing view. See the Day 2 pics. Despite the incredible haze blocking most of the view, it still looked fantastic.

By nearly 4pm we’d had enough of walking around, so we headed back to the hotel for a swim in the pool. It was pouring, but that didn’t stop us swimming and drinking $35 glasses of champagne in the pool! Oh no, nothing could stop us. At 5pm we headed up the Club Lounge for happy hour. Free drinks. A beer and a glass of champagne later, we headed into Chai Wan (2 subway stop away) for dinner. We ordered 1 dish each. Craig, feeling brave, ordered a dish that had 3 hot chillies beside it. The other dish only had 1 hot chilli. When they arrived, it is fair to say that the 1 chilli dish was tongue-burning and the 3 chilli dish burnt off our taste buds and left us sweating. Our tongues tingled for an hour afterwards. Man, it was hot!!!!

The train ride was crazy. Thankfully they come every 2 minutes, because there were just so many people on the trains and waiting in a queue to get on, that 3 trains passed before we could get on one. Even then, we were pushed right up against other people. Thankfully we were only travelling one station.
We’re back in our room, watching television now. We did a lot of walking today, so I think we’ll both end up going to bed early. But we have to finish eating the chocolate they keep leaving us in tiny bamboo steamers!!!!