First some trivia about Hong Kong — Kowloon means “nine Dragons” – after the 8 mountains that separate mainland China from the Hong Kong peninsula, and the ninth for the Emperor. Hong Kong means “fragrant harbor” – for the incense that fishermen used to burn here as an offering to the gods.
We started this bright sunny beautiful day with a bus ride to get to the funicular tram to the top of Victoria Peak. (Our bus in HKG was an actual small bus – not the typical vans we’ve been in, but a real small bus.) The tram (built in 1888) was very steep in places and not so much in others – it averages a 27 % incline. I had pictured it as being the same incline all the way up. Here it is coming into the lower station.
At first it wasn’t too scenic, just modern apartment buildings, some houses, trees and shrubbery. But it got better as we went up and broke free of the city. At the very top, we came up in the bottom of a shopping mall (the Peak Tower). Then we took an escalator up one floor to a viewing area, but that was not the top of the building – that was another HK$20 each for seniors to get to the very top. So we skipped this – we were certainly high enough where we were.
Took a very short walk outside the shopping mall to the open-air overlook and the views were beautiful. Modern buildings all at our feet and the boats plying Victoria Harbor.
The two of us strolled off to the other side of the Peak and looked over what we thought was Repulse Bay – lovely.
Then we were back on the bus, which met us at the top, and down the bus took us on the other side of the Peak to Repulse Bay. Repulse Bay was named after a British ship that was sunk by the Japanese in WWII. Now it is a beach that could be somewhere in the Caribbean. The white sand is imported – it was gray gritty sand originally, but who’d want to come to a beach with gray, gritty sand. We all walked on the beach a bit – I dipped my toes in the waters of the China Sea. Very interesting tall buildings line the shore.
One huge building has a hole in the middle because of Feng Shui. A dragon lives in the mountain behind the building and needs to go down to the sea each day to drink. The hole in the building lets him do this and does not block his way. The Chinese are very serious about this Feng Shui. Every building has a Feng Shui consultant who aligns the building and has power over its design. Very superstitious people these Chinese.
A few little boats were passing by… And other signs of affluence littered the beach…
Stanley Market and Harbor
Then on to Stanley Village and Stanley Market. This is a huge covered, rather squalid, vendor “mall” with trinket stores, silk pajamas, bronze sculptures, scarves, watch shops, etc all lined up one after another, complete with a McDonald’s just to cap it off.
After going through the whole thing in 15 minutes, we used our free time that was left (another 45 minutes) to wander along the waterfront promenade on Stanley Harbor. There were some lovely views from the rocky point of land, but a bit of a hike to get there.
We stopped at a harbor front café for a beer for Joe and some ice for my water. It was getting really hot by now. I hope I don’t regret using this ice – it is after all, Chinese tap water.
Back on the bus to the village of Aberdeen. It was perhaps an hour’s drive south of the city, through some not too charming areas and one narrow twisting road. When we got there and disembarked our vehicle, we were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves in an upscale harbor area, with mega-yachts docked everywhere. The group decided to do the optional old wooden Chinese Junk cruise of Aberdeen Harbor ($8 US each) to see the sampan boat people. Sounds great, doesn’t it? At the Chinese Junk terminal, the mega-mega yachts tied up in the marina were very glam. We boarded the next Chinese Junk and set off through the yachts, off to see the picturesque sampan boat people.
But where the sampan tour took us was a huge disappointment. Here there were just old junky rusty boats rafted up together, moored in front of huge high-rise apartment buildings. Quite a contrast in living standards, but not at all picturesque, much less romantic. One boat was emptying his bilge sewage as we went by. Ugh! Wish we had skipped this and just taken the restaurant shuttle boat to the place we were eating, and stayed in the mega yacht area.
The Chinese Junk dropped us off at the floating restaurant, Jumbo Kingdom – the place is huge, so I can see why they call it Jumbo. Very over-the-top Chinese-style decoration on the outside.
We did not get our “special” luxury China Spree treatment here – our table was not by the window side but in the middle of the large room. Pam (of course) asked if we could sit by the window as there were plenty of empty tables, but our guide William said they were reserved – so no private dining room for us I guess! In addition, William told us that only the tea was included – beer, soft drinks, bottled water were extra. “Luxury tour” did not apply to Hong Kong except for our hotel, according to William. I’ll have to let Mr Wilson Wu know about this! He’s the President of China Spree.
It was supposed to be fabulous dim sum, but to us seemed like ordinary Chinese food – little better than what we had had on the Yangtze ship. However a little tea shop was nestled in the main entry, and of course, not one to ever pass up an opportunity, I did avail myself of some more “blooming” jasmine green tea. And one of my favorite pics of the whole trip was taken here by Pam.
Then back to town. We got in yet another traffic jam even though it was only 3:00pm – this time an accident. We were stuck in one spot for about 10 minutes – it happened to overlook the only Christian cemetery in Hong Kong. Crosses were not something I expected to see while here.
Similar to the “one child” policy, only cremation is allowed in China, with exceptions made for Muslims. However, many of the older Buddhist generation are not comfortable with that, and will ask the younger generation to secretly bury them. Huge bribes are paid by the family to secretly smuggle the elder out of town to a small village to be buried. Buddhists believe the body is necessary for reincarnation. In Hong Kong, you can get special permission to be buried, but only for 7 years. Then your bones are dug up and cremated.
Hong Kong Evening
After we got back to the hotel, we all walked a couple blocks down Nathan Road to a supermarket for Phil and Howard to buy gin and Joe wanted wine. Saw some really curious fruit there that a friend of ours back home identified as Durian. It’s a delicacy in Asia and is supposed to smell like dirty socks. On the walk back to the hotel, we passed by many local herbal medicine shops – here was one. All sorts of curious things in glass jars – you don’t want to know…
We rested up at the hotel for an hour, then went to Phil’s and Sandra’s suite for cocktails. Apparently, there was one suite available for the night and they decided to move rooms. An additional $300 per night too. The view was gorgeous and so was the 2-room suite. Glad we got to experience it on their dime!
We all walked back down Nathan Road and had dinner at an Italian place, which we found out later had only been open for 3 days. (Dinner tonight is not included in our tour.) The service was surprisingly good though. I had lasagna, which was Ok but not great. DH had Suckling Pig, which was much better. The skin (Phil called it the pig’s rind) was great – nice and crispy! It ended up being a fairly expensive place and since the others only had cash, I ended up paying the bill with the only credit card at the table. In this transaction I ended up being stuck with the tip. The other high rollers didn’t seem to figure that into their cash contribution and I was too embarrassed to say anything. Oh well…the price of going to their suite for cocktails. I expect the bill to be HK $2,300.
On the stroll home, we noticed that HKG had just begun putting up their Christmas lights. Strange thing to see here in China. Of course, this used to be a British Colony, so I guess we shouldn’t have been that surprised.
We said good-bye to our travel-mates in case we don’t see them tomorrow, as they leave for home the following day. We’re off to Macau on our own tomorrow, and they are going shopping for their last day in Hong Kong.
It was a late night tonight – didn’t get to bed until after 11:30.