Travellers Blog HK & Macau


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Blog I wrote while travelling around Hong Kong & Macau

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Travellers Blog HK & Macau

  1. 1. Travellers Blog – Hong Kong / Macau Day 1 Hello my name is Steve Levitt you might remember me from such blogs as my first trip to America and the Conference. Day 1 of travel is, if your lucky, uneventful and today was pretty much that. If I didn’t travel I think I’d have no idea there was such a thing as 5am in the morning but that’s about the time I got up this morning to ensure we were at the airport by 8am. Today’s flight was not going to be as daunting as the previous 14 hours to Los Angeles but at 9 hours it’s still about 4 hours more than I’m comfortable with. Also an advantage was leaving at 11am and arriving around 6pm local time as the difference is only 2 hours unlike travelling to the US with their time difference meaning you arrive before the time you left on the same day. The advantage here is that I can’t sleep on planes and I won’t have to so the chances of jet lag are greatly reduced. We left Brisbane around 11am and arrived in Hong Kong a little ahead of schedule at 5:45pm. This time we are travelling with the “kids” so it will be a little different to normal but hopefully they can keep up with us, although keeping Chris from being distracted by all of the lights and interesting gadgets & trinkets will be difficult. The flight was pretty uneventful, there were a few bumps but nothing to worry about and the only thing to complain about was the lady who couldn’t stop laughing. I’m not sure exactly what she was watching but at one stage it woke me from my nap as it sounded like a dog was barking or perhaps I was just dreaming about Jessie. After disembarking we made our way toward the cactus and TV set, well that’s what the exit symbols looked like anyway and headed off to immigration. We had been told that most of the people we will encounter speak English but the lady near the desk simply waved at us and pointed for us to join the line. Next we encountered the cool guy with the gel and ski slope hair do who simply took our passports, looked at us once, typed on the computer a couple of times, stamped our passports and then handed them back, all without saying a word. Then we collected our bags and headed to customs, you’ve all seen the show Border Security, well this was Border No Security. We weren’t sure if we needed to declare anything so headed to the goods to declare line, there was one lady there so we told her we had medication and food. No no she said HK is not interested in any of that go to the nothing to declare line where there was also just one man standing watching as passengers streamed through. He must have an Eagle eye though as he did pull someone aside to check his bags. From here we were greeted by a lovely HK lady who gave us maps and some advice about how to get to our hotel and a souvenir magnet too (which Vicky kept!). So we went off to the train and caught it to Kowloon and then hopped on a free bus to the hotel, well not to our hotel but one that was a short walk away. It was pretty cool riding around and we got a pretty good look at things as our stop was the last on the journey. Once at the hotel we checked in and decided to go for a short walk to get dinner and then settle down for the night. Walking down the road to find dinner was going to give us our first impression of HK. It’s certainly a very humid place, even at 8pm at night it was very balmy
  2. 2. especially walking out form the air-conditioned hotel. There are neon lights everywhere to distract or attract the tourists; in fact it’s almost a sensory overload as you walk down the street with everything flashing away. It also rains constantly as you walk along, not actual rain but water dripping from the hundreds of air conditioning units high above you on the buildings which I imagine run constantly given the heat. It will be interesting to see just how hot it will be tomorrow during the day. It reminded me a little of New York, not only the smell which was similar to the subway but the number of people just walking along the streets. It can certainly be hazardous as you walk along dodging the dripping water, the people and trying to stop Jen & Chris from being mesmerized by the lights. Another hazard was the hordes of Indian and or Pakistani men constantly hassling you to make a suit for you or business shirts, at one point one even offered to make us shorts as we said we didn’t wear suits and another offered us copy watches, all at good prices of course. Although in our travel book it warns never to buy from them and most certainly do not go back to their “shops” or “warehouses”. America has a Starbucks on every corner, HK has a Seven 11 on every corner and a guy trying to sell you a suit or make you into one. I’m not sure why they only seemed to bother us, perhaps we stood out, I mean you could actually see them staring at you and salivating across the street while you were waiting for the walk signal. I’ll have to try and make sure I dress a little less conspicuous tomorrow and see if that helps. It’s certainly going to be an interesting experience as there seems to be a lot of shops and things to see although it can be a little disconcerting at times when you see something in a window for $3000 dollars ($600 AUD) or a can of coke for $7 ($1.50 AUD, even dinner at McDonalds was 52 dollars ($10 AUD). And the same as we did in the US the first time, we walked for blocks and blocks to find the Maccas only to notice one directly across from the hotel on the way back. Oh well off to bed now but looking forward to exploring HK tomorrow. Day 2 Well obviously our body clocks were a little off today as we went to bed between 10:30pm & 11:30pm local time and woke up around 5:30am or 7:30am Australian time. We decided since we could not get back to sleep we would wake the kids a little earlier than agreed and head up to the restaurant for breakfast. It was a pretty good mix of Western & Eastern with bacon, eggs, hash-browns, pastries, noodles, fried fish, dim sum and some other interesting things. We headed out from the hotel around 9am for a day of sightseeing and suit maker, copy watch/handbag seller dodging. It was already a hot day with a predicted top temp of 33 and humidity around 80%, so this all made for a pleasant walk along Nathan Road down to the harbour. I think it’s hot like this at home and it can be humid at times but I’m not sure it’s quite like this. First stop was Kowloon Park, it reminded me a little of Central Park but only in the fact it was a little patch of green in the middle of a city full of large buildings and a fair amount of noise. It is the site of a former British military barracks and includes an awesome pool complex, a hedge maze, which was out of order and an aviary. There
  3. 3. was one particularly amazing bird in the aviary, the rather appropriately named rhinoceros bird. It was a beautiful black bird with a yellow and red beak but then it also seemed to have a third beak coming out of its second beak. The park itself was quite nice although there were quite a number of people who seemed to be breaking into spontaneous bouts of ti chi right in front of you. All of a sudden as you walked along someone would just stop in front of you and start doing a pose or striking their leg out. And then there was the strange backwards lady who would walk forward for about 10m and then would walk backwards the same 10m over and over and over again. I’m not sure what she was doing but it was certainly freaky. After a short break to refresh we headed down to the ferry terminal. It’s quite spectacular to see all of the buildings across the river and I’m certainly looking forward to going back at night and seeing it all lit up and the lights show. From here we decided to head inside for a while and get out of the heat. We did go to the Space Museum but after seeing a sign saying it was free on Wednesdays we thought we might leave it until then. We ventured off into Sogo, a four story shopping centre, but it was a little different to home as there seemed to be one central store in the middle of the complex and then a lot of smaller shops around the outside. We’re still getting used to the prices but since we are getting around 5 to 6 HK for every one of ours something that costs $100 HK is not really that expensive. From here we went to Ocean Plaza, a huge shopping complex which makes Chermside look small, this thing just had hallway after hallway after level of shops. Interestingly each level appeared to contain shops selling the same types of goods; one level was all clothing, one level sporting goods, one electronics and the other brand names that hardly anyone can afford. The bottom level was kids and this is where we found a very large Toys R Us store. The people in Hong Kong love electronics as some stores you could not even get in to but they also loves toys, especially Transformers. We had planned to head back to see a few things around the harbour but after shopping for a few hours everyone was tired and sore and we decided to head back to the hotel and come back another day. We opted for the train and it seems very efficient and popular. I’m not sure exactly how big the trains are that run through the subways but at a guess I would say the platforms are somewhere between 1km & 2km long and people are lined up all the way along not to mention each carriage is packed. Our final adventure for the day was a trip to the 7 Eleven. There are some familiar things there like Cadbury chocolate, Pepsi, Coke and Oreos. There are also some things that look familiar but the packaging is all in Chinese, like potato chips and ice creams and then there were the things we haven’t seen before. Chris being rather adventurous decided to buy a couple of things based purely on the cutesy little cartoon character that adorned the packaging. So we had our first taste of Yan Yan the breadstick / pretzel like “biscuit” that came with dipping chocolate sauce and the peach flavoured Jolly Shandy that was placed in the soft drinks section but contained alcohol. Finally was the piece de resistance, a can of orange Fanta that turned to jelly when you shook the can. I just know by the end of the week he is going to drink a bottle of the milky white liquid we saw in the food court today called candy sweat or something like that.
  4. 4. Well that’s it for today; tomorrow I think we are off to see some of the many markets that HK has to offer. Day 3 Today we decided to take the MTR instead of walking, this had the advantage of being a little easier on the feet and also meant we would be in the air conditioned train rather than walking along the hot streets. As I’ve already mentioned the trains are very long and very busy but they are certainly an efficient and affordable way to travel. If you happen to be changing lines, which you have to do fairly often you can literally walk off one train and onto the connecting one just a minute later if you have to wait at all. First stop on the list today was Wong Tai Sin Temple. Wong Tai Sin Temple is a Taoist temple established in 1921 and is one of the most famous temples in Hong Kong and apparently the only temple that offers wedding ceremonies in HK. It was a very nice temple with big red pillars and a beautiful golden roof. There were quite a number of people there worshipping which seems to involve burning a lot of incense and then going inside to pray. An added bonus of being there was the peak in the back ground that viewed from the right angle looked like a giant lions head (Lion’s Head Rock). From here we hopped back on the train and headed to Festival Walk, which is another huge shopping centre and not some sort of walking trail. As a side note Hong Kong is very conscious about keeping things clean both because of swine flu and also I think out of pride. There are numerous signs telling you not to litter and about helping clean up the city and signs everywhere telling you how many times a day everything is sanitized. In Festival walk they had these little old ladies who walked around with picnic baskets and every time they found a dirty spot on the floor they would get down, take out a pair of tongs and a cloth from the basket and scrub until it was gone. We spent a few hours here looking through a number of shops and then just for a novelty we decided to venture into a Chinese supermarket just to see what they had. As we walked in there was a huge display of watermelons that had grown or had been forced to grow into different shapes. There was a face, a square, a heart and a topiary tree among others. Then we walked through the bakery which had a large range of different breads and cakes. We then walked through the section that had all of the cooked meats, including whole ducks and chickens and ready made meals which all smelled amazing. After this was the fresh produce section where you could literally pick a live crab, fish or eel. As we went through the frozen food section I dared Chris to buy an ice cream that looked like it might be pea or bean flavour but he decided against it. Next we got back on the train and headed to the Wishing Tree or as we liked to call it the fleecing tree, where tourists empty their wallets so they may take part in an ancient Chinese tradition. It was probably the most hilarious and bizarre adventure ever. It started off with us accidentally taking the train to Tai Wo Hau instead of to Tai Wo. From here we were supposed catch a taxi 5 minutes down the road to the
  5. 5. tree. But we wondered why when we flagged down a taxi he refused to take us and then the second told us it was $150 HK to get there. Not being from around here we just thought wow taxis are expensive but then later realised after we had been travelling for about 20mins that we had caught the train to the wrong place. When we arrived the driver pulled over to let us out and was chased by a little old lady yelling at him which I think startled him so he drove another 50m down the road. This didn’t deter the little old lady and she started waving some papers at us and speaking to us in Chinese even before we were out of the taxi. We really had no idea what was going on and just accepted the paper, which turned out to be what you wrote the wish on. Then she motioned to give her money, so we asked how much and she showed us two $20 bills and then said one and one and one and one pointing to each of us. Jen handed her $40 for us and she appeared to be happy with this even though she seemed to be indicating it was $40 each and then motioned for us to go over to the tree. We were met there by yet another lady who told us what to write on the paper and gave us some joss sticks to burn, motioning her friend to help out. When I say she gave us some sticks to burn I mean she sold them to us for $120 HK. They lit the sticks for us and told us to go over to the tree and wave it around, state your wish and then say thanks three times before they took it off of us and put them in a pot. The tradition used to be to throw your wish into the tree and if it stayed in it would come true but now you simply hang it on some hooks that have been erected around the site as the trees have become so damaged and frail. We did this and then went to leave but were beckoned over to say thanks again and then harassed to pay the third lady as she helped out, we weren’t really sure what was going on so the first lady came over again and did her one and one speech so we knew we needed to give the other lady $40 HK. We all walked off down the road toward the train station absolutely bewildered and a little unsure of what we did. Hopefully our wishes will come true but I know what those woman wish for every night, stupid tourists like us who will pay them lots of money for a piece of paper to write on and a few sticks to burn. For dinner we decided to venture off to the Modern Toilet Restaurant, it was mainly for the novelty but it had some good reviews on Trip Advisor. To be honest we found the novelty to be the only thing good about the experience. We made a reservation as we had heard it was popular and they told us the table could only be reserved for 10mins if we were late. This seemed a little weird as when we arrived there was barely a person inside but as we left there was a huge line of suckers waiting to get in. The whole novelty was based on the fact that the tables were basins with glass over them, the chairs were toilets and the walls and decor of the restaurant looked like a bathroom. It appeared as though everything we wanted to order was not available and this was in addition to the numerous meals that had sold out stickers in the menu and the page that was sticky taped shut. We finally managed to order something from the menu and the girls received their meals first, in little bath tubs, the fact that they had preserved eggs on top should have been a warning to us and then the boys received ours in little toilets, perhaps though we should have received it in an actual toilet. The problem with the bowls was there was no plug to pull out or chain to flush so that the meals would end up where they belonged, down the drain. I ordered beef Szechwan hot pot or alternatively I think you could call it, Szechwan WTF pot. What I received for dinner was a toilet bowl full of pippies, 2 different types of tofu, bean curd, some mystery objects and what looked like shredded beef entrails. I ate what I could and hopefully won’t have to spend the rest of the night in the hotel’s modern toilet. Chris’s meal was not much better and as he was digging through his toilet he found
  6. 6. what looked like a little poo, thinking it was part of the novelty he put the whole thing in his mouth but from the look on his face I’d say it was possibly a real poo or possibly part of the décor that accidentally fell in and was not supposed to be eaten. I think he exact words were that it tasted like fish guts or camels balls or something like that. After dinner we decided to venture off to the ladies market but surprisingly it’s not all ladies items as they have quite a bit of men’s and children’s clothes as well as souvenirs. It should hopefully be good practice for Shenzhen as it’s basically a huge row of market stalls with people trying their best to get you to buy. And after visiting these markets the middle eastern guys aren’t the only ones offering copy watches and handbags. They have all of their goods on display but occasionally you would walk past a stall that had very little in it and the person would whisper hello, copy watch or copy handbag. We pretty much walked through the market just looking and ignoring the calls of hello and missy missy as they tried to get our attention. You can’t really just browse either as if you pick something up they will run over telling you the price and trying to get you to try it out, they will haggle with you, but you must really look disinterested to make sure you get the best price. Then if you buy they try and get you to keep buying, buy a handbag and they try to get you to buy the matching purse and so on. We did fairly well getting a handbag from $300HK down to $160HK and a tea set from $360HK to $260HK. If you wait long enough and keep umming and erring they start dropping the price and walking away can be the best thing you do, although one lady faked a big crying scene because we did not look in her stall but we were not interested so we just kept on walking. Tomorrow we are planning some sight seeing and then maybe some more of the night markets. Day 4 Today we travelled from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island, there is a ridiculous number of ways you can get around in this place, train, bus, ferry, even little double decker trams. We started off on the train and then transferred to tram to travel down to Causeway Bay. The trams are an interesting mode of transport, a little hot as they are open air but from the top you get a great view of everything around you and they are only $2HK or something like 30 cents Australian. It was another typical stinking hot day here in Bombay, whoops HK and we had to do a bit of walking around in the sun today, I’m surprised I don’t have crotch rot from being so sweaty and wet all day. We thought about stopping somewhere with air- conditioning for a break between about 12 noon and 2pm, possibly the hottest part of the day with the exception of 8pm and 11pm. No that’s not a typo I kid you not I believe it actually starts to get hotter here again after 8pm. It’s not so much the temperature but the humidity, which you can actually see. However we were in the business district and apparently in HK business people don’t eat or they eat in very expensive restaurants as we could not find anywhere to sit and have a cold drink and maybe some cheap eats with the exception of a sole McDonalds which had no seats available. So after a heat induced tanty from Jen we grabbed a bottle of water from a street vendor and headed of in search of the observation tower in the bank building.
  7. 7. We initially thought it was the main HSBC building but the nice security guard patrolling the entrance said it was actually at the Bank of China building next door. We went next door to the Bank of China and asked the lady just inside the door if the observation deck was in the building, she answered in the affirmative and we proceeded up the stairs. I actually don’t think she spoke any English and probably would have said yes to anything. If I had asked “Can I take a dump on the floor?” she probably would have said “Hello, yes, yes”. I think the guard upstairs and all of the tellers were shocked to see 4 vanillas in their bank, especially as I think at the time we were the only people. When we asked the guard upstairs he just looked at us blankly and we proceeded back out of the building, obviously we were in the wrong place. We eventually worked out it was a branch and that we needed to go to the Bank of China Tower a few buildings over. Once there we went up to the 43rd floor and had a great view of the harbour and some of the surrounding peaks. An interesting side note, all of the notes say that the note itself is simply a promissory note and that the bearer will be paid the amount specified on the note if they present it at the main HSBC building. Does this mean there is actually another set of notes in HK? I’m thinking perhaps before we go I will present a note at the main building and see what I get. Next was Duddle Street, where they have left 4 of the original gas lamps that once lit the streets of HK and apparently these ones still run on gas today. We then moved on to the mid level escalators. Basically from what I could tell the part of the city we were in was ridiculously hilly and who the hell wants to walk up and down a shitload of hills everyday, so what they have done is built a series of escalators so that lazy people like us don’t have to. As an added bonus for being lazy and using the escalators there was a machine where you could swipe your octopus card and get a discount the next time you ride the train that day, go figure? We then walked down a little way to Man Mo Temple, we decided not to go in this time, both in an effort to avoid the smoke that normally surrounds any place of worship in China and secondly to ensure our money stayed firmly in our wallets. Walking from the temple back to the MTR to catch the train was a great experience and really felt like you were in China. Unlike Nathan Road where there are lots of neon signs and wacky pakis chasing you, here there were just narrow streets and alley ways, shops selling all sorts of weird stuff that we wouldn’t even consider food and little restaurants that probably make the most authentic Chinese food you’ll ever have. Signs are dominated by Chinese characters rather than English and there were hardly any westerners, it was probably one of my favourite moments so far. Last stop before home was the Western Markets, again this was a case where I wondered if they truly get the meaning of the English words they use. I expected perhaps some western goods but no it’s just a couple of floors of souvenir type stuff and a whole floor of fabric. A little like the shop I saw at Causeway Bay which was called something like Central Stationers but sold sporting goods. The fabric was beautiful with many different silks and brocades and if you knew how to sew you could have spent a lot of money, of course you could have also done that if you let the sellers convince you to buy everything they showed you. The one guy we did buy
  8. 8. something off keep saying what about this one and you buy a metre of this or that and we had to keep saying no just what we picked thanks. We then hopped on the train with about a million Chinese people and headed for home, even after being here for a few days and pretty much using the train everyday it still amazes me how big the train is and how many people get on and off. I think I need to look into buying shares if I can. If you are on at the first stop there can be next to no one on the train and then when you leave the next stop it’s wall to wall people. Tonight was one of those nights and as we were first on the train Jen and Vicky decided to take a seat while Chris and I stood. Unfortunately Chris and I got off at our stop but when we looked back the girls were only just getting up and couldn’t get past the thousands of people blocking the door so had to ride to the next station and catch the next train back. It certainly wasn’t a good thing but no where near as panicky as the time I lost Jen in Vegas, after Chris settled down and we wiped away all of his tears I reassured him the girls would be back soon and we should just wait in the same spot we got off the train. A couple of minutes later and they were back and we headed for the hotel. After a short rest and a freshen up at the hotel we ventured over to the night markets, these markets seem to attract a lot of westerners and are a mix of people selling knock off stuff, both good and bad, trinkets and other eastern items that tourists might be interested in. The vendors here were a lot less aggressive than the ones at the ladies market so we could have a good look at the goods without being pressured to buy, although there were still a few vendors trying to sell copy goods. We bought a nice traditional Chinese tea set, a couple of Chinese music CD’s, as I find the music relaxing and then the girls decided to buy a couple of copy watches. We tried to make sure everything on them worked before we bought them and talked the vendor down to $60HK for both, about $11 AUD or $5.50 per watch. We decided to call it a night though when we wandered too far and ended up in the sex market and noticed the two hookers hanging out near a dark alley. When we got back to the hotel we decided to look at the watches and put the correct time and date on both. Luckily though they were not that expensive as when we tried to change the time on Jens the mode button would not work and then every button flew off the watch after I pressed them a few times. Not being one to be wasteful I decided to try and fix it, it took me a while but using a bobby pin and my pocket knife I got it all working and put the buttons back on. It may only last one wear before it self destructs or all the buttons fall off again or something else goes wrong with it, but at least Jen will get to wear it once rather than have to throw it away as we initially considered doing, but I don’t think we will be buying anymore copy watches from the markets. Funnily enough the first time we were at the markets a little Buddhist monk approached us with a bowl in both hands saying thank you, thank you obviously asking for donations, Chris dropped a coin in his bowl and off he went. Tonight when we were at the night markets another monk approached us and Chris offered a much smaller denomination coin, possibly a 5c and he shook his head and would not take it. I’m not an expert on monks or charity but I thought you would take everything you are offered.
  9. 9. Tomorrow sees us heading up to the Peak to see what it has to offer so until then good night. Day 5 Today we decided we would visit the zoo and then travel up to the Peak so we could ride the train and see the views of the city from up high. We got a later start today mainly due to the fact we needed to remove some of Chris’s gigantic eyebrow and ear hairs, we get stared at enough as it is and we didn’t want to attract any more attention. Vicky is generally not the sort of person who is known for making decisions but today she decided to take charge. Having seen Duddle Street yesterday and the large steps you have to ascend she decided that it would be better to go up Zetland Street as it looked a shorter and more direct route, thus ending her making any more decision for the group. Zetland Street was in fact a small narrow alley that was probably on about a 40 degree angle with only a few steps and no rail to help pull you up if you needed it. After this we connected to Glenealy Road another ridiculously steep street which in fact needed steps cut into it so that you could even walk up it, followed by Albany Road, a winding uphill road that made the others look flat. After loosing 6 litres of sweat on another hot and humid day and stopping a couple of times to stretch some cramp out, we made it to the top and the zoo. On the way home from the peak we went the way we were going to go which was a number of escalators and undercover walkways, thus why Vicky will be making no more decisions on the routes we will be taking. The zoo was only small and didn’t have a lot of animals, there was a huge python, the sort that swallows cows whole, some turtles, a crocodile and a few types of lemurs and a couple of different types of monkeys and orangatang. I think it was either too hot for them to be too active as most just sat and mind there own business while others seemed to know when you were going to take pictures or video as they were swinging from side to side but would stop when you lifted your camera. Next stop was the peak. We took the tram up to the top, it’s quite an experience as the track in spots looks like it is at a 45 degree angle or perhaps even steeper, although you get a good view of the city on the way up. Once at the top we looked around the shops for a while and then went out on the observation deck. I’m not sure if it was smog or heat haze but while the view was fairly good to the naked eye the camera had trouble picking up the buildings on the other side of the harbour. I tell you what though the economy of HK must rely heavily on the tourists spending money and they know exactly how to get you to spend it with markets and shops everywhere, including at the Peak. Given the exchange rate it’s hard not to buy, especially in most of the markets you can barter the price down. Although some people are strange, I heard one man at the markets who wanted to buy a doll which was $40HK dollars or about $6.50 AUD and then man offered to sell to him for $20HK and then $15HK when he walked away, a mere $2.50 AUD and he said no. Another wanted to catch a taxi and was quoted $50HK for where he wanted to go and he said no he would not pay that much and this guy was American so it’s the equivalent of $6.50 if that. After looking around the shops for a while we decided to go to an International super market and see what we could find for a snack before dinner. We found a packet of
  10. 10. Burger King onion ring chips and then decided to buy something a little more Chinese and found some grilled corn barbeque chips. Both were actually quite tasty with the latter being a little like Twisties or Fonzies. I’m not sure if they didn’t agree with Chris or they just helped with his “problem” but a little while after we ate he needed to use the bathroom, he hadn’t been in a few days and was quite proud that he managed to do number 2, although he had mixed feelings, good because he was a few kilos lighter but also a little ill, perhaps it was the smell he was telling us about. Lucky for him though we were at the Galleria as the peak lookout has Eastern squat toilets and if the urge hit then he might have passed out and floated off with his…well you get the idea. We had a nice dinner at Bubba Gump and then went over to the Galleria again as they had a free lookout, although with a slightly less spectacular view and we looked out over the city and the buildings that were all lit up. At 8pm they have what they call the symphony of lights, where all of the buildings lights flash on and off and change colour and huge spotlights light up the sky and surrounding buildings. It was enjoyable to see but I think it will be better when we are at the harbour later in the week and can see it from a little closer. We are off to Shenzhen tomorrow which will be an experience in itself, we are only really going to shop but I believe the stall holders at the market speak less English and are more aggressive in trying to sell you their wares, so hopefully the little bit of practise we had the other night will come in handy. Day 6 Arrragh!! Stupid high winds, but more about that later. Today we decided to head off to Shenzhen to do a bit of shopping and as per usual, we setoff on the train. It was a bit of rigmarole to get in and out of the country, considering you’re not really leaving the country at all. I mean HK is an island as far as I know but it is still part of China but we had to fill out a health declaration form, followed by a departing HK form followed by an arrival card for China. On the way back through we had to fill out another health form and an arrival to HK card despite the fact we had only been in “China” for a few hours. It was certainly a lot more hard core than HK arrivals though with guards everywhere and outside the window I could see what looked like a small creek but was probably a man made moat given the amount of razor wire on the fence stopping people from crossing into the country. We walked out of the train station and went up an escalator that led to a shopping mall but this is no normal shopping mall it’s the Copy shopping mall. This particular mall contain shop after shop, 1500 in all, making your dream come true, want a Rolex, an Omega, or Tag watch you can have it, want a Guess, Louis Vuitton or Prada bag these too can be yours. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if you asked for a Rolls Royce and they said sure what colour and model do you like. The minute you walk in there are Chinese woman touching and grabbing you saying Missy, Missy or Mister you want bag, watch, shoe, DVD, MP3, mobile phone, Ipod, the list is just endless. In fact as we were passing one shop Chris was grabbed by one girl on the left arm and another on the right and before he knew it he had a watch on each arm. I’m pretty
  11. 11. sure in the Chinese culture if two ladies strap a watch to each arm you have two marry their ugly sister so I’d hate to think what might have happened if Vicky hadn’t saved him. The place was a little overwhelming as everyone was trying to get you into their store and all were either telling you what they had to offer you or asking what you wanted. And while I’m used to woman fawning all over me and touching me and trying to grab me, Chris on the other hand is not. And in this place there was at least five floors and 1500 or so stores and it was getting hard to ignore them given some would follow you down the alley. From the minute we got there though we were approached by a Chinese man who seemed to speak pretty good English, he gave Chris his business card and from that point no matter what we did we were never going to lose him so after two floors we gave up trying and headed to his shop. He seemed really nice and asked us what we were interested in; the boys were most interested in watches and the girls’ handbags. The shop its self was full of handbags and had a few watches purely for display as they were basically props. What they really wanted you to do was look at their catalogues. They had a couple of Omega watches they showed us and a few bags to show the girls but if you looked at the catalogues and told William what you wanted he or one of the girls that worked for him would get on the phone and a short time later a little satchel or bag would turn up with exactly what you just pointed out. At one point though we were sitting looking through the catalogues and they were ripped out of our hands and some were put in a suit case while others were thrown in a little carts and hordes of Chinese people ran through the halls in a panic. We were later told that it was the police coming and that if they found either the goods or the catalogues they would have it all confiscated and their shop would be closed down for 6 months and the staff jailed for 2 years. It’s sort of funny really though because the whole place is full of police and probably 95% of the shops sell these goods so obviously the police are not really that interested. The whole time we were there William kept asking what else we wanted, DVD’s, games, shoes, jewellery, we just had to keep saying no. After we finished here we went up to the top level and looked though the fabrics. They have some really nice stuff and it’s much the same up here though as after you buy fabric they try and sell you all the other stuff too or as most of them are also tailors when you buy the fabric they want to make it into something for you. We only spent a few hours here as we didn’t want to be strolling around getting felt up all day, a few hours is enough. On the way out though we went to a sports store and bought a couple of jerseys. It’s funny really because you barter with the person and they act like you are reaming them and you feel good because you think you did ream them and got a good price but in reality they are probably getting the better deal. I read somewhere that at the markets the price of the goods are usually about a half to a third of the price you are quoted so if they say $400HK and you say $300HK and they agree they are probably still well ahead of what it cost them. And if you walk away and they call you back then you know it’s still a good deal for them even though they tell you it’s too low. Of course if they don’t call you back then your offer was too low but there are plenty of markets and plenty selling the same stuff. When we were in the USA, Jen and I were sick of things being cancelled due to high winds or bad weather from memory it caused us to miss a few things. Well tonight
  12. 12. high winds struck again as we went down to the harbour to view the symphony of lights but it was abandoned due to high winds. Unbeknown to us there was this weird little symbol on all of the TV channels we were watching. After we found out the lights were cancelled we saw the little symbol outside a hotel with an English explanation, that it was a grade 3 tropical wind warning a couple away from being a typhoon. We decided that since we were there we would look along Hollywood Walk, it’s a bit like the stars in Hollywood LA but with all the famous Chinese people. Unfortunately I didn’t recognise Whu Yu Pee, Li Tit or the majority of names there, with the exception of course of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, John Woo and Chow Yun Fat. Despite the fact that it was actually cool as opposed to the oppressive heat you usually get through out the day, after being pummelled by the winds for a few hours we decided to head back to the hotel and call it a night. Day 7 After so many hot and sunny days we were greeted with some rainy overcast weather today, it was actually quite nice for a change. We had planned to head off to Ocean Park which to me conjures up vision of some huge water park, but as we know in HK what it sounds like in English may not be what it is and I think it’s more of a theme park but it’s near the ocean. We made it to the train station and then I suggested that a theme park would not be enjoyable if it is raining and we decided to spend a day shopping at the mystical Citygate. It’s not mystical for any other reason than the girls have been talking about it all week because it’s a discount shopping centre like DFO. Chris had been eyeing off either a certain pair of Nikes or Adidas but found out that he has a great eye for picking shoes that are not in his size and are the last pair. We visited a sports store the other night and both pairs were the last and not in his size and then today the two or three pair he picked were also not in his size. The funny thing is they always try and offer you an alternative but it’s never anything like what you picked first. I mean if you said you wanted the white cotton t-shirt and it was not in your size they’d offer you the green, silk one as the alternative and then seem really offended when you say no thank I really wanted what I picked first. I don’t usually mention food too much because who really wants to read that you ate this and you ate that but I’m making a few exceptions this time as the food is so different. We decided to have pizza for lunch as we wanted something a little more simple, we did look at the food court but weren’t really interested in the many ways you could serve oyster pig intestines. We figured you would just get pizza but they had a huge list of mocktails, salads and other starters, pasta, pizza (you could even make your own), ribs and the list goes on. Although seafood and corn are some of there favourite things we found some really nice ones and they were like nothing we had ever had. On a side note don’t think about robbing an armoured car in China, we saw one being unloaded while we were having lunch and they have like six guards. They had a driver, a spotter, he was the guy that gets out first, I know it’s China but I think he may have been a ninja because he was all in black and was looking everywhere. Then there are the 2 swat guys, they had full body armour on and a shotgun each and then
  13. 13. the two guards who carry the money, they also had flat jackets and side arms so it’s probably not a good idea unless you want to be mowed down in a hail of bullets. We finished our shopping and then remembered that we saw a sign that said if you spent a certain amount of money you could show your receipts to the customer service desk and receive a free shopping bag that zips up into a little heart, the centres mascot. Chris walked up to the desk with the two receipts to get the bag, but the lady said he needed the original receipt not the one from the credit card, so he came back and got it and off he walked again, this time he was told the offer was only if he donated $20HK to a special fund. Unfortunately he didn’t have his wallet and had to come back yet again to get the money and the girls made him schlep all the way back again just to get a little shopping bag. Most of the people are nice but we always imagine them saying mean stuff about us that we can’t understand and I can only imagine what she thought of this crazy guy who kept coming up and trying to get the little bag only to be turned away each time. It was still raining when we got home and so we decided to have a night in. The hotel is not great for food and we didn’t really feel like McDonalds so we decided to go out and find some local fare, well the girls sent Miss Daisy and I out anyway. It’s not really as easy as home because every place doesn’t just have dine in or take- away written on the outside of it. We started off heading down the road in the hope we might finds somewhere that was obviously a take away place. We found one that looked like it was definitely take-away but it didn’t look like anything westerners would eat, Chris is not included in this group as he will pretty much eat anything, with the exception of the little squid they barbeque on a stick. We kept walking for a while and passed a few places that looked like they would only be eat in and a number that only had the menu in Chinese. We also passed some lady in a little alleyway doing terrible Chinese karaoke to a live band complete with gong, a marjong club and a pool hall. We found the scary markets, basically just markets where it didn’t look like we belonged. After having no luck we turned around and headed in the other direction, we found ourselves in the night markets and knowing they had dinner there we thought we’d find somewhere for sure. Unfortunately again it looked like they only catered for people to come and sit down there and didn’t really give any indication if they catered for take-away or not. It may not sound very funny but by now I think we had been wandering the streets for about 45mins to an hour, we were no closer to finding anything and were considering either fruit from a stall we had seen near the markets, packets of chips from the 7 eleven or going back to McDonalds. I did think at one stage I was on to something as I saw a sign which I misread as Blue Grill Bar but I think it was actually Blue Girl Bar as it turns out it was a gentlemen’s club, not a steak house as I first thought. We decided we would walk one more street and then head for McDonalds if we couldn’t find anything else. Luckily for us just before we had reached the last corner a guy thrust a menu at us and asked if we were looking for dinner, we asked if he did take-away and he said yes we could take back home if we wanted and the rest is history. We went back to the hotel heroes as we had managed to find some dinner, in a strange place were we don’t speak the language. We told the girls it was a bit of an effort,
  14. 14. which they probably knew as it took us about an hour and a half to find something but Chris and I are the only ones who will really know what an adventure it was. Day 8 Don’t get me wrong I’m not trying to be racist but I do know that sometimes people will say all Asian people look the same and they may well say the same thing about us but walking towards the MTR in the morning is just getting beyond the joke. I mean WTF, we have been here for 7 days and every morning we have walked from the hotel up Nathan Road to the MTR station at Jordon, every morning it’s been all four of us, Chris and I wear the same hats every day and every morning we say no thanks we are not interested in suits or business shirts or copy anything. Yet every f*ing morning these stupid Paki mofos chase us up the street wanting to know if we are interested, some of them even look at you like it’s the first time they have seen you. I mean surely they recognise us and realise we are not going to stop because we are not interested and haven’t been since we got here so I don’t know why they keep trying. Most days we have been relying on the on the MTR to travel around since we have been here but today we were heading down to the beach and the fishing districts so we caught the bus. The bus to Stanley took us via a huge peak and gave us a spectacular view of the city or some city, I don’t know really, this place is so huge I really have no idea which island I’m on or which city or part of the city I’m looking at or in. The bus also doubles as a theme park ride us the journey is quite bumpy and if you are sitting up the top you do get thrown around a quite a bit. After arriving in Stanley which is named after Lord Stanley who was the Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1841 when Britain took rule of Hong Kong, although the village itself has existed since the 1570’s, we looked through yet another market. I’m starting to think HK is just one big market as there are so many shops and markets all over the place and to be honest despite the fact it doesn’t cost that much to buy stuff here I’m getting a little tired of looking through them. We looked around for a while and then decide to catch the bus to Repulse Bay, I believe this is the beach. Whilst I have not travelled extensively I’m sure Australia has the best beaches, we walked down the big set of steps and on to the beach. You can’t walk anywhere in this place without encountering a huge set of steps or a massive slope. The beach itself looked like a mixture of sand and gravel and the swimming area was all roped off, they even had a lifeguard floating on a little thing that looked like an island in the middle of the swimming area. I always think of the beach as a fun place to play cricket or kick a footy and then go for a swim but in HK or at least at this beach fun is not allowed, there was a huge list of all the things you were not allowed to do on the beach including ball games and frisbee. No wonder there did not seem to be that many people there despite the fact that it was a pretty hot day. We jumped back on the bus but decide to take the longer and more scenic route. Originally we had planned to stop in Aberdeen but had heard it was not as spectacular as it once was. Apparently it used to be a big fishing village dominated by fishing boats, which I think they call san pans and also junks. But the seas are being depleted by over fishing and it’s now dominated by a big restaurant in the middle of the harbour which everyone says sucks, well it didn’t get very good reviews anyway. It
  15. 15. doesn’t sound like much of a day but it was actually a pretty full day of sightseeing and shopping and was really nice to be up so high during the bus ride looking down at the views of both city and mountains. We stopped in at the hotel to freshen up a little and then we were heading back to the night markets. Chris had phoned to confirm our Dolphin tour earlier today and was told that some information would be sent to the hotel for him. He went to the reception desk and asked if there were any messages, but the girl behind the desk seemed a little confused. He then said he had booked a dolphin tour and was waiting for something to be dropped to the hotel, probably only understanding one or both of dolphin and tour she sent him to the tour desk. So Chris went to the tour desk and asked the same question and was told no. Now, much like a lot of the Chinese that speak English here they sometimes sound very fluent in the language but have trouble with complex comprehension so I don’t think she really understood either. I told Chris to try reception one more time and just say are there any messages for Mr Thorncroft to collect. Again he got a bit of a blank look and was told no, so decided it was best to call the tour company we he got back to his room. When Jennie and I got back to our room there was an envelope saying Mr Thorncroft room 1202 on it and inside a message saying please see reception to collect a message from the tour company and thus my point that sometimes they don’t comprehend what you are really saying even though you think it’s simple. I’m starting to think Vicky is a bit of a shopaholic as she seems to really like the markets and Chris seems to get a little thrill out of bartering with the vendors. Although strangely he goes in negotiating quite aggressively and then feels guilty because I think he feels he is ripping them off, it’s quite a sight to see, although I will admit given the exchange sometimes you wonder why you bother when you reduce the price by $20HK which is only like $4 AUD. I think tonight while at the market I heard the best oxymoron ever, we were asked if we were interested in buying a copy handbag and when we said no, he said but they are all originals, hmm original copies, now that’s funny. I must say though the funniest moment of the night probably belong to us trying to find dinner again. Chris and I both have no sense of direction and generally pay little attention to landmarks, we considered having dinner at a place near the markets but decided since the place we found last night was so nice we would go back there again. It was probably just like the Keystone Cops, Chris and I said we think it was this way and found what we thought was the mini 7 eleven we went past last night but the road looked too busy so we headed in another direction. Eventually we walked in a complete circle and were back where we started, I do remember seeing a few things we passed last night but we walked for so long we went past a lot of things. I asked Chris if he remembered seeing any of the places we walked past and he said yes but a little while later admitted no, he didn’t. In the end I think we pretty much spent 30 mins just walking in increasingly larger circles and so we just admitted defeat, Chris and I had absolutely no idea where we got dinner from last night and we just headed back to the markets. Although thinking about it now it was probably closer to the hotel than where we were looking. Luckily dinner at the markets turned out to be just as nice as the night before. After spending quite a bit of time and money at the markets, we headed back to the hotel for another early night, which is fine by me because it means I get to watch the footy.
  16. 16. We have to get going early in the morning as we are heading off for a pink dolphin tour and then probably more markets or shopping. Day 9 It was a little cooler today at least to start off with and since we were going to be on a boat for our Dolphin tour I was hoping it would not be as hot and humid as it has been. We were picked up from a hotel and went by bus to the boat on Lantau Island, the tour guide was telling us all about the dolphins and it seems a shame that the government here does not really seem interested in ensuring their survival. There is plans for an expansion of the airport and more shipping terminals all within the habitat of the dolphins and considering the over fishing and pollutants that already flow in there they seem almost destined to die out. They are not sure what exactly makes the dolphins turn pink as they are born grey but theorised it’s; their habitat, their diet or perhaps they just blush a lot. It was actually a beautiful day on the water with a really cool breeze blowing. We were told by the tour guide that it’s normal to be sailing for an hour or so before sighting any dolphins and the length of the tour would be determined by this. Lucky for us we had been out only about 30mins when we spotted the first pod of three dolphins and they were all pink in colour. A few minutes later we spotted another couple and as they seemed to be more comfortable with us they got closer to the boat, at one stage one surfaced so close to the boat it gave us all a fright. They were very beautiful and played together in the water jumping out quite far at times and I think we got some really good pictures, well we better have because I think Chris took about 600. It must have been our lucky day because the tour guide was overjoyed as we probably saw about 20 or so dolphins which is the most they had seen in over a year and it was also the quickest that they had spotted any recently. Once we got back to the mainland we headed back to the hotel and then on to the Jade markets. We had been planning to go to these for a while but always seemed to run out of time, for some reason they are the only markets that close early running only from 10am – 5pm. These like all markets required you to barter with the vendor for the best price and they seemed almost desperate to sell their goods. The first stall I stopped at the lady showed me a set of jade dragons but I thought they were ugly and was not interested, she told me the price, $180HK I think and I said no. They don’t seem to understand when you say no not what I am looking for and I think just assume you do not like the price, so she dropped to $140, no I said, ok $100 she replied, I couldn’t get her to understand and in the end walked away with her saying $80, $70 ok, ok $60 then. In the end I finally found what I was after and negotiated a good price for some Foo Dogs, well I think that’s what they are called. Chris was in his usual form negotiating bargain prices for everything, the way they keep going to you ok you tell me a price and hand you the calculator you almost feel like you can’t walk away though. I find it both hilarious and painful to watch Chris negotiate, $180HK they will say and Chris will go no too much and want to walk away, then they say offer a price and he’ll go, no I always go too low and don’t want
  17. 17. to rip you off and then he’ll type $60HK. In the end he usually gets a good price but I think then he feels really bad about it. I also wanted a Dragon and I found one I liked made of wood but the price he gave was $280HK and I only really wanted to pay like $100HK. I said no too much and he said ok $250 and as that was still way too much I said no and he offered a smaller one for $100HK but I didn’t like it. I was trying so hard to walk away and just try and find another one but he was having none of it and kept dropping the price, in the end I got the big one for $150HK but I felt really bad about it because that was like $130 less than what he wanted for it. I must say I was a little confused tonight, the first time we went to see the Symphony of Lights they were abandoned because of very high winds. I mean this is a light show where all of the lights on the buildings flash on and off and big spot lights beam everywhere, how the hell is that affected by wind? Anyway tonight there was a huge thunder storm and the rain was just pouring down but since it had almost subsided just before 8pm we thought we would go and see if the show was on anyway and it was. So it’s cancelled when it’s windy and proceeds when it’s storming? Despite the little bit of rain that was falling it was a quite enjoyable show, there are spot lights and lasers that flash across the sky and the lights on the outside of the buildings go on and off all in time to the music that was playing. It possibly doesn’t sound that exciting when you read about it but seeing it was really something. As a side note we had another train mishap this evening, we were heading down to see the lights and the train was already waiting at the platform, we wanted to try and get on so we started to run for the train. Unfortunately Vicky was not fast enough and being more cautious than the rest of us let go of Chris’s hand and the door closed. I don’t think the door would actually close on you but Vicky wasn’t taking any chances and was left behind on the platform. I think Chris was a little more concerned this time as she was by herself and decided to jump back on the train in the other direction just in case Vicky didn’t just jump on the next train. He didn’t need to bother as Vicky turned up as Chris’s train left the station. When he came back Jen and I told Vicky to stand behind a pole and we would say we hadn’t seen her, when he got back he was really worried until Vicky spoiled our fun by jumping out from behind the pole. I think perhaps she could hear the panicked tone of his voice and put him out of his misery, I don’t think he saw the funny side of it at all though. Tomorrow morning we have to pack up all of our stuff as we are heading off to Macau, it’s certainly not a job I’m looking forward to, although I’m sure it will be Jen doing most of the packing anyway. Day 10 Today we needed to pack up everything we have bought so far which is quite a bit and try and fit it all in our suit cases as we are travelling to Macau. I think we got a little carried away at the markets and when we were at the shops seeing all the little things you can’t get at home because I’m not sure we are going to fit everything in. At least when we get to the ferry they will weigh it so we’ll have some idea how much over we will be, notice I didn’t mention under because there is no way we will be under.
  18. 18. We went down to the lobby and asked them to hail us a taxi to go to the ferry terminal, the guy in the taxi put all of our four suitcases in the boot and strapped the lid to the bumper with an ockie strap. I had visions of our luggage being all over the streets of HK or his bumper being fired way into the air as it was so tight but we managed to make it no problems. The night before we had tried to work out how much it would cost for the luggage but it could not be found on the website any where, not surprising as it cost us an extra $320HK to take our luggage on the ferry. We are currently nearly 10 kilos over our limit for the flight home so we are going to have to do some creative packing to ensure we don’t pay for excess baggage or at least keep it to a minimum.. Again being another travel day there was not much on the agenda today. As we are only in Macau for 5 days and it was so much more expensive we only booked one room, they are big rooms and have two queen beds so we didn’t think space would be a problem. In fact when booking, it said rooms can accommodate 4 people but it costs you an extra couple of hundred dollars a night. But just to make sure we didn’t get caught out Chris and I decided to book in while the girls just wandered through the hotel, once we were all checked in we would meet up. All went pretty well except for the fact that we were trying to drag 2 suitcases each through the heavy lobby doors and of course my suitcase fell over and then I couldn’t get the door open and there was no one to help which was surprising considering we are staying at the largest hotel casino in Macau. We are staying at the Venetian and to say this thing is huge is an understatement, we arrived at the West lobby, are staying in the South Suites, there is also a Main lobby and North suites, not to mention the casino floor and canal shops. We actually walked around the Casino and I think to do a full lap it took us around 2 hours and then I don’t think we saw everything. It is very similar to the Casinos in Vegas and a lot of the shops seem to be American as well, although I think it is a lot more expensive than Vegas and even a little more expensive than HK. One thing that is certainly the same is how you can just lose time inside a casino, in fact it is so calm inside the casino while we were having dinner in blissful peace a fully fledged typhoon was raging outside and we had no idea. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it before, the wind was howling and swirling and the rain was actually doing the same. While we were watching it from the comfort of our hotel room on the 32nd floor the rain was firstly blowing from the left, then seconds later from the right, it even looked as though it was raining straight up at one stage. Tomorrow we had planned to walk around Macau tower and Chris was going to bungy jump but those plans may be put on hold if the weather is still like this. Day 11 Well as we thought it might be today was a rainy, windy day. The typhoon was down graded today from an 8+ which apparently means we are just on the outer of the typhoon a 10 being the centre to a 3 which means rain and strong winds. Most of the services were back to normal by mid morning and I think it was really HK that copped it, so maybe it was lucky we had moved to Macau yesterday. Also as we expected Macau tower was shut down and Chris’s bungy jump will have to wait until tomorrow.
  19. 19. We decided that we didn’t want to be outside today and that looking through the casinos would be the best thing to do. Every casino wants you to come and gamble so they all have free shuttle buses from the ferry terminal and some even have them running between other casinos in the group. Given this we decided we would simply travel from our hotel to the Sands which is close to the ferry terminal and then simply go from here to the terminal and catch which every free shuttle we needed to, to see each casino. On the way there though we got to see a bit of the damage the typhoon had left behind, there was some flooding but a lot of trees had lost branches and quite a few had even been ripped out of the ground completely. There were buildings that had lost awnings and signs had been ripped down and the pools at the hotels were all closed as they were full of palm fronds and other debris. The casinos here seem a little more about the gambling than the whole entertainment experience you get in Vegas. In Vegas they all have something else to attract you, the Bellagio has the fountains, the MGM the lions and so forth here they don’t really have that although walking through the casinos they are all very opulent. The Sands had a huge chandelier that went from ceiling to floor over about 5 storeys, the Wynn had a little show where the chandelier disappeared behind a false ceiling and a dragon or a tree of wisdom comes out of the floor. Over at the MGM there was a huge atrium which was full of flowers, trees and little pandas everywhere. All have the Asian influence though of dragons, coy and anything else that is associated with either wealth or good luck. It was all very interesting to see but as I said there was no real gimmick to keep you there and despite the exchange rate even the shops are far too expensive to look at. We finally managed to get some tourist information while we were at the ferry terminal, it’s very hard to get hold of and even the visitors office where we got it from was hidden away in the corner. I did have some guy approach me with a map but I think he was trying to sell me a tour of some sort, I’m not really sure as his English was so bad I actually thought he was just grunting at me or he was constipated and wanted to know what Chris ate to help him go. I’m certainly not going on a tour with a guy who can’t speak English, who knows where we might end up and I also wasn’t taking up the offer of a pedi-cab ride either. That guy must be a few sandwiches short of a picnic I mean hello there is still a number 3 warning in effect meaning it’s raining and winds can be over 100km and hour. Actually talking about the rain, I mentioned last night that it seemed to be going in all directions and when we were out in it today it was really weird. It was almost like it was raining in one spot and not in others, then it would be really light but all of a sudden you get a heap of rain dropped on you, it was almost like someone was up in the sky with a bucket and all of a sudden would try and throw it all on you. At one stage Chris and I were out in it trying to get some good pictures and the rain was light but pelting us in the head so hard it was actually hurting and the wind was so strong it was like trying to walk in a wind tunnel, no wonder there was so much damage last night. I decided that since we were in Macau I should at least do a little gambling, normally I’d gamble $20 or $50 bucks but here you put a couple of hundred in at a time. Although that is still only really $20 to $50. I’ve been trying to pick pokie macines that have an Asian influence with either coy fish or dragons on them but I’m guessing perhaps those things are only lucky for Asian people as I haven’t won anything yet. I’m not sure if I’m going to keep trying as I’m starting to think the machines are racist
  20. 20. or something, or perhaps just designed to take all your money, hmm maybe casinos could be renamed Wishing Trees.
  21. 21. Day 12 We only really had half a day to explore today as we are going to Macau tower this afternoon so that Chris can do a bungy jump and we can all walk around the outside of the tower. We headed off to McDonalds to get a quick breakfast before heading out, it’s pretty much the same as our McDonalds with a few variations including the sausage in the Mc Muffin which was a bit spicier and possibly chicken rather than the beef ones at home. We walked across the road where they have the Hard Rock, Crown and City of Dreams Casinos and hotels. The Hard Rock was very hip with all of the staff in the lobby wearing casual clothes and with funky hair styles, as with most Hard Rock there was also lots of memorabilia in the lobby and on the casino floor. The City of Dreams seems to be built around the Chinese ledged of the Dragons and the Pearl of Wisdom. We watched a little show based around it and as the legend goes the Jade Emperor has the Pearl of Wisdom and anyone who touches it becomes wise and powerful, the four Dragons who control the elements all want the pearl, the only problem is that no one knows where it is because the Jade Emperor protects it and he can take on any form, thus no one knows where his or what he looks like. However scientist finally found a hidden city under the water and discovered the Pearl of Wisdom and then built the casino on top of it. It was a cool little show with lots of lights, lasers and video being projected on the walls. After all of this and a few trips on the free buses we were at Macau Tower. I believe it is the 10th tallest building or structure in the world at 233 meters above the ground, or at least that is the height you bungy and walk around at, it’s probably a little taller as it has a big spire on top. It was a little unorganised as you needed to go to the 58th floor for the indoor observation deck, and then the 61st floor for the outdoor observation deck and the “Thrill Rides”. The only problem is that you must line up to get to the 58th floor and then get out of the elevator and line up again to go to the 61st. Anyway we eventually got up to the 61st floor for our walk around the tower, first you must fill out an indemnity form and then they make you wear a bright orange t-shirt. I think the t-shirt serves a couple of purposes, 1 it means everyone inside can see you walking around, 2 everyone within 15km of the tower can see you walking around and 3 if you fall off they can easily spot where to send the cleaners to mop you up. Once we were changed and strapped into our harnesses we were ready to go, apart from the thrill of walking around outside 233m above the ground there was the added entertainment of watching Vicky who is terrified of heights cling to whatever she could for dear life. One of the attendants could obviously see this and he snuck up on here and frightened her and I think she jumped about an extra 10m off the ground. To ensure the girls felt safe Chris went first and I was last so they were in between. It’s pretty hard to explain the feeling but it was really cool to be so high and the view was fantastic. There was one clip on your back and another on the front that worked much like a seat belt so that you could pull it quickly to stop it and then you could learn over the edge. The guide took photos of us as we went around doing different daring things, like sit over the edge, lean back over the side without holding on and so forth, although the girls declined the option to do most of these. The best one was where we got to take a run up and then swing around the building. It’s definitely something I would recommend.
  22. 22. After this Chris did his bungy jump, I guess for me there is not much to write about here because I did not experience it but Chris did enjoy it very much. I think he said it was over very quickly and it was an awesome feeling of weightlessness until he hit the bottom and it felt like his face was trying drag the rest of his body back to the top of the tower and then a little bit of wee comes out. One thing I do know though is that when you bungy jump you scream like a little girl, or maybe that’s just Chris. Chris has a video which he says disputes all of this but we think it must have been highly edited to make it less embarrassing. We headed back to Fisherman’s Wharf or the freakiest place on earth as it was raining too hard to explore the first time we were there. It has a floating casino and then next to this is a big volcano which has a show of some sort inside of it and then what looks like some ancient ruins and an old Roman Colosseum. As you walk up the steps of the ruins there are two big snakes guarding the entrance and then it’s just down hill from here. When you walk into the ruins it’s like a scene from Alice in Wonderland on ice the drug, not frozen water, and I think she was already taking mushrooms so you can imagine what this place looked like. There were crappy little rides like a merry go round, and a magic carpet ride and then a scene that belonged in Black Hawk Down, yes you read that right a helicopter that had crash landed and two US soldiers with M-16’s, and a shady looking guy in fatigues. It was all very weird so we decided we had seen enough and went for ice cream and then got the hell out of there. That was pretty much the day although we did do a bit of gambling tonight and won a little bit of cash on the electronic sic-bo table. I think I have mentioned before how they have lots of lucky symbols around the casino. I went to the check in desk today to change my room key as it was not working correctly and the lady actually asked me if it was ok that it had been changed from a yellow key to a red one and if I was not happy she could give me a yellow one. I think it was because a new colour may have changed my luck. Day 13 This morning we headed out to some of the ruins from when the Jesuits settled in Macau. First stop was Largo Do Senado or Senado Square, it is the old city’s main square and is paved with mosaic cobble stones and surrounded by a lot of Portuguese architecture some dating as far back as the 1600’s. The square itself was lined with paper lanterns in the shape of different fruits, I’m not sure if it always looks like this or was being decorated for some upcoming celebrations. We then went to the Holy House of Mary, originally built in the late 1500’s as a mission, it has a wonderful façade and is now used as a museum. Next was St Dominic’s Church also built around the same time and it was actually here that the very first Portuguese newspapers were printed on Chinese soil around 1822. We then came upon the ruins of St Paul’s, I’m sure it was a beautiful big church when it was first built in the early 1600’s but it was almost all destroyed by fire in 1825. I also heard that around the time of the fire the priest was ordered back to Rome and perhaps this is why it was never rebuilt. It has a huge staircase leading up to it and looked like it would have been about 3 storeys high, to the left of it was one of the original walls that was built around the city much like the Berlin Wall. A short walk to the right was Mount Fortress; this structure was built in the early 1600’s and was
  23. 23. the principal military defence point. The girls decided that the old stone staircase was too much to walk up so Chris and I went to the top instead, it pretty much looked like your typical fort with lots of cannons and the position on top of the hill certainly would have been a good vantage point to see any enemies coming. After heading down from the fort we stopped for a local delicacy, a Portuguese egg tart, I guess it’s a little like a quiche but much sweeter as it has what appeared to be toffee on top. Then we headed off to A-Ma Temple apparently this temple already existed before Macau was established and obviously so was the rock formation that it was built on. I’m not sure when it was built but they either decided that the rocky mountain it is built into was going to be solid foundation or they just couldn’t be bothered building it somewhere else but it certainly makes it look spectacular being built into the mountain. We had seen just about all of the sites we wanted to see except for the Church of our Lady of Penna. We went back to where the taxi dropped us off near the temple but there did not seem to be any taxi’s coming or any in the distance so we decided to walk. It was probably one of our of my worst decisions as we did not see any more taxis at all and I didn’t realise that the church was at the top of a mountain which there was no way we could walk up. In the end we just kept walking and walking and walking, the sun was beating down and it was ridiculously hot but with no other way of getting back to a taxi or shuttle bus we just had to keep on going. It was a little weird but I guess all of the taxis are either at the casinos where they are guaranteed a pick up or near the ruins where there are heaps of tourists. I guess one good thing about walking was that we were walking around this huge lake and got to see a lot of beautiful carp and coy fish. We were all hot, sweaty and nearly delirious by the time we finally saw the casinos in the distance, knowing just about all of them offer free shuttle buses we just headed for the first one we could see. The first one happened to be the Grand Emperor Casino, which I believe is owned by Jackie Chan. I really like him but was very disappointed by his casino, he has 88 gold bars in the lobby all under little glass cases and is estimated to be worth around 20-30 million dollars. Quite frankly though he should have spent it on his casino instead as it was very unimpressive on the gaming floors and there was little English spoken by the staff or anywhere inside, it actually looked more like the local RSL than a grand casino. He doesn’t even provide free buses from his casino back to the ferry as you had to show your ferry ticket to get on the bus. We finally got to the point where we were just so tired and sweaty that we gave up trying to get to a free bus and ended up grabbing a cab back to the Venetian. It was such a relief to get a cold drink and have a shower and sit in the air-conditioning for a while. Tonight we went and saw Zaia, the Circ de Solei show at the casino. I think it was a love story about a girl that wanted to be an astronaut and see all the wonderful things in the Universe but that is not allowed in communist China so she fell in love and became a housewife instead or perhaps dropped some acid and the show was her dream. Actually I have no idea what any of it was about but it was quite entertaining with a comedian and lots of amazing acrobatics and trapeze artists, some juggling and lots of singing and dancing. They even had a guy that was skipping rope and during
  24. 24. one scene it was actually on fire. At the end of the show heart shaped balloons fell from the sky and I jumped on the shoulders of the guy in front of me and took a spectacular catch to grab a heart from his clutches, actually it just floated right down to me and I caught it for Jen. After this we headed back to the casino but were not as lucky tonight, tomorrow is another moving day as we are checking out of the hotel and heading to the most wonderful place on earth, well maybe the second most as Disneyland in the US in much bigger than the one in HK. Day 14 Today we checked out of the Venetian and headed back to HK or more accurately HK Disneyland. After some confusion I managed to explain to the girl at the concierge desk that I wanted someone to pick my luggage up and take it down to the lobby, not bring it up to the room. Unlike when we checked in and there was nobody to be seen to help you in with your luggage, this time a really nice porter named Pan or Peter as I liked to call him, helped get the luggage all the way out to the bus we needed to catch to the ferry. He politely asked me how to pronounce my name so that he could address me properly and then asked where I needed to go even checking the tickets to ensure he directed us to the right bus. We gave him a $20 as he was so good and he kindly thanked me and then waved to us as the bus left like he was saying goodbye to old friends. Also unlike First “F’ing Rip-off” Ferry we decided to catch the Coati Ferry which is owned by the casino, this time there was no extra charges for luggage, although we did have to drag it there ourselves. It was a much smoother ride this time and when we got to the terminal we had the option of getting a taxi or trying to take the MTR. We figured that dragging big suitcases on to the MTR would be too much of a hassle and tried to take a taxi but the first driver put an end to that, we asked if he would take us to Disneyland but he took a look at all of the luggage and said no. We figured that since it was such a long way none of them would be interested in taking us and so the train it was. It’s the first time on this trip I have felt like we were in the US again, we had the backpack and the carry on and our two big suitcases and had to drag them half way around China. At the first station there was no lift so we had to take the big suitcases down the escalators, then onto the train. Given the fact that everyone likes to jostle for position on the train we thought it might be a hassle getting them off at the next station but I just stood close to the door and decided I was ploughing through anyone that got in the way. Then we changed trains but in the process had to walk about 5km or something stupid and onto another train, finally getting to Disney where we changed trains again. It was just such a long way to drag heavy suitcases and with all the train changes it was quite the adventure but we eventually got to Disneyland. I kept looking for Goofy to come and help me carry the luggage but he didn’t present himself. When we finally arrived at the hotel we jumped off the shuttle bus from the train station and I jokingly yelled Goofy at the top of my lungs hoping that he would finally show up to take my luggage. I looked up and a porter was running towards me as fast as he could and came and took care of the luggage, I have seen some
  25. 25. interesting names for some of the people here, we have been served by Album, Lovely, Apple, Wing, Ha Ha, Him and Pan but I thought Goofy was going a bit too far. I was later informed his name was Vicki but it was nice of him to take it all for us and deliver it to the room safely. After checking in we went down to the “store” as they do not have room service and some stupid amount of money later we had two drinks a packet of chips and a sandwich. This prompted us to get back on the train and head to the nearest supermarket for supplies, even factoring in the $20 it cost us to get there and back we are still way ahead, it’s $15 for a can of coke but at the store we got 8 for less than $30 and then chips which were also $15 at Disney were 3 packets for that price. I think we have enough supplies to last our whole stay and if not we will open our own stall in the car park and under cut the little store. Despite the fact we are staying at Disney we probably won’t go until out last couple of days as there are still a few things we want to see. We did catch the fireworks tonight though as we can see them from our room, they looked really cool and I’m looking forward to seeing them up close when we visit the park. Day 15 Today was the last of our sightseeing days, I think we have seen most of the tourist sites or at least all of the ones we wanted to see. We have culled a few things but the last we wanted to see was the giant Budda at Ngong Ping, I believe it is the worlds largest bronze outdoor Budda although it was only built about 20 years ago despite the fact the Po Lin Monks have been there since 1905. We wanted to catch the cable car through the mountains but it was closed for maintenance so we had to take the bus. Signs such as steep incline, reduce speed and sharp corner are greeted as challenges by Chinese bus drivers rather than warnings thus making your journey up and down steep mountain roads with a massive drop off the side a thrill ride or rollercoaster type adventure. You could see the huge statue on top of the mountain from quite a distance away and when we actually arrived it was just as spectacular. There are 320 steps up to the statue and a museum inside with some interesting facts and artefacts relating to Budda inside, like scripture and even paintings that were drawn in blood. I’m not sure if it was the artists blood or some other poor sap but they were certainly detailed and considering when they dated from still in very good shape. In keeping with the teachings of Budda there is no alcohol and all of the restaurants around the statue are vegetarian, doesn’t Budda know you can’t win friends with salad, we bought the vegetarian meal as it allowed you access to the statue that you would not have received otherwise. Vegetables are ok but they are best served with a big juicy steaming hot piece of meat, otherwise they just taste like vegetables. There was some sort of bean curd meal (vomit) and a couple of mushroom dishes which were nice, some spring rolls with some roots or other crap inside and well who cares what else really it all tasted the same and none of it was meat. As you can tell I’m not a vegetarian and don’t plan on becoming one anytime soon either. It was yet again a hot stinky day and we decided after looking through some of the gift shops that we would head for the comfort of our air-conditioned hotel.
  26. 26. When we got back we though the pool might be a nice option to cool down, the girls didn’t bring swimmers and neither did I but I did have a pair of shorts and thought they would do nicely. While the girls sat on a banana lounge Chris and I headed into the pool, it had obviously been heated by the unforgiving sun all day and felt like it was about 50 degrees, certainly not refreshing. One good thing though was that there were at least a few other Westerners in the pool and also some fat Asian dudes so we weren’t being stared at like usual. I’m not exactly sure what we are up to tomorrow but the three days after that are going to be spent at theme parks, I can’t really think of a better way to spend our last three days really. Day 16 This will most likely be the shortest entry ever in the blog, probably to the relief of most people who read it because I tend to take a long time to say not much at all. It was a bit of a rest day today, having seen pretty much all of the things we wanted to see we just decided to go and pick up a few more things from some of the shops on HK island that we thought we might find elsewhere but couldn’t. Don’t ask me why we are buying anything more as we are already well over the allowed weight on our suit cases. Yes we can fit it in but the more weight we add the more likely we will have to pay for excess baggage and then all of our bargains will not be such bargains anymore. We still are yet to visit Ocean Park or Disneyland, two of the theme parks here but will be hitting those tomorrow so I’m sure we will be buying more souvenirs and making our bags even heavier, what happened to the 30KG we were allowed coming home form the US? I’m looking forward to going to the theme parks but having experienced Asians at Disney CA and on the MTR I know from experience that lines seem to be something they have a problem doing. Oh well, I’ll just warm up the elbows and see how it go. Day 17 Today was the first of our three days visiting theme parks. First on the list was Ocean Park, we had planned to visit it earlier but it had been raining so we left it until the end of our trip. It may also be the first time I have been wet at the end of the day by three different means, I was wet from sweat, I was wet from rides and I was wet from rain all in the same day. It’s a huge park and is basically split into two sections divided by a massive mountain, it’s probably most like SeaWorld back home but I think it has more rides. We chose to do it on a Monday as we heard it can be pretty busy on the weekends. First of all we jumped on the cable car and headed to the back of the park, basically because we thought there would be less people and also because it had more of the rides we wanted to do. The cable car ride was awesome as we headed way up over the mountain and the view was great although it sort of made me wish we could have
  27. 27. done this on the way up to the Budda the other day. I even think Vicky enjoyed it as she is a little more confident with heights after the walk around Macau Tower. We looked through the Sea Lion enclosure first but it wasn’t very exciting, as I think it was too hot for them. As we were near the Theatre we decided to hang around and wait for the dolphin show. It was a little weird as it was both in Chinese and English but the trainers only spoke in Chinese. It probably wasn’t as good as the SeaWorld show but I like to watch Dolphins as they are such majestic creatures and the way they can dance through the water and jump really high is so cool. They asked for some members of the audience to be part of the show and the guy that they choose was petrified of the Dolphins, so much so that when it jumped out of the water he ran and hid behind the water slide. When it was time for him to get a kiss from the Sea Lion he actually fell in the pool, then we all knew it was just part of the show. After the show we headed for some bigger thrills at the Dragon. The Dragon is a fast paced roller coaster with three loops in it and the ride was pretty much all over in about a minute. I think though that the Dragon may have been short for the way of the Dragon because we were thrown around so much and your head hit the safety bar so many times that when we got off we thought we had gone a few rounds with Bruce Lee. It sort of ruined the fun a little and we all decided that we wouldn’t ride it again as we got too beat up the first time. We rode the Ferris Wheel and whilst the view was pretty good the ride itself was craptacular. Chris went on the Abyss twice, it was a little like the giant drop but has the added twist of bouncing up and down a few times when it reaches the bottom a bit like a bungy. I think that is why Chris wanted to go on it because he’s a bit of an adrenalin junkie now after experiencing his first bungy jump. We grabbed some over fried chicken and dry chips for lunch, I think they just found my pieces stuck in the bottom of the fryer and put them in my basket anyway then headed for the Atoll Reef. The Reef was pretty cool as they had a little tidal pool where you could put your hands in and let the fish swim up to you or you could touch a star fish or sea cucumber. After that it was about 4 or 5 levels of a huge tank that contain just about every fish you could think of, there were sharks, turtles, puffer fish, rays and too many fish to name. We thought we might have a few problems with lines and so forth but I have never seen behaviour like the people here, except maybe the French when we were in the US. Most people will have a little look and move on but some people just wanted to stand in front of the tanks for ever and then if someone did leave people would just shove their way in, even if there seemed to be others waiting. At one stage I though perhaps they had mistaken it for a restaurant where you pick what you want for dinner and they were all pushing because they wanted the best fish. In honour of all the people that shoved you or walked into you without apologising or realising most of the time we decided to rename it the Shovearium. There was a brief shower of rain while we were in there and we decided to head down towards the rapids ride and the mine ride. You would have thought that the rain would make it cooler but I think it warmed it up. Building a theme park on a mountain is both ingenious and stupid, the views are great and it can also make the rides a little more thrilling as you are looking over a cliff but walking up and down huge hills can sometimes take the fun out of the day. As we were heading down the
  28. 28. huge escalators it absolutely poured and the mine ride was closed so we headed for the rapids ride. It was pretty good but there was no real story to it you just went up and then came down again and when you came down you came down with a splash, it was so huge we were all saturated. We wanted to ride it again (especially Jen) but being soaked to the bone and hot equals chaffing and thus we decided against it. Next was the mine / train ride where you are supposed to be on a runaway train or mine cart. It was really cool and certainly helped to dry us all off a little, although the second time we rode it Jen pulled the safety bar down a little too hard and cut of my circulation and ability to breath so lucky for me the attendant released the bar again to check it and didn’t put it so far down the next time. The afternoon was drawing to a close and we wanted to see the jelly fish and the panda bears before we left as well as hit the gift shop. We finally found the jelly fish exhibit and it was awesome, there were so many different kinds of Jelly fish all in little tanks where the lights changed colours and so did the jelly fish. The highlight though may have been a small bit of revenge, after having people shove us everywhere in the aquarium and in here, Chris managed to elbow some ahole in the chest when he tried to push past. However the funniest thing was as we were leaving, the rooms were dark and mirrored to give the effect of millions of jelly fish swimming around and a little Asian guy obviously wanted to get around us, he confidently strode past us and straight into his own reflection. Instead of heading for the exit he headed for it’s reflection thus ended up walking into a mirror. We all couldn’t help ourselves and burst out laughing, although I’m not sure if it was as funny as the guy who tried to push in at the Tower and was royally told off by the attendant. We took the train back to the front of the park, a mere 3 minute journey as opposed to the 10 or 15 minutes the cable car took and headed for the pandas. I think this probably topped off the day perfectly as they were just so cute, although given the chance would probably rip all of your limbs off and beat you to death with them. They weren’t overly active but they did wander around their enclosures eating bamboo and when we went to the second enclosure one of them was doing a bit of climbing so it wasn’t like they were just sitting doing nothing. All in all we saw 3 black and white panda and 2 red ones, I was perhaps a little snap happy though as I nearly used up all of the space on our XD card taking pictures of them. A quick trip to the gift shop to buy what else but some panda bear toys and the day was over, we had timed it perfectly and left the park about 5 mins before closing time. The trip home on the MTR was pretty uneventful but we did see about a million HK residents heading home from work as the lines were probably 6 wide by 35 people deep along the whole track. I know I have mentioned before how many people catch the train and on at least one occasion we had to push our way onto a car that was already wall to wall people much like that scene in the Simpsons where most of the town is in Ned Flanders bomb shelter. But I think this is the first time we have had to catch it during peak hour and much like the running of the bulls if you stop or if you fell I think you would be trampled to death. Tomorrow we are off to Disneyland and hopefully being a week day it will be a little quieter and hopefully people will be less pushy but somehow I doubt it. Jen is
  29. 29. starting to feel a little run down too but hopefully she can hold out at least until we have had a day a Disney and then it’s only a day until we are off home. Day 18 Today we went to Disneyland Hong Kong, I’d heard it was smaller than Disney in LA and it certainly was. It has a few of the same rides and attractions but even those appear to be a little shorter or different to LA. The entrance was very similar with the train stop and the Mickey shaped garden out the front where you pose for pictures and Main Street was almost exactly the same although again we think a little smaller. The castle was at the end of Main Street and you guessed it, just a little smaller with the different lands branching off from there. We started off at Space Mountain, I hate to compare everything to the other Disneyland but I guess when you have been to two it’s hard not to. Although in this case I will say that I enjoyed this Space Mountain a lot more than the one in the US but the people here don’t seem that fussed on it as the line up to get on was quite small compared to the US where it was insane and the fast passes were gone within minutes of the park opening. All up I think we ended up riding it about 4 or 5 times. Next up was the Astro Blasters, this attraction was probably the same as in the US and again we rode it a few times before setting off for the tea cups. Jen opted out of this one given that spinning around would probably upset her balance but the rest of us went on and Chris and I did our best to make it spin as fast as we possible could. We decided we had to take Chris and Vicky on the It’s a Small World ride and thankfully it was a lot shorter than the other one we went on. It’s still the same inane song over and over again but being a little shorter it probably didn’t drive you as insane and was easier to get out of your head. A show was next on the list and we choose the Golden Mickey’s, I’m not sure why they called it that as they didn’t actually give out any awards and it was pretty much a song and dance show. It was a little weird because all of the speaking, including Mickey and friends was in Chinese with English subtitles on a big electronic display but the singing was all in English. He’s a talented fellow that Mickey, I didn’t realise he could speak so many languages. We went on the Jungle ride, again smaller and a little less funny as the US one as although the girl spoke English, she had a strong accent and I’m not sure if she totally got the jokes she was trying to deliver. From here we enjoyed the Lion King show, this time it was all in English with a couple of Chinese translators updating the audience on what was happening. It was actually a really good show with some great singing and dancing, although a little strange as the Chinese seem to clap for everything. The lights went out and they clapped, the lights came back up and they clapped, someone did a great dance moved and they clapped, I guess though at least the performers know they are enjoying it. We watched the main parade and the glow in the dark parade. The pushing and shoving for the rides was pretty good but the shoving and jostling for position for the parades was pretty much on par with most of the other stuff we have experienced. If