The journey from Yangshuo to Hong Kong was a long and arduous one. After being taken to an anonymous main road in the pitch black by a taxi driver , on the authority of our tour company, we were told to stand and wait until our over night bus turned up. Some time passed as vehicles went screeching past us, big bags on back staring up the road, until finally our accommodation for the night came into the view, swung round in our direction and skidded off as soon as we stepped inside.
I don't know what I expected an overnight bus to look like, perhaps much like the inside of a plane where you sleep on a slightly reclined seat, but it certainly wasn't the narrow mat lying horizontal in a row of five, meaning you were virtually rubbing shoulders with the person next to you. I also didn't expect to be woken up by bright lights every two to three hours just cos the driver seemed to like it. It wasn't much fun. Particularly because, stationed at the back of the bus, our heads were tossed into the air and smacked back down again by the very questionable suspension.
We were dumped off the bus in Schenzen as unceremoniously as we were taken in by it. From here it was a mere matter of taking about seven different metro lines to our hostel on Hong Kong Island. With Alice feeling faint it was time for me to step up and load my body with all the bags. Looking something like a pack mule, with rucksacks on either shoulder and in my arms, I took one slow step after another as we went on our way.
We had been told pretty much the same thing by every traveller we had met who had already been to Hong Kong: glorious but expensive. We experienced the expensive bit first. On arrival to our hostel we realised that it was going to cost twice as much as accommodation in China, let alone India. This was particularly hard to take considering they didn't supply breakfast, or any means of food, or even a plug socket by the bed, which is hell on earth for the modern day mobile and tablet laden traveller. It also meant that we felt compelled to make our money back by sacrificing decent meals for the next few days. Not a major problem but I can't say that tucking into plain supermarket noodle soups or pizza hut pasta was a highlight of our cultural adventure. The cornflakes with blueberries was pretty good though.
Thankfully, we did soon experience the glorious part of Hong Kong life. On our first full day we hopped on the ferry from our island to Kowloon, which exposed us to the famous skyline that stretched as far as the eye could see. Sweeping across a much greater distance than Shanghai and stationed in close proximity to two other islands, this view was for me much more unique looking and impressive, particularly at night. Having said that, the popular sound and light show was a major antic climax, to the point where it kind of left you feeling confused. How could they possibly set something up that made you come away from such an amazing view feeling disappointed? Why bother with the couple of green lasers and rumble of weird techno music? It just didn't need it.
As we were in Kowloon, we had hoped to walk along the promenade and check out the sculptures of famous Asian stars that line in. Unfortunately, both had been closed due to building work and so we had to just move straight on to the metro and make our way to the monastery of 10,000 buddhas, a lesser known site that nevertheless carried the major benefit of being completely free!
It's incredibly hard to believe this place is both free and not well known. It was incredible. As we climbed the long series steps towards the main temple we were met by row after row of golden Buddhas, all with their own captivating pose and expression. Though we would have been satisfied by these statues they weren't even the main sight. As it turned out, the main sight was in another league of its own. For at the top of the long set of stairs stood the most glorious temple I have seen so far. Bedecked with neat, never ending rows of golden buddahs that climbed its four walls and several larger ones in its centre, the temple dripped with splendor and shimmered majestically in front of us. It was a beautiful sight. One of the best I have seen.
I was so disappointed to find that photos were not permitted. I presumed this was because the temple was still an active religious site and therefore resolved to adhere to the rules. It was a privilege to have been granted access to it in the first place and inexplicably at no cost. And so I stood and tried to soak the view in as best I could, not wanting to forget what I was seeing.
We spent the rest of the afternoon chilling at the local park, eating our home made peanut butter sandwiches, and at the harbour, where we waited until the perplexing light and sound show commenced. On returning home we found that for the first time since travelling, there had actually been a theft in our mixed dorm. A Swedish guy ranted and raved as he revealed that his credit card had been stolen from his bag and that 20,000 Hong Kong dollars, or 2000 GBP, had been withdrawn from his account, the maximum amount. He was understandably pissed and we sympathised, even though it meant that the police came, searched us and didn't leave our room until about one in the morning. It was only the next morning that I found out he had actually kept his pin code next to his card on a piece of paper. I mean common bruh.
The rest of our time in Hong Kong was a little less eventful. The weather was a problem. Grey and wet, it took out a lot of potential activities as there was no point cycling round or climbing various peaks when there was no visibility. We found this to our cost when we visited the Giant Buddha, which is one of the most famous sites in Hong Kong. Such was the mist, we couldn't even see it. And it's pretty big. Apparently. So rather than venture out for the views, we ventured out for the booze, hitting up Hong Kong's buzzing bar area. With beers costing like seven pounds we chose to buy a can from the local seven eleven and sit amongst our fellow travellers on the streets. Student style.
Our route out of Hong Kong was much better than the one we had taken getting in. A one hour plane journey to Hanoi, Vietnam. In the end, there was a lot of good stuff to take away from Hong Kong. It had some great views and top sites (which were often free), it was modern and the transportation system was incredibly efficient. Unfortunately, our time there had been marred slightly by the cost of being there and the weather and so we weren't too disappointed to leave the city for the next stage of our trip in South East Asia.