'Ng on' everyone from Hong Kong! Well I have made it into Asia at last, it is super exciting to be in this part of the world but a huge culture shock - Western Australia to Hong Kong is one extreme to another - it is total chaos here, millions of people pounding the boiling hot streets with thousands of towering skyscrapers - I really have never seen anything like it - it is unbelievable!
Perth seems a million miles away now - I caught the flight at midnight after waving off Catherine & Simon and arrived in Singapore at an ungodly hour in the morning. My first greeting in Asia as I stepped out of the plane tunnel was a mean looking lady with a green face mask and enormous thermometer, she looked hilarious and I laughed of course - bad move, but no flu for me! I took a speedy train into the city, squeezing on with hundreds of locals on their way to work, few were taller than my chin - I looked like an alien, it was so funny! I spent the morning and early afternoon wandering about. The city was bewildering - perfectly landscaped, super clean with cleaners and gardners everywhere. The roads and pavements were lined with bushes and flowers like a toy city, it was crazy - a bizarre mix of Western and Asian cultures and jammed with upmarket global shopping chains. I even stumbled upon a Marks & Sparks Food (Percy Pigs included!). Every inch of land was developed or being developed - massive construction projects were going up all over the place - I saw it all on a ride on the Singapore Flyer - the world's largest observation wheel. It was pretty cool with awesome and pretty scary 360 degree views. I wandered around the harbour area, through some markets and went on a nosey around the Raffles Hotel too - very famous apparently, I'm not totally sure why but it sure was fancy. I caught the train back to the airport and spent my last $5 on some DIY pic'n'mix, yet there was even someone to help me with my selection - 'no, no, too sour!'.
The flight up to Hong Kong was fairly short and I arrived in the evening, staying near the airport overnight before tackling the MTR trains and head into downtown Hong Kong. I am staying in Kowloon, over the water from Hong Kong Island, in the district of Tsim Sha Sui. The place is insane - the streets are heaving with people, there are jewellery and weird food shops and stalls everywhere and the sky is barely visible from the signs that hang over the street. I really have never seen aything like it! The guesthouse I am staying in is bang in the centre, two floors up from a crazy street, it is daylight at night, pretty noisy and I can barely see the sky for the towering buildings outside and the flashing signs. The entrance is right off the street and my room overlooks the chaos below - I love it!
I have spent the past 3 days doing some hardcore sightseeing. I took the Star Ferry over to Hong Kong Island on Sunday and got my first glimpse of the HK skyline from the water - it is totally unbelievable - there are skyscrapers wall to wall for miles in either direction and stacked up the steep hills. I walked all around Central, Admiralty and Wan Chai, checking off all the big sights and squares, there are lots of open spaces and immense towers like the HSBC Building and the Bank of China. They are surprisingly accessible, and the shopping malls too which are a relief from the stiffling heat - it is boiling. The city of far harder to navigate than I had imagined though - it really is a maze of subways and pedestrian overpasses. Crossing big roads is a nightmare, there is always an overhead bridge but finding it a challenge - the walkways lead into shopping malls and towers where its impossible to find your way out of - I have only jumped and run once though! Oh and the maps are wrong too - there are new roads everywhere! I am getting better at navigating but it really is an urban jungle. The city is fascinating though, I explored the backstreets, full of dingy and exotic shops, parks and temples, and checked out the 'wet markets' too - lets just say there was lots of very fresh produce for sale - I took glimpses and ran, it was pretty nasty... As it was a Sunday, under every inch of shade there were groups of people sitting on cardboard boxes eating picnics, playing card and chatting. I couldn't understand it but later learnt they were Filipino maids, or amahs who, on their one day off a week, took over the streets of Central - the atmosphere was buzzing!
I took a tram up the Peak Tower too and hung around till dark for the most unbelievable view of HK yet - I never knew a city like this existed - can any city beat it? Maybe Shanghai, I doubt it, but I'll find out soon. There was also a laser show from the top of the skyscrapers along the waterfront - wow! Yesterday I checked out Causeway Bay further east, the HK Park which resembled Central Park in NY, and attended a brilliant Chinese Tea Class at the Lock Cha Tea Shop in HK Park. There is a tiny tea shop beside the guesthouse that I am determined to go into and now that I have discovered my favourite tea (yellow) and tea drinking etiquette, I will go in right after I have posted this blog!
Today I have taken the MTR and some local buses around the largest and most westerly island of Lantau. It was a stark contrast to the city - a beautiful rugged landscape with monasteries, monuments and old fishing villages. I paid homage to the Tian Tan Buddha - a 23m high buddha - with my Saints shirt (eek!), wandered around a monastery and joined in a noodle lunch, and spent ages wandering about a fascinating fishing village called Tai O, with tiny houses perched on stilts, temples and people processing salt fish, paste, and seafood. It was boiling walking along the boardwalks and wooden footbridges but the views of the forested hills and valleys were stunning. I am planning on venturing to the south side of HK Island tomorrow and then to Macau on Friday - I think it's classified as a separate country and you can get a ferry there - I'm not sure but I'll get reading!
I also took a trip to the Visa Office for the P.R. of China yesterday morning, joining and long queue at dawn and a long wait on a dusty road...I will collect my visa on Thursday, fingers crossed. I have booked a train over the boarder into Guangzhou for Saturday and then another overnighter on Monday west to Guillin. I will soak up some more of HK first though before setting foot over the boarder, I love it here!