Goodbye Cold GB, Hello young BUNAC-ers. (13.1.11)
So we arrived at Heathrow at stupid o'clock burdened with heavy bags and heavy hearts as we bid farewell to our loved ones (except for Maz, who has no-one - Thank you guys)
We would consider ourselves seasoned travellers so you can imagine our disgust and utter shock at being forced to check in, go through security and passport control, the 40 something of us being herded by BUNAC, as of course we are incapable of doing so ourselves. God forbid we were to lose each other!
So inkeeping with our new found unemployment we wasted our morning eating a Boots breakfast and a tuna sandwich (Lissie). Before we knew it we were merrily skipping towards gate 27 reminiscing about what a wonderful morning we had had at Heathrow.
Goodbye Heathrow, Hello Cathay Pacific (13.1.11)
It didn't take long before Maz started making friends. She smiled as sweetly as possible before asking a poor lonely BUNAC-er if they were travelling alone. Her young, naive face lit up and looked up at Maz full of hope of having found a companion to help her through the next 10 and a half hours. 'Yes!' She gushed. 'Do you mind moving then please?' was Maz's obvious response. We couldn't have possibly have had anyone interfering with our trio this early on in the proceedings. So the girl moved and Amy joined Maz and Lissie for what was to be a wine and scrumptious food fuelled, film fest. We say scrumptious... Lissie's 'Vegetarian' option. Amy and Maz enjoyed their double chocolate mousse while Lissie tucked into her second portion of fruit salad, regretting having ticked the 'vegetarian' option box. This occurred once more, as Lissie's face visibly dropped when she was given a couple of pieces of bread wrapped around a cucumber for a midnight snack. 'Oh cake!' How very wrong she was.
The film selection was excellent but made even more enjoyable by Lissie's limited exposure to youtube. Most of us will be familiar with the sneezing panda. (If not look it up!) Lissie was not and as this clip was shown in 'Going the Distance' her reaction was priceless. She flicked her stow away table in shock and hysterical laughter which almost resulted in the spillage of wine. However all of those who know Lissie also know that she would never let that happen so, saved her glass in midair.
A Fragrant Harbour and Nine Dragons (14.1.11 - 16.1.11)
Jet-lagged and full of food we pile into a bus thinking of nothing but soft warm beds and a long awaited kip. You could audibly hear hearts break as our tour guide, Lyona, delivered the earth shattering news 'You will not be able to check in until 12:30 so I suggest you go up the mountain and see the big Budda'. It was 8am... if this was a joke it was the kind that would get you stoned off stage.
Instead of following her guidance and retracing our steps back to the airport and trekking up a mountain, we decided to explore our surroundings on our own and leave the 40somethings behind.
We headed down 'Nathan Ro' and stumbled upon a Starbucks. Maz had her Skinny Chai Tea Latte fix and was right as rain. After that we walked around the harbour and took some misty pictures.
The' Avenue of Stars' was next on the list. A bit like the Hollywood one but Chinese. So shorter. Not only in height. But length (That's what she said!)
We found a few celebs but everything was overshadowed by our savage jet-lag. We did spend a few minutes making up Chinese names for ourselves so if you wanted to play game... Who do you think these belong to?
By 11 we gave up trying to amuse ourselves and headed back to the Imperial Hotel ready to beg for a bed; even for just one between the three of us. Luckily there was no need. All checked in and sleeping by 11:30...AM
After the best nap ever we were up at 6:45pm and eager to get to the harbour (you will see a reoccurring theme related to these), to see the 'Symphony of Lights'; a nightly light show set to Ross Geller's (Friends) first album (basically AWESOME keys). All the buildings across the harbour shine in time to the music and some even had lasers on top of them.
We ate our first 'authentic' Chinese meal in Sogo (Debenhams). Lissie had a whole chicken wing on a stick, Maz tucked into a juicy eel and Amy had something porky. It was good.
Feeling a little parched, following a stroll around the streets of Honkers, we settled on an Irish Bar (When in China...) but it wasn't the cultured experience we were expecting so we ventured to the 7/11 where we fell in love with André and took him home for a night of fun. André is cheap fizz (Maz's Mum please stop praying now. It was a joke!)
As far as Chinese TV is concerned, we would give it 2.5/10. They do have 'Strictly' and 'Hong Kong has Talent' but we were never sure who the contestants and the celebs were. It's only saving grace was the music video to 'I click and I see your picture'. A must see.
After Lissie and Amy's rice and sushi breakfast (Maz was happily tucking into toast and coffee... the eel was still making it's was through) we went to Kowloon Park. In summary, we saw Mr.Miagi, we took the best picture in the world of Liz (no one will ever see it, for fear of death), we got lost in a mini maze, we worked out on the elderly equipment (That's what she said!) and Amy got pooed on (by a bird). It was lovely, probably the best part of Kowloon Island.
At 14:00 hours we got on the BUNAC bus of fun. Lyona, our ever charming guide, had a fun packed day planned for us. We went up to Victoria Peak (Lissie and Maz had a 'lady' moment) for all of 10minutes before Lyona shepherded us back on the bus. We were on a VERY tight schedule. Repulse Bay followed (a beach). The only thing repulsive about the bay was the vanity of some of the BUNACERS and their hideous 'two-day-now-best-friend' pictures.
Stanley Market was very profitable for Amy and Maz where they bought beautiful Cath Kidston bags. Amy bartered excellently and managed to get a handbag for a third of the advertised price! £8. Jealous boys?
After our shopping trip we ventured down to Aberdeen Fishing Village. Here we awaited the 'optional highlight' of our trip; the sampan. We were looking forward to a little boat trip after being cooped up in a bus for the last 3 hours and we were told that paying only $20 would supply us with an unforgettable cruise. We hopped in. We got comfy and then we spent 30 minutes weaving in and out of various sized boats moored in the harbour, navigated by a skilful 'lady boat driver'. Very pleasant up until the point we were held hostage just short of the dock until everyone handed over their $20. You never know with these tourists.
The evening meal was grim. The 40somethings were piled into a restaurant, served an array of generic Chinese dishes, one containing a suspicious looking mushroom/slug. We paid whilst we ate and then 20 minutes later we were on the STAR ferry back to Kowloon.
God only knows what people thought of us as we skipped arm in arm to the boat singing 'A Whole New World' in Lissie's drama teacher way (one word each). She soon regretted introducing Amy and Maz to the game as she found herself getting all the boring words, whilst Amy got to hold nice long notes and finish every line. (For once not due to her competitive nature.)
We sought André out again and once we had had our fill we made our way back to the Irish Bar. Fun and games ensued, actually making friends with other BUNACERS. They all went to New Zealand. Oh well.
Maz got into a rant about the Euro with some businessmen while Amy and Liz recreated scenes of domestic violence with 18yr olds.
The next morning hurt, so we went to the only place that would ease our sore heads. The harbour.
4ltrs of water later we are back on the bus with Lyona. We arrived at a Buddhist Temple which was incredibly busy and not what we expected. There were tourists snapping away and having a spot of lunch, amongst those praying and asking for guidance. It was a beautiful place but Lissie assures us that temples are normally much more peaceful places and that this one was a bit of an anomaly.
We then saw some MASSIVE Bonsais at the Pine Tree Gardens. Again, a beautiful and very tranquil spot which was only improved with Lyona's loud directions to the toilet.
Chi-Lin Nunnery was next door. It was stunning. Quiet, beautiful and very relaxing. Amy and Maz were quietly walking around looking at all the Buddhas; Lissie in tow. In these temples there is a panel blocking the Buddha's face from view so in order to see it, one has to crouch down and peer up. As Amy and Maz started crouching Lissie took a sideways glance. Saw her very cultured and wise friends 'bowing' before the Buddha and so thought she better join in, so as not to look foolish... mid bow and mid conversation with Buddha she realised that her friends were now 5 meters away wishing they had invested in some 'tanner ladies'.
There seems to be a general consensus that we were taken to a Jade Market. However we were struck by phase two of said hangover and spent the allocated 30minutes snoozing on the bus. In our defence, we did go in and then straight out again. We had no money and I am sure you will agree, once you have seen one piece of green stone you have seen them all.
Next ensued the longest airport wait in history. Who arrives at an airport 6 hours before check in? (Apart from Jenny Malcolm) We do. Not by choice. We were dropped off after our COMPULSARY $20 tip and then left to roam the airport to our heart's content. A bucket of chicken and a few Bill Dance classics later (again, youtube it if you are not familiar with his comic genius) we were on our merry way to Australia.
We never did get to see the Big Buddha on the mountain.