After some emotional goodbyes in Auckland, our flight went pretty quickly despite it being the longest of the trip. We arrived in Hong Kong in relatively good shape and breezed through immigration. The train to downtown Kowloon took around 25 minutes and we got our first glimpse of the mountain-surrounded city. Like in London, passengers sat in silence, for the morning commute. Outside, misty inlets and tree covered hills rushed by before buildings grew in numbers and height. At Kowloon station we transferred to a free shuttle bus to make the inroads through down town. On the busy streets the traffic was chaotic, bumper to bumper in the maze of one way systems. The pavements were equally full, but were moving a little easier. The shops were predominantly a mixture of jewellers, tailors and food shops above all of them there appeared to be accommodation of varying quality. Despite the density of the buildings, there was still a vast amount of development occurring. In every available gap, red, yellow or blue cranes reached for the skies, most already in the shadow of the ongoing building site.
We arrived at our final hotel of our trip, we were going out with a bang. Our room at the hotel wasn't going to be ready until later in the day so we had a few hours to kill. We were shown to a lounge area where we could shower and have a coffee or three. The lazy-boy chairs were both a god send and the work of the devil. So easy to sit on and relax, all but impossible to extricate ourselves from in our sudden sleepy state. We lost two hours dozing despite our huge caffeine intake.
From our room on the 20th floor, we had exceptional views of Victoria harbour and the city skyline. To our right was the 118 storey ICC Tower, the tallest in HK in fact, most of the buildings were huge and so densely packed, we imagined the narrow streets below to be coated in perpetual darkness. We saw helicopters flying far below the height of skyscrapers and could only imagine the rush that the passengers must get from flying through the glass and concrete forest.
On terra firma, we wandered around the congested streets of town, it was great being back in Asia, the smells of delicious food, the sun on our skin and of course the wonderful people. The infamous smog and pollution were nowhere to be seen, the air smelled clean and perhaps the best litmus test, no-one was wearing the white face masks we've seen everywhere else in Asia.
For the first time in our trip, we'd not actually learnt any of the local language and although it didn't hamper our time there, we felt we'd let ourselves down a little on our final leg before home.
We walked along the wide roads lined with glitzy hotels and gigantic shopping malls, we took the narrow backstreets arced with neon signs advertising cafés, medicines, drinks, plus a thousand other things illegible to us.
We headed toward the harbour side, the iconic skyline is so much more impressive from the ground level. We had to crane our necks to see the tops of the surrounding giants, each one unique, but equally impressive.
We wandered along the Avenue of Stars, a pedestrianised walkway along the river that pays tribute to Chinese stars of the silver screen, but particularly those who helped make Hong Kong cinema great. Jet Li, John Woo, Jackie Chan all had star-shaped flag stones laid in the walkway, then we saw Bruce Lee, a larger than life bronze statue of The Big Boss, poised ready to strike. It was all too much for Jan, tiny children went flying like bowling pins hit by a 16 pound ball, she took her best chop-socky position for photos as the kids wept and dabbed at their bloodied noses.
Hong Kong felt like a meeting of East and West, which given its history, is exactly what it is. It's equally foreign and familiar, we loved the warmth of the tropical sun mixed with the chaos of the heaving city, the traditional Chinese restaurants where we recognised nothing and the spotless near sterile malls. A real yin and yang.
The night market on temple street was a couple of kilometres from where we were staying, the evening was hot and sticky, rain threatened and a few rumbles of thunder rose above the sounds of the streets. Our pace took the familiar pattern of slowing down as we passed the air conditioned doorways of shops, speeding up as we left the cool breeze until the next doorway provided some relief.
The narrow market was busy, the stalls selling fake electrical goods, clothes and general tourist tat. The stalls owners were relaxed and barely acknowledged the potential customers browsing their wares until a genuine show of interest was made, they then snapped out of their misty-eyed daydream and got down to the serious business of haggling over a few dollars. We agreed pretty quickly that there wasn't going to be anything of interest for us, but we shuffled along with the crowd purely for the experience. The food places were all in the adjoining streets, none of the restaurants or stalls looked very appetising, a variety of seafood and raw meat laid out in the heat without any form of refrigeration. We had quickly become unaccustomed to the Asian way, maybe with the end of the adventure nearing, we were feeling too unadventurous to take a chance.
Our last night of the trip, it felt surreal, almost like we were in a state of denial or at least we didn't seem to mind that this was it. We had dinner at the hotel and we saved the best till last. We had a feast, an actual feast. There was everything from caviar, lobsters and sushi to fillet steak and lamb chops they had every kind of Chinese dish imaginable along with a huge array of vegetables and salads, dumplings and noodles to cold meats and cheeses. To round it off they offered at least a dozen different desserts, simply put, it was heavenly.
Our flight left bang on time, we were quiet for most of it, coming home was sinking in at last.
We kept saying that to be sad about coming back to the UK after everything we'd seen and done would seem like we were spoilt, but it was sad, Scetti and Meatball's big adventure had come to an end.