Sunday, 30 September 2012

Last night in Hong Kong

This evening I took the Star ferry across to Kowloon peninsula as I wanted to look across Victoria Harbour and see  the lights on the buildings on Hong Kong island.

The Star Ferry is a very cheap way of crossing the Harbour (about 25p). I could have crossed the Harbour on a Chinese junk boat but that's more a tourist boat.

 I arrived there in time  to see the sound and light show more by luck than good judgement. It was not in English but I think the commentary just pointed out the names of the various buildings as they were lit up by laser beams. As most of the buildings have their name emblazoned on the top I probably didn't miss much.

The photos don't do the lights any justice at all. They were quite spectacular especially the way the colours were reflected in the water.  
There was also a display of lanterns here with the theme of the Terracotta Army


Po Lin Monastery and the Big Buddha

The Po Lin Monastery was built in 1920 by 3 Zen masters mainly because of the serenity that the surrounding area provides. I imagine before the onslaught of tourists it would have been the ideal spot for meditation and contemplation. The giant Buddha was constructed in 1993. It is 23metres tall and  is supposed to be the biggest, bronze seated Buddha in the world. I don't know if that is true but it certainly looks huge when you get up close.

 Still smiling - that's because I haven't started climbing all those steps up to the Buddha yet!

I don't know who the girl is but she gives you a better idea of the size of the statue

I'm not sure who this is a statue of but I liked the tranquil expession.

The smell of incense was overpowering as you approached the monastery.

 I've never seen anything like the size of these incense sticks.

These were taken inside the monastery
A giant bell

A stone carving on the outside of the temple

As I walked around I didn't find any information about the moonastery and I haven't got the time to research the history before I leave here tomorrow so I have just given you a general impression of some of the places I have visited.

The Ngong Ping cable car

Today I was off in search of the Big Buddha on Lantau Island. All the guide books say not to visit at the weekend as that is when many locals like to visit. Unfortunately I am only here until Monday and that is a bank holiday so I was prepared to queue which was just as well as it took nearly an hour to get into a cable car. The cable car has only been open since 2007 before that you either had to walk or catch a bus.

The cable car is a 5.7km ride from Tung Chung and takes about 25minutes. On the left of this picture is Hong Kong International airport.

It takes you over the stunning scenery of Lantau country park.

There are 2 types of car. I travelled in the 'Crystal' one which has a glass bottom (sorry about the feet!)


Finally the Big Buddha came into view.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Night time in Hong Kong

This evening I returned to see the lanterns in Victoria Park. It was crowded with families, many of whom were carrying their own lanterns. The children were having a whale of a time. Here are those lanterns I took photos of last night all lit up.

There were now messages hanging from these lanterns but I couldn't read them.

No that isn't me by the teapots. It was so busy I couldn't get a clear view.

I couldn't stand further back to take a better picture because there were crowds of people behind me.

 I did go inside the giant lantern to find more lanterns inside. The view from inside was even more colourful than from the outside.

The colours changed with the music.

Aberdeen Harbour

This afternoon I was back on the metro again and then tried out the buses as I wanted to go to Aberdeen Harbour which doesn't have a metro station. Again the bus was very clean and air conditioned which made it very comfortable for travelling in this heat. I hadn't quite got the ticket situation sorted. I thought the ticket I bought this morning was for all transport today evidently not as I was told in broken english to pay or get off.

Once I got to Aberdeen I wandered down to the harbour. It was late afternoon by now so all the fishermen selling their catches had finished for the day. I did see some evidence of the fish though.

Wandering along towards the ferry pier I bargained with one of the sampan owners for a ride out into the harbour. I paid what I had been told was a reasonable price and was taken for an interesting trip in amongst the houseboats and other sampans.

Here are some of the houseboats

Larger fishing vessels
These boats all had rows of lights on them which I think were for night fishing.

Jumbo the floating restaurant

 The back view of the floating restaurant!

Fishing for their supper I assume.

Lots of these birds of prey flying around but I don't know what they are - maybe someone else does.

He had 2 baskets of laundry on this punt which he skilfully manoevered around other boats.

Just so many skyscraper blocks of flats around the harbour.

The skipper of the sampan


The Peak

After a good sleep I now felt ready to explore. So often I have heard people talk about the views from 'The Peak' so that was my first stop this morning. The metro system is very easy to follow as all signs are in english as well as mandarin and once I had worked out which ticket I needed I was raring to go. It was lovely and cool on the metro not like the sauna sensation you get on London's underground so it makes travelling very pleasant.

I decided as the temperature was already high(well that's my excuse) that I would not walk to the top of the Peak but get the tram which is a funicular railway.  Apparently this was the first one to open in Asia in 1881. Prior to that people were carried up in sedan chairs, I can't imagine that that would be a particularly pleasant way of reaching the top.

The queue wasn't too long so there was no waiting around to get on.

It was quite a pull up the hill of almost 400 metres. As we passed the buildings you had a strange perspective of them as though they were leaning over.

Now I felt I was in Hong Kong. Although a bit hazy the views were still spectacular.

The Peak is on the island of Hong Kong and this is looking across to Kowloon and the mainland.

Friday, 28 September 2012

First impressions of Hong Kong

After a very long flight which I had miscalculated (thinking it was 9 hours when really it was 11+ hours!) I have arrived in Hong Kong. As expected all was very efficient at the airport, including the screening for high body temperature, so it didn't take long to clear immigration and customs.  I found my way to the hotel with ease. I decided to use the airport express train hoping it might be like the maglev in Shanghai (top speed of 400km ph). It wasn't but thankfully I didn't use the bus as I soon realised that the traffic is as  bad here as it is at home.

The hotel staff I've met so far have been delightful and extremely helpful. Having upgraded me to a larger room I am happy. As it is the mid autumn festival this weekend I was given a couple of moon cakes to eat. They have pastry on the outside and what looks like egg yolk in the middle. They are very,very sweet and not really to my  taste but a nice welcome from the hotel.

I decided that once I had unpacked a few things I needed to go out for a walk and try to stay awake for at least a few more hours as it was only 3pm. I walked to the local park where the lantern festival is taking place over this weekend.

My intention was to wander around the park until it got dark and then I would see all the lanterns lit up but as the park was much smaller than I had anticipated I just didn't think I could keep my eyes open if I sat on a bench to wait so I made my way back to the hotel. Hopefully I will have a good night's sleep and will be able to make the most of tomorrow.