Saturday, 27 October 2012

Three nights in Hong Kong

I landed in Hong Kong just as evening was descending. I needed to visit the former British colony to obtain a Chinese visa, as they aren't issued to non-residing foreigners in South Korea. This was also the first international flight I'd taken since leaving home almost four months ago. No ferries link Seoul and Hong Kong, so my self-imposed non flying law had to be broken, but I was heading west again and I'd already made it to the Pacific so I'd completed my task. 

My Air India flight at Incheon airport.
The flight was comfortable, I managed to cram in a film and a half on the three hour Air India flight, and when I asked for a whiskey and coke from the trolley the stewardess gave me three, so I was almost nodding off by the time I landed. The cost of the flight was also racked up by the most expensive spelling mistake I've made yet. In my haste at online booking I entered my surname as 'Davus', and after spending about £50 listening to muzak of Coldplay and U2, having my patience tested on hold, I was frustratingly told it wasn't possible to amend names on bookings and I would have to cancel and rebook, at a further cost of £50. I only finally got this sorted 12 hours before I was due to fly, and had no choice but to take the hit. Nice little racket they've got there. 

I took the bus into Hong Kong from the airport through a tropical dusk, the scale of the port with countless shipping containers and cargo cranes in the dock was almost mind blowing, and our coach wound through the lush hills, past crescent coves and sky kissing apartment blocks. Finding the hostel was easy, and I spent the first part of the evening exploring the local streets, which were as alive as anywhere I've been. The buzz of neon and steady hum of air conditioning units sit underneath the sounds of traffic, vendors, music from bars and the rattling of construction. I met an American from Boston called Jeremy when I popped back to the dorm room, and we spent the rest of the night talking to travellers and drinking a few beers sat on the roof terrace.

Causeway Bay area.
Taxis in Hong Kong.
The following day I needed to start my visa application process. I'd decided to use an agency this time, rather than forging and photoshopping all of my supporting documents like I had done when I applied in Mongolia. I didn't have the time to spend doing this and visiting embassies when I wanted to see Hong Kong. I spent about four hours getting this sorted. I went to an agency which had been recommended to me, but I thought the price was far too expensive at about £130, so I left and opted for the service ran through the hostel which was about £40 cheaper. I've since come across services for half the price of what I paid, but that's often the case. The next problem was finding a passport photo place. I walked for hours up and down the streets, scouring all the business names on stairways and doorways, and only found one place and when I went up the stairs it was in a state of renovation and out of action. I eventually found a little home made set up in the back of a narrow shop selling all sorts of crap. It was only wide enough for one person to fit through at a time, so the shop keeper had to exit to allow me in to sit on a stool with a projector screen pulled down behind me, as I was surrounded by tins of screws, bundles of string, key chains and light bulbs. I got my photos and I was on my way.

Meat markets on my search for passport photos.
More meat strung up.
The rest of the afternoon I walked through Hong Kong island, from Causeway Bay up to Central where all the big skyscrapers are, even stopping for five minutes to whip a few crosses in on a busy football pitch I came across. I followed the water around to the pier where I could take the Star Ferry to Kowloon. I'd heard there was a light and laser show, so decided to sit for an hour and a half and wait for it to begin. I didn't mind waiting as the view was nice, and I got to watch it change from dusk to nightfall, and chatted to a few people who came and went, including a fit Canadian girl who's grandmother is from Warboys, a Fenland village not far from home. 

The urban football pitch.
Big modern tower blocks in Central.
The view towards Kowloon across the bay.
Riding the Star Ferry.
Looking back towards Hong Kong island.
The view of Hong Kong from the promenade in Kowloon.
The light show was a bit of a disappointment. I'm glad I did it, because I would never know otherwise, but it's a big advertisement for the corporations in Hong Kong, the music is awful, like a 90s computer generated score for late night US infomercials, and the light show itself was a little tame. I like to think I could direct a more impressive show, but obviously I don't know the first thing about it, except that the one I saw was boring. 

The climax of the light show on Hong Kong island.
Hong Kong bay.
I wandered around Kowloon for a while, it was similar to the areas of Causeway Bay I had been exploring the night before with a sea of neon and a bombardment of the senses, except it was perhaps a little more commercial with Indian men constantly asking if I wanted a suit or a watch.

Kowloon streets.
More Kowloon neon. 
The following day I went with Jeremy from my dorm room on an open topped tourist bus tour of the island. This is something I usually try to avoid, both because they're expensive and I don't enjoy joining the tourist hordes, but actually it was a pleasant afternoon out. We hopped off and on at a few locations such as temples and street markets, the rolling headphone commentary was quite interesting and it was a good way to see Hong Kong, and relaxing to be up in a breeze riding around in the October heat. The bus took us all around the island, and we spent some time in Stanley on the opposite side from the built up area. There was a nice beach and it felt quiet and relaxing compared to the noise and bustle of the business zones. We had a noodle soup in the cheapest restaurant on the seafront and a little look around the market solely aimed at tourists. 

Riding the bus.
Street markets.
Nice pear. 
More markets. 
Something from inside a temple.
Stanley beach. 
In the evening we took the tram up Victoria Peak, which rises high above the skyscrapers in the harbour and gives views across the water to Kowloon on the opposite bank. The bay was a little hazy and the lights reflected off the hanging mist or pollution or whatever it was, but it was great to be so high up and was a nice end to a days sightseeing. Afterwards to headed across to Kowloon and met up with three English guys, one of whom was from Market Deeping, just five miles from Peterborough, and it turns out we have a mutual friend, one of my former housemates. We drank beers in a couple of bars until midnight, before taking the last subway back under the water to the hostel on Hong Kong island. 

The view over Hong Kong from Victoria Peak.
Drunk Kowloon.
 The following day I left Hong Kong. After lunch I took the train from the city centre for 40 minutes to the Chinese border, and once I was through and in Shenzhen I took the hour long train to Guanzhou, where I would be meeting a friend of a friend, who'd offered me a place to stay whilst I was in town.

4 comments:

  1. Great to see these photos, mate! Glad to have met you. Good luck in your future travels!

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  2. I love your pictures. Anyway I could get high res ones to use in some Hong Kong promos I'm working on?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Jasper, send me an email at btr.davis@gmail.com.

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