Monday morning we were up very early and completed our final checks. We then climbed down the ladder for the last time and said a sad farewell to our girl…. Take care Morphie – see you next year – enjoy your rest, you’ve earned it!
We were ready to go so took ourselves off to the marina cafe for breakfast and then into the cruisers lounge to surf the net while we waited for our shuttle. This turned up right on time and we drove towards Kerikeri Airport about half an hour away.
We arrived at the small regional airport to be told that our hand luggage was overweight as, although our bags were within the size requirements, they had stringent restrictions. So we just moved it all around and carried it differently so we got it all onboard within the rules – crazy or what LOL?!?
Our small plane was on the tarmac and we boarded on time. We enjoyed the short 45 minute looking out over the familiar-looking landscape and the amazing future cruising grounds.
We landed smoothly at the domestic terminal at Auckland International Airport. Our bags were off pretty quickly and we then followed the walkway through to the international terminal. This was a long way…around 25 minutes…which was primarily due to airport expansion activities. We arrived – checked out where we needed to go in the morning – and then crossed the road to the Novotel Airport hotel.
The hotel was smart and our room was nice. We had a nice afternoon chilling out before heading downstairs for dinner. Didn’t really fancy the smart restaurant so crossed back to the airport and, I’m ashamed to say, we had Kentucky fried chicken for our evening meal LOL. We then returned to the hotel and had a couple of glasses of wine – but the bar was pretty poorly designed so ended up in lounge chairs but didn’t really feel comfortable there either – so took a bottle of wine with us and returned to our room where we curled up in front of the TV which, at this stage of the season, was a real treat!
Tuesday morning we were up early and headed across the road. We visited the weigh station first to ensure we were packed up within the tight limits of Hong Kong Airways and then got in the queue to check in. Most people had bags and bags and bags….so we were pretty easy to process. We then went through security which was quite normal to us as it replicated the UK set-up but clearly others were having a problem with the no liquid rule. We then had a coffee and a pastry while we waited for our plane.
We boarded on time and settled down. I think that at least 80% of the passengers were Chinese in origin so the chatter sounded quite strange in their sing-song voices. The 12 hour flight passed quickly with us both watching numerous movies – sadly the dining experience was disappointing – but the seats were pretty comfy. The really annoying thing though was the state of the toilets with wet floors and I don’t mean with water. Yuck!!!!
We arrived into Hong Kong and took the train to the arrivals area – followed the endless spotlessly-clean corridors adorned with fresh flower Christmas decorations – and arrived at immigration. Our electronic passports got us quickly through the barriers and we then found the baggage collection area. As soon as the belt came to life our cases turned up – probably in the first 10 bags off the plane. Woo hoo! We cleared customs and found the Shangri-La Hotels check-in desk. They gave us a Chinese language card for the Kerry Hotel and told us where to pick up a taxi. We followed the well-signposted route – stopping off at an ATM for some cash – and found a taxi. The whole process from landing to taxi leaving the airport was less than 40 minutes! Amazingly efficient.
The taxi ride was a bit of an eye opener with manically-busy roads – up to four lanes wide – and high-rise maximum density housing. The units looked tiny and all looking over each other. The sheer volume of traffic and people was quite overwhelming. Did you know that 7.4mn people live in Hong Kong alone which is 44,000 people per square mile.
We arrived at our fancy hotel and checked in. Our room is lovely but the best thing was the view over to Hong Kong island. We got unpacked and then headed to the bar with an outside terrace – still wrapped up in our jackets against the chilly wind – and sat on the verandah having a couple of cold ones enjoying the scenes below. We watched the boats come and go – from the tourist dinner cruise boats to tug boats towing barges. And the skyscrapers. OMG the whole vista exceeded our expectations.
Wednesday morning we got up early – aided no doubt by the time difference – and decided to go out to a locally-recommended restaurant Dragon Court for breakfast. This is where the locals go to eat and we sat down under the amused eyes of all the other patrons – clearly not used to seeing almond-eyed tourists amongst them. Many of them spoke English and helped us with the process of ordering. We drank copious amounts of green tea and chose our food. We tried fried dumplings, prawn and cheese bread, steamed dim sum and some pastry twists. Not our normal fare but when in Hong Kong you know….. Sitting chatting we noticed that most people washed their cups, bowls, plates, spoons, chop sticks in tea – there was even a big plastic bowl on the table to facilitate this. All very strange and we assumed it was a cultural thing. Eventually we had to ask one of our helpful neighbours and they explained that it was because they didn’t trust the restaurant to wash the stuff properly so we promptly did the same LOL. The food was amazing and it was certainly a great experience.
We then walked the promenade all the way to the Star Ferry terminal enjoying the sights of the local fisherman, the views across to Hong Kong Island, and the continued works here to reclaim land from the sea.
Here we found the tourist board and was given some great advice by one of the volunteers – so armed with ideas of what to see and how to get around – we found the large shopping mall and wandered there. We couldn’t believe the range of high-end stores like Gucci, Hermes, Prada to name a few with some more surprising ones like Marks & Spencers of London LOL. There were even Jamie Oliver restaurants too. All felt very familiar and clearly there are some very wealthy people here living alongside poverty, evidenced by the really old pensioners (both men and women) working as street cleaners.
By now we were fading so we took a bus back to the hotel. We had a couple of hours chilling before getting ready to go out again. We got the MTR tube train to Central which is on Hong Kong Island so we must have gone through an underwater tunnel. The system is quite small compared to London so we found it easy to navigate through the different lines. We then walked up the road and picked up a tram which took us directly to the Happy Valley racecourse.
The tram passengers were surprised, again, to see tourists on their cheap transport – it actually only cost 27p for a 45 minute slow stop-start journey. We crossed the road and entered the racecourse which is huge and in the middle of the city surrounded by large blocks of flats. It was only £1 to get in each and we wandered around enjoying the sights.
We found a food stall we fancied the look of so we had a takeaway and made ourselves comfy on the elevated seating. Then Richard went off and got a pitcher of beer to go with it. We sat watching the crowds arriving – this is clearly a weekly event for many locals – with some arriving straight from work in their smart (designer) suits. I went off to find out how to bet and a very helpful lady cashier talked me through the process in filling in the slips…. So all set I made a small bet on two horses and returned to Richard – he really isn’t into the betting side but I quite enjoyed it. The place was filling up and we watched the racing. Between races we refilled our pitcher and listened to the live band.
Was great fun and I had beginner’s luck coming out ahead at the end of the evening – woo hoo! We left the racecourse after the last race and managed to grab a taxi all the way back to the hotel for about £20 – which was quite extravagant but neither of us fancied the public transport system late at night. We arrived back to our hotel at just before midnight and had a last drink on the hotel bar verandah. What an amazing day!
Thursday morning we decided to eat breakfast in the hotel. The restaurant was split into different zones with fresh offerings being done by liveried chefs – we ended up visiting a number of the zones and we both over-indulged and grazed for over an hour. Oh well, never mind! We went straight off out afterwards and walked to the Whampoa bus station. We got the bus to the Star Ferry terminal and – using our newly-purchased and pre-charged Octopus passes – we took the ferry across the water from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island. Was a great experience and something else to tick off the list!
We then turned left out of the terminal and waited for another bus amusing ourselves with the giant shark statue….and admiring Hong Kong’s version of the London Eye.
We got a bus to the lower tram station and joined the huge queues to buy tickets and get onto the platform. Have to say that the locals really don’t seem to understand the concept of queueing and I got pretty fed up with a few of them pushing in. Oh well…never mind.
I enjoyed reading about the history of these trams which were primarily for the upper class in early British rule of the territory. We eventually rode the tram up to Victoria Peak and into the Peak Tower and followed the escalators to the viewing platform on the top. Amazing views!
We stopped for a while and took it all in while having a bit of fun on the way back through the building….
After a restorative coffee we took the return tram back down to the city.
We then walked for about 20 minutes to the bottom of the mid-level escalators which are 800 metres long and the longest free moving walkways in the world taking you up.
We rode it all the way to the top and then started the long walk back down – down and down steps, steps and more steps. This was very tiring and we did a few stops along the way but our legs were starting to feel the pace. We reached the SoHo area and enjoyed walking around in the market having a look at the Chinese curios on sale ranging from very expensive huge urns to small pieces of carved jade and traditional little tea sets although most of the shops / stalls had a ‘no photography’ sign up.
Then we followed the signs for the Mo Man Temple and enjoyed our visit here. The smell was amazing from the sandalwood incense coils…….
After the Temple we had had enough so carried on walking – amazed by the sheer number of Chinese medicine stores selling unimagineable items – until we found the nearest MTR station and took three trains to return to Whampoa, which is the nearest to our hotel. Phew….made it back….
We decided not to go out for dinner so we checked out the different hotel offerings…looking for something a bit casual rather than one of the fancy formal restaurants. The Dockyard restaurant appealed the most offering a range of different kitchens including Indian, Korean, Chinese etc.
We decided on the Indian but this is place is an e-eating experience – seriously! You have to download the app, order and pay online, and then the food would be delivered to your table. Of course the app didn’t work properly so we gave up and found a cashier – by this time the queue was growing – and we placed our order. We sat down and waited for the food which, actually, was excellent. The band weren’t bad either. However to get another drink you have to go through the whole ordering thing again and we really couldn’t be bothered so returned to our room for an early night. Had been quite a day.
This morning, Friday, and we are having a later start as we’ve not quite decided what to do today yet. What an amazing place – so much choice!!!
Bye for now