October 15th 2009
Hong Kong – October 13 & 14
Day 1: The city that never sleeps! We sail into Hong Kong at 5:30 am and of course our ship has to dock at the Hong Kong International Terminal which is a very busy container pier, because we are too large for the cruise port. We are bused to busy Kowloon, Harbour City – fashionista haven, for the day which was hot and muggy.
We decided to head to Macao, so after much consultations with several locals, found our way to the Harbour City Ocean Terminal to board the hydrofoil to Macao. It was an hour ride through the 260 islands surrounding Hong Kong and the Chinese Mainland. As Reg has never been to Macao and we didn’t have much time I decided to take a quick hour tour hitting the main attractions I had visited before.
The driver first drove us to the ruins of St. Paul’s. This church, built in 1602 was destroyed by a fire in 1835. The only thing that remains is the facade which functions symbolically as an altar to the city and the “Acropolis” of Macau. Beside it is the Mount Fortress, built in 1617 and was the city’s principal military defense structure. Looking down from these ruins, we have a stunning view of old Macao, taking in the old Portuguese city with it’s narrow cobblestone streets along with incredible skyline line of new Macau in the background full of lavish casinos and an incredible bridge linking Macau & Mainland China.
Our next stop is the A-Ma Temple which existed before Macau came into being. It has variety of pavilions dedicated to the worship of different deities. It is a representation of Chinese culture inspired by Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and folk beliefs. Our last stop is St. Anthony’s Church, first built of bamboo & wood in 1560 and reconstructed in stone . It is one of the oldest churches in Macau. This also marks the site where the Jesuits set up their earliest headquarters in this City.
Our guide then dropped us of in Senado Square, the most popular venue for events and celebrations. This square is surrounded by pastel coloured neo-classical buildings, all with a Mediterranean look. We poked down alleyways until we came across a little alley restaurant and sampled some freshly made dim sum, enjoying the culture of this tiny city. We headed back to the ferry terminal to catch the hydrofoil back to Kowloon.
In Kowloon, hot and exhausted, we quickly took a walk down Canton Street, one of the ritzy streets of Hong Kong with your Cartier, Louis Vuton, etc stores. A street where one just window shops. This took us to the waterfront and a nice quiet walk along the promenade, taking in the skyline of Hong Kong, the harbour with its daily activity of boats, sampans, tenders, ferries, etc. We then headed back to the ship as we wanted to catch the Symphony of Light. Between 7 & 8 pm our ship moved from the H.I.T. Terminal through Victoria Harbour to moor in “Junk Alley”. We stood at the front of the ship just below the bridge and watched as it slowly made it’s way through the harbour when the Symphony of Light began. This is the largest light show in the world and best viewed on an open deck. A nightly orchestrated light, sound and laser show featured on 37 key buildings on both sides of Victoria Harbour. What a phenomenal and memorable site!
Day 2: As the ship would sail at 5:30 pm we had a early start to cover ground we missed yesterday. Our day was an adventure on the local transportation system which took us to many areas of the island of Hong Kong. Thank goodness for the Octopus card, a smart card that you load up when you buy it. It has an rfid chip and all the transportation links have a reader by the fare box – no need for exact change, what a great idea!.
Our first trip was to the Stanley Market, a myriad of shops that sell everything. The ride to Stanley was quite an experience watching our double decker bus maneuver its way up a steep, narrow road with lots of hairpins bends, passing spectacular venues such as Repulse Bay with it’s beautiful beaches and resorts (home of Hong Kong’s elite), and Deep Water Bay. Stanley is a tourist market , but the material for sale is of a very good quality and worth it.
After Stanley, our next bus ride took us to Aberdeen, a picturesque village, home to thousands of “water people” who live aboard their junks and sampans and where the famous Floating Restaurant is also located. Time was running out and we needed to head back downtown, so caught another couple of buses to get to Victoria Peak which is 1805 ft above sea level and the highest point on Hong Kong Island. Along the way Amanda really wanted to get out to explore many of the traditional Chinese market streets that just went on and on.
Unfortunately the weather wasn’t in our favour today, therefore the normally spectacular view from the Peak was a tad hazy but all the same it gave us a perspective of Hong Kong harbour. Worse though, Victoria Peak has become a major tourist trap with a huge building with 5 levels of escalators and tourist shops on each level before one gets to the top of the peak viewpoint. How things have changed in 40 years from when Amanda was last in Hong Kong….the trials and tribulations of progress! We took the Funicular down from the Peak and made our way back to the ships tender on another bus. So much to see….so little time! This town deserves four or more days. Also it really is one of the most expensive cities we have ever been in!
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