Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Day in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Day 1

Our flight arrived at Hong Kong airport on time at about 1:30pm on Tues afternoon.  Slightly tired but pumped about being out of the plane, we gathered our luggage. Headed towards the airport express train into the city. We found some machines dispensing tickets but couldn't decide whether to get a oneway or return so we went to the counter. Got a good deal on some tickets by purchasing a pack of 3 going just one way.
Swollen feet from 15 hours on a plane

Got off at Kowloon station and wandered outside of the building to get some fresh air. We were amazed to see  lush gardens and towering sky scrapers. It became evident that we had no idea what direction we were to go if we were to attempt to find a hostel, so we hailed a can to take us to Nathan Rd, which is where a couple of the hostels I'd checked out were. I didn't have wifi access so we just said "Nathan Rd" figuring it couldn't be too hard to find something once we got there.

The cab dropped us off and we stood on the sidewalk looking in either direction. I knew the hostels were in the direction of the harbor so we aimed ourselves in what seemed to be south and started walking. Along the way Eric picked up a free wifi signal and we were able to get the address of one of the places I'd noted from hostelworld.

Little did we know that the hostel was actually in Chungking mansion, a massive building with 4 blocks and 17 floors filled with various businesses that Ren had requested we check out. He cited some facts about the number of cell phones that had traversed through the building on their way to sub-saharan Africa and I debated replacing my quickly dying Sony phone at a discount price.

The hostel/guesthouse itself was clean, albeit tiny. We were shown a triple room for $300 HKD, but Ren told the guy that we'd been told $250 by someone downstairs. The guy took us to the other side of the guesthouse and showed us the room in question: It consisted of 2 single beds and a bathroom(wet room)... I imagine minimum security prisons have similar space allowances. However it was cheap and we were just needing a place to sleep so Ren and I opted to share one bed while Eric claimed the other.
my back was on the wall and I could reach the next bed.

The boys showered and we headed out to take pictures and find coffee. Up and down Nathan Rd we went before we eventually gave up the coffee quest despite the fact energy reserves were low. We settled on a ramen place for dinner, assuming dinner and a beer would give us the much needed gumption to make the most of our short time.

The weather was rainy and kinda foggy so we weren't sure we were going to make the trek up to the Peak on the Peak Tram. However, being that it was on Ren's list of things he really wanted to do, and we weren't coming back we decided to go anyway.

We found the subway station to take us to Hong Kong central, got on and made our way to the island. From the station we meandered through the streets towards the Peak Tram and marvelling at the contrast of the architecture of the business district to what we'd seen in Kowloon.

Once at the tram station we debated getting the ticket that allowed us access to the viewing platform. The price difference was about $25 HKD more (less than $4 CAD) to go onto the platform. Again, with the logic of "we're here now, we should just do it" we purchased the more expensive tickets and got on the tram.

Now, most of my train experiences are debatable at best-I now try to avoid them due to the fact that something always goes wrong when I'm involved. However, I'm glad I went because it was an incredible experience. I'll justify it by saying it was a tram and not a train... And trams make me think of Melbourne..

Originally built to allow access to the much cooler climate of Victoria Peak, the tram goes up the mountain at least a 45 degree angle. It felt like the beginning stages of a rollercoaster. As we crept up the mountain gravity held us in our seats while we stared out the windows at the gorgeous hong kong skyline.

Once we arrived at the top, we were glad we'd opted for the platform tickets because without them we would have missed out on the view. Even though there was still a lot of fog, we ventured outside and joined the crowds snapping photos over the ledge. Amazingly, after about 15-20 min the    mist started to clear and the harbor became much more visible. Definitely worth the trip. (and at about $8 CAD there was no reason we should have missed it!!)

We eventually made our way back down to the tram loading area and defended back down to the bottom of the hill. Being the 3 photographers we are, out trek back to central station took a while as we all kept stopping to snap photos of the illuminated city.

We made it to Hong Kong Central station and got tickets back to Kowloon, but not without a quick stop at 7-11 where Ren grabbed a can of Pocari Sweat, presumably a Gatorade style drink. It lived up to it's name however- it tasted like someone had been wringing out tshirts and saving it for human consumption.

We took the metro one stop further than we needed but it gave us the chance to stroll back down Nathan Rd and get more photos of the lights. Once back at the hostel the boys decided to explore the building while I explored the "wet room"... The shower/toilet all in one. They got back just as I finished and they told me about their adventure. Apparently the building was just as creepy as they'd hoped it would be.

We took advantage of the wifi and then settled into bed sometime between 11:30 and 12, proud of ourselves for beating the jet lag and doing so much in only about 8hours. That being said, I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say we were all totally asleep within 5 minutes of turning out the lights.

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