Pauline got up and went to the loo with the blinds closed, but when she came out I had opened them. She was stunned by the view of cruise ships coming in to dock right in front of us and the mass of highrises across the water being serviced by the busy little star ferries. Her excitement was infectious and we looked forward to what the day would bring.
Oh my god, breakfast buffet at Cafe Marco in the Marco Polo Hong Kong is pretty damn good. From the cereal to the beef congee, the pancetta type cut bacon to the chocolate donuts – it’s all great. The only downfall was the pretty shit coffee. They were using one of those machines that make it automatically so I can only really blame the machine. They were a bit out of sorts on this day cause they forgot to give us a bill until we asked for it and they brought Pauline tea instead of the coffee she asked for. No problems with them after that though.
Upstairs to collect our day stuff and we discovered that our room had already been cleaned in the time we’d been downstairs. Impressive! Gathering up the camera and backpack we headed downstairs to Kowloon and it’s heat. And what frigging heat! 32 degrees and 80 percent humidity meant that the second we were out of aircon we were dripping with sweat. Winter in Australia had made me forget how hot 32 degrees is. Our walk towards the MTR took us again past the Star Ferry Terminal and we were accosted once more by the indians. This time I followed their lead. All I wanted was his business card but he was intent on taking me to the store. With trepedation I followed him in the building next store while Pauline trailed from a distance. On the way he asked me lots of questions but I knew the deal so I lied and said I was only here for the day. I knew that a “lady suit” takes longer than a day so I wouldn’t be obligated for anything. Once in the store he gave me the business card and introduced me to his mother while I gawked at the material. After escaping I was remonstrated by Pauline but I had at least fulfilled my curiosity.
To get to the MTR station we had to walk past the ugly tiled Cultural Centre (is it a rule that all cultural centres must be ugly?), then on to Salisbury Rd to view the YMCA where we nearly stayed (it’s in a great location and good value) which is right next door to The Peninsula Hotel (one of the best hotels in the world apparently). Since there was roadworks going on we had to take the subway to cross the road and get down to the station. The subway was a strange experience because there was an upmarket shopping mall down there with at least one person standing at every shop door in black suits and there was strange happy disneyland type music playing. Very surreal.
At the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station we bought our Octopus Cards and headed off to Prince Edward Station. The octopus card is like a credit card but all you have to do is swipe it near a reader instead of signing something. It seems like a “no der” type technology but I was really impressed with it after one day. It works on all the buses, trains and ferries, but it is also good for drink machines and seven eleven stores. You can fill it up whenever the coffers are low but it also lets it get down to minus 30 Hong Kong Dollars so you can get home if needed. I was straight through the turnstyles with mine but when I turned around Pauline was there beeping as she tried different turnstyles. She thought her’s was broken until a lady pointed at one of the turnstyles and told Pauline to go through. Looks like the reader was smart enough to notice that she had already paid and not gone through so it wasn’t allowing her to use it again. I told Pauline that they were just beeps to indicate she was an idiot. “Look at her, she’s an idiot, look at her she’s an idiot”. Needless to say she got the hang of it after that.
Down where the trains are I was surprised to see there is a glass wall that runs the length of the station separating the train line from the platform. The train lines up directly with the doors so that there is no way anyone can fall in front of the train. There are also 5 lines on the ground to indicate where to line up. The are 4 lanes for getting on and one lane in the middle for those getting off. I didn’t always see people obeying that however. Once on the train there was this great tube map indicator that lit up information such as the direction of travel, what station was next, if it was a transfer station it would light up the other line as well and it would even indicate which side of the train to get off. The train also had a screen to display ads. But what I liked the most was that the seats were silver and the train was extremely clean. The layout is designed more for fitting lots of people in and not for sitting down so the only times we got seats were on the morning trains. They also came every three – seven minutes so there was no need for a timetable.
The Lonely Planet Guide to Hong Kong and Macau that I got out from the Brisbane Library was kind enough to supply a walking tour of Kowloon so I decided to make use of it. Our walk took us from the Prince Edward Station, along Boundary Street, past the Mongkok Stadium and in to the Bird Garden. Surprisingly, this market sells birds. Unlike what you’d expect the birds here are valued more for their singing voice than their looks. So what you have is these nondescript birds that sing these brilliant songs egged on by these old men who are there to sell them off. They didn’t do any hard selling on us cause they could probably tell that we couldn’t take them home – you know, since we were so obviously tourists. At the end of the market we bought some more water with our octopus cards and turned in to the flower market street.
I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the flower market so I started this walk with a lack of interest – only indulging because the lonely planet walk took us this way. After smelling the roses though, my interest immediately turned and I really enjoyed the walk. It smelt so great and the storage of the flowers was really cool. The roses hadn’t yet bloomed so they kept them in white mesh to stop them from coming out. This ensured that the roses would be just right when you got them home. By the end of the walk I was grinning because it was so great. I love the fact that they have areas to buy specific things. Oh today I need flowers, so I’ll head off to the flower markets and on the way home I’ll pick up some goldfish.
Did I mention the goldfish market? It’s another street that sells turtles and fishes. Mostly they were goldfish but there were a few shops with tropical fish. A lot of the fish were bagged that morning ready for purchase – so if they bag that many everyday I expect that they sell a lot of them. After that we diverged off the lonely planet walk and headed down Fa Yuen Street to find the Wing Shing camera store. We passed a bunch of market stalls selling clothing. This is more for the locals so you won’t see any chincy trinkets here. We finally found the camera store but were disappointed by their prices. They weren’t any different to the prices I could get in Australia and it wasn’t worth missing out on an Australian warranty for no real price advantage. The camera stores around it were a similar story so we resigned ourselves to not buying a camera. It was really disappointing.
To get over that disappointment we discovered my heaven. A whole street of sneaker stores. Adidas, K-Swiss and Puma were in abundance. The shoes are on display but are covered in plastic so they don’t get dirty. For around $50 australian dollars you can pick up a pair of converse (not high tops) and around $80AU you can get some Adidas. I knew at this point that I would be making a purchase, but not on that particular day as I wasn’t in the mood for buying shoes (I’m not sure what that mood is but I wasn’t in it).
Heading back to the lonely planet track I noticed the Mongkok Computer Centre right in front of me on Nelson Street. Up the stairs took us in to a rat maze of computer shops that were similar to the kind of stores you see at the Brisbane Sunday markets. Lots of hard drives, memory sticks, pc cases, mobile phones and laptops. Once again we discovered that the prices for the things we were looking at were no different to Australian prices. This was a huge disappointment to us as gadget freaks. The Xbox 360, PSP and Nintendo DS however were a lot cheaper – the xbox especially was around about $200-$300 off but I couldn’t justify purchasing them. On the third level we found a camera shop selling both models of the cameras I was interested in and they were a hell of a lot cheaper. After some discussion we discovered that we could live without the warranty and decided to make the purchase. I had narrowed it down to the Panasonic TZ1 for it’s 10x zoom and the Fuji Z3 was the pocket camera for Pauline.
After a little discussion Pauline decided to change her mind and go for a white Nikon S5 – which I hadn’t researched. The guy managed to sell us memory cards and extra batteries but his best trick was reserved for putting on the clear screens. Not a single bubble and I can’t actually tell that it’s there. I had read that the camera stores in Nathan Rd do a swap trick where they take the box out the back and put shitty replicas in or remove all the extra stuff. Pauline and I watched them closely but he showed us everything in the box and didn’t take it anywhere. Walking away I checked that we had everything in the box and luckily we weren’t ripped off. I’m very happy with my purchase, the verdict is still out on Pauline’s.
We’d reached the end of our heat resiliance so we headed back to the hotel to recuperate. It was a bad idea of mine to wear jeans on that particular day and I paid for it with a heat rash on my calf. Go figure.
On the train back I marvelled at whoever’s idea it was to dress schoolkids in white. Then I marvelled at the kids ability to keep it white. They musn’t move! If they weren’t wearing white then they were wearing sailor suit type uniforms which were hell cool because I didn’t have to wear them when I was in high school.
Back at the hotel I smelt rank – like I’d never smelt before. I was shocked that the heat could make me smell that bad until I realised I hadn’t put deoderant on that day – horrific! I’d shaved my arms the night before and didn’t put deoderant on because that makes me itchy. The next morning I’d forgotten to put it on in the breakfast rush so braved 32 degree heat without protection. I was quick to the shower and didn’t forget once after that. 🙂
After resting we decided to go to Morton’s Steakhouse in the Sheraton on Nathan Rd for dinner. They have a happy hour between 5 and 7 where you get free steak sandwiches if you buy a cocktail. I picked a cosmopolitan and Pauline had a martini. The steak sandwiches were incredible! The guy told us we could have as many plates as we wanted, which I thought was gluttony going in, but after tasting them we ordered another plate. Totally recommended as good value because even though the drinks are $55 Hong Kong the sandwiches make it a great bargain.
We then headed out on to Nathan Road where we were once again accosted by indians selling suits and fake watches. Really annoying but I guess they must get some interested parties. We took a quick detour in to the famous Chungking Mansions but didn’t go up any further than the ground floor. It is true that it is a multi cultural melting pot and I’m sure it’s more of a dump up the stairs but downstairs was a bit more respectable. We then walked and walked and walked and walked to Jordan Street past shop after shop after shop. It was when we were nearing the Jordan Street turn that Pauline made the remark that if we had walked this far in the Brisbane CBD we’d be the other side of Fortitude Valley. We weren’t even in the Hong Kong CBD!
At Jordan St we picked up the lonely planet walk from the other end and wandered in to the Temple Street night markets. I wasn’t that impressed with this market but Pauline found some torches she liked. She inquired about the prices while I gave her looks to indicate that she should bargain. She had no intention of doing so but while I was waiting the guy in the booth next to them started indicating to me showing me the same stuff for a cheaper price. In the meantime Pauline’s guy was giving us the shush sign and writing a new price on paper so the guy next door didn’t hear. Pauline accepted his price and got what she thought was a good bargain. She didn’t even have to do anything! The market spanned quite a few streets but I didn’t see anything I was that interested in. At the end we turned in to Shanghai Street with the intention of continuing on the walk but decided we were too tired and headed back to the train station.
Back at the hotel we went for a swim which was totally what we needed. There is something cool about floating around on a hot Hong Kong night in a pool surrounded by hotel rooms knowing that our view was better than theirs. Once again we got another view of the symphony of lights from our room and went to bed tired but happy.
For more photos, check out the Hong Kong Flickr Photo Gallery.