Friday, 21 September 2012

Hong Kong: Day 10 - Disneyland

OMG, as they say. I cannot believe this. Ever since Walt Disney first popped up on our television screens when I was a little girl, since I wanted to be Annette when I grew up, since I drove everybody crazy singing THAT song, I had dreamed of visiting this place.
 First off, we caught the MRT which took us to the station where we changed to the Disneyland train!!! Who knew that they had their own precious train. Oh goodness, I was already over the moon. 
I was even in love with the station - I mean, honestly, is this the most gorgeous platform you have ever seen? Oh yes, it is.
And then - ta dah - there it was, in front of us, Disneyland. I wanted to push all those little kids out of the way and just run through the gates myself, screaming with excitement.
Into Main Street we strode. Phew, pain? What pain. I had my umbrella for support and could almost kid myself that I was walking on air anyway. 
 First stop was Adventureland. Yippee. 
This boat ride through these raging rapids, past voracious crocodiles, narrowly escaping the clutches of ferocious natives, almost succumbing to whirlpools and flames of fire, was powerful excitement, I can tell you. And Captain Jack was THE BEST. 
Hm, Tarzan's Treehouse. No, I'm afraid that by now that rope bridge may have been a bridge too far. My man rafted over the water to Tarzan's Island and couragously crossed that swaying bridge to check out the humble place that Tarzan and Jane called home, but I sat that one out, chewing on painkillers it must be admitted. 
 I did get to wander around some wonderful spots, though, and discover signs of colonial occupation not too distantly deserted (ho ho ho).

And, hey, I came across an effalump! This one was exceedingly cute and I don't think would pose any threat to anybody.
Oh, oh, oh, Sleeping Beauty's castle. What joy of joys.
And lovely, lovely shopping opportunities (I love to shop anyway, so checked them all out). 
And such a pretty carousel - really wish I'd gone on that but there was a hell of a queue. 
Absolutely adored the gardens. I actually think that this visit would have been worth it just for these. They are gorgeous, aren't they. 

Complete with cute pathways, buildings, and - oh, hello, is that three dancing elephants I see before me? Yep, it sure is. They look as though they're laughing their trunks off, and you can't help but laugh with them. 

  And, yes, I did manage to twist my foot right and left to get into a teacup. Come on now, nobody goes to Disneyland without going on a few delightful kiddy rides. This was great fun. 

 So also was watching little kids playing amongst these things - whatever they are - and getting blissfully soaked as they did. I sort of envied them.
Oh, we went for a ride in/on this as well, but for the life of me I dont' know what it is. I think it's some sort of rocket thingy. Whatever, it was - of course - fun.
I don't have any photos of it but we also did the car racing circuit, and managed to crash into about everybody that we weren't supposed to crash into, but - yes, you guessed it - it was fun. 
What a totally superb day it was. This really was a dream come true for me. I think I laughed as much as any child today. I felt that sort of happiness that really does feel like a bubble inside you. It was magical indeed, and no less so after dark.

So, a perfect last day in Hong Kong, recapturing the wonder of childhood.
Tomorrow we will be flying that big silver bird back to Australia, but with such wonderful, fabulous memories and a knowledge that we have found yet another place in this incredible world to love.
Thanks for staying with me throughout this memorable trip.
Oh, my injuries? Well, the day after we got home to Perth I visited our doctor. He sent me for x-rays and then for scans. I had a bone bruise and a chipped bone on my left arm/elbow, a bone bruise below my left knee, a sprained left ankle, a broken talus (the actual rotational ankle bone) in my right ankle, plus multiple fractures of the right foot. No wonder it hurt so much!

Hong Kong: Day 9 - The Peak

What a struggle - getting a shoe on my foot. My determination was mighty, though, and I refused to stay confined to our hotel room any longer. A return visit to The Peak was called for, this time not as part of a tour but catching the ferry over to the island and then taking the fabulous Peak Tram up, up, up on a crazy angle, up to the top with its wonderful views.

For those of you unfamiliar with the tram, it is apparently the steepest climb (and - far worse - descent) of any tram/fernicular in ze welt apparently. Yes, sorry, got a bit Germanic there. Don't know why, but have no intention of deleting it.
Anyway, one poor little old lady did manage to tread on my foot while alighting and so the bravest thing of the day was not sitting on a tram which is travelling on an angle where you do actually feel that you will fall over backwards at any moment - no, it was refraining from crying out in pain when it happened. I even managed a reassuring smile suggesting that I was fine, no harm done and that I was not about to beat her up for her intrusion upon my body. My God, it hurt.

I love this hazy, gorgeous view

So, here we are, up in the glorious heavens above this fabulous, insane city that nobody living 100 years ago would ever have thought possible. The skyscrapers are incredible, and when you look down on them they seem almost to grow out of each other. I don't care that there are many people who hate modern cities, I love them, and this is the most wonderful eclectic mixture. Love it.
Definitely not for the plebs!

Don't be fooled, though - there is more green space in Hong Kong than you could possibly dream of. The city blocks are frantic and everywhere are huge concrete and glass temples to commerce, but on the mountains, on the zillions of little islands, there is such wonderful lush natural bush that it's a glorious juxtaposition: God made this; man made this.
I really couldn't walk around too much, I have to confess, as I was in such pain, but did manage a visit to Madam Tussard's. Okay, it's not like the one in London, but it was enjoyable nevertheless. I could show you some photos of me posing with Luciano Pavarotti, or sharing a podium with George Bush and Bill Clinton, or even popping up in an Old Master, but what I thought at the time was a brave smile looks, sadly, rather like a grimace when viewed on film (okay, not film - digital whatever), so you will have to be content with this gorgeous creature. I imagine she is some well known Chinese actress, but whoever she is/was her beauty is undeniable.
Catch you tomorrow when, with an umbrella as my walking stick, I throw agony to the wind and spend a wonderful day doing something I've wanted to do since I first wished upon a star.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Hong Kong: Days 6, 7, 8 - Where Are You?

Big dilemma - do I talk about these three "missing" days or not? Okay, just to prevent any thoughts of me not being able to count, I'll do so.
As you know, yesterday we had a great day in Macau. However, within a couple of hours of getting back to Hong Kong my stomach was protesting about something I'd eaten somewhere along the way. I couldn't begin to guess what I had eaten that had disagreed with me, or where it was I ate whatever had done the damage, all I know is that leaving the hotel room for dinner in the evening was out of the question. The morning of day 6 showed no improvement. Even breakfast was a no go, and I spent the doing not much more than just looking around the room. 

Thank God for great books - it gave me the precious time needed to devote myself to Marcus Zusak's The Book Thief, surely one of the greatest books of all time.

By evening I was absolutely starving, and feeling that I would be okay to venture out and have some dinner, confident that I was now fine and could get back to enjoying myself. It seemed a good idea not to go too far from home, though, and so we walked down to the local shopping mall to find something yummy to eat.

Hung Hom really does have some wonderful shops, and so as we walked around the shopping mall with it's spotless marble floors and glittering lights my eyes were everywhere but looking at where I was going. Dangerous! Thus it was that I simply did not see the stairway leading down to the next level. Thus it was that I became airborne, crashing to earth  on that hard, hard unforgiving marble at the foot of the stairs.

I honestly thought I was dead, so great was the shock to my body. I could feel hands reaching out to me and hear my husband saying, "Don't touch her. Don't touch her", probably worried in case of spinal injury. I realised then that I wasn't, in fact, dead but wasn't sure how injured I was. Very gingerly I moved my arms and legs, and they all seemed to work, albeit painfully. With my man's help I got to my feet. A shop attendant who had rushed to the scene was on his mobile, planning to call for an ambulance to take me to hospital. I assured him it was unnecessary. Silly me.

I insisted on going to an eatery anyway, but sobbed my way through the meal. A sweet little waitress brought me herbal tea, assuring me that it would help, and being as solicitous as any friend or family member could be. After eating, I was so determined that I would be okay that I even refused to get a taxi back to the hotel, saying I could walk. Again, silly me.

My left ankle was huge, my right ankle was positively gargantuan, there was a lump below my left knee about the size of a mango, and my left elbow felt it would never bend again. Mind you, I had cause to be thankful for that injury to the elbow, because as I had fallen I had somehow automatically brought my arm up to protect my face. So, had it not been for that injured elbow, the face may have been smashed onto the marble instead. 

Ooh, better this than the face.

 So, Did I then call for a doctor? No, I did not. Even sillier me.

Bottom line? I spent days 7 and 8 in the hotel room, munching pain killers like lollies, and with icy towels wrapped around my various sore bits. For two days this was my view of Hong Kong.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Hong Kong: Day 5 - Macau

Another exciting day in Hong Kong. Or perhaps I shouldn't say "in Hong Kong", because today is the day we visited Macau. Again, this was a tour organised through Splendid Travel, and splendid it was indeed. We were picked up from our hotel and transferred to the ferry terminal where we boarded our vessel for the crossing to Macau, the ex-Portuguese colony, now another of those Special Administration Regions, lying about 60 kilometres west of Hong Kong.
The trip on the boat was fast and comfortable. The seating is airline style, and passengers are encouraged to stay in their seats at all times as the vessel moves very fast across the water. Staff come around offering tea and coffee, and so it was great to just sit back in comfort and drink a cup of tea while crossing to that island lying just off the mouth of the Pearl River.
On arrival in Macau we were taken first to a promontory jutting out into the water, and then along a small walkway to a chapel. It's sort of hard to miss as there is, on top of the small, extremely beautiful, lotus-shaped chapel, an enormous statue of Kun Lam, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. Unfortunately, the day at this time was very hazy and so a photograph of the chapel and statue was disappointing in the extreme. However, on entering the meditation chapel we were delighted to discover a smaller version of the lovely statue, and I'm sure you will agree she really is quite beautiful.

Following this visit, we had a coach tour of the lovely colonial district of Macau. Some of the buildings really are absolutely stunning, and you could think that you were anywhere but the Far East.  One building we saw, painted in the very popular bright pink, looked very official. Whether it is actually the embassy, or consulate, for the People's Republic of China I can't say - the coach was buzzing with oohs and aahs, and our tour guide was kept very busy answering a million questions and so we didn't get the chance to ask. It's a great looking building, though, isn't it.

Ah, now we come to the stunning ruins of Saint Paul's Church.  The tourist brochure tells us that "this is a sermon in stone", and I think that is a very fitting description.

The church was built by the Jesuits in about 1602 utilising the skills and local artisans and craftsmen, and the detail is incredible. After the Jesuits were expelled from Macau the building was used for various purposes, including as an army barracks, which was unfortunate because a fire in the barracks' kitchen in 1835 destroyed the barracks and most of the building. 

Just stunning ruins.

What was left is what we see now, this beautiful, quite perfect "sermon in stone". This facade, now backed by a museum (which I think is quite a good idea), is, for me, somehow far more special than the completed church, with all its ornate interiors and opulence, could ever have been. I think it's quite amazing.

And so was this steep steep road leading up to it. Look at those lovely coloured buildings down the bottom though. Fantastic. We knew we were in for some real architectural eye candy here.

And here it is - Senado Square, the main shopping square/mall in the centre of the city.  We had lots of free time here to wander at will, have lunch, shop, and just enjoy the atmosphere and the colours.

I know that there is so much of the Orient about it, but really don't you think you could actually be in South America?

Or Portugal perhaps? What a fabulous, wonderful blending of cultures and architectural styles. 

It's fantastic, isn't it.  And check out the lovely Saint Dominic's, built way back in the 1590s. There was a service on in the church as we were there, and lots of ladies with beautiful lace covering their heads made their way into the church. 

After all this, we were taken for a bit of retail therapy. First stop was a clothing outlet - of course - where I think all and sundry filled bags with fantastically priced polo shirts and kids' clothing. We picked up some real bargains, and after umpteen washes those polos which we bought there have held their shape beautifully. We then piled into the coach for a short trip to a workshop where beautiful jade and amber items were produced. A few of the (more obviously wealthy) people in the group handed over beaucoup beaucoup dollars in exchange for trumpeting elephants, crouching tigers or roaring lions in deep moody amber or cool jade. Not my thing, definitely, but interesting to see the handiwork nevertheless.

Now, what is Macau mostly famous for, other than those wonderful custard tarts of course? Casinos. Wow, wow, wow. I really can't remember the name of the casino we visited (not really into them all that much), but suffice it to say that it was ENORMOUS.  I think that one massive chandelier was probably the size of a five story house. Every table was filled with punters, and the mood was serious gambling, so different to the staggering drunks which our casinos seem to be filled with.  We enjoyed a couple of drinks and watching people - mainly from the Mainland - seemingly nonchalantly losing pots of money. A few of our group did have a flutter on one of the tables, but mainly we were a pretty staid and sober bunch.

After this it was time to head back to the ferry terminal, but not without a brief stop at Macau's Fisherman's Wharf. I wish we had had more time to really explore the place, but at least it gives us a good excuse to come back again.


It's a really large project, on the outer harbour, offering shopping, entertainment, dining and accommodation, and would appeal to me far more than those casinos.

Lasting impressions of Macau? What a fantastic, fascinating place. I really wish we had planned our holiday so that we spent at least two days here because I think there is so much to explore, and such colour and history to take in.

The difference between here and Hong Kong is quite staggering. Here you are not weaving in and out of BMWs and Mercedes, or watching stunningly elegant women whose sole purpose in life seems to be to shop for Gucci or Prada. Macau is obviously - despite the casinos - a place much less affluent, a place of Toyotas and Nissans which are years old, and which anyway are vastly outnumbered by thousands and thousands of small-engined motorbikes and motor scooters. The travel information tells me that the population of Macau is about half a million. I'm sure we saw two million motor scooters on the roads and parked - with not an inch between them - lining every footpath.

It really is somewhere we have to return to.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Hong Kong: Day 4 - Ocean Park


Woo hoo, what a fun day. Yes, yes, I highly recommend Ocean Park to anybody planning a visit to Hong Kong.

Okay, most people who visit Ocean Park probably do so simply looking forward to seeing the seals, sea lions, penguins and such marine attractions. After all, it is called Ocean Park, isn't it. We were no different; we thought we would spend the day oohing and aahing over the cute, the agile and the well trained. What we fell in love with was something quite different -

- the amazing, fabulous, enormous aviary. This place is huge, and so beautifully kept, and it would be very easy to spend the whole day in this section of the Park.

Black swans! It almost feels like home.

There are lots of fabulously coloured tropical birds, the sort of birds you normally only see in cute Disney movies, you know the ones with names like Polly, Rio and the like. They are fascinating to watch, and spotting them amongst the beautiful greenery is fun.

Ah, did I say black swans? Well, of course we are used to those here in Western Australia where the black swan is our state emblem, and where our main waterway is the Swan River, named because of the large numbers of swans, and all of them black. How delightful it always is, then, when we come across those incredibly elegant white swans.

Where, you may be asking, are the photographs of those exotic and colourful birds I talked about? Well, to be honest, we just wanted to watch them, entranced by their plumage, to the point where we didn't even reach for the camera.
What we did have to capture was just more and more of the stunning surrounds.


One thing which really impressed us was the care taken to protect the environment and the birds within this enormous walk-around aviary area. As you enter and leave you sanitise not just your hands but your shoes, which is wonderful. In this way, you are not taking any unwanted, and potentially dangerous, infections into the enclosure, and you are leaving behind any remnants of whatever you may have trodden on or touched. This place is magic, and not to be missed, and certainly not to be endangered in any way.
After that lovely experience with the birds and the stunning landscaping, we took what must be one of the lllllooooonnnnnngggggeeeeessssstttttt escalators up, up, up to the marine section of Ocean Park. We hadn't done the escalator to the Mid-Levels, but this one is definitely a blast, and the views on the way up are nothing short of breathtaking.

Once we reached the top we went for a wander around the marine section. Yes, we did see lots of lovely penguins, and lovely graceful seals, and lazy, lovely sea lions, and .. and .. and .. but, as with when we were looking at the exotic birds, our camera stayed in our bag and we just simply enjoyed ourselves, particularly as we somehow found ourselves surrounded by a group of small children and so their wonder and excitement was a lovely added bonus.
Oh, and for those needing more fun, there is a bit of an amusement park to give you even more adventure once you leave the acquariums. It was hot, and we just wanted something to eat and something to drink, and so we didn't join any of the rides on offer, but we did thoroughly enjoy the dolphin show as we fed our tummies.

If you thought that that was it for our fabulous time at Ocean Park, you're wrong. What is black and white and too cute to even be part of nature? A panda bear, of course. And, yes, there are a couple of them at Ocean Park for you to check out. Okay, they are not the most cooperative creatures, tending to just laze around and endlessly munch pieces of bamboo. They tend to move - slowly, it must be said - every time somebody's camera focuses on them, and so they are not the easiest creatures to photograph. I have to tell you, though, that seeing a real panda makes you feel like a child again. They really are as adorable as any fluffy toy panda is, except they are, of course, so much bigger. The day just got better and better.

Note to self: take some lessons in photographing incredibly cute bears.

How do we cap that? Well, with one of our favourite things - a cable car ride. Sure, there are other, more mundane ways to bring you back to earth, but why would anybody not want to zap down a mountainside in one of these great capsules.

I told you it was a fabulous day, didn't I. Well, don't miss day 5, when we visit Macau, that lovely mixture of old Portugal, the old Orient, and go-go-go modern day Asia.