Saturday 1 November 2014. Now w’re getting to the interesting places:
Woke at 0500 to pre-dawn, but didn’t want to go back to sleep for fear of missing the dawn entry into Hong Kong harbour. Slowly the mist rose to reveal a couple of big rocky islands, then more until finally we could see tall buildings. Those must have been mainland China, out north west of HK.
Then slowly, very slowly, we came further in among small shipping, pushing our way through, led by the pilot and pilot boat. We’re bigger, make way!
Then around more corners and into the enormous cruise terminal, built like an ET spaceship at the ocean end.
Early breakfast, as I’d weakened and bought a tour for US$169 the night before. So down to deck 7 at about 0830 for the meeting place to find a queue already stretching right round the deck and back onto itself. Ugh. I hate these long queues. I watched it for the full half hour and longer and it didn’t move. There was nowhere to sit down, so I was pretty fed up. The time 0900 came and went and still no movement. Then suddenly there was a rush and all the latecomers forced their way in, especially the Asians and eastern Europeans. Rude! No manners.
Anyway, then it was a long, snaking ten minute walk through the terminal to reach the buses in the cavernous bus hall. More queuing. I needed a blue sticker. I haven’t got one, I was never given one. OK, you can board this bus, sir. I managed to snag a seat at the very front, full windscreen view, but nothing to grab on to if the bus stops suddenly.
About 32 of us on a big smooth bus. Long (20 min?) drive through chaotic road works to a ferry terminal, where we boarded an old beaten up ferry via lethal narrow steps with no hand rails. I made it and we were off on a winding course around Hong Kong harbour, getting good views of the tall, narrow buildings crammed together. I was here in 1992 and an awful lot of this must be new since then. I don’t remember it looking this crowded.
It’s pretty spectacular. Home of four of the world’s ten tallest buildings, we were told, some a fixture in the world’s great architecture pieces as well. I. M. Pei designed one, Norman Foster another.
Back to the bus, to another pier to board a bum boat to the Jumbo floating Chinese restaurant, the world’s largest. What competition does it have? Who wants a bigger one? The Dim Sum lunch is part of the tour. We had to climb up narrow rough steps to the main deck, no safety railings, then up two floors, four flights, of marble stairs to reach the restaurant dining room. I was struggling. I didn’t realise there was a lift until it was time to leave.
Crowded! Noisy! Cramped! Over-rated food. No different than I can find in any cheap Chinese restaurant at home. For drinks, everything costs, even water. A glass of wine is HK$65; I settled for a beer (what else) at HK$42 = about $6. No choice, just Hsing Tao Chinese beer in a 330ml can.
Back to a much smaller bum boat where we had to step over the buffer tyres from the jetty to the bouncing boat! Bloody hell. I took a chance and went in a rush, but there was almost nothing to hang onto. Way too risky for my liking. It was a woman driving the boat and she just steered us around all the moored luxury launches and crappy old house boats. What a mixture. This took about 30 mins.
Back to the bus and we set off for Victoria Peak, but in very slow traffic. We were hardly moving for nearly half an hour. Eventually the guide decided to turn us around. Full marks to the driver for turning a big bus around on a single lane mountain road.
Off to a less crowded jewellery factory (!) but I didn’t go in. It’s just a hard sell in these places. Why bother.
Off then to Causeway Bay to the Stanley Markets. Again, I wasn’t interested and stayed on the bus. Unfortunately, the driver needed to park elsewhere so we drove a fair way until he found a parking spot, then he went off for some tea or whatever and turned the air-con off. It made for a droopy 40min wait, but no matter.
Finally, we were back on the road to the Peak Tram Station. Again crowds, congestion, queues, waiting behind barriers. At least we were prepaid priority so we got through before all the locals, poor dears.
Onto the tram, a very well built twin carriage, each holding 120 passengers. It’s a rack rail system up some pretty steep slopes and down some too. It only takes 4 mins to go up. At the top it was still crowds everywhere but due to the traffic delays earlier, we arrived at just the right time, dusk, as the city lights were coming on. Perfect timing. If we’d been there as per the schedule, it would have been around 2pm.
This was worth all the earlier travails. I was dog tired, but the view was beautiful at this time. What an amazing city – a city built on rocky mountain slopes. No level ground. Concrete everywhere, new buildings going up, roads being remade everywhere you look. The traffic! Not chaos, because it does move along, but merging everywhere, and no more than 40Km/h. That’s a joke for all the exotic cars here. Mercedes are dirt common. Porsches nearly so. Ferraris, Lambos, high end Audis, Rollers, convertibles many of them. But hardly ever getting above 60Km/h. Hah.
Then we dropped the night tour people in the middle of town, and had a long, long, complex drive back to the terminal, arriving about 8pm. I was knackered, limping from my left ankle problem, and faced with another long walk through the terminal to reach the ship. That alone took nearly 20 mins. After baggage inspection.
Finally, after a coupla beers, dinner and bed, I was worn out. I’m glad I didn’t book any other tour for Sunday.