Archive for the ‘Hong Kong’ Category

EmbassyUnusually for me I actually arrive a few hours early at the airport, but in a scene that resembles far too much of my existence on this planet things don’t go according to plan from there.

Keen to check in early and ditch my cumbersome baggage I rock up at the check in desk and am immediately asked for my Vietnam visa documents, which of course I do not have. I soon discover that these are only available from Vietnamese embassies or via an online process that takes two days. Bugger doesn’t quite cover it!

I should have investigated such things I suppose but after having been warned of the visa requirements of other countries when buying my round the world ticket if they were required, I incorrectly assumed that sorting one would be possible upon arrival in Vietnam like most of the other countries I have visited.

Jeremy-Clarkson-Mod-Suite-Moped-Vietnam-Top-Gear-SpecialThe upshot of this lack of key information in my planning was an extremely manic three hour period which entailed international calls, texts and emails, payments to an agency in Vietnam and a bloke screaming around Hanoi on a moped on my behalf (in a very unlike Jeremy Clarkson way) trying to get the necessary documentation together on the slim chance of getting it all done in time for me to board my flight.

Throughout my life I have repeatedly told bosses, family, etc that I don’t mean to be such a walking disaster zone with regard punctuality, but that in fact I am blessed with a talent for chaos in this field which has meant that I have missed planed, trains, boats, etc when really there shouldn’t have been any likelihood of me doing so.

Approval of letter for Vietnam visa on arrivalOn this occasion I feel that because I managed to get this document sent to me from Vietnam and printed off in Hong Kong in under two and a half hours I deserve a medal. That it was achieved communicating with people more familiar with two languages that are not my own is bordering on a miracle!

I run through the airport and get on board the flight with little more than seconds to spare. However all of this nonsense then means I arrive in Hanoi a couple of hours later not having had any opportunity to book a room or even know where I should be going upon arrival. I have no choice but to sit on my bags on the floor of the airport whilst speed reading my guide book and trying to factor in the arrangements for a wedding I am attending here next week. I manage to get a room and a cab to take me there, but by the time I arrive you could certainly argue my fuse has been a tad burnt down by the days events. I needed a beer…

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flag_hkI have run out of time in Hong Kong, which translates to Fragrant Harbour in Cantonese. The smell hasn’t done anything for me though so I pack my bags for Vietnam, which is up next on my itinerary.

It is time to say goodbye to the Ibis hotel which has been my home for the last few days. It was lovely to have allowed myself a modicum of comfort and I enjoyed having my own space whilst staying there

Hon Kong PostI just have time before heading for the airport to offload another postage parcel full of souvenirs that need to go back to the UK.

It certainly lightens the load I have been carrying on my back so far through Asia, but I am sure it wont take long to find other tat to replace it with!

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WP_20131017_058Not far from Bruce Lee’s house in Kowloon I spotted this Liverpool Football Club themed kindergarten. I know the Premier League clubs are always looking to nurture young talent, but I fear a Kindergarten may be taking things a  bit far.

As a consequence I am hoping this has been set up by an ardent fan who just suffers from a limited imagination.

Temple-Market-2As I walked back down the hill towards the harbour my path took me through the night markets which spring up all around temple Street

I am sure you could pick up just about anything you might want as well as plenty of thing you probably never will desire too whilst shopping here. Lots of fun to wander through the market though.

WP_20131017_089The priceless experience however is seeing Hong Kong Island from Kowloon after nightfall.

The skyline is magnificent and so many of the buildings have had light shows added to their standard construction it actually compares with Las Vegas in its extravagance.

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Bruce LeeBruce Lee was a Hong Kong American who is fairly credited with helping to change the way Asians were presented in American films, because his films and TV characters were one of the first to bridge the gap between the east and the west.

Although his training was in the Wing Chun style of Kung Fu he felt it was too restrictive and went on to develop his own martial art called Jeet Kune Do, which can be seen as a forerunner of the various types of Mixed Martial Arts that have exploded all over the world in recent years. 

WP_20131017_057He was undoubtedly one of my heroes when I was growing up as a result of watching all his martial arts films, so I had to go on a grail quest to explore the areas of Hong Kong where he had grown up and gone to school.

This building across the other side of Victoria Harbour in Kowloon is his former house. Try to imagine me in a pair of shaolin pajamas practicing Bruce’s famous one-inch punch outside paying homage to the great man. (Optional sound effects can be added)

Bruce-Lee-Bronze-StatueThere is also this fantastic statue of him on the harbour side in Kowloon.

A few random Bruce Lee facts for you:

Bruce kicked the backside of Chuck Norris, Jackie Chan and Batman on screen.

Steve McQueen and James Coburn were pall bearers at his funeral.

Most martial art films of the era were sped up to make fighting scenes appear fast, but Bruce’s moves were actually too fast to be captured on the regular 24 frames per second film. As a consequence they had to film him at 32 fps, and run the film slower so you could actually see more than just a blur.

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WP_20131017_019I get up early to head eastwards on Hong Kong Island. My first stop is the racing ground called Happy Valley. There is a part of town called Happy Valley back home in Llandudno but somehow it doesn’t quite compare with the huge stadium set among the skyscrapers here. There had been a race meeting last night that I had wanted to go to but I had been feeling too tired and still a bit unwell to trek across town to attend.

It is the only place where gambling is legal in the city and is massively popular with the locals as a consequence. To give you an idea of how huge a sum of money gets bet each week it would probably dwarf the totals of both Britain’s Grand National and Australia’s Melbourne Cup combined.

WP_20131018_007I don’t stick around long because I am keen to get to Victoria Park because I have heard it is where the locals go to practice their martial arts in one of the few green open spaces available here on the island.

I visited china a decade ago and have always regretted not going down to Tienanmen Square to see something similar on a grand scale whilst there. 

WP_20131018_013There are hundreds of people practicing various forms with enchanting grace in just about every free space in the park including in and around the swings and slides.

As well as the familiar Tai Chi Chuan, there were variations with fans and sticks. However my favourite group was this group of grandmothers practising with swords. Anywhere else I have visited it would have seemed ridiculous but here it seemed quite appropriate.

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the_peak_tram_hongkongAfter my night of Tsingtaos with Ryan I can hold my hands up and say that I have felt awful all day today. It must have been a dodgy pint, although which of the many pints I enjoyed it was I cannot be certain.

Leaving my hotel room this morning was reluctant at best and quite painful if I am honest. As a consequence I was keen to do as little walking as possible today.

WP_20131016_008I don’t want to waste the day though so decided to catch the tram up to the top of Victoria Peak. It has been operating for more than a hundred years and goes up some staggeringly steep gradients.

It is quite impressive but less so than the view of most of Hong Kong Island from the top of the mountain. It really does feel like you are looking at Mega City One from this angle.

Trams-hong-kongI’m still not feeling too clever after coming back down the mountain though so decide to rest my weary feet and take one of the old trams that run around the city back to my hotel. They are charming vehicles which rattle along and look like a double decker bus that has been squeezed in a vice.

Public transport is excellent in Hong Kong although the cabs that are all identical, which you also see here, are not big enough to get my surfboard into, so I do not think I am going to be able to get to one of the beaches nearby while I am here.

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WP_20131016_001My feelings on angry fish are well documented in this blog, however I have to say I have been quite saddened by the number of health food shops and medicinal suppliers located around my hotel that are supplying shark fins. It is clearly a popular dish here because the first restaurant I went into dedicated its first page of the menu to variations of shark fin soup.

I don’t think I have any more right to tell somebody else what they can eat, than they do to tell me that I can’t eat bacon so I don’t know what is the right way forward on it though. It just seems so wasteful to kill such magnificent animals just for their fins in much the same way killing elephants and rhinos for their ivory does.

Such an unsustainable shame based on ill informed beliefs about virility and strength of the animals being passed on to the consumer, which have no basis in science and sound like they are straight out of the dark ages. 

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TsingtaoThe elder brother of one of my best friends has been living in Hong Kong for nearly twenty years, and I am delighted to meet up with Ryan for a few Tsingtao beers. Based on how I am feeling the following day it must have been a couple more than a few though

It was fantastic to see a familiar face and talk about all the people I grew up around. It was a real fillip, but inevitably gets me thinking about everybody back home in the UK. I will be seeing them before long though because I now have only six weeks left of my travels.

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Cathay-Pacific

It is time to say Ahn Nyeong Hee Gyea Se Yo to South Korea. I say goodbye to all at Bong House (which is a reference to its owner Bong rather than any illicit smoking habits) where I have been staying and head for Incheon airport once more.

I am pleasantly surprised when Cathay Pacific do not charge me for daring to travel with a surfboard, but am less impressed with the results of their work when my surfboard looks like it was involved in the Axe Murder Incident upon arrival in Hong Kong. There were five huge holes in it.

Hong Kong AirportIt was only a few hours on the plane to Hong Kong airport, which is located on a vast man made island within the harbour area.

From the express train I catch to Hong Kong Island I can see that there appears to be a great deal more terra-forming going on close by, although I have no idea what else they are building. The cargo container port is breathtaking in its scale too.

Hong-kong-skyline-from-victoria-peakSpeaking of construction though, you cannot help but be impressed by the skyline here in Hong Kong. Land has clearly been in such short supply historically here that everything has just stretched skywards.

Every inch of space seems to have another skyscraper built on top of it, with anything below twenty stories high being dwarfed by all the other towers. The development model that started here, has now been followed in the developing cities all over Asia.

WP_20131014_010I will be up in the clouds myself whilst staying on the 17th floor of the Ibis Hotel in between the Central and Sheung Wan areas of Hong Kong Island.

The first thing I do upon arriving here is establish a ding repair shop in my hotel room to repair the damage done to my surfboard by the airline. I suspect that the hotel will not be very fond of the smell of curing fibreglass resin and I have decided to play dumb on that if asked.

 

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