FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Sleepless in Hong Kong

Posted in Hong Kong by folkestonejack on April 1, 2013

Our late night flight from Auckland delivered us to Hong Kong on a murky, misty morning with a touch more excitement than any of us needed at that hour. Although I am sure it is not particularly unusual, it is always a slightly unnerving moment when the plane you are sitting in starts to climb mid-way through a landing! A few moments later the pilot’s explained that our initial landing had to be aborted as there was a plane with steering problems which had failed to clear the runway.

Hilltops in the mist

Hilltops in the mist

Our original plan had been to visit the Big Buddha at Po Lin monastery and watch night fall from the viewpoint at Victoria Peak but this seemed rather pointless with the weather conditions as they were. Instead, we headed to Shau Kei Wan to check out the Museum of Coastal Defence, in the old Lei Yue Mun Fort, which was yet another construct built in reaction to the Russian scare of the 1880s!

The complex even had a replica disappearing gun, in an echo of our visit to Fort Victoria a few days ago, although this one has been displayed in its firing position (the force of the recoil from any firing would have sent it back into its hiding place).

Disappearing gun in firing position

Disappearing gun in firing position

The museum gives an overview of Hong Kong’s history from the Ming dynasty to the present, followed by a walk back down the hillside which takes you past various magazines, observation posts, baterries and a torpedo station. Our visit certainly gave us a much better appreciation of the wars fought over this territory and how this shaped the development of Hong Kong.

After a couple of hours at the museum we headed back into the centre of town using one of the marvellous historic trams that trundle along the streets, looking like beasts out of their time.

Any thoughts of visiting a second museum were dashed by the realisation that it would be a struggle to muster enough energy for this, or even to keep our eyelids from closing! Instead, we enjoyed a relaxing buffet lunch and then headed back to the welcome comforts of the Novotel Hong Kong Citygate. Hopefully, a good night’s sleep will put us in a better position for tomorrow’s flight back to London.

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Trams, ferries and a little history in Hong Kong

Posted in Hong Kong by folkestonejack on March 15, 2013

Our day in Hong Kong had hardly begun but there was still plenty of time to kill before our flight. We settled on a combination of a Star Ferry harbour tour and a wander around Hong Kong island.

The Star Ferry was the easiest way to get from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon for many years, up until the construction of the cross harbour tunnel in the early 1970s. Today, they are still heavily used to cross the waters of Victoria Harbour and are recognised as tourist attractions in their own right.

Meridian Star crosses Victoria Harbour

Meridian Star crosses Victoria Harbour

The company’s ferries have been plying Victoria Harbour since 1898. Our tour was on board the ferry ‘Shining Star’ which is a lovely re-creation of the ferries that would have criss-crossed Victoria Harbour in the 1920s. The tour itself was fascinating as it gave a close up view of an incredibly busy waterway – with everything from small fishing boats to large cruise ships visible on our trip.

An immigration vessel speeds along the waterway

An immigration vessel speeds along the waterway

The ferries are not the only form of transport to have become tourist attractions in their own right. The Hong Kong Tramways system includes the world’s largest fleet of double-deck tramcars and with a flat fare of 2.30 Hong Kong Dollars (around 20 pence GBP) this has to be one of the cheapest attractions in the city.

Cenotaph in Hong Kong

Cenotaph in Hong Kong

We settled on watching a few trams pass by before starting a walk to take in some of the historic sights of Hong Kong island. Finally, around 4pm, we made our way to the airport by express train and enjoyed a view of the sun setting across the apron before boarding our flight to Auckland.

Sunset at Hong Kong airport

Sunset at Hong Kong airport

The next leg of our journey will take us through the night and deliver us to New Zealand in late morning. After a busy day in Hong Kong and a night without sleep we will be in need of a much quieter re-introduction to Auckland city!

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The perfect antidote to jetlag

Posted in Hong Kong by folkestonejack on March 15, 2013

After a good night’s sleep in Hong Kong we were well on our way to recovering sufficiently well for our onward flight to New Zealand. Our next flight was not until evening so we had plenty of time to chill out in the city.

Pavilion of absolute perfection

Pavilion of absolute perfection

Our first stop was Nan Lian Garden at Diamond Hill, Kowloon. It is a wonderful haven constructed amidst soaring apartment blocks which oozes calm, peace and every restful quality that a wearied soul could hope for.

Chi Lin Nunnery

Chi Lin Nunnery

Along with the neighbouring Chi Lin Nunnery complex, I have rarely come across anywhere so perfectly suited to a jetlagged traveller and it is an experience I highly recommend!

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Touchdown in Hong Kong

Posted in Hong Kong by folkestonejack on March 14, 2013

It has been a while coming, but the time has come to recharge my batteries with a holiday in the southern hempishere. Unlike most of my trips in recent years this one will not involve coal mines and industrial railways!

The first leg of our travel brought us in to Hong Kong a short while before sunset, but even with the day disappearing fast it was incredible to step off a plane to a temperature of around 18 degrees celsius. When we left London it was still gripped by sub-zero temperatures (before factoring in the wind chill on top). It seems hard to believe that exactly a year ago it was London experiencing a daytime high of 18 degrees.

The clocktower from the old station

The clocktower from the old station

Light show in Hong Kong

Light show in Hong Kong

After heading into town and checking in to our hotel in Kowloon we made our way back out almost immediately, keen to see the nightly illuminations across Victoria Harbour. It was a spectacular way to finish the day before we finally gave in to exhaustion.