Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Hong Kong - a little bit of sightseeing

Bird Market, Hong Kong
Laos was the last country on the main part of our trip, but before we left Asia for our gradual return home, we stopped off in Hong Kong, where we stayed with my sister and her partner.

This wasn't our first visit here, as we came out way back in the 1990s, when she first moved out here.

On that trip we did quite a lot of sightseeing, which we weren't planning to do again this time, so for anyone reading who is looking for comments on places to see, I'll drop in a few lines about places that we visited before - though of course a lot may have changed in that time, and I can't post any photos from that trip.

Bird Market, Hong Kong
Back then we took the tram up to the top of Victoria Peak for the views, peered over the Chinese border from the New Territories, and went out to a few islands. At that time, Lantau didn't have the airport, you still enjoyed the slightly precarious landing at Kai Tak Airport in Kowloon, ranked as the sixth most dangerous in the world. But what it did (and still does) have, is the huge Buddha, which we did walk up to. We also visited tiny Peng Chau, and Cheung Chau, with no cars and little milk float style emergency vehicles. In Cheung Chau, we visited an old cemetery, where I got bitten to bits; I lost count at around twenty bites on one leg.

We visited a little fishing village, where you could select your live - and mostly rather ugly looking - fish from the containers outside, and where the kids and adults alike were licking dried lizards on sticks. By contrast, we also visited Ocean Park, the marine theme park, which then was somewhat smaller than it is now, having expanded after being threatened by the arrival of Hong Kong Disneyland.
Bird Market, Hong Kong

We wandered around some of the temples and historical sights, and went along to Victoria Park to watch the people doing their Tai Chi, and to the Botanical Gardens with its little zoo. This is one of the places where the Philippino 'helpers' congregate on Sundays, their one day off, escaping for a short while from their chores and the tiny - and I do mean tiny - little room that they have to live in.

Market, Hong Kong
Then of course, no visit to Hong Kong is complete without going to at least a few of the numerous specialist markets: there is the ladies market, for clothes and knick-knacks; Stanley market, which is a good one for souvenirs; the bird market, which is a slightly disturbing collection of birds in tiny cages; Temple Street night market, with its electronics and gadgets; the Jade Market, with no prizes for guessing what they sell; and the Cat Street antiques market.

We did return to a couple of the markets this time around. The Jade Market was still pretty much the same, although it seemed to have less variety this time around.

Cat Street Market, Hong Kong
The main place that we pottered around this time was the Hollywood Road area, that runs between Sheung Wan and Central. This was the second street to be built by the British, back in 1844, before that rather more famous Hollywood in Los Angeles had even started to be lived in, let alone make films.

The waterfront was a bit closer in those days, and so this was where people set up shop to sell antiquities that sailors and traders had brought back from overseas, and it has been an antiques area ever since.

Hong Kong alleys

Alongside the fancy shops and expensive pieces, there was, when we were here last, a nice little market in Cat Street, which was rather cheaper, tattier, and altogether more interesting to poke around. It has smartened up somewhat now, which means the antiques market has rather more tourist tat than it used to have, but it is still worth a visit, I think.

If you venture a little further inland, there are some nice little places to look around, and to grab a drink or something to eat, but you will have to put in the effort. The island rises pretty steeply here, so there are a lot of steps to be ascended. There are escalators up in some places, but for some reason, they don't bring you down again.

Man Mo Temple, Hong Kong

While in the area, we popped in to the Man Mo Temple, which was built in 1847, and is believed to be the oldest in Hong Kong. It is home to two Idols, Man Cheung, the God of Literature, and Mo, the God of War.

Man Mo Temple, Hong Kong

Man Mo Temple, Hong Kong

Tai Po, Hong Kong
One thing we thought we would do this time, was take a trip out to the New Territories to see the Lam Tsuen Wishing Trees. During the Lunar New Year, locals gather at these trees to make a wish. Traditionally, they tie their wish to an orange and throw it on to the tree. If their wish - or Bao Die - stays on the tree, it will be granted, but if it falls, then it was too greedy and will not come true.

These days, they don't let you throw your orange onto the three banyan trees, you have to put them on specially built racks instead. However, if you really want to throw your Bao Die, they have also added a fourth tree, a special plastic one, where you still can.

Unfortunately, by the time we arrived at the nearest station, the queues for the buses were ridiculously long. The idea of queuing so long to get there was bad enough, but we didn't even want to think about what the wait would be to come back again.

So instead, we just took a wander around Tai Po, with its Waterfront Garden and Lookout Tower. The tower was built to commemorate the return of Hong Kong to the Chinese in 1997, and is 32.4 metres tall. It is an interesting looking thing, with a reasonable view from the top, although we preferred watching the kites being flown in the park.

Tai Po, Hong Kong
Tai Po, Hong Kong

Tai Po, Hong Kong

Kites, Tai Po, Hong Kong

New Year Market, Hong Kong
With it being the Lunar New Year period, we went along to a market, which we hoped would have some interesting and unusual decorations, but instead it just had some very generic kitsch, including loads of 'character' decorations, because of course you couldn't possibly celebrate the upcoming year of the Monkey properly, without an Elsa from Frozen and a giant shrimp! It was interesting to see all of the orange trees and arrangements though.

New Year Market, Hong Kong

Flowers are an important part of the Lunar New Year celebrations here, so the flower market was predictably busy, with people buying armfuls of flowers, and even more of those orange trees.

Aside from that, we found a few decidedly un-Chinese places to eat in Kennedy Town
and Central, and pootled about very lazily.

New Year Market, Hong Kong

New Year Market, Hong Kong

Flower Market, Hong Kong

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