Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Hong Kong

Warning: Long post coming up - maybe grab yourself a cuppa :D

In the weeks leading up to our arrival in Hong Kong we become aware of the political unrest. Living in China whilst this was going on was an experience in itself. One morning we were sitting for breakfast and catching up on social media sites, when Instagram suddenly stopped working - yes the entire thing was completely shut down to avoid the Chinese population receiving unregulated information. This article from BuzzFeed expresses the extremity of the crackdown. We were unable to access most information related to the events in Hong Kong and relied on family or friends for updates. We became a little apprehensive about whether we would be allowed to entire Hong Kong at all from mainland China! However we got our flight with no bother.

Arriving in Hong Kong we were met with many warnings of the upset the protests had caused, with most buses rerouted and severe traffic jams. Getting off our bus in central Mong Kok we were overwhelmed! We felt privileged to be in the country during this historic event  but also felt empathy for the people as we watched them camp out day after day in order to stand up for their rights. It really made us think how much we take for granted our democratic rights. 

After a truly massive breakfast of yellow curry and tomato based pork we were ready to tackle Hong Kong Island. Getting off the MTR at Admiralty Station we were met with an eerie silence. What is usually a bustling business district was almost completely empty of both people and vehicles. We were aiming for the Bank of China building as we heard you can go up to the 42nd floor for free with a valid passport. With barricades dotted here there and everywhere it proved a little difficult, however the view did not disappoint. What really stood out for us was the sheer scale of the area the protesters had managed to shut down. From this height we were able to see that the traffic was forced to only one road with a tailback as far as the eye could see. 

Afterwards we decided to walk to The Peak, yes walk (a steep climb of about 500m)! The Peak is a viewing platform on top of the hills of Hong Kong Island, mostly reached by tram. From here visitors can enjoy views of the city and its harbours, along with some of the most expensive properties in all of Hong Kong. The walk to The Peak wouldn't have been so bad if we had some idea of the route we were meant to take. After about 1 and a half hours of walking we could see we were getting no closer so decided to turn around and take a few different turns. After much trial and error we came across 'Old Tram Road', which is without a doubt the steepest a road can possibly get. 4 hours of walking later we'd arrived at perfect timing for sunset - definitely planned it that way... We got out of paying for entry to The Peak by sneaking onto one of the restaurant balconies. They didn't seem to mind and we didn't feel like we missed out on the views in any way. Once the sun had set we walked all the way to the harbour to catch the famous Star Ferry back to Mong Kok at a fraction of the price of the MTR. We also timed this perfectly with the Light Show that occurs each evening at 8pm across the skyscrapers.

The next day we were so exhausted we fancied a more chilled day so opted for a Buddhist temple called Chi Lin Nunnery. The temple is set in a serene garden amidst the bustling city. We found ourselves getting lost in its charm and tranquillity then you look up and see skyscrapers everywhere! We also did a bit of Pandora charm shopping. Sam has already started planning the ones she is going to get to make a new travel theme bracelet and there are limited edition ones that are only available in China/Hong Kong. After much deliberation and practically dragging her away from the shop, no purchase was made.  That evening we took a walk down to Victoria Harbour to visit the Avenue of Stars (similar to Hollywood Walk of Fame). Here we were again bombarded with photographs but instead thought adopting the 'if you can't beat them join them' attitude would be best, so replicated some typical Chinese poses. 

Lantao Island for Tian Tan Buddha (Big Buddha) and a village called Tai O was next on the itinerary. We opted for the Lantao Day Rider bus pass which gave us unlimited travel throughout the whole island ($33). Another option is the Ngong Ping 360, a 25 minute cable car ride direct from Tung Chung MTR station to Tian Tan Buddha. However, we felt that the bus gave us more flexibility as we were also able to visit other areas of the island. We were unable to take satisfactory pictures as the sun was on the wrong side of the Buddha. Maybe visiting later in the afternoon would be best. Tai O is a small fishing village built on stilts over the mouth of a river. We thoroughly enjoyed walking the suspended streets and peering into the locals tiny houses - it was so charming! We needed a little pick me up after all the exploring and shared a peanut butter waffle - yuuuuuum! 

Whilst at Tian Tan Buddha, Bethans camera decided to give up the ghost! Annoyingly it suffered a zoom error which meant the lens was stuck sticking all the way out. Unbelievably nobody in all of Mong Kok were willing to take a look at the camera in attempt to fix it, so a new one was quickly purchased. 

Even though Hong Kong was pretty jam packed with sightseeing we still managed to fulfil many of our desires. This included wandering through countless markets, watching Lion King 1 & 2, finding the most amazing sweet shop and scouting McDonalds sundae menu - they actually do Fanta Floats!  

Next, our biggest fail of all, one we never wish to repeat - we missed our flight to Delhi!! We showed up at the airport in what we thought was plenty of time, all soo excited to start the next leg of our trip, only to find that our flight was not on the departure board... hmm. We hurried to check out flight itinerary to find that our flight was in fact at 8pm, not 11pm as we had thought and had taken off just 10 minutes before our arrival - bugger!! We're not a bunch to panic easily so calmly approached the Jet Airways desk to ask what our options were - it was not good news. As it was completely our fault, the only thing we could do was buy another ticket for 24 hours time at a cost of £265, ouch! Anyways.. there was nothing we could do but set up camp at the airport and make our night as comfortable as possible. We had little money, one sleeping bag and no chairs left to sleep in but we did have WiFi! We caught up on Geordie Shore and American Horror Story: Freak Show and talked to family members on Skype to update them. We ate horrible microwave meals from 7/11 and even blagged free teas from Starbucks - things weren't so bad. However, we were one of the first people on the plane the next day - there was no way we were missing it this time!

Hong Kong was very much a whirlwind of events - both ups and downs from the minute we walked off the plane, but we enjoyed every minute of it! 

Byeeeee China!
Protesters Campsite
Barricades in Mong Kok
The streets covered in posters
Colourful Mong Kok
The view from the 42nd floor of Bank of China Building
The view from The Peak - Daytime...
...to Night time
Treat timeee!
Sam in sweet shop heaven 
Chi Lin Nunnery
Chi Lin Nunnery

Ngong Ping Village (Big Buddha)
Tian Tan Buddha
Spot the Tourist
Po Lin Monastery
Getting those cheesy tourist shots

Tai O Fishing Village
Waffle Shop!
Mmm - delicious

Victoria Harbour - Avenue of Stars

Asking someone to take your picture results in them taking 50 photos of you afterwards

Berlin Bear - Around the world 
Perfected that Chinese pose by now!

The paparazzi really should leave us alone!  
What a sunset! 
Missed flight - If you don't laugh, you'll cry
Making ourselves at home
Free Tea!
Happy Wanderers 

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