Hong Kong

7 Dec

When it became apparent that we would need to change our return flights, waiting for Pania to arrive in this world,  Dennis decided to have a 3 day stopover in Hong Kong.  As usual I was a bit nervous about this, you know another culture completely out of my comfort zone?  It must be those Vandenberg genes displaying themselves once more!  Anyway, he booked us into Ashoka Hostel in the heart of Hong Kong.

Sisters cuddle

Our 12 hour flight went well and we managed to sleep a fair bit too.  Air NZ are so good, friendly staff, the food’s not too bad, and they keep you well-informed.  We arrived at the new Hong Kong Airport at around 6a.m.  We had to board a train that takes you from the plane to the customs/immigration area, it’s that far away!  We arrived there and joined the queue for visitors entering into Hong Kong.  They had three people working and with flights arriving thick and fast the queue keep growing longer and longer!  Maybe a few hundred waiting…but by the time it was our turn they had increased the staff to five!  It was more or less straight forward for us, having our passports approved, uplifting our luggage and just walking through customs.

Our bus ride into town from the man-made island where the airport is to Kowloon on the mainland was very interesting.  High rise apartment buildings everywhere, loads of traffic, huge bridges and an enormous wharf facility which went on for miles, huge shipping container storage areas stored maybe 8-10 high, so many ships and people, people, people.  The bus basically stopped directly outside our hostel at 8.30a.m.

Note how close the buildings are!

We had previously arranged via email with Ashoka Hostel in Chung King Mansions that we would be arriving early and they said fine.  In fact, we had this hilarious email addressed to “Our precious and esteemed customer” entreating us not to “listen to those unscrupulous men in the foyer who will try to sell you another room” but to take the particular lift up to the 13th floor and there we would find them “at your service”.  And that was how it transpired… well the unscrupulous men bit was right, the 13th floor was right, but waiting for us was not!

When we alighted from the lift, we noticed that there were at least three Hostels on the same floor but we followed the arrow to find Ashoka Hostel.  Just a few steps took us into rows and rows of wet washing hanging from coat hangers, towels, etc pegged to each coat hanger!  Very strange.  But peering past these obstacles we saw the door leading into the Hostel.  Dragging our luggage along and opening said door we were greeted with a small office which was completely black!  No light whatsoever!  It really was quite confusing and as we were discussing this with each other, there was a rustle and up popped a fully dressed man, who had been asleep on the floor behind the desk!  He had pushed aside the only chair and been sleeping there, no mattress or anything!  He was not happy to see us so early and told us we could go away and come back at 2p.m. like everyone else.  What?  Precious and esteemed customers said ” We had told you we would be coming early and here we are.”  Eventually, he relented a little and showed us where we could leave our suitcases and then sent us away till 12p.m.

So off we went, intending to have a good look around, do some window shopping and get a bit of breakfast.  No one told us that shops in Hong Kong don’t open until 10 or 10.30a.m. and that everyone was busy cleaning!  Washing the  footpaths in front of the shops, water blasting the road, cleaning shop windows, etc.   We found a park bench along the waterfront to wait it out.  Of course, Dennis managed to lie down and fall asleep in the sun while I watched all the people making their way to work getting off the buses and going down to the ferries to take them to Hong Kong Island.  I also watched a little lady who was responsible for cleaning out any large or small drain within the seating area we were in.  She would remove the grate, clean out any rubbish accumulated there and clean with disinfectant!  I watched a man fishing as well.  Nothing exciting about that you may think, but he had his line running through a drain on the waterfront paving leading into the sea!  If he had caught something, which I never saw him do, the fish would have had to have been so slim to be able to be pulled up through the openings of the grate!

Cleaning Lady

Fishing!


Once we came back to the hostel at the more reasonable hour of midday, the chap who had been asleep was obviously more rested and proved to be very happy and helpful.  Our room at the hostel was very clean and very small.  Maybe two metres by three metres, which had two double beds in an L shape, completely lined, floor, ceiling and walls in white tiles.  A door opened into the en suite, which was a toilet with a shower above it.  You had to keep the toilet paper outside to keep it from being soaked when you had a shower!  A wall mounted TV and an air conditioner were the furnishing.  Looking outside the window was a mistake….. bamboo scaffolding, small windows from other luxury rooms and 13 floors down! 

Who's got a mouth full, then?

The view outside our hostel

There was bamboo scaffolding everywhere in the city.  Just held together  with plastic strapping it was amazing to watch the workers climb all over it, assembling it as they went.  It obviously is very strong as you see whole skyscrapers wrapped with it.

One day we took the underground train to Hong Kong Island.  The train does not have any doors between the carriages, (though it’s covered) I guess so they could fit more people in!  It’s interesting to look at the carriages in front of where you are and see them turn the corners before you get to them yourself!  The tube system in London is great but these trains were even better!  Wider, cleaner and fast.  We took the bus up to “The Peak”, which is a shopping complex most of the way up a tall mountain.  Beautiful views, amazing to see all those skyscrapers!  It’s easy to see how they fit in the entire population of London in this small place.

"One" long carriage on the Tube

We did a lot of walking!  You soon got sick of all the shops!  In almost every block there was a flash shopping complex, much the same size and format as Westfield, Queensgate in Lower Hutt.  After a short time they all just look the same, same shops, same brands, same awful Christmas music!  It was much more interesting to walk along all the little lanes and streets looking at the local shops.  We got lost many times but would turn towards the sea and find our way back home eventually.   The flower market was something special.  We went there a couple of times and watched them make up these fabulous flower displays, which must have been ordered by hotels, shopping malls, for funerals, etc.  When we asked one of the ladies, she couldn’t speak English that much but said over and over “Urgent order”.  She was using big, white Asiatic lilies, that only had a stem about 2cms long, she would poke them into a small phial filled with water than was attached to a stick, maybe a metre long, and insert into the arrangement.  I asked her how long the flower head would last, “maybe 2 or 3 days”!  

They were numbered #42, #39, etc

Every flower you could imagine was for sale

All the shops stayed open till around 10p.m.!  The streets were relatively deserted first thing in the morning but was teeming after 6p.m.  I had to keep hold of Dennis or I would lose him quickly!

While wandering around it was amazing to see such beautiful, flash, fancy skyscrapers on one side of the road with old, rundown, apartments with washing strung out of the windows on the opposite side.  The washing was often hung on coat hangers, on a bit of string along the side of the building.  They were confident that there was not going to be any wind, that was for sure!  We even managed to find the Hong Kong Museum, which I thought was very well done.  I’m getting quite an education!

On one side of the road

On the opposite side of the road

Excuse me?

Just a bit of wiring...

As it turned out, overall Dennis did not really enjoy his time in Hong Kong.  Too many peopleBut I was more impressed.  Mind you I agreed with him that the people were very unfriendly and not welcoming at all.  There were only a few patches of greenery which no one was allowed to walk on.  Tiny islands of plants in the middle of intersections, fenced off.  We found one pretty large park in the middle of town, but that was it.  I was confused as to why there was so much to do with Christmas, in an un-Christian culture.  Christmas decorations, dreadful Christmas music, ra, ra, ra.  I guess it was all commercial, after all.  It was really nice for me to walk around all day in beautiful weather, 25-27 degrees in full sun and not to have to apply any sunscreen!

A Shoe Repair shop advertising the same materials we used

Christmas decorations everywhere

Our check in time for our flight back to Heathrow was 6.30a.m.  My Vandenberg genes got the better of me again and I was in a state about getting to the airport in time, at that time of day.  In hindsight, I think I read the bus timetable incorrectly and thought that the first bus would not allow us to get there in plenty of time.  So to humour me, Dennis agreed that we would go the night before and sleep at the airport!  Sounded like a good plan!  Actually we joined quite a group of people who did the same thing.  Dennis managed to sleep the night away, pretty much as I thought he might, but I only got two maybe three hours shut-eye.  I started a great book by Margaret Atwood, which may not have helped, (I finished it on the plane).  Anyway, we did board the plane on time which was my objective after all…… But, once seated the Captain informed us that the Chinese Air Control Authorities had refused AirNZ to proceed according to the usual flight plan and they would have to reset a new flight path!  This happened three times!  Each time AirNZ in Auckland would have to draw up a new flight plan, which was then sent through to China and approved or not as the case may be.  China refused them any Chinese air space at all with no reasons given.  One stewardess told Dennis it did happened very now and then, and maybe it had something to do with Chinese military exercises.  Anyway, better to be safe than sorry, I say.  When the third plan was agreed upon the plane needed more fuel as the flight would be two hours longer to accommodate their wishes.  So all in all that took two hours of waiting!  I had viewed my first movie while that was all taking place before we had moved one inch down the tarmac!

After sitting there for two hours, flying for 14 hours we landed at Heathrow at 4.30p.m.  Looking out the window was confusing because it looked like it was the middle of the night.  All the street lights on, and pitch black at 4.30 in the afternoon!  Oh, and it was 10 degrees and blowing an awfully cold wind!   By now it was peak commuter traffic so it took us three hours by tube and bus to get back to Rob’s home.  We were exhausted… dropped our bags, took a drink of orange juice from the fridge and straight up the stairs to bed to sleep for about 12 hours.  Lovely. 

Rob had left for NZ earlier that same day, spending 6 weeks with his family over Christmas.   He has allowed us to use his place while he is away.  He’s a lovely man!  So nice and warm in his centrally heated house.

Now while we wait to hear from the Housesitting Agency, we will begin afresh to make our way through all London has to offer those interested in history…….



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6 Responses to “Hong Kong”

  1. kathy December 8, 2011 at 12:23 am #

    Great post, Ma! I must say dark and cold London sounds awful – maybe you’d better return home again??

  2. Gerda & Barry December 8, 2011 at 1:24 am #

    Hey I just realised I could make comments!! Bit slow of me I know.
    Great to get your blog.Just to let you know that Barry and I are almost firm in out plans to go to Europe in September 2012 God willing. Will let you know details as they come to hand.
    Enjoy yourselves,
    Love Gerda & Barry

  3. Beaven and Viv December 8, 2011 at 7:59 am #

    Loved reading about your adventure and what an adventure in Hong Kong!
    Count down on now for the end of the school year – one week to go actually.
    You’ll love the festive season in the UK with it so dark in the afternoons the Christmas decorations brighten everything up!! enjoy

  4. John and Maria December 8, 2011 at 11:43 pm #

    At this time of the year the grass has usually started to die down: not so. I have never seen it so long and lush. Today is cloudy and rather warm. With the rains the plants are thriving, potatoes in the garden, corn growing, the flower beds are doing very well. The hydrangeas are nearly flowering and they give a good show and take up space to stop the weeds!! Keep well, enjoy the atmosphere in another country and celebrate the birth of Christ. Love from John & Maria

  5. Chris and Yvonne Thomson December 12, 2011 at 5:51 am #

    good to see you two are having such a good experience. You are making us green, and wanting to get back over there ourselves. We have just built a new house in Carterton, so it will be some time before we can follow you

    Regards

    Chris and Yvonne

  6. Sjirk and Hermina December 14, 2011 at 5:13 am #

    Dear Dennis and Janette, we just have come back from Nelson where we have been with Daniel and Raewyn. They also received another baby boy from the Lord. Elijah Daniel also arrived 14 days late and so I was able and honoured to witness the birth, what an awesome miracle from our Lord. Our warmest congratulations with your new grand daughter! Sorry to hear about your father passing away Dennis, but so good that you were able to go back to be with your family. Just read through all your stories, thanks so much for sharing them with us. Hope you don’t mind that Leen gave us your website details. Wishing you a wonderful time travelling the world, we pray that God may keep you safe. Have a blessed Christmas in maybe a white world?? Love from Sjirk and Hermina

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