Friday, January 2, 2009

Hong Kong in late December

There hasn't been a lot to write about on this trip so far as we were prevented from going too far afield by my lack of visa. We put in my passport to the Japan Travel Agency on the morning of the 24th of December but couldn't get it back until the 31st because of the intervening holidays. The price has gone up to HK $600 for a multiple entry 6-month visa. I will get at least 2 uses out of it and maybe a day trip to Shen Zhen as well, but time is already running out!

I arrived at 3 pm on Tuesday 23rd December after an uneventful trip, during which I slept some and spent the rest of the time reading a book (The map that changed the world) I had bought at the last minute at the airport. An interesting account of the life of William Smith, the "father of modern geology". Scientific backbiting and snobbism was rife in the 18th century, it seems.

I took the bus to Hung Hom, but was too late to start the visa process as I needed a photo, having left my last one at home. I had some trouble finding Eddie at the station, but we finally connected and took the MTR back to Fanling, where I had my photos done.

On Wednesday (Christmas Eve) we finally got to the Travel Agency to put in my passport for the visa, after which we visited the Museum of History since it was Wednesday when entry is free. As a bonus, we met Alex Ip for lunch at the Royal Restaurant at One Peking Rd. We had a very nice lunch with him, then took the Star Ferry to Hong Kong-side. We spent some time in IFC listening to a choir of young people who sang right through their (considerable) song book. The performance lasted at least 30 minutes and showed off their talents to advantage. It was tiring standing for so long, so we repaired to Dymock's Book Shop for browsing and a chance to sit down, before going on to Sham Shui Po for some shopping. We took the MTR, which was very crowded and hot, but it's not the most comfortable travelling on a holiday eve. It was a relief to walk back to Mongkok in the cool of the evening.

We paused to look at the Brighten flower shop which was filled with interesting flowers and floral decorations, large and small over 4 floors. The website isn't in English but certainly displays the variety of goods and is worth a look. We hardly had time to look at everything, but Eddie has photos for the memories.

On Christmas Day, we had a quiet morning, then went for a walk up the road to enjoy the afternoon. We trailed through part of a village and deserted roads before taking a train to Shum Shui Po again, where we had a Christmas dinner of wun tun soup, and bought some electronics, notably a wireless router, which I spent Friday setting up.

After wrestling with the router, we took a walk to Sheung Shui for shopping and bought fish for tea.

On Saturday we got a bit of help with the router from our ISP - mostly to do with making sure all the computers can get email. I was happy to have a computer of my own to use again, and so far it's been well-behaved. After a sleep we went to Tai Po just for a wander. We bought some pork bones and made soup for tea.

Sunday 28th was grey and overcast, so we rested in the morning. The local Fanling flower show provided an afternoon's entertainment - we saw a range of orchids and other pot plants, a hyacinth macaw hiding at the top of the cage that wasn't in a mood to be on display, a cockatoo, mounted trays of insects (mostly beetles and butterflies), enormous millipedes (pictured), giant fish and tiny fish and interestingly coloured goldfish, reptiles including snakes, frogs (tree and albino), lizards, a nest of scorpions, and a chameleon (green).

The associated stalls were selling orchids for very reasonable prices, along with spring bulbs and garden ornaments. One had tiny pots and vases of artificial flowers - all very lifelike, and quite expensive. I would have bought Eddie a tray of jonquils but he jibbed a the $280 price. We were going to go further but went home when it began to rain.

Monday 29th was still overcast but not wet. We went for a walk round back of Sheung Shui, across the Indus River and through a cemetery, which we found unexpectedly. It was a taxing but interesting sortie that occupied 3 hours. The area was desolate and showed signs of having had a fire go through it - probably at Cheung Yeung. There were many grand graves tucked into the hillsides among the grass and scrub and we fossicked about the paths and byways. You would have thought we were the only people around but beyond the hills we could see the towers of Shen Zhen, just across the border. And of course, not too far away were the various tower blocks and complexes of Sheung Shui.

We bought some beef on the way home and made beef soup for tea.

On Tuesday we took another walk up to Sheung Shui to get some eggs. We had to wait a while for the eggs to arrive, and since it was cold and wet, we took the opportunity to wait in a warm place and visited our representative at the bank.

New Year's eve was cloudy and grey again but not too cold. We took a trip to Hong Kong again, mainly to pick up a prize Eddie had won by doing a survey for JP Morgan. The prize of a "travel kit" (wallet and baggage label in a fancy box) looked flash, but we both thought its carry bag might be more useful.

We walked through Hollywood Rd area just sightseeing and then finally found the restaurant that Eddie had been to before with May and Roger Sai Louie, where we had a small lunch of wun tun soup, which we later supplemented with bread rolls from the Catherine bread shop. They would have been extra tasty with a bit of butter.

Since it was Wednesday when the museums are free, we trooped up many flights of stairs (on the heritage trail) to the Dr Sun Yat Sen Museum. It was well worth the visit, although we couldn't stay to read every inscription under the exhibits as we had to collect my visa and get some money for our stay in China on the weekend.

In the evening, we met Alex Ip and Mr and Mrs Wong for a dinner at Tai Po. We had a very interesting menu of Chiu Chow cooking, which included spinach soup, a steamed fish, breaded deep-fried prawns and a very sweet cabbage. We finished with a dessert of fried and steamed dumplings. Naturally we were too tired to see the New Year in here - but we also missed the New Zealand and Australian tickovers despite intending to mark the right time.

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