Hong Kong, China (Day 1)
We woke up on March 8 in Hong Kong, on the Kowloon side of the harbor. Unfortunately we were docked at Kai Tak terminal, a converted airport half an hour’s drive from the center of town, instead of the ocean terminal right by the Star Ferry where we docked last time. You can see that three day visit here:
Conditions were pretty poor for a visit to Hong Kong. It was cold, windy & drizzly. Kai Tak is a terrible cruise port; you have to walk about a mile (really!) from the ship to reach the bus terminal. Then once the shuttle bus finally leaves it is a half hour drive through nasty traffic to the drop off at the Peninsula Hotel, near where we docked last time & the Star Ferry Terminal. And once we arrived there our bus had to circle the block three times before finding a place by the curb where we could get off. So, after all that, you can start your visit to Hong Kong. We were told that the building on the left in the picture below is the tallest in Hong Kong, which is saying something because Hong Kong has more skyscrapers than any other city in the world.
We wanted to take the HOHO bus around Hong Kong island, which required us to take the Star Ferry across the bay. The Star Ferry is a venerable institution in Hong Kong, begun in 1898, & still costs well under a dollar for a ride. Well worth it, since its also fun. We crossed the harbor & boarded the two tier bus, taking seats with a view on the top.
The HOHO runs a circular route through the city, allowing you to see a great deal as you go & to get off at any stop you would like to explore on foot. We passed the tram station for going up to Victoria Peak (bad day for this because it was covered with clouds), the botanical garden, the mid level escalators that climb halfway up toward the peak, all of which we visited last time. It continued through Happy Valley which contains a famous race track & out past several bays and the Ocean Park amusement park.
We finally reached the first of two objectives for the day, a remote spot called Stanley. Today it is a high priced residential area, but in the 19jth century it was a fishing village and a base for pirates. Stanley has a large bay that was beautiful even on a dark & cloudy day.
Most people come here to visit the Stanley Market, a crowded maze of stalls selling every kind of Chinese souvenir you can imagine in a large range of prices.
We re-boarded the bus & headed for our second destinatiion, Aberdeen. On the way we passed Repulse Bay, once a pirate hangout that got its name when the British Navy drove them away. Its beach has been a popular since the 1920’s and on nice weekend days it may have tens of thousands of bathers (but certainly not today!). On the hill above is a large curvy blue residential building with a large hole in the middle that was dictated by Feng Shui, the Chinese system of architectural arrangement.
Aberdeen is a town built around a harbor that was once crowded with Chinese junks on which families lived and sold fish, flowers and other items. Today it has a lot of boats parked in rows but it doesn’t appear that many are actually living on board. We were told that most of the families who once lived on the boats here were moved into the residential skyscrapers lining the harbor, which house some 60,000 people.
We toured the harbor on a sampan that was decorated profusely with plastic flowers and lanterns.
We spent about 20 minutes sailing around the harbor, up and down the rows of boats. Are any of these house boats? We don’t know. It was raining so there was no activity on the boats. We don’t know what it would be like on a nice day. This is a very active fishing harbor, bringing in about a third of all the seafood in Hong Kong.
Two huge floating restaurants sit in Aberdeen harbor, one called Tai Pak and the other called Jumbo. We were told that these restaurants are an experience but that the food has gone downhill in recent years, although that on the top floor of the Jumbo is making a comeback. Our sampan sailed around these restaurants. They are brightly lit at night, but of course we weren’t there at night.
We re-boarded the bus to go back to the pier. It had become very cold, windy & drizzly while we were at Aberdeen, so we decided to sit inside rather than on top. Unfortunately the bus was quite late & by the time it got to us the inside was full, so we had to sit on top. The cold wind made for a very unpleasant ride, but we made it (without getting sick, surprisingly). We crossed back to Kowloon on the ferry & rode the shuttle bus back to the ship.
That evening there was a Chinese cultural show. It was pretty much the same one we saw here two years ago but it was still good & fun to watch. The highlights were the dragon dance & the fellow who changes faces (masks) so quickly you can’t see it happening. We were told this is a highly respected art in China and the one we saw is one of the best.
So that was all for day 1, dampened by weather and shortened by the remoteness of the cruise terminal (and a substantial delay in the port officials clearing the ship so passengers could disembark in the morning). Hong Kong puts on a great light show at night, with lasers and changing lights on buildings, but that is in the central part of town where we docked last year and we couldn’t see it from this year’s berth. But we went out on deck and this part of Hong Kong across the harbor was still pretty spectacular at night. As we headed for bed we were hoping for better weather for day 2 when we would be taking a HAL tour.