Exploring Hong Kong
25th April 2012 17:28
CouchSurfing. Hands up if you've heard of it! No prizes if I already told you before, that's cheating.
The idea is, you stay at the home of a local while on your travels. They offer you a couch/bed/sofa/floor out of the kindness of their heart, allowing you to learn about their culture. This presents a unique opportunity to bypass the typical hotel/hostel frequented by backpackers and really get to know the place you're staying in, as well as gaining a new friend to boot.
OK, you're sceptical. Why would anyone do such a thing? What if you get an axe murderer? They like murdering things with axes right? Yes. They do. Fortunately though, you can read reviews from other travellers before staying with someone. This helps you avoid the weirdos and undesirables.
I had arranged to stay with Lilian before I left the UK. She kindly offered to host me for two nights on the nineteenth and twentieth of April. She's probably been the best thing about Hong Kong so far, so I'm glad she did!
She's put up with me, showed me around places I otherwise wouldn't have seen and generally been pretty amazing and lovely. If you had any doubts about CouchSurfing, I guarantee they'd be dispelled by a stay with Lilian!
The first place she took me to was a small village called Nam Sang Wai. This is the last such village of its kind, and apparently the locals do appreciate tourists visiting due to the income it brings (serving drinks, ferrying people across the river and so on). The difference between this place and the city couldn't be more obvious:
I do worry how long it will remain intact, however. Lilian mentioned that the land had been sold to a property developer, the eventual conclusion I would imagine being eviction for the inhabitants.
We then walked the Ping Shan Heritage Trail. It was hot. I got tired and sweaty. By comparison Lilian looked fresh and like she'd just enjoyed a nice peaceful nap in an air conditioned room. I hope I adjust to the hotter climate soon - it's not even that hot, about twenty seven degrees that day. The highest so far has been twenty nine. The trail visits the 'Tang' village and various historical buildings in the area, giving an insight into Chinese life hundreds of years ago.
We've taken the ferry over to Lantau island, having dinner and a few drinks with a view like this:
We've gone up to a viewpoint in the New Territories (where Lilian lives), looking North towards mainland China:
We've also been to many different (authentic) restaurants, for a taster of the best food Hong Kong has to offer - this was just breakfast!
She's even let me drive her car around to these places. Actually that's probably for the best as she can't really drive, she bumped into a barrier when she was parking it the other day. She didn't seem to mind too much, I laughed a fair bit. I could make a comment here about women drivers, but I'll resist.
If you ever get the chance, give CouchSurfing a shot. Pick your host carefully, and you'll be richly rewarded as I was.
So while Lilian was busy on her course during the day, I was off exploring. I'm actually amazed just how tired this is making me. My feet are also killing me by the end of the day with all the walking I'm doing. I had to ditch my 'Keane' sandals (as recommended by Rob Kershaw - see my blog list in the sidebar) and have resorted to using bog standard flip flops, the wounds made on my feet are still healing. I've kept the Keanes and will try them with some below the ankle socks (super cool!) at some point.
First up was a visit to Stanley Bay. They have a market there where I picked up my flip flops, but luckily for me they were holding Dragon Boat races in the bay:
These are really quite exciting, with the drummer at the front and the pace they're paddling at. Nobody fell in the water which I was slightly disappointed about, but you can't have everything.
By this point I needed to start getting to my next stop, so hopped on a bus - which went past Repulse Bay:
If you didn't know Hong Kong had beaches, now you do! If I had more time (and more sunny days!) I would have treated myself to a relaxing day on the beach, but I had more pressing things to do and see!
This has probably been my favourite thing so far. The view over Hong Kong from Victoria Peak:
I had been waiting for a nice enough day for this since I'd been here. For obvious reasons you don't really want to go up there when it's cloudy. I expected it to be incredible, and I wasn't disappointed.
I've visited Central, where they have the longest escalator in the world (OK so it's lots of escalators connected with walkways but for some reason no one pays much attention to that). You get some nice views down some of the streets you pass over.
You can hop on a tram which takes you from one side of Hong Kong island to another, perfect for capturing images of daily life on the bustling streets:
And something not for those with a fear of heights, a cable car ride to Ngong Ping 360. This was a good experience, but it was slightly let down by the fact it was a cloudy day. The lower part of the ride was fine, but climbing higher into the mountains you literally couldn't see the car in front. The pictures show just how bad it was!
Bit of a long post this one, but I've had no time before now! Next up, day trip to Macau and the next destination after Hong Kong.