Day 30 - Hong Kong Departure

Sunday, September 23rd, 2007

Mother's plane was to leave before mine at 12:45 for Vancouver so we had to be up quite early in the morning. We did not have time to eat as we sleepily checked out and piled our luggage into a taxi for the trip to the Airport Express: Hong Kong Station in Central. This is a wonderful train service that takes you right from Central to the Hong Kong International Airport in just 24 minutes. Considering the distances involved, this is very impressive. What is also nice is that you actually check in at the train station so you do not need to take your bags with you on the train. The train is not cheap but it is so convenient that we did not mind the expense.

When we arrived at the very new train station I checked and found I was able to check in myself despite my plane leaving at 23:25 this evening so I took the opportunity to get rid of my luggage for the day (instead of having to find somewhere to store them). A bit of a surprise: Mother found out her plane has been delayed until much later this afternoon. We have an unexpected last day together in Hong Kong! I was happy.

In a small shopping arcade attached to the station (inside the International Finance Centre) is the Pacific Coffee Company where we had something to drink and eat for a few minutes (and use the Internet). It was quite nice after the hurrying earlier to relax for a few minutes in some comfy chairs. I hope this sets us up for a relaxing day but somehow I don't think it will…

I had had no real plans for the day but had been thinking of visiting the “Mid Levels” – An area of the city above central but below the Peak, that is, mid-level. It is here that there is a zoo, churches, museums and temples. Mother was also keen to try out the escalator system that is the largest in the world. As it turns out, she should not have been too excited as it was going the wrong way! Up until about 10:00 in the morning it descends to bring commuters into the city it is only after this that the escalator travels upwards. It was before 10:00. Oh dear. It is a long walk up…

Walking from the station we were surprised to see a number of women sitting on the floor all along the walkway to escalator. They were often sitting on a large blanket spread out with drinks and food at hand. We learned that these are ladies (often from the Philippines) who serve as cleaners and maids during the week but on the one day a week they have off, Sunday, they meet their friends here. The happy conversation and faces lined the walkway as we made our way past.


Climbing up the staircase that, more or less, follows the escalator we wandered through the antique district on Hollywood Road. The view of the rest of the city, where you can see through the buildings, is quite spectacular and the staircases we ascended quite impressive (more impressive public toilet facilities along the way as well…meticulous clean again, here in the middle of a very non-touristy section of the city).

Side Streets

Most of the shops are closed as it is Sunday and the light drizzle gave the area a bit of a depressingly lifeless quality to it. Climbing up and down the undulations of the road we eventually came to the (famous) Man Mo Temple. It is a small temple nestled amongst the skyscrapers all around and could easily be missed if you are not paying attention (mind you, all you need to do is just look for the coaches parked outside on the street and the crowds of tourists…). Man Mo is a temple built in 1847 that is devoted to the God of Literature and the God of War (interestingly). It does attract a number of tourists that all seem to be from Japan…Inside the temple was something that I had never seen before: Large incense coils hung from the ceiling everywhere (by large I mean about 3 feet high!) and the place was murky with the smoke. The signs read “Beware of Incense-coils above” and they are not kidding! They are undergoing renovation so scaffolding was everywhere adding to the mysterious look of the interior. A number of people were worshipping at the altar so we made our way quietly around the space which seemed to exude calm and quiet (or perhaps it was just a smoke-induced haze?).

Inside Man Mo Temple

A short, but steep, walk around the corner we were at the Dr Sun Yat-sen Museum. This is a former colonial mansion that has only recently been converted into a museum devoted to Dr Sun Yat-sen (though the man never actually even visited the building). Sun Yat-sen was a Chinese revolutionary and political leader who is largely regarded as the father of modern day China. He was educated here in Hong Kong as a doctor and with his adventures later in life he also escaped to here as it was then British territory. He was the first provisional president of the Republic of China when it was founded in 1912 and was a uniting figure in post-Imperial China. The museum is in this stately home on the side of the mountain and consists of a series of rooms devoted to the man and his life. I found it quite nationalistic but interesting. It is amazing how little we know of this man in the west and he really is quite an impressive figure. Mother knew about the man and also found the museum quite interesting.

Dr Sun Yat-sen Museum

Continuing our exploration of the mid-levels we took a walk in search of a cathedral (St John's Cathedral off of Garden Road) I had seen on a map I had been reviewing last night. It turns out that it was not so impressive hidden behind a number of buildings the small cathedral was in the middle of a service with the space around it cluttered with cars. Walking past this we climbed up a series of steps towards the Zoological and Botanical Gardens. I have visited here before but mother had not so we caught our breath and had a look at the gorillas for a few minutes and wandered through the park for a few minutes. The zoo is on the side of the mountain and, as such, has a lot of stairs and slopes to climb up and down throughout. There are trees and plants everywhere so it is quite green with the cages painted black so they blend in quite well. You can't really see the surrounding city except for the occasional high rise poking out from amongst the trees so it is quite a haven. The new Chinese government does appear to be taking care of things as the whole place is still quite spotless.

Walking Along Road in the Mid-Levels

Making our way along Mosque Street we arrived at the top of the escalator. Of course, with what I have said earlier about the escalator you will have realised that at this point the escalator was now going up. Since we were at the top it was, again, not in our favour. We took the device to the very top where the path largely stops at a big apartment complex over top of a big road. Now we can say we have taken the escalator to the top (ignoring the fact that this was only for about 25 m). We began our descent along the staircase (roughly) alongside. Along the way we descended down steep narrow alleys with stalls set up alongside. It was a side of Hong Kong I have never experienced before. It is surprising since we are really in the most modern and commercial part of Hong Kong yet here people prevail with the chatter and noise of a traditional street market.

Top of the Escalator

We were in search of lunch. I think this time we found the best of all of our “hit and miss” restaurant selection method. Nearing the bottom of the staircase the path, thankfully, levelled out in Central. Looking around I spotted that there were a number of people entering into one particular restaurant. Interesting. Approaching the entrance there were a few signs (only a few basic words in English) and an elevator (lift). People kept getting into the elevator to enter the restaurant. What the heck…

Getting out on the first floor (above the ground floor) we were immediately confronted with a small crowd of people around the head waitress who was taking names. I went forward and presented our party size (2) and name. She gave us a number and we found a seat along the wall to wait. It is lucky we had a seat as a few minutes later the lobby became a lot more crowded. The numbers were called out and I was racking my brain trying to remember how to say our number in Cantonese (I think I had it…) but I needn't have worried as the waitress called out our number in English (!) and showed us to our table on the third floor. We were in luck – A dim sum restaurant! The tables were packed with people as we followed our guide to a room near the back. Our server gave us a short menu in English from which we chose some of our favourites. It was very good and probably the best meal we have had where we sorted it ourselves (the dim sum with Raymond yesterday was much better but Raymond organised it – not us). I was very happy with this. Our last meal together and we left happy.

Airport Express: Hong Kong Station

Back to the train station we boarded the very modern train for the half-hour trip to the airport. Even though my train was to leave near midnight I wanted to see mother off to make sure that she was alright. While the train sped along an electronic sign above the doorways showed how far we were along the route which was quite entertaining. It was when we crossed the Tsing Ma bridge that we were really able to see a great deal – I saw this bridge opened during my first visit and, at the time, it was the largest suspension bridge in the world. It is quite high up off of the harbour and you can see quite some distance (even with the smog that is now here in the city). The train quickly approached the airport as we passed through areas of development right nearby that were not here previously. The airport has really caused a lot of development on the island on which it sits (Lantau). When I first visited the airport was in Kowloon in the middle of the harbour but this new airport is quite some distance away. Lantau at the time only had a few small fishing communities and not a lot of tourists. Now they have a ski lift that will take you over a few mountains to the very same fishing villages and the Po Lin monastery that was going to be one of the things I did today but they have had problems recently and it is closed…Next time.

Olympics Countdown Clock at the Airport (SW)

Mother did not have a lot to do other than make her way to the gate as she had checked in earlier at Central so we sat down together for a few minutes at a coffee shop and shared her last moments in Hong Kong chatting away (she had a coupon given to her by the airline for some food since the plane was late). As we walked to the security entrance the wall of glass looking out towards the mountains of Lantau called to us and we went over to have a closer look. We quietly appreciated the view then slowly I returned with her to security, kissed her on the cheek and wished her a pleasant flight.

Lantau Island from the Airport (SW)

I was alone again. We have spent so much time together I was a bit at a loss so kept myself busy until when I had to return about 6 or 7 hours later for my flight. I was not going to spend my time here so I caught a bus back into the city, Tsim Sha Tsui. I have caught the bus before and it is really a lot more (culturally) interesting than the train (and a lot less expensive). I was able to use my Octopus card and climbed onboard with only my rucksack (thank goodness for the early check-in!) while those behind me toiled to get their luggage into the racks beside the door…

The rain was beginning as the bus made it's way along the highway back into the city. We quickly left the fast road and wound our way along the small residential (well, apartment complexes) of Hong Kong then down Nathan Road towards the harbour. I was one of the last to get out and getting out my umbrella I headed back to the Museum of Art. I figured if I had a few hours and it was raining it would be good to be inside. Passing underground (due to the road closure outside of the museum) I stopped briefly at the Sego department store underneath. Mother had spotted something the other day that she thought was quite nice so I picked it up for her. Sego is a Chinese department store chain that we have seen throughout our travels in China.

I was disappointed to learn that the Museum of Art was to close early today probably because of the monsoon…sorry, did I not mention it? Yes, it turns out that monsoon number three for us was bearing down on Hong Kong. We do seem to have a picked a good time of year to be travelling…if you like being wet! I was getting tired of it. It would not be so bad if it cooled down (and I was not carrying electronics) but the rain just increases the humidity without decreasing temperature.

Museum of Art

The museum was quite enjoyable as I took my time in my one hour visit (before it closed) to make my way through the pottery exhibit we had only recently seen yesterday then the jade and gold exhibits. I very much enjoyed the exquisite nature of the things on display. Not as simple as Japanese but impressive nonetheless.

When they finally kicked me out (but not before I visited the small museum shop) I made my way through the rain to the harbour front. There is an upper deck to the promenade where I sat and watched the harbour and tourists for an hour or so. I was going to wait until the light show started but the rain was picking up and my umbrella was leaking again so I, reluctantly, headed back to Nathan Street to catch the bus back to the airport. I did not need to hurry as I ended up standing for about 45 minutes on the street under some (not very rainproof) scaffolding with my umbrella waiting for the bus to arrive. I was not the only one as a number of other people were waiting as well – but they were sensible and waited on the pavement (sidewalk) out of the rain.

The rain was really coming down as the bus arrived. Climbing on board the bus left a few minutes later and headed down Nathan Road that I could hardly make out between the raindrops on the windows. The colours were washed out and the buildings blurred. The city was disappearing before my very eyes.

I had something to eat at a US fast food chain at the airport (only in Hong Kong!) which was a change from what we have been eating – something different. Always something different…Wandering through the shops I picked up some moon cakes for the lady at work who had helped me plan my travels in China.

Going through security my gate was a long way away and I had to catch a train to get there. Arriving at the gate all that was left is to wait for my flight.

  • 23:25 Hong Kong to LHW VS201 – Duration: 13 Hours

Day 31 - London Arrival

Further Information

For further information, please see: