Saturday, October 12th - Wan Chai, Hong Kong

A very good sleep last night. I think we are finally over the jet lag and Mel’s cold even sounds a bit better. I am using a night-mask (courtesy of Virgin Atlantic) at night because of the sun coming in the windows but that, and the “please do not disturb” sign on the door is working!

We were up at 9:45 with a quick breakfast of some the goodies from the bakery. From the bus stop immediately outside of the hotel we caught the 10 bus to the HSBC building in Central. This is the world headquarters of the HSBC bank and is quite an amazing building with the two iconic bronze lions on the street in front: “Stephen” and “Stitt” with “Stephen”, of course, being the more handsome (smile).

Stephen and Stephen

These lions were made for HSBC back in 1935 but confiscated by the Japanese in the second world war. They were rescued from being melted down after the second world war by an American sailor in Osaka.

Mel and Stitt

At street level there is a large open area under the building with two escalators taking people into the building itself. Standing below and looking up you can see through a glass floor into a massive central atrium. Very impressive. Nice to think that some of my hard-earned money is going into such a wonderful structure (HSBC is my bank).

Today we were not visiting the bank, we were visiting the mid-levels escalator. This is a series of escalators that take people up from the Central area of Hong Kong Island to, funnily enough, the “Mid-Levels”, an area about a third of the way up the mountain. For the first part of the day, for commuters, they travel down but for the rest of the day they travel up. So, if you want to use them it is important to know what time of the day it is you will be doing so!

Hours of Operation...and Direction

We walked a bit down the street from HSBC then up a small escalator leading pedestrians from the street level into an elevated walkway where the escalator system begin in earnest. Initially it is not much more than a moving sidewalk but eventually the incline steepens and the escalators begin.

Midlevel Escalators

Between escalators you follow the path that leads you to the next or exit for access to the local area.

Side Streets

The escalators were busy with people wanting to visit the area. We left at Hollywood Road which is well known for having a number of antique shops. Walking along the quiet narrow, windy street we stopped occasionally to have a look in the windows at what was on offer. Some shops were much more expensive than others but all were interesting to see. At one point a tree with gnarled roots grew out of a retaining wall and spread it’s drooping branches out over the street.


At another point a man was set up on the sidewalk painting on hand-made paper.

Street Painting

Along Hollywood Road is the Man Mo temple, our current destination. Every time I visit it appears to be under construction and this time it was no different with scaffolding covering the ornate exterior (I am assuming it ornate, you understand, I don’t recall ever having seen it in person!).

Entrance to Man Mo Temple

There are three entrances at the front. The far left is the entrance into the main temple itself. Large coils of incense hang from the roof in it’s dark, smokey, and crowded interior (at one point I was lightly burned as incense ash from a coil above landed on my arm).

Inside the Temple

The first section near the door is just incense coils hanging from a head-level frame.

Candles and Incense

Working your way around this section on the right you pass by a stall selling fortunes (as you would) then at the back there is a small shrine.


Beside that shrine is the main shrine with a series of altars in front with various sacrifices for the deity - Oranges and other fruit. This is a working temple so there were a number of people worshiping as they competed for space with the visiting tourists (the ratio being about 1 tourist for every 2 worshipers) but the visitors seemed to be well behaved, quiet, respectful, and unobtrusive - Like ourselves - Taking pictures where possible.


On the left side of the room there were two display cabinets containing very old sedan chairs for carrying statues of the gods.

The next entrance over leads to a much smaller shrine that you got to by passing through another fortune telling stall - Along the walls here there are what I take to be dates with scrolls inside of them that you purchase. The shrine is much brighter than the main shrine and is surrounded by memorials to those that have passed on.

The final entrance is to a memorial hall which we only briefly visited.

Leaving the temple we headed back towards the escalator. We stopped by a 7-11, you will never guess what we had to drink? We were a bit annoyed as they had run out of large cups so had to pay the price for the small as we had been paying for the large ($5).


Back on the escalators we continued a few more streets up to Caine Road. This section is really steep so we are thankful we did not have to walk. At one point we stopped to take a picture of a bar called “Yorkshire Pudding“ that amusingly had it’s name stylised as if it was an underground station. No doubting what crowd they are catering for here.

Yorkshire Pudding Bar

Along Caine Road we quickly came across an area I recognized as we spotted a big patch of green ahead: The zoo. Or, more correctly, the “Hong Kong Zoological And Botanical Gardens”. Being on the side of the mountain we had a long ramp through the trees to get to the cages.

West Entrance to the Zoo

First we visited a large enclosure with two older Orangutans. Mel particularly loves the apes so spent a lot of time watching them as they basically sat there and occasionally scratched themselves…


I like the ring-tailed lemurs (monkey like animals from Madagascar) which were a bit more active and even the large land turtles they had were up and about.

Ring-Tailed Lemurs

A small white building with a sign about twin baby Orangutans grabbed my attention so we had a bit of peak. It was the “Education and Exhibition Centre” and entering we saw that they were playing some video. This was quite disappointing but soon it became clear that in about 15 minutes they would be allowing us to actually see the babies! Hearing some strange sounds coming from where we had just been, this gave us some time to investigate…The Siamang (monkeys) were having a bit of a very loud conversation with one another as they clutched to the side of their cage. It gathered quite the crowd. Eventually they composed themselves and we returned to the education centre to have a look at the babies. They were in a small room with a window that we could look through to see them.

Attempting to Hide

There were a number of toys scattered here and there including a metal climbing frame on it’s side but the babies largely stayed near the door where the keepers were standing. There were a few people watching when the babies were first shown but after a few minutes it was just us and keepers watching.


Mel got to talking to one of the keepers and learned that the keepers are trying to distance their involvement - They used to play with them in the room but no longer do so. Evidently they are quite smart too, learning how to open the door by watching their keepers do it. Mel watched for a long time, they are quite cute even at something like two years old. Remarkably human like (except for the hair and long arms!).

I received a phone call from my friend Raymond. We are arranging to get together with him and his family tomorrow so we agreed that he would meet us in the lobby tomorrow morning at 11:15 as getting to where we needed to be was just too complicated…I am not sure he will be able to find our hotel either…But, hey ho.

The zoo comes in two parts. We had to cross via a tunnel under a road to visit the second part which was primarily devoted to birds though there was also some impressive park area including a big water fountain. We spent some time watching the flamingos and some very colourful ducks.

Looking at the Birds

It was tiring walking up and down the side of the hill for the various enclosures.

North East Entrance to the Zoo

We left the park and walked back down to Central passing by the entrance to the Peak Tram. Along the way we noticed they were opening a “Race Walking” contest…We were wondering why there was not a lot of traffic there.

Race Walking Opening Ceremony

We took the Star Ferry back to Kowloon then along the road beside The Peninsula hotel then up Nathan Road (“watches, rolex…?”, “tailor, tailor…?”, score tied this time at 2 and 2) where we once again visited Sam’s. All of our shirts were ready and felt very nice to wear. I changed in the office and noticed some tickets they had been given on the wall to very nice concerts and sports events. “It is quite busy today”, says me, “No”, says Sam. He is quite a nice person and I chatted with him again for a few minutes while Mel tried on her shirts. We both were able to take our shirts with us so all that was left was to return for Mel’s trousers and my suit. We agreed to come back on Monday.

It was Mel’s choice for dinner and we decided to have a bit of a break from our normal and visit Pizza Hut. Down a side street off of Nathan Road we took an elevator up to the first floor restaurant where we were shown a table. It was freezing so we chattered our teeth as we looked over the menu. It had to be pizza despite the menu having a wide assortment of dishes including various stir-fries, soups, pastas, steaks, etc. A Super Supreme (large) ($168) and two Pepsi ($24 ea). It was a bit cool when it arrived (perhaps it was too close to the air conditioner) but it was quite satisfying. Looking around we realised that most people were not actually eating pizza…$237.60. Quite reasonable.

Pizza Hut

During dinner I read an email from my mother who was leaving our house in London on her way to South Africa. A bit odd to think that she has been there for a few days while we have been here. She missed having the cat around…

Back Streets of Tsim Sha Tsui

It was still relatively early so we walked some of the side streets on our way back to the harbour on the way passing a restaurant specializing in turtle (the shutterbug got a picture of that one…). We visited a shopping centre on the harbour where Mel spent some time looking for some snacks to take back with her to the office - The basement had a number of things on offer but, on balance, we agreed that she would pick something up at the airport instead of having to take it all around with us including to Singapore. I did, however, pick a package of wasabi peas that looked quite nice…It was quite an interesting place with piles of things for sales on tables in ordered aisles. Much of it seemed to be Asian but imported from places like Malaysia or Japan. The prices were good though.

At Tsim Sha Tsui East bus station we visited their toilets (again, very clean). You may not, dear reader, understand the importance of this but, believe me, it is much nicer than the alternative even if you don’t have to sit down…ok, ok, enough about the toilets, I get it.

We walked along the length of “Avenue of Stars” stopping to take pictures of the status of Bruce Lee then of Jackie Chan and Jet Li’s hand prints in the walkway.

Bruce Lee

It was 6:30 and already very dark so we stopped to enjoy the lights of Hong Kong. Still hard to believe we are here.


After the ferry back to Wan Chai I suggested we pay a visit to a bookshop I had spotted when we first arrived: Dymocks. It is quite a nice shop that sells a lot of English-language books and magazines. All of them are wrapped in plastic - The attendant told me that this was because of the humidity. If they did not wrap them in plastic the paper would quickly start to turn yellow. I picked up a book I had looked at the other day: “Sights and Secrets of Hong Kong” which is a sketchbook by a local author that is quite fun with a number of sketches but also hand-written comments about various things. At $250 it was not cheap but certainly not something you would necessarily find in London. The assistant pointed out a number of books by the same artist that I would certainly want to look at another time…I was feeling a bit guilty at the amount I just paid for this one! As we left I said “m’goi sai” to her which she complimented me on - Evidently I said “thank you” exactly like a local though I quickly explained that this was pretty much the only thing I could say with any comprehensibility. A chuckle later and we were out the door.

7-11. Fantas all round.


Watched television, drank slurpees, copied photos to laptop, charge the phones/cameras (in the somewhat oversubscribed power outlet on the wall), did a bit more laundry, changed the thermostat (it is freezing in here the maid had set the temperature at 16!), and drank some water.

⇒ Continue to Sunday, October 13th - Wan Chai, Hong Kong