Day 2 - Hong Kong
Monday, March 26, 2012: The sun rose on a beautiful day in Hong Kong.
|We planned on checking out the gorgeous pool area, ...
|... but first, breakfast in the Essence Restaurant on the first floor.
|OK, now we can see the pool. But we did not get in because it was not warm enough.
|This sculpture sits at the high point of the garden above the pool area, ...
|... where it presides over a water feature, ...
|... that tumbles down the steps to ...
|... a beautiful rock water feature, ...
|... that turns into a waterfall backdrop for the pool.
|There are also gardens and gazebos and trellises and these large plumeria trees, not yet wearing their leaves and blooms for the summer.
|We bade farewell to the Executive Premier Floor stairwell that led up one level to the lounge, ...
|... and to the Citygate view, ...
|... and to our Novotel. Not to worry, we'd see it again sooner than we expected.
|We took the hotel shuttle back to the airport where we caught the Airport Express.
|It travels between the airport and Hong Kong Island in 24 minutes.
|Monitors in every car show news, weather, and entertainment, so we could see that we had some warm weather waiting for us in Bangkok and Singapore soon.
|A light-up display showed our progress. We're almost there!
|We arrived in Hong Kong Station and made our way to the elevated sidewalk across the street that leads to the harbour.
|We passed the shiny Apple store along the way.
|It was an easy three-block walk to Central Pier, home to several different tour companies, ...
|... and the most famous of all, the Star Ferry. We purchased upper deck tokens for 2.50 HKD/person (about 32 cents). Lower deck tokens were 2 HKD (26 cents).
|The ferry wasn't very full, so it was no problem finding a seat. With ferries leaving every 6 - 12 minutes, it was a very convenient way to travel. The bench backs slide forward or backward, so when you board the ferry, you just slide the bench back to the other side so you're facing ahead.
|You can't beat these views!
|Here's one of the Star Ferries now!
|The journey takes less than 10 minutes, so we were disembarking in no time.
|Our hotel, the Marco Polo Hongkong, was just a two-minute walk from the ferry terminal. We had booked a room on the Continental Club floors, ...
|... so we went up there to check in. Our room wasn't ready this early, so we left our luggage, ...
|... and had a bite to eat in the Continental Club.
|The buffet included juices, fruit, sandwiches, and cookies.
|We headed out to the Kowloon Public Pier to do some sightseeing.
|The waterfront is nicely designed for strolling or sitting and enjoying the view of Hong Kong island.
|This was a tourist boat called the Aqua Luna, designed to look like an oldstyle junk boat.
|There were many groups of schoolchildren out enjoying the sunny weather, supervised by their teachers.
|We can only assume that the nightly Hong Kong Harbour festival of lights involved these monster projectors, because we weren't in this location any of the nights we watched it.
|This is looking back along the Kowloon Public Pier toward the Clock Tower, not far from our hotel.
|Next along the waterfront: the Avenue of Stars, featuring a variety of movie-related statues like this one, ...
|... and these.
|Among the bricks are handprints and/or names of Asian film stars.
|The Avenue stretches for quite a distance, just perfect for an afternoon stroll.
|To our delight, we were stopped by a schoolteacher who asked us if we would answer some questions for his students. In unison, they read us an introduction, then each asked us one question about our visit to Hong Kong, writing down our answers in their books. It was so very adorable.
|We were stunned to see this statue on the Avenue -- identical to the ones we had seen in Berlin in 2002 and Cairo in 2007. Here are excerpts of the text of the sign next to it: "United Buddy Bears were created in 2002 by the couple Eva and Klaus Herlitz of Germany ... Superstar Jackie Chan got to know these adorable bears when he was filming in Germany. He was so impressed by the message it delivers, and decided to bring this meaningful exhibition to Hong Kong."
|This bear matched the ones we had seen in Switzerland in 2010, thus solving the mystery of where those had come from.
|The Bruce Lee statue inspired a never-ending parade of people striking their best Bruce Lee pose.
|This was just one of many, many times we waited patiently for our turn to photograph something just to have someone walk right in front of us and get in our way.
|The last points of interest on the Avenue of Stars are the aptly named Deck & Beer with a Starbucks on the second level.
|Across Salisbury Road from the waterfront is the Art Alive Park, with sculptures, gardens, and fountains.
|We got this artsy self-portrait in the park.
|Just down the road, heading back north again, is the Middle Road Children's Playground with accessible playground equipment and a nice little exhibit on Braille.
|Our view of Hong Kong Island from Salisbury Road featured the Victoria Peak Lookout framed by blossoms.
|Our next stop was the Hong Kong Space Museum.
|It's hard to miss with this giant dome attached to it.
|We snapped this photo before seeing the signs indicating that photos were only allowed in the lobby. Sorry.
|It was a fascinating museum, with much less of an emphasis on the US space program than we're used to, and lots of hands-on exhibits. Here's the lobby.
|Across the street is the famous Peninsula Hotel.
|Our plan was to have afternoon tea in the Peninsula Lobby, but one look at the line was enough to convince us that free afternoon tea at the Marco Polo was a better plan.
|So, goodbye Peninsula, ...
|and goodbye Hong Kong Space Museum, ...
|... and hello, afternoon tea in the Continental Club at the Marco Polo. The nice waiters brought us as many ice cold cans of Diet Coke as we wanted in place of actual tea.
|The highlight of tea was these chocolate desserts with edible gold flakes. Not because they were chocolate, nor because they contained gold flakes. No. They were amazing because they contained Pop Rocks. Seriously, every single bite dissolved into a mouthful of Pop Rocks. We just ate them and laughed with each bite.
|We were given a temporary room on the 14th floor since our room on the 18th floor was not yet vacated or because it had plumbing problems, depending on who we were talking to. It was a huge room with a great view, ...
|... like this. That's the Star Ferry pier on the left, so you can see how very close it was.
|Looking straight out from the room, we had a view of the cruise ship pier, where we had spent some time a mere four years earlier.
|After a brief rest, we were off again to the Star Ferry.
|This time, we bought lower deck tickets, but the ride wasn't significantly different. And in a few minutes, we were back at Central Pier.
|At Central, there's a Star Ferry model on display.
|We had tickets for the Big Bus Company's Night Tour, which started from either Central Pier on the Hong Kong side at 6:15 PM or from the Kowloon side at 7:00 PM. Since the Star Ferry was so close to our hotel, it was a shorter distance for us to pick up the tour on the Hong Kong side.
|It turned out to be a great choice, because we got an extra 45 minutes of tour, starting with a drive past the Apple store.
|This bus was our first indication that we were in the land of Rimowa luggage. Even though it is a German brand, we saw it everywhere in Hong Kong. We felt like cool kids because we have Rimowa luggage.
|The Legislative Council Building was one of the first buildings to light up as dusk came.
|Next, some of the neon started to come on.
|Hong Kong traffic doesn't look much fun to drive in.
|We passed the base station of the Victoria Peak Tram, ...
|... and the Bank of China Tower, ...
|... and the Lippo Centre Towers.
|We passed a Ding Ding Tram, ...
|... and this wealthy gentleman with his Bentley and vanity plate titled MJ1.
|In a city filled with highrises, it was surprising to find an Olympic-size pool taking up valuable land.
|Ooh! Ooh! We headed into the Cross-Harbour Tunnel on the Hong Kong side, ...
|... and a few minutes later, we emerged on the Kowloon side.
|We picked up more passengers on the Kowloon side, and bummer for them that they didn't get first pick of the seats like we did, then we set off for the tour of Kowloon at night, starting with the Peninsula, ...
|... then the monstrously tall International Commerce Centre.
|We stopped to take in the view of Hong Kong Harbour for a moment.
|Then back on the road past the W Hotel, ...
|... and onto the famous night lights of Kowloon.
|So many massage parlors!
|So much technology!
|So many entertainment options!
|So much neon!
|So many street shops!
|Back in the pricy part of town, right outside our hotel and the Harbour City mall, we passed Armani, ...
|... Coach, ...
|... Louis Vuitton, ...
|... and our very own Marco Polo.
|The tour ended on the Kowloon waterfront, near the Deck & Beer Restaurant, just as the Symphony of Lights was starting.
|We bolted down the Avenue of Stars to get a better view.
|Tom took a video of the light show.
|This is a nice photo, but not nearly as great as the ones we got the next night from our hotel room.
|But we were able to get this angle of Hong Kong Island -- the section of the waterfront where every building has a corporation name on it.
|At night, the Avenue of Stars has another surprise for visitors: tiny lights embedded in the bricks in variable sizes, possibly arranged in constellations.
|Debbie loves to try unusual local foods, so Tom stepped up to purchase some cuttlefish, a squid-like animal.
|It's shredded while staying in one piece, then pressed flat and served in a paper bag. It was like fish jerky, minus the deliciousness of both fish and jerky.
|Fortunately, a vending machine was nearby and the ice cold water was delicious.
|We retraced our earlier steps back down the Avenue of Stars, past the Clock Tower, ...
|... and across the square in front of the Star Ferry Pier, and on to the Harbour City mall, ...
|... where we searched for and found the local Lush outlet. We picked up some fabulous Lush soap, then headed back to our hotel where we had to wait a little while longer, then were finally able to get into the room we had booked.
|As an apology for our inconvenience, hotel management had left us a bowl of fruit, small jars of cheese and cashews, and a bottle of red wine, so we drained the bottle, ...
... and enjoyed the view from our room.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy