What was initially meant to be a two weeks Thai odyssey with a side of Hong Kong, got interrupted by the warning released by the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs against travelling to Thailand (which I later found out was so unnecessary), due to the floods reaching Bangkok just 2 days before our scheduled departure. Haven confirmed hotel bookings, flights, tours, etc… we entered a panic mode for a couple of hours before being rescued by our brilliant travel agent who suggested spending a full week in Hong Kong instead if we didn’t want to deal with visa mayhem at that time. We now own a hefty travel voucher to Thailand that needs to be utilized in the next 6 months, and I am seriously hoping to get around to it soon.
Our 7+ hours flight from Dubai was tiring, we were also unfortunate to be seated next to the smelliest Frenchman ever, which made it extremely difficult for me to sleep through the flight. Thank god we arrived at our destination late in the night, we started our holidays by getting a good night sleep.
In the morning we were so eager to finally meet the city. We took a Hong Kong Island orientation tour to get a sense of it before making further plans. We expected to see tall buildings and we got a very good view of them from the Victoria Peak.
At Aberdeen Fishing Village we took a 20 minutes traditional sampan ride, we toured the floating community in which thousands of people live in their fishing boats. This site dramatically contrasts against the high-rise buildings in its background. I thought it was queerly interesting; Angel was a bit taken aback by that.
We stopped at the Aberdeen Jewellery Factory where we watched the making process in the workshop and were given about 15 minutes to shop in the gallery. After that we headed to Stanley Beach via Repulse Bay for fantastic views of the South China Sea. We visited the Stanly Market; not the biggest nor the best Asian market you could go to, but you could score good bargains on clothing items and souvenirs here.
Our share of trouble was not coming to an end just yet, Seasonal flu decided to be part of our holiday too, Angel came down with a really bad one that kept him bound to his pillow for a couple of days, while I stayed in the hotel room with him performing my wifely duties and ensuring that he was fed and medicated. I then realized the value of paying the little extra for a room with a view.
When Angel got better we couldn’t wait to get out and about again. We hopped on the double-deck tram and for a fixed fee of 2.30 HKD we enjoyed an atmospheric ride all the way to Central. What I liked the most about riding the tram is that it moves slowly which allows you to souk up the ambiance especially in the morning.
We made a couple of stops at The Western Market and Man Mo Temple before taking a long walk along Hollywood Road leading up to the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world; the Central-Mid-Levels. In Soho we were dazzled by the joyful environment created by the cheerful diners at the roadside bars and restaurants. We picked one and settled for the next few hours which we spent feasting on a traditional British meal of roast beef, potatoes, yorkshire pudding and gravy.
Hong Kong is crowded, loud, overwhelmingly let up at night and most roads smell fishy. The Chinese are pretty much in your face and at times they are abrupt and rude; nothing that a Dubaian is accustomed to as a way of life. The sales man at the Nikon store told us to take it or leave it when Angel suggested that he is asking a very high price for an unoriginal wide angle camera lens. We left it and were slightly disappointed by the poor level of customer service that we have now experience in few occasions. Taxi drivers for instant are not the chatty patties that you would hope to find on your first visit to a country; like in Singapore where taxi drivers are so friendly and more informative than guidebooks. A little strange for a popular tourist destination I must say.
The troublesome saga continued when the weather turned stormy during our last couple of days in Hong Kong. It rained and rained then it poured. It wasn’t going to stop us from doing what we came to do though; having a memorable experience in the pearl of the orient. For that we spent plenty of shopping time at the IFC Mall where the recently opened Apple store is located. It also had dining outlets with amazing harbor views at the higher floors.
Have I yet mention that the whole point of this trip was to celebrate our first wedding anniversary? Since Angel was still a little under the weather we skipped the customary anniversary dinner that we have been planning for a while, and opted for a unique Dim Sum lunch experience instead. We showed up at Maxim’s Palace Restaurant in City Hall building at 12:00pm, the place was full of tourists and locals who work at the surrounding office buildings, on their lunch break.
We didn’t have to wait much, but we didnt get the table by the window overlooking the scenic harbor as I hoped. The food was amazing and the experience itself was very satisfying. I read many reviews about this restaurant, where people described the waitresses as grumpy old ladies pushing the food carts; I must disagree with that, as we found them extremely friendly and helpful with explaining the different types of dishes that I have never heard of before. they even helped me to avoid the ones that contained pork, or at least I hope I did, since I wasn’t always very good at understanding their “Chinglish”.
Two things I have learnt from this trip:
- If you are planning to celebrate an important occasion abroad, it might be wise to return to a favorite destination rather than subjecting yourself to the element of cultural shock; it might not always be so pleasant.
- When you get married and vow to stick round for better or worse, you better mean it!
Until the next journey….