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Hong Kong Episode II: Attack of the ...?
By Mikey
Tuesday, 19th October 2004 06:20

Leaving Japan was easy to do but I would have been happy to stay longer. Our timing was pretty good, the train got us to the departure hall exactly two hours before takeoff. It was only when we got through security that we remembered to post our postcards. Unfortunately there wasn't a post box to be found and so we ended up having to give our postcards to a Cathay employee.

The flight was uneventful and direct too. (Our flight into Japan was via Taipei.) We were given some ice cream after lunch and left to our own devices for most of the flight. The descent was a bit annoying as each announcement was made in three languages and there were gaps of several seconds between each language. That meant that for each of the many announcements, there were three pauses in the film I was watching. Nevermind, I'd seen it before.

We caught the same bus from the airport as we had used to get there several days earlier. Unlike the trip to the airport, the point at which we should get off wasn't as obvious and we ended up missing it by quite a way. I think that the driver was rolling his eyes behind his sunglasses when he realised what we were talking about. He was nice enough though to drop us off in the right place on his way back to the airport.

Tommy wasn't around when we went up to the guesthouse but his daughter (I think) took us across the road to another guesthouse where we would spend our first two nights back in Hong Kong. The place was odd, it felt more like we had the spare room in someone's flat than being in a guesthouse. Our hosts didn't speak any English at all so we were quite quiet and sneaky when we were in the guesthouse because it felt so weird being there.

All we managed to do that afternoon, well evening actually, was to hand in some laundry to be done and find something to eat. We had been up for quite a long time that day and coupled with a bad night's sleep, we were a little tired.

Our big plan for the following day was to acquire visas for mainland China. We headed out to the China Resources Building at what we thought was an early time. We were number 54 in the queue as it turns out.

An hour and a half later, we got to the front of the front of the queue, left our passports and left the building. We went for a quick look at the convention centre on the harbour front. It was outside that building that the handover of Hong Kong took place in 1997. We had wanted to see inside the centre to have a look at a seven storey curtain of glass but because the Hong Kong electronics fair was going on we could not. Instead we made our way to the Central district to try out the 800m escalator. I had expected a single escalator but unfortunately it was about 20 of them that made up a route 800m long. Still, it was fun to go up them all and then walk briskly down.

We tried to find a bookshop after our stroll down from the escalator but all of the ones mentioned in our guidebook seemed to be missing. We were debating where to try next when a nice Canadian woman pointed us in the right direction. Shortly afterwards, we were armed with an India guidebook, a Rough Guide though, not a Lonely Planet.

I had a nap for a few minutes as I wasn't feeling at 100% that day and after a quick haircut, we set out to find some dinner. I had been doing some research to try and find a restaurant that served Crispy Aromatic Duck, one of our favourite dishes. I had found one that served Peking Duck, a close match, and we headed for that. The over ordering tendencies took over and we ate far too much sweet and sour pork, crispy chilli beef and beef with black bean sauce. We had to walk back so that we didn't feel as bad about eating so much. It was actually not as far as we thought!

With our two nights in the strange guesthouse over, we had to pack up and change rooms. Actually we had to change buildings. We left our bags in Tommy's care as there was a time gap between leaving our old room and our new one being ready, and we headed out for the day. Picking up our passports took only a tiny fraction of the time that it took to drop them off but seemed to cost a huge amount more. Our next stop was a travel agent where we wanted to get train tickets to take us from Hong Kong to Beijing. It was so much easier than we expected it to be and we were on the streets again and looking for breakfast before we knew it. We hunted around for quite a while before eventually heading back to Causeway Bay for a quick sandwich and to collect our laundry.

Our new room was about the same size as the one we had before going to Japan and similarly equipped. We spent a while catching up on some diaries before heading out to an internet caf? Unfortunately our web host is playing up a bit and we were unable to upload our diaries and pictures. Instead we did some research on Indian visas and got a little shock. It turns out that in order to acquire an Indian visa in Hong Kong, we have to have permission to do so from the Indian embassy in London. Eh?

Panicking a bit as this could take time that we don't have, we headed as quickly as possible to the Indian consulate and queued up behind a lot of people waiting to collect their passports. After a while we spotted a man at another counter and asked him about it. It turns out that the consulate handles the communication with London and the whole process would take only two working days if we applied first thing on Monday. We took the forms so that we'd be ready for Monday, two days we can easily handle. There's still a little nagging worry that Indian bureaucracy might be a little bit more difficult and slightly slower than we've been led to believe it will be but we'll just have to wait and see.

That night, not content with over-ordering in Chinese restaurants, we did the same with pizzas. Every now and again you just have the urge, especially if you've been away from home for so long.

We chose Saturday to be a day for having a wander around Kowloon. We probably surprised the people in the sandwich shop by not having a sandwich for breakfast and headed out to check our email. We've been using the same internet cafe for many days now and they're getting used to us. Everytime we turn up, one of the people working there usually shows up within 30 seconds with two bottles of water for us. It's almost as if we're locals!

We took a combination of trains under the harbour to Kowloon and popped up by the side of the busy, and apparently famous, Nathan Road. We had been hoping that since Hong Kong island was a busy, skyscraper sort of place that Kowloon would perhaps still have some traces of Hong Kong's colonial past. Unfortunately Kowloon was very much like Hong Kong island but with slightly shorter buildings. It did have a nice park that we headed for but there were dozens of people on the streets trying to sell us suits or fake watches and there's only so many of those offers that you can decline politely before they start to get on your nerves.

The park was pleasant to sit in and apparently contains a nice swimming pool but we decided to leave that for another day, largely because we didn't have any swimming things with us. But, we came to Kowloon to see some of the sights and we thought that we ought to get on with seeing them so we started walking again.

We first headed south out of the park to find an alley that was supposed to be full of nice market stalls. We found the alley quite easily but the sellers there must also have Lonely Planet books too as they were mostly selling souvenirs and things like that.

We then tried our second new MTR line of the day to get us to Flower Market Road. This road did exactly what it said on the tin and sold only flowers. Dozens and dozens of florists lined one side of the street and we saw many people heading away from the area with armfulls of flowers. At the end of the road we found a bird market too. Lots of people were selling lots of different types of bird. Most of them were in tiny little cages and I did feel sorry for them as birds are supposed to fly but they quite clearly didn't have enough room for that. Hopefully, the birds that are sold there go to bigger cages rather than stay in their little transportation ones. Most of the birds were some sort of small, yellow tropical bird but there were several other types there too. We very nearly bought a parrot for Robin but we couldn't work out how to fit it in our bags.

After the bird market we took the train to go and see the Wong Tai Sin temple, a taoist temple built in the 1970s. To be honest, my interest in temples has plateaued a bit lately. We've certainly seen a lot of them and with China and India still to go on our trip there will be more and hopefully they'll be quite different too.

By this time the sun was starting to go down and we took a handful of trains back to Causeway Bay so that we could try out a Vietnamese restaurant that we'd seen. Naturally we over ordered again but it was certainly very nice food.

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