Monthly Archives: November 2012

20121108 – Homeward Bound

Thursday – warm and sunny.

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Our flights not until 23:25 so we have a full day.

MTR and star ferry to Kowloon and do the open top bus tour. Today the place stinks with the smog and its sore eyes.

Exotic lunch in a sub terrainian MacD.

Then its the HK island bus tour. Stop off at the market in central. Like all the rest not really up to much. Catch the longest escalator in the world and visit a temple. More joss sticks and smoke than the already sore eyes from the smog can cope with.

Then pop back into our hotel to pick up the bags and have a DSCF7684free afternoon tea before getting a taxi to Central catching Airport Express MTR back to the airport.

I have to say the MTR is very impressive, especially the airport express. Fast, clean, frequent, organised and pleasant. It’s a bit like Singapore the sub-terrainian Moorloks have it all. It’s only when you’re above ground amongst the Eloi that life is seedy and heaving. Some how I think thats not quite the way H G 
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Silly me. There I go again thinking I’m a customer and considering the amount of airport tax they are run for my convieniance. Arrive a tad early and of course check in desk is not open. You’ll have to wait a couple of hours. Oh by the way you could 
have checked in at anytime today at Hong Kong central or Kowloon station. Of course my British Airways travel documentation doesn’t bother to mention this. Doesn’t it seem somewhat bizarre that here I am at the airport and have to wait but can check in elsewhere early. Common sense question – why can’t I check in at the airport early? Hello, I’m a customer!

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Well it seems that Heathrow Terminal 5 has found yet another way of more queues and a total lack of common sense. As you leave immigration show boarding card queue, then 10 feet further on a queue to show it again and have your photo taken. Then as you board plane it’s a show boarding card / check you match your photo queue and 5 feet further on a show your boarding card queue. Pots for rags. 

DSCF7721It really is about time someone got a grip on airports. A good case for some customer focus and process re-engineering.Not to forget that even though we’ve not left the terminal we’re screened yet again. Asked supervisor why and apparently its because the UK has different standards to HK. Wouldn’t expect all airports to get together and have a Worldwide standard. That would benefit the customer – heaven forbid. Lets feed a few airport bosses to the lions in the Saturday afternoon colosseum.

I digress. Marvellous pee powered generator created by 4 DSCF7743fourteen year olds.

Well we’ve enjoyed our 3 days in HK and glad we’ve seen it. How people live in all these high rises amazes me. Certainly not a place I’d like to live in and it has the accolade of being so much worse than Belthorn it makes me really appreciate Belthorn. 8 million people crammed in is just unbearable. It’s the worst city we’ve visited, in places it is a 3rd world hell hole and yet in others is opulent and high tech. Stinking smog doesn’t help but thats probably why you see so many wandering around with masks on as if they’ve just come out of an operating theatre.

Certainly won’t be coming back despite the amazing hotel and swish MTR.

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Meanwhile some tips on HK:

In the UK the sure fire way to find a Chinese restaurant is look for Chinese writing. Doesn’t work here.
They all want to push leaflets into your hand and then jabber away in Chinese, despite the fact that you’re clearly not Chinese – get used to it.
Just because they speak some English don’t assume they understand you. They don’t.
If you go to the gents get used to the revolting sound as they have to gob before they pee.
They can’t walk in a straight line.
There is no concept of personal space.
Don’t point at people it’s considered very rude.
Littering above ground may be acceptable but no one eats, drinks or litters the MTR.
If they accept credit cards, you’re in luck, it’s polite to pass it to them with both hands.
Don’t eat the fish unless you know it’s come from abroad. Local seafood can be heavily polluted.

And just in case you thought all religious intolerance had ceased, or I’d suddenly gone all pious, how about this:

Imagine the scene: a young man is led away in handcuffs to begin a prison sentence as his mother is left crying in the courtroom. He is 19 years old, has a good job, has no previous convictions, and has never been in trouble before. These facts cut no ice with the judge, however, as the crime is judged so heinous that only a custodial sentence is deemed appropriate. The young man in question was found guilty of singing a song that mocked and ridiculed a religious leader and his followers.

So where might this shocking story originate? Was it Iran? Saudi Arabia? Afghanistan? Perhaps it was Russia, a variation of the Pussy Riot saga, without the worldwide publicity? No, the country in question is Scotland and the young man is a Rangers fan. He joined in with hundreds of his fellow football fans in singing ‘offensive songs’ which referred to the pope and the Vatican and called Celtic fans ‘Fenian bastards’.

20121107 – Big Buddha Then Snake For Tea

Wednesday – hot and sunny again.

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MTR to central and catch the Ferry to Lan Tau Island. Pass the Apple store and manage to resist a visit.More relaxing day planned today away from all the hustle, bustle and millions in HK, we are off to see big Buddha at Lin Po.

Catch two local buses to the big Buddha. Wot no Caucasians! Must say we’re a bit out of place as we’re the only Caucasians amongst all the locals. Something about Wendy’s shorts, shoes DSCF7571or toes seems to be amusing the locals on the bus – never managed to figure out what. An interesting journey. I’m not saying this place is a tad rural but as we’re stood at a bus stop the various cows strolling down the street fortunately, especially given the size of their horns, give us a wide berth.

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Have a walk around the peace quiet and tranquility of the monastery grounds, a great relief after HK, then take a arduous hike up to the top of the big Buddha.

Afterwards call in for lunch at Lin Po village. I finish off coffee whilst Wendy manages to visit every shop in the village – it’s a Mars and Venus thing.

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Catch the gondola back down to the MTR. It’s one of the most spectacular we’ve been on, and we’ve been on a few – alas no snow.

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Then it’s MTR back to Mong Kok. Wendy wants to see the markets. This place is just teaming with people. Too many people. Where do they all come from? Even in the afternoon it’s just a seething mass of bodies everywhere. I think all 8 Million locals are out on these streets.

Do any of them work? Is it something in the Chinese genetic DSCF7636make up that stops them walking in straight lines? They appear to exhibit the perfect example of Brownian motion when walking and randomness increases in direct proportion to how bright it is and inversely proportional to their packing density.

On a busy sunny day you’re just ready to trample on the little buggers – PC thought police will have me stoned for that!

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Mind you if I lived in one of those bloody awful tower blocks perhaps I’d be wandering the streets rather than be at home.

Fruit and veg are quite tame but then we encounter the meat and fish market. Ducks and pigeons with their heads still on seem to be popular this year; then there’s live fish in polystyrene cool boxes with a drop of water in them; then there’s fish flapping around on the pavement; then theirs mini turtles. All live and suffering before adorning someone’s plate.

Again we notice we’re the only Caucasians and the cameras a bit of a tourist status give away. Time to leave before we end up on DSCF7654someone’s plate.

In the evening we finally get to meet and vet Gaynor and Rudi, our home exchangers. Good news is they more than pass muster. Good job really as we’ve both just left respective houses.

They meet us for happi, happi, happi hour in our hotel. 4 beers, 3 Bacardi and coke and wine later, all free, we set off to explore Soho and find somewhere to eat. Lets hope we find one quicker than last nights miserable performance.

Little did we realise that the guys on the right were defanging my snake ready for dinner!

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Finally come across a popular Chinese restaurant, it even has a Michelin commendation.. It’s full of chinese. So full that they move a couple off a table of 8 onto a small table tucked away in the corner – lets hope that when we get settled in they don’t have a party of 8 arrive or else we’ll be eating on the streets. Have to say its very chinese. We’re the only Caucasians. Snake dishes seem to dominate the menu. Rudi and I try a snake dish starter. Have to say it was very tasty. Then it’s a mixture of goose, beef and chicken dishes and obviously some rice and just to show willing I have some greens.

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Quite an enjoyable meal. Certainly authentic and a good experience. Great company and a great time. Really good to meet up with them and amazing how much we have in common.