Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Honeymoon: Days 14-16

The Maglev to the airport
23/04/12 - We got up for breakfast and packed before getting a taxi to the Shanghai Maglev station. This train just runs from Shanghai to the Shanghai Pudong International Airport and covers the 30km to the airport in just over 8 minutes. The journey was really smooth and looking at the scenery go past you wouldn't have realised that you were travelling at 431kph - other than the LCD display in the carriage. The airport was very modern and nice and we had no problem getting our flight.

Arriving at Hong Kong we had to queue at immigration, but it didn't take long to get through. We bought ourselves train tickets that would get us too and from the airport and allow us on the underground in Hong Kong during our stay. We then got the train to Kowloon Station. From there there was a shuttle bus that took us to our hotel - it was almost the last stop, so we got to see around Kowloon.

Our room at the Hotel ICON
The hotel we were at was Hotel ICON - a new hotel who's designers included Sir Terence Conran and is ranked very highly on Trip Adviser. It was very impressive on entering, but slightly strange in that the porters were wearing beige combats and tops. We were staying in an executive room, so on going to reception we got whisked away up to the top floor to check-in there instead. They told us that between 4-6pm we got free afternoon tea, and from 7-9pm there were free cocktails and snacks. We went to our room (on the twenty-something-th floor), which had a massive window overlooking the harbour, and were able to check facebook and twitter for the first time of the holiday.

After settling in we went up to the cocktail bar for our free cocktails and filled ourselves up with very nice cheese and biscuits. We then went out to explore a bit. Firstly we went to a restaurant called Lei Garden (on Tsim Sha Tsui) to book dinner for the following night - it was in a bit of a strange location in the basement of a slightly run-down looking shopping arcade, but supposedly did very nice food. We walked to the Peninsula Hotel and then along the Avenue of Stars (like the Hollywood version, but with famous Hong Kong actors and I got photo's of the ones I knew). We then waited around for the famous light show - a laser and light display using a lot of the tall buildings around the harbour. It started raining, but not too heavily and it was still nice and warm, and although the light show was a bit of a let down the view in general was still very good.

We then got the Star Ferry across the bay to Hong Kong island and walked to the covered escalators. We had a look at a variety of bars/restaurants and eventually decided to go in a place that had a beer and pizza deal. We weren't that hungry after filling ourselves with cheese earlier, but it was good pizza. We stayed for another drink and to people watch. When we got back to the hotel we found a bottle of wine and wedding card signed by a lot of the hotel staff in our room. I had a glass before going to bed.

Hong Kong view from the Peak
24/04/12 - We had two options for breakfast in the hotel - downstairs in the main buffet area, or up in the bar where cocktails were served. We decided on the first option and were very impressed, filling up on a lot food.

We got the underground to Hong Kong to go on the Peak Tram. It was busy and I had to stand, which required leaning at quite an angle due to the steepness of the ascent. We followed a route around the peak, which had exercise areas set up around it. It was quite overcast, so there weren't any distant views, but there were still nice views back over the city. We saw lots of interesting butterflies and birds of prey riding the thermals around the peak.

On descending from the Peak we walked to the zoological gardens next to the Government House. Until we got there we hadn't realised there was a zoo, but they had quite a few animals - we saw baby (and adult) orang-utans, various lemurs, monkeys, gibbons, and a raccoon (there was also a ginger cat on the prowl, which seemed to disturb some of the lemurs). After that we had a brief wander around some of Hong Kong, but wanted to get the ferry back to the hotel in time for afternoon tea.

A gibbon in the Botanic Gardens
After some snacks we decided to go for a swim in the hotel pool, which was on the roof above the buffet area. The pool (and changing facilities) were very nice, but the wind had picked up, so it wasn't that warm by the pool. I swam for a bit, but Jen went back inside to the sauna fairly quickly.

We went back for free cocktails, where we chatted one of the staff (who was an American girl who'd studied hospitality and was experiencing working in hotels in China) before heading to dinner at Lei Garden. It was only 9pm, but like in Beijing it seemed that service was almost over as there were very few other tables with people at them and a lot of clearing up was going on. There was a lot of exotic stuff on the menu including sharks fin and birds nest soup, but we played it safe. The service was quite brusque, but the food was decent enough - although not as good as a lot of what we'd had in Beijing.

Cable car on Lantau
25/04/12 - Our final day of honeymoon gave us a full day in Hong Kong before catching our flight just after midnight. We went for breakfast in the upstairs bar area, then got packed and left our luggage at reception. We then got the underground out to Lantau island. We took the cable car up to Ngong Ping villiage where there was a Buddhist monastery and giant Buddha statue. We didn't opt for one of the Crystal Cabins with a glass floor! It was an impressive ride, but quite daunting when the wind picked up. There were good views back down over the airport, but we soon got up into the clouds and couldn't really see anything except the forest below us. The village had tourist attractions and shops, but we walked straight to the Buddha, which required a bit on an ascent up stairs - the cloud hadn't really cleared, so we didn't really see the Buddha until getting up close. It was quite impressively large. We were able to go inside, which had some exhibits about Buddhism and history of the big Buddha's construction in the 1990s.

The Big Buddha in the clouds
After this we wandered over to the monastery and found that there was a display of acrobatics followed by a Shaolin Kung Fu demonstration. This included a guy being lifted on the points of spears and one breaking a metal rod on his head. The temple still had parts under construction and you could pay for new shrines to be dedicated to you. The entry fee to go up to the Buddha included a snack at the monastery (or you could pay more for a larger meal). The snack was in fact rather substantial including some stir fried noodles and vegetables and several sweets. There were a lot of dogs wandering round the temple and village and we spent a couple of minutes petting a puppy. We then went to the bus stop to get a bus down to Tai O, but it wasn't for another half hour, so we managed to catch part of a pogo-ing demonstration by the Pogo Dudes.

When we got the bus the cloud was really thick and visibility was down to a few metres, but we made it down to Tai O fishing village (and out of the cloud cover) safely. The village has large parts constructed on stilts and lots of small alleys. It unsurprisingly smelled quite heavily of fish as most of the shack-like houses had dried fish of many varieties hanging outside of them. There were also a lot of small shrines outside the houses. It was an interesting place. We walked out to what was a former police station (passing a post office with many stray cats outside it waiting to be fed by the postmaster), which had very recently been turned into a fancy hotel.

Tai O fishing village
We got back to the bus stop just in time to catch the bus back to Mui Wo (on the other side of the island) where the ferry ran back to Hong Kong. It was the end of the school day, so the bus was full of kids squeezed into all the seats and sitting along the floor - they were all of varying nationalities and mainly spoke English. The journey took about an hour. We didn't have to wait long for the ferry and once back in Hong Kong we got the Star Ferry back to Kowloon.

Back at the hotel we were still able to use the showers, so we washed and were able to change clothes. We also were still able to get the free cocktails and snacks. We got the shuttle bus to the airport express station where we were able to check-in our luggage and then got the train to the airport. At the airport Jen bought some sunglasses and we went for some dinner at Pizza Express. A thunderstorm had come in over Hong Kong, so planes were being delayed, but it only held up our flight by about an hour.

The flight back was quite uneventful. And that's it!