Soho and the world’s longest escalator.

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The man dressed in a white shirt and holding a briefcase hurriedly walked past when his phone rang, he reaches for the phone, the call only lasts for a brief moment before he starts to run. The people here are different to Kowloon, there it was the blue-collar worker, the man who works hard doing the dirty, mundane jobs while in Central, in the heart of Hong Kong is the business district where people sit in the office of large banking corporations perched in high rising skyscrapers that surround the area. People sip tea and eat yum cha in the most expensive restaurants of five-star hotels while having business meetings with their associates or clients all thanks to the company’s expense account. Continue reading

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Ocean Park- Hong Kong’s first theme park

The pandas laid in the sun, not moving, not even twitching a leg, a whisker, nothing, we stood watching and talking amongst one another waiting for any signs of movement but alas in the end we gave up. The pandas had most likely chewed its way through a bundle of bamboo before settling on a nice, long morning nap.

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I had seen pandas before in a safari park in Japan but to be so close to mainland China, the real home of the panda to only see An An and Jia Jia, the famous pandas of Ocean Park in Hong Kong bask in the sun snoozing was a little bit disappointing. Next door to the panda enclosure though were the mischievous otters splashing around in the water, scrambling over rocks and catching the odd fish or two that the keeper would occasionally throw out to them.

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Ocean Park is the oldest theme park in Hong Kong

It was first established in 1977 and now has over 5 million people visit annually, nearly 500,000 more people than Disneyland. Ocean Park is a large, extensive park, with two lands the Waterfront and the Highland, which are separated by Hong Kong’s mountainous terrain. There are three different ways to move between the lands, a shuttle bus, a train or by far the best way to travel the 1.5 kilometre long cable car, which offers great views of Hong Kong.

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Waterlands attractions mainly deals with animals. Ocean Park overall has eleven animal exhibits and caters more for the younger children while the Highlands have the ocean attractions including the four story Atoll reef, which has over 2,000 fish swimming in and around the waters including a couple of sharks and rays. While the ocean attractions are located here, the rides for older children and young at heart adults are also here including two roller coasters.

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“Rei why don’t you try this” encouraging him to ride the mine train, a steal mine train roller coaster, perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking Aberdeen harbour. The encouraging words must have worked, Rei notoriously famous for being a chicken decided to queue in line, as we got closer though “mummy, daddy let’s go I don’t want to ride it”, tugging on our shirts. In the end Rei backed out but it didn’t stop mum and dad from having a good time. I hadn’t rode a roller coaster in at least ten years probably more but this ride gave me a scare I wasn’t expecting, it looked kind of short, nearly a young child’s first step towards teenage hood ( if that’s even a word) but it wasn’t like that at all, with its twist and turns, covering 678 metres of track and at a height of 85 metres tall.
I think I’ll stick with the local train next time.
Ocean Park may lack the magic of Disneyland but if your into rides and thrills you’ll more than enjoy Ocean Park.

Ocean Park Hours

10am -18.00pm longer in Summer

Admission 

adults 250 HK$

Children 3-11 125 HK$

under 3 free

How to get there

Central bus 6A, 6X, 70, 75, 90, 97,260, M590

Causeway Bay bus 72, 72A, 92, 96, 596

Tip

Enjoy the day at Ocean Park before having dinner at JUMBO a famous floating restaurant in Aberdeen which you can walk to from the park.

 

The Peak, Hong Kong’s skyline.

Hong Kong’s skyline looks different at night, the light illuminates the city adding a more vibrant feel to it, the water of the natural harbour is full of darkness except for the lights of the odd Star ferry crosses the waterways. The city is abuzz with people dining or having a drink. Hong Kong really does feel like a city that never sleeps.

To observe the best night views of Hong Kong or even possibly the world is to go to what is known simply as The Peak. You can reach The Peak by bus, taxi or The Peak Tram, which is an attraction in itself, but be prepared to wait if you chose the tram as The Peak as over 7 million visitors a year with most of the people chosing to take the tram up the 552 metre mountain that hauls people every 10 to 15 minutes.

Even though the queue was long, no one moved when a taxi driver, while waiting for the lights to change shouted from his car “line too long, 2-3 hour wait, I’ll take you”.People didn’t believe him, thinking he only wanted money or people wanted to ride the traditional way, but had we known that the driver was telling the truth, we wouldn’t have hesitated to take the taxi. Two and a half hours we waited, our patience, wearing thin the words “come on, come on” being muttered not once but at least a half-dozen times. The tram finally trudged our way up the peak.

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The Peak first came to relevance when the wealthy were looking for the perfect retreat from Hong Kong’s scorching Summer heat. Houses and residents moved in but at the time there was no tram and the original residents reached their homes by sedan chairs, which were carried up and down the slope by about six people who were employed by the residents . Can you imagine being pulled down a mountain by six people on their shoulders. The Peak Tram came to life in 1888 and the rest is Hong Kong history.

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Once on top, you guessed it the trams station is on the basement of The Peak Tower which is basically a shopping mall. It’s Hong Kong it has to be located in a mall, doesn’t it?  The Peak Tower has the Madamme Tussards wax museum, for restaurants, which were all full to capacity when we were there and of course the view.

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The view, how shall I describe this, is like a sky full of stars at night, twinkling, brightly in the sky, with sparkles of blues, green red and white lights illuminating the night skyline, the shadowy, silhouette water of the harbour. The views overlook Central Hong Kong,Victoria harbour and the surrounding islands.

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This is Hong Kong’s number one attraction and people often rave about The Peak, and often come here twice on their trip, once at night, once during the day. I’m not going to lie it is beautiful, maybe I would even say stunning but I wouldn’t use the word breathtaking that many people use. Maybe it was the crowds or the long wait but I wouldn’t go again if I were to go to Hong Kong.I might if my arm was twisted and my Travbuddy really wanted to go and check the view during the day, which I believe there wouldn’t be as many people.

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Admission

Peak tram sky pass tickets

enables you to go to the very top of the tower

Adults return $65 Children $31 HK

Peak tram tickets only

Adults $40 HK Children $18 HK

Take the peak tram from Central, around a 10 minute walk from Central station. There are plenty of signs to follow.

The big Buddha of Hong Kong

The queue looked long for the cable car, something I did not want to wait for having waited for over two hours for the Peak Tram I asked the attendant “How long is the wait?”, “around an hour” ,” an hour, Do you know when the next bus is?” “Yes it leaves in five minutes”.There was no need to say anything, Hitomi looked at  me before nodding and saying in unison”BUS”. By taking the bus we missed out on the 5.7 km cable car, you can see spectacular panoramic views of the hilly terrain, the sea and the city of Lantau island.

Big,huge, gigantic all words needed to describe Tian Tan, the big buddha, which happens to be the world’s largest seated outdoor bronze buddha. It soars 34 metres into the air. The big buddha is located on Ngong Ping plateau on Lantau island near the Hong Kong airport. It sits on a lotus leaf above 268 steps. Half way up we started running, racing one another to the top, the Rocky anthem would have been blaring in the background had it been a seen from a movie, the winner raising his hands in triumph, jumping up and down yelling “ROCKY, ROCKY”.

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The buddha was impressive I took my time circling the Buddha taking in the 202 bronze pieces that it took to make. Its right hand raised representing the removal of affliction, while its left hand rests on its knee, signifying human happiness. six smaller bronze statues surrounds the buddha holding offerings to it.

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Not far from the big buddha is the Po Lin Monastery. It was built by three zen masters in 1920.It is still active today in the buddhist community of Hong Kong. The incense filled the air but it was smokier than the incense I’m used to in Japan. There at the monastery it burnt with a thicker stick looking more like a fire cracker than something to purify your body.

Lunch at the monastery is highly recommended, only serving vegetarian food. You can see the monks go about their daily activities.Unfortunately we did not know about this at the time. They do however have a food stall serving vegetarian food And Hong Kong sweets.The tofu that we ordered was nice covered with a sweet sauce we also ate two sesame dumplings and a custard tart.

Walking back, we wandered through the village of Ngong Ping, a reenactment of a Hong Kong village. The village is filled with souvenir shops and a few other attractions that we never entered,  at the end of the village is the cable car station and this time there was no queue, few people and we could enjoy the views back down.

In Search of the pink dolphins in Hong Kong

Some might think that the closest you can get to eco tourism in Hong Kong is watching a shark’s fin floating in a bowl of soup but if you are tired of the crowded concrete footpaths, gleaming skyscrapers and glitzy shopping malls why not try to find the endangered Indo Pacific Humpback Dolphin, not only are they endangered but they are also pink,yes you read it right it is not a typo. Only around 150 of these exist in the waters around Lantau Island.

In the morning we were picked up in the lobby of the Kowloon Hotel by a guide from Hong Kong Dolphin Watch, which was established in 1995 to increase public awareness of these dolphins plight.

Once on the boat we were joined by about 25 other guests. First we were shown photos of fishing nets stuck to the dolphins and another dolphin with a scar below his blow-hole.

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We were told that dead dolphins are routinely found on the shores of Hong Kong’s beaches, they usually tend to be young, some believe the baby dolphins especially the first ones to be born get a heavy dose of toxins from their mother’s milk.

Once out on the sea, taking in the sun on the roof of the cabin, eyes focussing on the water I could see why these dolphins were endangered, the new Hong  Kong airport is located near by as well as a huge power plant that Homer Simpson would feel comfortable working in, plus all the boats that also use these water ways. I thought to myself dolphins boats and pollutions just don’t mix.

With nearly an hour gone past I was thinking that our chances were slim but our guide hadn’t given up with a 97% rate of finding these elusive mammals she was still as keen as when the boat first started sailing. The children on board by now were mostly sea sick and even my son couldn’t help but to contribute to the pollution in the sea.

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“So why are these dolphins pink ” I asked the guide, who was always keen to answer a question.”Well they don’t really know she responded there are a number of  theories, the dolphins don’t have a need for camouflage because they live in brackish water where the river meets the sea, where sharks aren’t found. The other one is that the dolphins are actually white but look pink because they are actually blushing while regulating their own body temperature”.

Whenever the boat saw a fishing vessel, the boat would turn off its engine and let the boat idle as everyone watched the tail end of the fisherman’s boat where the net entered the water.

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We were told that it’s a common place to spot them as the dolphins find it a chance at an easy meal. Through the morning we had stopped near three boats but had no such luck but on this occasion the guide shouted “look,look 10 O’clock, there’s a dolphin at 10 O’clock”. Everyone looked where 10 O’clock would be if the sea was a clock and sure enough there was a dolphin. Over the next 30 minutes we spotted a few, even one of the regulars that the guide had named.

The dolphins are shy unlike the common dolphin that is often seen in other waters. They did not come near us, or leap out of the water, they were content amongst themselves but wearie of the environment around them at the same time, they did not seem to play but glide through the water, the only time you would see them was when they would come up for air every two or three minutes.

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The guide was in her element telling us where to look and was happy with what we had seen but in a way it left us all a little disappointed to only see a glimpse of these mammals

As we sailed back I went to the cabin. I had a good look at the photos again and looked outside  the window, coming back in view was the airport and I was left wondering what will happen to these dolphins will they survive or will it be just another creature that is lost to this world because of man.

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Tour Information with Hong Kong Dolphin Watch

Hong kong dolphin watch is the only company currently guiding tourists to see the dolphins

Tours take place every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday

Nathan Road, the heart of Kowloon

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“You sir, yes you sir, how about a suit” as the tailor pushed his business card in front of my face ” for you very cheap ” Continue reading