I am writing up my gap year travels from 2006-2007 so that I can self-publish a book to pass on to my niece and nephews. I hope they will read about my adventures and be inspired to explore themselves…and I hope you enjoy my travel tales.
Hong Kong, February 2006
After landing in Hong Kong, I managed to navigate the airport shuttle to the correct stop and received a very warm welcome at the other end from my host for my five day stay – Susan, who was a friend of a friend I had met just a couple of times. As we journeyed by taxi to Susan’s apartment in Pok Fu Lam, I took in my surroundings. The area was full of majestic tree covered mountains, a stunning backdrop to the busy urban landscape of white, cream and grey high rises dotted with tiny windows. Susan’s apartment was high up on the 26th floor of one of these buildings, with a stunning view of Victoria Peak from the window of her spare room in which I was staying in.
Susan kindly supplied me with leaflets, books, and tips about what to see and do during my stay, and the following morning I took myself into Central on the bus to orientate myself and do a bit of exploring. I had put aside a bit of money to treat myself to a new camera, knowing that I could probably get it cheaper in Hong Kong than at home, and before too long I had found myself a lovely little Nikon that would see me through the year. The city was bustling with people and traffic and, being a fair skinned and freckled Westerner, I seemed to attract a few stares. I decided to get a bus up Victoria Peak to look down on the views of the city and Kowloon across the harbour. It was pretty windy day, and by the time I got to the top the mist had descended and it was teeming with rain, so the views weren’t as good as I was hoping but I got the idea of the grandeur and scale of the city and its surroundings.
That night, expecting to sleep well after a busy day, I experienced my first bout of jetlag and was awake from the small hours. When I got up in the morning I felt completely disorientated, but there was no time to waste with plenty of places to visit, so I took myself off on the bus to Stanley Market. Mooching around a market is one of my favourite pastimes, but I was mindful as I weaved round the narrow course of the market sheltered from the rain by tarpaulins, that I was now on a traveller’s budget. The weather had brightened up a bit by lunchtime and I took a walk down to Stanley Beach. The yellow sand looked very inviting and peaceful with not a soul on it.
On the journey to Stanley and back the bus trundled past Deep Water Bay and Repulse Bay, providing breath-taking views as we rounded sharp corners. It also passed through Aberdeen and I noticed a harbour dotted with boats and surrounded by high rise buildings. It was such a sensory experience and I was fascinated – the sight of washing dangling out of high rise apartment windows, the constant buzz of traffic, boats and planes, the smell of mingling foreign foods. It was a completely different culture to behold and I loved taking it all in. On the way back from Stanley I stopped off at Ocean Park, a theme/safari park. It was very commercial and not really an experience of ‘real Hong Kong’ but I did really enjoy some aspects of it. A cable car takes visitors from the lower level to the top of a mountain where there are more attractions, and it was the steepest and highest one I’d ever been on. Being on my own in a cable car I felt a little precarious and wondered briefly about how safe it was as I rattled and swung my way along, but by then it was too late, and soon I was distracted by the stunning views of the surrounding bays all around as I climbed higher and higher into the air.
One of the highlights of Ocean Park for me was the goldfish pagoda which was set in a pretty and tranquil Chinese garden. Another highlight was the two pandas who I was very excited to meet. There was just a moat between them and the public, no bars or wire so they felt less caged in than captive animals in most zoos. They sat slowly munching their bamboo and gazing at their visitors as we looked back in awe at them. There was also a “Dolphin University” – a series of pools housing the park’s dolphins. I spent quite a bit of time in there, just a few metres away from the edge. I had never been that close to a dolphin so it was a lovely experience for me, but I don’t suppose it was as lovely for them to be kept in captivity. The days adventures saw to a better night’s sleep for me, and so I was ready for more intrepid exploring in my remaining two days in Hong Kong.