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
On my third day I visited Cheung Chau, one of Hong Kong’s outlying islands that is an old pirate and fishing village. There I gained a sense of an older, traditional style of living with narrow winding streets and a harbour full of fishing boats quietly bobbing on the water. There were shops along the harbour front selling live produce outside, including lobsters, cuttlefish and crabs, the idea being that you choose what you want and they cook it up for you in the restaurant next door.
I walked past the Pak Tai Temple which so colourful, decorative and detailed. I also visited the ‘Venerable Banyan Tree’ which is thought to be the source of Cheung Chau’s good fortune, and is so revered by islanders that in recent years a restaurant opposite had been knocked down instead of the tree to make way for a road extension.
The ferry crossing back to Hong Kong Island was quite rough as the wind had picked up by the afternoon. I am pretty prone to feeling seasick, but being a short trip I managed to cope! Once back on dry land I hopped on the MTR (the underground train network) to an area called Prince Edward. My first stop was the Bird Garden that I had read about in one of the guide books – it’s where local folk (particularly the elderly) take their avian friends in their cages to sing, get fresh air and be in the company of other birds. They also sell birds there (every kind you can think of) as well as bird cages and accessories. The cacophony of birdsong was beautiful and I noticed that the pet birds were very well looked after – they even had little decorated china pots in their cages for their food and water. The ones that weren’t pets didn’t seem to fare quite so well, they were kept piled up in their hundreds in tiny little box-like cages, and I wanted to buy them all just so I could set them free!
After the Bird Garden I walked through the beautiful flower market, and then wandered down Nathan Road, also known as the Golden Mile due to the number of neon signs that are all the way up and down and hanging across the road. Nathan Road led me to Mong Kok, an area famous for roads and roads (and roads) of markets. There were so many to choose from, but I settled on ‘Ladies Market’ (why, of course) which was packed full of jewellery, bags, shoes, clothes and stall holders shouting “Hey Miss, look, look, I do you special deal!”. I have never seen anything like it, the road was just crammed with stalls and, in places, the gap down the middle seemed only just big enough to squeeze through. After the market I came across a pet shop which consisted of what I can only describe as plastic tanks containing puppies for sale. There were all sorts – chihuahuas, pomeranians, chow chows, beagles, and even a golden retriever which, sadly, was getting a little big for its tank so looked sadly cramped. Most of the dogs were asleep and, as with the birds, I just wanted to buy them all to save them from their existence in those conditions.
After Mong Kok, I made my way down to the harbour and got the Star Ferry from Kowloon back over to Hong Kong Island, which is only a five minute-trip and provides sparkling views of the both harbours as the lights come on of an evening. It was late afternoon and the stunning sunset provided the perfect backdrop to the end of my busy, varied and wonderful stay in Hong Kong.