Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Round The World 2004

On the Buses (and ferries, and trains, and trams)

I had an excellent night's sleep, fully making up for the previous night's shortcomings. I had a refreshing shower and, encouraged by the previous night's temperature on arrival, immediately spoiled the fresh, clean feeling by slapping on some sun-tan lotion. Then I opened the curtains ... it was horrible! Drizzling rain, strong wind, leaden skies. Dohhhh! The shorts were hastily abandoned in favour of something a good deal warmer. Uh-oh - this wasn't turning out as I'd hoped.

Hong Kong is one of my favourite places in the world. I think a lot of the appeal lies in the successful fusion of east and west. I know my way around reasonably well and, since another of my interests is transport systems, I thought a fun way to spend some of this one-day stopover would be to find out how much of the former colony I could see in one day, using public transport. Not that much obviously - I would have to choose carefully. I decided to split the exercise into two parts : one in the morning and one in the afternoon, with a brief visit to the hotel at lunchtime in case I needed to alter my clothing to better match the weather conditions. I called at Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station to buy an Octopus card (it's not a pass as such, more an 'electronic wallet' for use on the transport system), but left the station again to start the day's exploration in the way any visitor would, with a ride on the Star Ferry.

My morning DIY tour was going to cover Hong Kong Island. I decided to avoid The Peak as there would be nothing to see in the rain.

The Star Ferry is still one of the world's greatest bargains. The view is (or should I say, can be) excellent and at HKD2.20 on the upper deck, we're talking about something around the 20p mark. I had a quick stroll around the Central area on the island and took a few photos of the skyscrapers and the Cenotaph, shielding the camera from the rain as best I could.
I rode the clanking old trams to Causeway Bay and back, just for the experience. They are popular with tourists and locals alike. As I was to discover, some of the drivers have a tendency to run red lights!
Next, I took the bus to Stanley, on the opposite coast of the island. Stanley is best known for its market, where items spotted elsewhere in town can usually be obtained for a fraction of the price. In the right weather, it can also be a good place for lingering over a coffee or beer and doing a spot of people watching. Not in this weather, though!
Finally, I caught the 973 all the way back to Tsim Sha Tsui. It's an interesting ride along the narrow, winding coast road through attractive Repulse Bay and Deep Water Bay, past the floating restaurants at Aberdeen, climbing fairly dramatically towards Wah Fu and descending again to go though the tunnel to Kowloon. About an hour's sight-seeing from the top deck for around one pound - can't be bad!

I had a light lunch at an Austrian-style (!) restaurant at the hotel before venturing out again. Although I had been quite clear that I wanted to 'do' the Island in the morning, I had two possible choices for the afternoon : either a boat trip to one of the outlying islands, or a trip by train and bus through the hills of the New Territories. I opted for the latter. I got the MTR to Tsuen Wan and then caught the 51 bus to Kam Tin. It's a spectacular journey, twisting and turning through the hills. The scenery is quite dramatic. Although the journey out was good, by the time I got to the end of the line the weather had really deteriorated again, so I cut my losses and headed back to Kowloon and that safe option when the weather lets you down : the shopping malls! After the two rides on the MTR, I thought I was close to mastering my first phrase in Cantonese. Unfortunately I couldn't think of any social situation where Please stand clear of the closing doors would prove useful

In the evening, I met up with fellow FlyerTalker GK (a.k.a. Graeme) and his friend Sean. We had a couple of beers in the Central area and then a good-value Thai-style dinner, talking all the while about the things that are dear to any FTer's heart ... trips, flights, deals, miles and FT get-togethers! Graeme and Sean are first-rate guys and I felt after about 10 minutes that I had known them for ages. I am grateful to them for agreeing to meet a complete stranger for dinner - thanks, guys! FT is such a friendly place ... most of the time

Finally, my travels around Hong Kong finished the way they had started, with a trip back to Kowloon on the Star Ferry.

Tuesday 02 Mar

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