Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Five days in Hong Kong

A break away from it all. Time to leave the behind the day to day working life of an ESL teacher in Korea. Over the Chuseok (추석) period I spent most of the time in Hong Kong with my wife. We also had enough time to visit Macau, twice. On reflection though we enjoyed our time in Hong Kong I feel that we didn't do as many things as we did last year. If I could do it again there would be a few things done differently but of course that's not possible, still perhaps next year. Still the point of the vacation was to relax, enjoy the days off and to be with each other. We definitely achieved that.

We had planned to go to Hong Kong a few months before Chuseok arrived but we didn't actually book the flight and hotel until a couple of weeks before departing. For a time I thought that the holiday might not happen or may be truncated but thankfully we both managed to have five consecutive days off together. The day we departed for Seoul-Incheon-Hong Kong was also the day we got married so the vacation turned out to be a honeymoon. Too short for a honeymoon I know but next year we will more than make up for that.

We arrived in Hong Kong before midnight on the Thursday. As it takes up to one hour to get out of customs and to arrive at the hotel most places were closed or would have been closed after dropping our stuff off at the hotel so we decided to relax, get some beer and some food from the local convenience store. We were pretty tired to do anything else. Myself, I only slept twenty minutes the night before and we had a long day, setting off for Seoul at seven AM and spent most of Thursday lugging suitcase and heavy bag around the city.

After a fine sleep that night we headed for Macau the next day - write up to follow. We got back from Macau in the late evening but instead of going back to the hotel to freshen up we headed out for a meal in the Soho area. Last year we spent time there too and I can tell you that pretty much every restaurant there is superior to all the foreign restaurants in Korea. Such a choice of places to eat. I immediately felt at home again in that area. In Korea, especially Daegu where I live there are precious few places to have a good quality non-Korean meal. We went to an Italian restaurant and I ordered the finest Lasagna I have ever eaten and still, three weeks later wish I had more of that on my plate. Washed down with some decent beer, i.e. not Korean OR Heineken the meal truly hit the spot. The night was coming to a close we headed back to hotel ready for what lay in store on the Saturday.

Little did we know that we would end up in Macau again just the very next day... Aside from going back, temporarily to Macau we decided to spend the morning and afternoon shopping. We took the excellent MTR train to the Citygate Outlets mall (near the airport). I perhaps selfishly stocked up on some hard to find food supplies that I wanted to take back to Korea. We also spent quite a bit of money buying clothes, shoes and other items that are a bit cheaper there than other parts of Hong Kong and Korea (wish I had taken more money in general though away with me). After that we ate and headed off to Macau and after coming back we again headed to Soho but to a different restaurant, this time a Mexican one that we went to last year. Initially we didn't want to go back to somewhere we had eaten in last time but we couldn't decide where to choose to eat and we were running out of time. We were both thankful that the place stayed open after all the places had closed down as they let us eat our meal in peace enjoying each others company. The clocked ticked down and before we knew it, it was late and we were tired and headed back to the hotel.

Onto the Sunday and I owed this day to Boo Young and tried to let her do as many things as she wanted to do. We took the Star Ferry across Hong Kong and initially headed to Tsim Sha Tsui. We knew what were looking for. I was buying a wedding present for my wife (we agreed to try to find ones in Hong Kong). We were headed for the Tiffany jewellery store. After trying two of their stores we managed to find a necklace which my wife loves and seems to be very happy with. Then we decided to go window shopping in the surrounding area but couldn't find what we were looking for so headed to Kowloon park and had some ice cream. It was one of the only times we were able to sit down and enjoy the scenery in the hot weather. It would be nice if there was such a park in down town Daegu. Stopping for a rest gave us time to plan our next move as we headed to the very large Langham Place mall in the Mong Kok district of Kowloon. Having been before we knew what the place was like but it's such a big building, fifteen stories of shopping. Boo Young enjoyed herself there. We also took time off to have lunch, a korean looking dish which was from Japan. Similar to bibimbab here in Korea but with beef and rice and some vegetables. Very enjoyable, the meal gave us the energy to sift through all those stories.

The day was far, far from over. After the shipping we headed to the Ladies Market in Tung Choi Street. We went there again last year but at that time it was late evening. This time was a different experience. The street just doesn't seem to stop. Stalls and stalls and stalls selling mostly similar stuff ranging from the Asian looking to the cheap Western looking clothing. Most of the things on sale were clothing, artifacts, pottery, DVD's and watches but there were some good stuff too. If you go there just MUST bargain and haggle and never ever pay what they ask for. By bargaining and having a tough stance you can get 30-60% off everything. To be honest the things they sell are made at ultra cheap prices and not worth much at all but some do look good. Bargains can be had, I picked up a nice leather bound pocket notebook, some scarves and two nice looking Chinese style bowls, plus some tat. I enjoyed the bargaining and could have bought much much more but to be honest we didn't need anything and our bags were already filling up so we headed back to the excellent Star Ferry and headed to the hotel on Hong Kong Island.

Feeling refreshed after taking showers we decided to leave early, around 6pm to go to Victoria Peak. This is one of the premier attractions for tourist visiting Hong Kong. The 'Peak' is actually a mountain, Mount Austin which has a tram which climbs the mountain at a steep gradient to take tourists to the top. At times the ascent appears to be improbable as it looks just too steep but the tram manages it and when you get to the top it is more than worth the wait. The view is magnificent. To our astonishment there was a mighty cue when we got there which I thought might take two hours to get to the front. It only took us one hour but headed up the tram to take in our night time view. After a meal which wasn't as good as last years we took many pictures of the fantastic view of Hong Kong, Kowloon and Victoria Harbour. At night the view is a sight to see. So many lights it feels like all of Hong Kong is lit up. Very picturesque. Sadly we couldn't manage to take a decent picture of ourselves there but paid for a professional picture which was worth the money. Again, it was getting late and after a long day, our last full day in Hong Kong 2009 we made our way back to the hotel.

Waking up early to take advantage of the free shuttle bus we departed from the hotel. Alas our plane back to Incheon was for 2:30pm so we didn't have much time left. We again headed for the Citygate outlet to take in some more last minute shopping. I managed to cram my suitcase full of much needed items for Korea life from the supermarket there. If only there was a supermarket like that in Daegu I would be so much happier here. Such choice and quality it was refreshing and stimulating to be able to get whatever I wanted. Our time in Hong Kong was over but never to be forgotten due to the circumstances. I'm sure we'll be back again as there is much to do and enjoy but not for another year or so.

Some great points about the holiday were; We relaxed, spent wonderful time with my wife, managed to pick up some souvenirs and see some more places in one of the great places of the world. It was also reinvigorating for me to eat several quality meals and enjoy the diversity of drinks there, specifically the choices of beer.

Some not so great points; lot of travelling around left me tired and ironically needing some more time off, we didn't go to some of the places we planned to, some of the Chinese tourists (not the Hong Kong locals) were the rudest bunch of people we've ever encountered. Koreans have something of a bad reputation and rightfully so at times but they have nothing, nothing on the Chinese people we met in Hong Kong. I found this stange as it wasn't like this last year or when I was in China in 2006 where the Chinese people were pretty kind and in general not rude at all. Perhaps we were unlucky...

No matter, this didn't sour our much needed time out in Hong Kong. At no stage did I miss Korea or think about work at all. Having said that I felt good when I returned to Korea, it is my home away from home for the time being.

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