Hong Kong, Sunday 14 to Monday 22 April 2019

Time is the most precious gift one can give to others. Spending time with family is therefore very important to Katie and Ian, especially now that most of our families live a long way away, including overseas. Family reunions in Singapore and Hong Kong were especially valued parts of our travels in 2019. Ian and Katie were therefore excited when the Majestic Princess docked at the new Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in Hong Kong, as we were going to catch up with a lot of Katie’s family. We disembarked in a very smooth process, which has been typical of Princess, found our luggage without hassle, and caught the free shuttle bus from the cruise terminal to Hollywood Plaza at Diamond Hill MTR station while most passengers were still waiting on the long taxi queues.

We met Katie’s brother Cecil who lives at Galaxia, a set of residential towers adjacent to Hollywood Plaza, and Agatha (Katie’s sister), who was visiting Hong Kong from Manchester. Agatha treated us to a very delicious yum cha breakfast at one of the restaurants in Hollywood Plaza. Back at the apartment we watched the Princess Cruises Reflections DVD, especially the section on our ukulele concert. We think both Agatha and Cecil were amazed with our performing talent.

Cecil drove us to The Salisbury YMCA Hotel where we checked in and unpacked. We were exhausted and slept for two hours before getting burgers and fries for dinner from trusty old McDonalds. Ian started to read A Dog’s Journey by W. Bruce Cameron, which he bought at Hollywood Plaza. This is a sequel to the No. 1 New York Times and USA Today Best-Selling novel—A Dog’s Purpose—which we read last year.

During our stay, the weather in Hong Kong was not great, but very murky, grey and humid, and at times, very stormy.

Hong Kong is famous for shopping and eating. It is very congested, and the population is still growing. There is not a lot of open space in the city. A favourite past time of the residents is meeting and eating. In contrast to Australia, however, you do not see a lot of overweight people in Hong Kong apart from visitors from Australia, north America or the UK.

Besides Maccas, we enjoyed a couple of inexpensive meals at a local Food Republic food court in Tsim Sha Tsui. These eating outlets are frequented by locals and offer a variety of delicious dishes, just like some food courts in Australia—inexpensive and quick. Katie loves congee (rice porridge), and was so disappointed that Maccas in Hong Kong does not have McCongee!…….

During this trip Katie bought a new pair of prescription glasses with red frames, and closed her inactive Hong Kong bank account.

Early in our trip, at Cecil’s suggestion, we took a ferry trip with Cecil to Cheung Chau, an outlying island of Hong Kong. The ferry ride from Hong Kong took half an hour. The weather was very murky and not conducive to photography.

Fast ferry to Cheung Chau

Small fishing boats

Cheung Chau is a small outlying island with a quaint fishing village. It is popular with both Hong Kong residents and tourists. It is an ideal destination for school outings and for family campers, and we shared the ferry with a large group of school campers. Katie remembers when she was young, one of her school outings was to camp at Cheung Chau where her tent was blown away.

Katie’s school camping trip before the tent blew away. Katie is wearing her beret which she still owns.
Welcome to Cheung Chau
More welcome to Cheung Chau

There is a variety of street seafood restaurants along the waterfront. A Bun Festival is held annually, but it was later in the year. The winner is the one who collects most buns from the top of a Bun tree (buns are tied together to form the shape similar to a Christmas tree).

Ian and Katie were amazed to see an open area for fish drying and a large food market

Laying sardines out for drying
Fish drying
Fish drying
Prawns drying

On Cheung Chau there are many tricycles by the roadside for hire. Tricycles and small tractors seem to be the main transport in the village. Seeing rows and rows of tricycles idle on the roadside and waiting to be hired, Cecil and Ian couldn’t help themselves but to hire two tricycles at HK$40 each for an hour.  Katie spread herself between these 2 tricycles as passenger. As the bikes are not set up for tall people, Ian found it a bit uncomfortable to ride. We had a great time riding around the waterfront. Cecil admitted that it had been 40 years since he had ridden a bike.

Ian on trike
Cecil on trike
Pick your seafood for dinner
Get your fish balls here
Street market

We also tasted some gong cha (a strong black tea) which can be drunk with some honey or sugar. Katie tried some bubble tea (tea with tapioca pearls, like sago). We devoured steamy freshly baked Portuguese tarts from a food vendor.

Gong cha
Blue Girl Pilsener, which is strongly promoted on Cheung Chau

After returning from Cheung Chau, we took the MTR to Wong Tai Sin in the hope of seeing the Wong Tai Sin Temple and having a vegetarian meal there. Unfortunately, the temple was closed, but instead we had a delicious dinner at the Shanghaiteng 1930 restaurant in the Temple Mall.

Wong Tai Sin Temple
Ma po tofu and sweet & sour fish
Buns with banana and red bean paste

During most nights Ian wrote up summaries for the day, sorted and resized photos, and posted them to our travel blog. He has been extremely diligent while Katie was a bit slack!

As we missed our vegetarian meal at the Wong Tai Sin Temple, we aimed to have a vegetarian meal at the Chi Lin Nunnery next to Hollywood Plaza. The vegetarian lunch was lovely, and Ian tried his first beer in Hong Kong at Cecil’s place. We also bought some Chinese tea for our friends Norm and Lee who were so generous with their time by minding our dog Dexter. The tea was the same as that we had at the vegetarian lunch.

Gai lan with ginger and broccoli with abalone mushrooms
Vegetarian spring rolls
Tofu and porcini mushroom casserole
Noodles with mushrooms

The next evening, Agatha took us to the Empire City Roasted Duck Restaurant in K11 where we enjoyed a first course of the Peking Duck dish—duck skin with a little flesh, wrapped in crepes and dipped in hoisin sauce.

Before Agatha returned to Manchester, Katie went to iSQUARE shopping mall in Tsim Sha Tsui to buy two USB drives for copying the Majestic Princess Reflections DVDs—one for Agatha and Michael in Manchester, and one for Cecil in Hong Kong. Of course, the highlight on the DVDs is the ukulele concert. Ian then did the copying from his laptop computer.

Katie was very grateful when Agatha bought her a scarf (because of her cold), a gift of two bracelets, and a handy travelling hot water flask to ease her throat in the hot, dusty and sometimes smoky Hong Kong atmosphere.

We are very grateful that both Agatha and Philomena changed their business plans to be in Hong Kong while we were there. Philomena arrived the day that Agatha flew home, but they overlapped for a couple of hours at The Salisbury, where Philomena was staying.

Siblings Agatha, Cecil, Philomena and Katie (wearing her new scarf) at The Salisbury

On Philomena’s first full day in Hong Kong, Katie, Philomena, Cecil, Jon and Flora went to the Tseung Kwan O Columbarium to pay respects to Katie, Philomena and Cecil’s parents, and Jon’s maternal grandparents. As it was the Easter public holiday period, the columbarium had many people paying their respects. The columbarium is on the side of a hill and has a panoramic water view. Ian stayed behind as he developed a head cold and was feeling crook. After paying our respects, the family lunched at a nearby shopping mall.

Tseung Kwan O Columbarium and the view

Back at The Salisbury that day, Ian slept in and eventually walked the short distance to Starbucks for a heart-starting black coffee. Ian walked around a while, ending up at the Ocean Terminal. He discovered a large food hall, and he was surprised that all the fresh food was wrapped in plastic, except for a lot of seafood. He counted 12 different types of oysters, all huge. He found the wine area, but you would need at least A$60 for a reasonable bottle of Australian or NZ wine. Eventually he came across the beer department, and he spent a pleasant half an hour selecting some samples to take back to the hotel. Two IPAs brewed in Hong Kong—Yardley Brothers Hong Kong Bastard Imperial IPA, Gwei-lo American IPA—were beautifully hopped with a tropical and citrus flavour. The Wilderness IPA and Bodinton’s were from the UK, while Tsingtao is probably the most well known Chinese lager. The Tsingtao had to be consumed immediately on Ian’s return to The Salisbury, as the 600 ml bottle was too tall to fit in the small bar fridge. Tsingtao is one of Ian’s favourite lagers, and it made him feel a little better.

A sample of 5 beers

While at The Salisbury, we had breakfast with Philomena twice in the dining room on level 4.

It was rewarding on this trip to Hong Kong to catch up with Philomena’s son, Jon, and his wife, Flora, and their beautiful daughter, Olivia. Jon was born in Hong Kong and migrated to Australia with his parents in 1990. He moved back to Hong Kong for work, met and married Flora, and Olivia was born five years ago. On Philomena’s first night in Hong Kong, we all shared a banquet at a Thai restaurant at Admiralty, near where Joh and Flora live.

Ian, Katie, Philomena, Cecil and Flora at the Thai restaurant

We also enjoyed the company of Jon, Flora and Olivia at the Golden Palace Seaview Banquet Hall on Level 26 at iSQUARE for yum cha, a Chiu Chow dinner in the Chiu Chow Garden in Star House (near the Star Ferry), and afternoon tea at The Peninsula, which is next to The Salisbury. The most interesting dish of the trip was Chiu Chow fried noodles—a pancake of yellow noodles eaten with a sprinkling of vinegar and sugar. Jon said that they could really only have this dish at special occasions when there were enough people to share it.

The Peninsula is a long-established hotel and is acclaimed for its afternoon tea (sometimes called high tea) served daily in The Lobby. This is a very British tradition! The Lobby in Peninsula is an elegant meeting place. You can listen to the beautiful live, string music by acclaimed musicians while having afternoon tea. This is a MUST DO activity for visitors to Hong Kong.

We were treated by Jon and Philomena to enjoy this unforgettable experience! The Peninsula does not take table bookings for afternoon tea—it is strictly run on a first-come, first served basis from 3:30 pm, and there is always a long queue of guests waiting for a table. Indeed, the queue put us off when we were in Hong Kong last year. However, this time we were with Philomena, who secured a table between lunch and afternoon tea for a quick snack! Philomena ordered a charcuterie plate, and Ian took the opportunity to have a Tsingtao or two. We simply took our time and continued into afternoon tea at the same table. Good to be with people in the know.

The Peninsula Hotel (image from Trip Advisor)

It was a perfect afternoon tea, with tea in a silver service, and scones, savouries and sweet delicacies presented in a triple decker stack, just as it should be. We lingered for several hours. We enjoyed the live music from a four piece band behind us on the next level up.

Flora and Olivia enjoying afternoon tea
Everyone at afternoon tea enjoying scones, savoury sandwiches, and sweets
Delicate sweets

Earlier in the year, Ian bought a new pair of ASICS runners, and he found them to be very comfortable and hard wearing. He hoped to pick up another pair in Vietnam where they are made, expecting to pay much less for them, but we did not get the chance to do any shopping in Saigon. He found an ASICS shop in Tsim Sha Tsui, but most running shoes in the shop were for skinny little feet. He eventually found a size 10 shoe with a wide fitting, but the only colour available was bright orange-red. He was really trying to keep a low profile in Hong Kong, but it was difficult…

Ian in red runners with Olivia

On our last day in Hong Kong on 22 April, the long-awaited sun finally shone which was a welcome relief to both Katie and Ian. Ian started the day with an early walk along the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, which has recently been developed around the foreshore.

Tsim Sha Tui Promenade before the sun came out–Victoria Peak is obscured by cloud

We decided to go up to Victoria Peak on Hong Kong island before catching our flight home at 7:30 pm. We checked our luggage in at Hong Kong MTR station at the Qantas counter in the morning. We had a small hiccup when the name for Katie’s booking did not match the name on her passport, but the guy at the counter said it would be OK, and issued our boarding passes. I wish we had checked them. Relieved of our luggage, we took a No. 15 bus to the Peak. The place was packed and looked like half the population of Hong Kong had decided to do the same as us!

By the time we arrived at the Peak, the sun was out, and we got some magnificent views, especially back down to Tsim Sha Tsui, where we had spent most of the past week. Ian took some nice scenic photos. We bumped into a couple of characters that had escaped from Madame Tussauds. Feeling peckish, we had lunch at Hungry Jacks. Back at Hong Kong Station, we caught an express train to the airport.

View to Tsim Sha Tui from Victoria Peak
Ian with Albert Einstein
Katie with Nicole Kidman

We had plenty of time when we arrived at the airport. This is just as well, because the mistake on Katie’s boarding pass, where her name was printed as Mrs Clarke Clarke, was caught at the first immigration check. Officers said that we could have the mistake rectified for only $250HK, but Ian maintained this was Qantas’ mistake, which should have been caught when Katie’s Frequent Flyer number was provided for the booking. Eventually they caved in, issued us with a new boarding pass for Katie in her correct name, and all was good thereafter. We bought some pasties to take home, and then waited a short while to board. On the plane, we were pleasantly surprised to find our seats behind a bulkhead, so we had extra legroom without having to pay for it.

We landed at Sydney at 6:30 am on Tuesday 23 April. We took another 6.5 hours using three trains and a taxi to get home. Top holiday, but it was great to be back home! Our dog, Dexter, almost ate us when we drove around to collect him from our friend, Norman. The third part of our grey nomad adventure is to travel around Australia with Dexter in our motorhome, Matilda. But first, we needed to unwind from a brilliant ukulele cruise where we met new friends Peter and Krystyna and John and Joy, and from a lovely time in Hong Kong catching up with family and immersing ourselves in Chinese gastronomy.

Fried Chiu Chow noodles (image from Trip Advisor, Pak Loh Chiu Chow Restaurant)