Part 2 - Hong Kong and Malta

Trip Start Dec 10, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Friday, April 14, 2006

Our European/Lampoons Vacation - Trip 2

Day 61 -Friday 14th April 2006 (Good Friday)
Today we fly out of beautiful Brisbane (what a great morning for the Brisbane to Gladstone yacht race which happens at our front door) for Hong Kong. It's goodbye to everyone for we hope at least 8 months (we can't let Matt win his bet that we will be back in 4 months !!). Once we arrived in Hong Kong we caught the hotel transfer bus to the hotel and it was amazing to see the scenery as we drove in - massive massive sky scrapers and we also went over the Tsing Ma Bridge which links Lantau and the New Territories. This bridge is the worlds longest and heaviest road and rail suspension bridge (like the Golden Gate but even bigger). We arrived late to the hotel Regal Kowloon at about 10.30 and then found somewhere to eat dinner. The hotel was nice and located near the harbor.

Day 62 - Saturday 15th April 2006 - Hong Kong
Today was a fun day of walking around Hong Kong and checking out the local sites and trying to avoid Indian salesmen who wanted to take you to their shop to have suits tailored (they just don't give up!!!). We walked along the walk of fame where the Hong Kong film festival was on and onto the star ferry terminal. Then we walked along the major streets, particularly Nathan Street which is full of shops and in particular electronic shops. We walked through the streets for hours and hours and also through some of the street markets. We have a theory about the Asians - that they will basically eat anything as we saw some weird foods for sale including turtle and roasted turtle shell and dried lizard on a stick !! (just like a lollypop only probably crunchy and salty)
We found a great place to have a foot massage and pedicure which was ridiculously cheap (about $19 for 50 minutes) and it was awesome. We then had a walk through the famous night markets as we wanted to buy some cheap DVD's but apparently there are too many police around for them to sell them on a Saturday night. Wayne had dinner in the night markets and had heaps of cheap seafood and some 1 liter beers (Gem sat and watched because she can't eat seafood) - needless to say he was rather pissed at the end and we had to catch a cab home.

Day 63 - Sunday 16th April 2006 - Hong Kong
We went on a tour of the harbor today on a star ferry and Gem tried really hard not to get sea sick but it was inevitable. After the tour we got off at Hong Kong Island and caught the world's steepest funicular tram up to Victoria Peak to check out the best view of Hong Kong. It was a great view but unfortunately the big viewing tower (that looks like a giant wok) was closed for renovation. We caught the ferry back and then had a walk through one of the large shopping centers and then back through the local streets and past the flower markets. We ended up back at the foot massage place for a 50 minute foot massage and then a 50 minute full body massage where we got beaten to a pulp by a little Chinese lady called Mrs. Lee. Mrs. Lee even managed to get the knots out of Gemeah's back and neck and Gemeah now wants to take her home to keep. We were so relaxed we had to get a cab home and went to sleep.

Day 64 - Monday 17th April 2006 - Hong Kong
We caught the train out to Tung Chung Station and then a long bus ride through the mountains to the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island where the worlds biggest Buddha is. The Buddha took ten years to build and is 80 foot tall and made of bronze. We climbed the 200 plus steps to the top and took in the fantastic view. Wayne braved the local markets again for some noodles and then we headed back to the train station were we caught a cab to the "ladies markets" which were absolutely packed as today was a public holiday and everyone was out on the streets. Walking back to Nathan Street was amazing as we don't think we have ever seen so many people in one place - luckily we are taller than most of them so if we get lost from each other we can just lift up our hand and wave and see each other clearly enough. We headed back for another round of being beaten up by Mrs. Lee for a Gem to get a body and Wayne a foot and leg massage - the girls keep laughing at Wayne as they have never seen a man's legs be so hairy as they keep telling us that most Asian man's leg's are bald. We visited the night markets again and this time we managed to find quite a few places selling cheap DVD's. We bought about 8 at the first place (some of them have not even been released yet at the movies) and then we found another place with even more. However, while we were standing at the second place they had a scare as they thought the police were coming and managed to pack everything up within a couple of seconds - which was pretty funny to watch.

Day 65 - Tuesday 18th April 2006 - Hong Kong
This morning we decided to buy a new camera as we had been shopping around for the best price as our camera had been giving us some trouble and can be a little unreliable. We thought we had got a good deal but then Wayne went and checked another store (I told him not to) and found that we could have gotten the same thing $100 AUD cheaper - he was spewing. We went and had some nice food for breakfast and then took off to the airport. As it was Easter the air line had over booked the flight and asked us if we would volunteer to stay behind and catch a flight 12 hours later and they would give us $600 AUD and an upgrade to first class to take at a later time. We decided we probably did not have enough time to loose over 12 hours as we only had one day to get the motor home registered and given the trouble we had last time we could not risk it. After our 13 our flight we eventually arrived at Heathrow at 10.00pm, and picked up our hire car and drove to Middlesbrough throughout the night.

Day 66 - Wednesday 19th April 2006 - England
We got to where we had the motor home stored and all was O.K with it. We have decided to called it "Misty" as it is a Hymer and we think it sounds like "Misty Hymen" the swimmer from the USA that they Roy and HG always make fun of. So Misty it is. We unpacked bags and saw Misty and even though she had been sitting still for 3 months she started right away. We went off to Margaret's place to pick up the documents to get the motor home registered but then realized that Stuart had already managed to get the motor home registered in Gem's name and had number plates awaiting us. What a legend!! This means we don't have to go through the horrible process of dealing with DVLA again (but it also meant that we could have taken a later flight and got the benefits...bugger!!). We went back to CSV the club where we joined last time to get access to the internet and all the staff there welcomed us back and were excited to see us and want to hear stories from Australia about crocodiles and spiders. We organized insurance for Misty which was an absolute rip off (over $3000 AUD for 12 months, where as it had only cost Stuart about $900 AUD for 12 months as he as was a UK resident - so we think that could be our next business venture in the UK is to provide cheaper insurance for Aussies and New Zealanders). We found the guesthouse where we were staying and crashed after having no sleep for over 24 hours.

Day 67 - Thursday 20th April 2006 -England
We were planning on leaving the motor home in Middlesbrough while we went to Malta for a week as we thought we would still be waiting for the registration to come through, but as it was already done we have decided to cancel the hire car and drive Misty back to Gatwick. So today we had to organise parking at Gatwick as you have to pre book and then we set off on the long drive back. Wayne was a bit disappointed he was not going to catch up with his poker buddies in Middlesbrough but we decided to drive all night to try and miss the busy traffic on the highway.

Day 68 - Friday21st April 2006 - England to Malta
This morning we arrived at Gatwick at about 6.30 and had a couple of hours to spare before dropping off the motor home. We rocked up to the parking place and the guy there said that they did not take motor homes which got us into a bit of a panic. But because we had rung twice to confirm that they did take motor homes and we had a booking number, he let us park it there as he did not want to ruin our holiday for us. The flight to Malta was about 2.5 hours and we were sitting next to some English couples who gave us some very informative information about the must sees in Malta. Arrived at about 6.00pm and picked up the hire car. The hire car guy was great and told us that half his family live in Australia and that there is a very big Maltese population who live in Australia (we only know Nick who is Maltese!!). We managed to find our way to resort but driving there was very interesting as they all drive like nutters and seem to make up there own road rules. The roads are also really bad but we were told that they are in the process of upgrading them as they have to as part of their union with the European Union. We arrived at the Radisson at Golden Sands and were happy to find that it was every bit the 5 star that it advertised - it was very luxurious and just the bathroom is bigger than Misty alone. Apparently the Queen and all the major Prime Ministers (including little Johnny who they have a picture of on the wall) of the world have also stayed here

Day 69 - Saturday 22nd April 2006 - Malta
This morning we found a grocery shop to stock up on supplies for the week. We were happy to find that while the Maltese Lira is 4 times the amount of the Australian dollar their food and services are relatively cheap. We spent the day checking out the local town and then relaxed in the sun looking at the beautiful scenery of the Mediterranean. The view is awesome and the resort has its own private beach. The weather was beautiful and hot and sunny. We learnt that Malta comprises of three islands Malta, Gozo and Comino which are just over 100 square miles in area. It is a bit like Cyprus in that it has little green vegetation and consists mainly of limestone. As there is little wood on the Island the houses are all made from Concrete or Limestone. It lies midway between Europe and North Africa, 60 miles from Sicily and 120 miles north of Libya. The population is about 390,000 and the country has a 7000 year old history that has seen a succession of foreign conquerors ruling the island until 1964 when Malta gained Independence from Britain after 160 years. We also found that the Maltese people have an absolute fascination with shooting things, particularly birds that are winging their way from Africa to Europe, as every morning we wake up to the sound of gun shots and can see the men congregated in the hills hiding in their little stone shooting huts. Apparently over 4 million birds are shot in Malta each year which is making the greenies and the European Parliament a bit concerned but Malta was smart enough to say that they would only join the EU if hunting bands were not imposed.

Day 70 - Sunday 23rd April 2006 - Malta
This morning we took off to Valletta (the capital of Malta) for the Sunday Markets that they have in town - they were O.K but nothing special. As it was Sunday it was hard to navigate our way around as half the streets were closed due to the churches having parades through the streets. The Maltese are among the most devout Catholics in the world and more than 70 % of the population head to mass on a Sunday so the streets were packed. Due to strong religious beliefs, Malta is the only European country where residents can't get a divorce and abortion is illegal. We then drove to the Sunday Fish Markets in Marsaxlokk which was a cute little fishing village where we stopped and had some fresh fish for lunch. The weather was so beautiful that we decided to go back to the hotel and take in some sun around the pool and where we could watch everyone out on the beach jet skiing, parasailing etc

Day 71 - Monday 24th April 2006 - Malta
We head for the Ta Qali Craft Village this morning which mainly consisted of little shops in old wartime domed shaped hangers selling lace, ceramics, cheap ugly souvenirs, and wool and glass products. Malta is famous for glass blowing which is very similar to Venice. We then headed fro Mdina which is a walled city of garden wrapped squares and sixteenth century cathedrals and palaces which are still owned by nobles and house valuable Renaissance paintings. It was an absolutely stunning city withy very tiny streets so much so that the inhabitants have to park outside the walls and walk into their houses. We then walked through the Howard Gardens which is one of the biggest public gardens in Malta and form a natural border between Rabat and Mdina. The gardens were less than impressive as they really do find it hard to grow anything here because there is no soil just clay and limestone. We then had a fun time walking around the streets of Rabat which consists of rich and sumptuously decorated town houses from the Roman Period. We had a look at St Paul's catacombs which are a complex of interconnected underground Roman cemeteries that were in use up to the 4th century AD. We then drove through the little towns of Mgarr and then back along the coast road past some of the towers to the hotel. The Island is surrounded in Towers that form as look out points for possible invaders and from each look out tower you can see the next one on the island so that they could signal to each other if an invader was coming.

Day 72 - Tuesday 25th April 2006 - Malta
We set of to Valetta again today to take in some more sites. We stopped in Sliema where we deciced to take a 1.5 hour harbour ride around the Grand Harbour. While Gem hate's boats she coped quite well despite when we got out into the open sea the boat was rocking really badly - there was thankfully no vomiting. The grand harbour was an amazing way to see Valetta and gave you a much better appreciation for how large the walls are the fortify the city. We then drove into Valetta and walked around the beautiful streets and then into the Upper Barracca Gardens which were near the Castille Place. From the gardens there is the most amazing view across the three cities and the grand harbour which is classed as one of the world's largest and deepest natural harbours. The origins of the garden go back to 1661 when it was a private garden of the Italian knights.
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