Last Days Of This Trip!!.

Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
Trip End Dec 31, 2020

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Hong Kong's transport is impressive! Well, all of Hong Kong really sets out to impress.

It seems that every type of transport is available and works well to move the masses from A to B. Travel is both under the sea (by MTR) and over(by ferry). Other transport includes ancient wooden sided double decker trams, buses of all types, a funicular railway up to the Peak, and most bizarre of all, a 800 metre uphill/downhill set of escalators!

Where else in the world could a Government conceive and implement a moving walkway system to convey people (for free) who live uphill and need to get downhill to work? It consists of 3 moving walkways and 20 elevated escalators that can be reversed; they run until 10 am downhill then run uphill for the rest of the day and night. We took the system uphill and then completed the long climb down by steps. Quite an experience! Halfway down we found a cafe that looked quite westernized and advertised "we only use Australian chicken" - so we had to see what that was about! We found a born and bred Adelaide girl running the cafe with McLaren Vale wines on offer along with the Aussie Chicken. She has a Perth born business partner also, who had just ducked off home for Christmas. We had a lovely meal to fortify us for the rest of the trip down the steps. The reference to "only Australian Chicken" is of course to counter the fear of Avian Bird Flu which is very real in Hong Kong. Adds on TV and building sides warn to be vigilant and how to assist in preventing its spread.

But back to HK's amazing transport. In 1998 Hong Kong opened its new airport on an island which was literally flattened and greatly extended through land reclamation. The island was then joined to the mainland by a series of award winning bridges and undersea tunnels. The underground (and undersea!) airport express whizzes you to and from the airport at speeds up to 130 MPH. Nowhere else in the world is there any airports quite like this. You can even check your luggage in and get your boarding pass during the day in the city before heading out to the airport allowing a lot more free time before needing to be at the airport.

But the best thing about Hong Kong transport is the Octopus card. We purchased this rechargeable card on our first day and it took us everywhere during our stay with a just a zap at every turnstile. You can even use it to buy groceries and it will take us all the way to the airport when we leave today.

Our Air China flight from Bangkok to Hong Kong was delayed and we arrived quite late in the evening with no accommodation booked. We belatedly realized that the World Trade Organization Conference was in full swing and had therefore forced prices and availability to a premium. Not to worry - we had to take a $200A a night room but the next day saw us pounding the pavement searching out a more affordable alternative which came in the form of the YWCA Guest house called the Anne Black Guest House. (Yes, Avan's in with the women again!). This was still expensive at $80A a night with a shared bathroom but we found that all accommodation is expensive in Hong Kong. As a footnote, we find it quite amusing that the YWCA (Young WOMENS Christian Association) is on Man Fuk Road - we kid you not!!

The WTO conference stirred up quite a bit of controversy with the mostly South Korean protest escalating into violence. The protests dominated TV newscasts and keep large numbers of police from their normal duties. We managed to mostly avoid being in the area of conflict but did have to twice skirt around protest groups.

We enjoyed a week in Hong Kong, with a day and night of that spent in nearby Macau (see next entry). Highlights of our Hong Kong time were taking the funicular to Victoria Peak and spending the day hiking around the top, wandering the markets in Kowloon, and enjoying the kilometres of walkways that join Hong Kong's central skyscrapers above the traffic. Hong Kong is known for its excellent shopping but the only thing we have actually bought is books. We have enjoyed scouring the bookshops and our backpacks will be rather weighed down on our return!

Another interesting glimpse we have had of Hong Kong life is the importance of Christmas. Christmas is BIG time here. All the buses shout Merry Christmas from their destination boards, the streets and shops are dripping with tinsel and baubles and delightful areas are provided where you can write a Christmas message on a card and tie it up for all to read.

When something is absent it takes a while before it sinks in that there is a change. We realized after a few days that there are no visible beggars in Hong Kong and no touts (other than a few Indian tailors) trying to part us from our money. It is all very civilized and perhaps the first time in the 11 months we have been away that we have not been accosted by beggars. Hong Kong people are just friendly and helpful with no ulterior motive and the city is clean and neat as a pin. Fines as much as $6,000HK (over $1,000A) apply for smoking and littering.
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