Farewell Asia

Trip Start Jun 09, 2005
Trip End Jun 08, 2006

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Flag of China  ,
Monday, December 19, 2005

We fly out from Hanoi airport to Hong Kong on an AirAsia flight. Flying to Macau (perversely via Bangkok) and then catching the ferry is over 50% cheaper than a direct flight. To compensate for our savings, we will stay overnight in the Comfort Suites Hotel, just a few minutes from Bangkok airport. The room costs a steep 20USD but I manage to negotiate an upgrade to a deluxe room which makes all the difference. We check into a bright and airy room with a huge white bed complete with fluffy pillows. This is a nice welcome back to Western standards.

Our flight to Macau the next day is smooth and within 30 minutes of leaving the airport we are on the express jet foil boat to central Hong Kong. John looks at his immigration stamps for Macau and comments that this has been the shortest stop over ever in a country. After 30 minutes of skidding over the aqua blue waves we have a magnificent entry into Hong Kong as we are enclosed by a myriad of skyscrapers which belong to the Central district.

Within 30 minutes of arriving in Hong Kong we are sitting in my cousin Philip's land cruiser and driving along the streets. Having travelled for the last 3 months in some of the poorest regions of Asia, the contrast is now very apparent. For the first time in Advent we see gianormous Christmas trees and Christmas lights sprawling up the sides of all the buildings.

Tonight the roads are unusually quiet. Philip drives us through the Wan Chai and tells us that last night the HK government had sent all mobile phones a warning message not to enter this district. This is because there were protests by Korean farmers, complaining to the WTO about the inequitable of the western farmers who receive generous government subsidies Vs the eastern farmers who remain poor because they get nothing. We see police horses parading the streets and policeman wearing riot gear standing at the corners. The protests are by no means tolerated but at least Hong Kong still seems to be a democratic country where people have the opportunity to voice their opinions.

We meet up with Aunty Lily's family for a jumbo meal. We start with a cake to celebrate Maisie's 37th birthday. It's our first cake for a long time and John shocks everyone by finishing off two creamy slices in record time. 10 minutes later we are downstairs in a packed Cantonese restaurant and start digging into an 11-course meal, which begins with roast goose and lobster noodles. The remaining courses seem to disappear in a blur of gluttonous consumption.

In Hong Kong, it's nice having a rest and not having to worry about where to stay. On our first day we go for a great walk with Uncle Pok Hay. We take the bus from Pokfulam to Central and then a tram from Central to the Peak. The tram has been operational since the 1900's and it's a steep ascent to the highest point on Hong Kong Island. This is my first visit to HK during the winter and the temperatures are lovely and cool. At the top of the peak the visibility is excellent and we can see fantastic views of the city. Uncle PH is extremely fit for a 70-year old OAP and he guides us on one of his favourite routes around the peak circuit and then along the countryside all the way back to his flat in Wah Fu, with a convenient stop for Dim Sum along the way. Working for a Japanese company all his life seems to have imbued in uncle the stoic ability to put up with hardship and pain, as he shrugs off our offers of a rest, toilet break, or a drink of water.

After a very overdue meeting, 21 years to be exact, we meet up with Dominic Lo. From 1979-1984 he studied in the UK and stayed with my family for 5 years during his school summer holidays. He is now married to Mabel and has three girls (I like his first daughters name, Rachel) and works as a civil engineer for the HK government. We meet at the busy entrance of Sogo Department Store in Causeway Bay and after taking some moments to recognise one another we are within no time tucking into some delicious Shanghai food and chatting about childhood memories, including flooding the kitchen and numerous water fights. We round the evening off with tasty mango deserts and meet up the next day to go shopping for a new watch for John and more last minute Christmas pressie shopping.

The next evening we are back in Causeway Bay. This time we meet up with friends Joan and Tommy. Our waistlines expand as we are treated to a banquet of Thai food which is followed by a short walk to one of Joan's 5 Pumpernickel coffee shops. Sipping Café lattes and sampling chocolate cakes made by her new pastry chef in a relaxed ambience we look through a selection of Tommy's photographs. He is a civil engineer by training but he is extremely gifted in art and photography. We marvel at his photos of Angkor Wat and learn that he designed the interior decoration of each of Joan's coffee shops. Her small business fills most of her time but is doing well. Bread manufacture has now moved away from the shops into a small factory. Even more exciting are the plans to open another two shops shortly. One shop will be conveniently sandwiched between two leading global brands, Pacific Coffee and Starbucks.

We stay one night back at Joyce and Matthew's flat in Hang Hao. Joyce's mother Catherine spends the whole day preparing a sumptuous dinner which reminds us of how delicious home cooking can be. John likes Joyce's 'Hello Kitty' Christmas tree and comments that it is the first Christmas tree that he has seen that rotates whilst being lit up with multicoloured fibre optics; a suitable tree for a luxurious Hong Kong apartment.

Apart from eating, it seems that we do little other physical activity in HK. I attend two free courses run by the HK Tourist Office; one on jade appreciation and another on Chinese tea. We meet up for Dim Sum with Aunty Rita, Uncle Ted and their youngest daughter, Clarabella, who is now studying in England. It's my last day and Aunty Rita shows me the best clothes shopping places in Wan Chai where I pick up a Banana Republic shirt for about 2GBP and a nice sweater for 4GBP.

Our last day is spent sorting through our entire luggage which we have been storing up in HK during our last three stays. A parcel is to be sent back to the UK containing excess clothing, photo CDs, gifts, and a plethora of items that we have never used in our travels. Aunty Lily and Uncle Pok Hay help us to carry all our luggage filled with Christmas presents onto the bus and into Central. At the Hong Kong MTR we take advantage of the 'Express Check-In' service. We receive our air tickets and watch our bags disappear before we quickly walk around the corner to meet up with Alan and Lisa for our final farewell meal and last minute shopping to rid us of our HK dollars.

Having travelled for 7 months on the road we are now leaving Asia and starting the next phase of our travels, five weeks in sunny Australia. We will arrive on Christmas Eve. We both feel excited about meeting my mum and dad who we haven't seen since leaving the UK, and my sister who has already settled down to a new life in Perth.
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