28 March - Hong Kong
We arrived at the border at around 7h00, I loaded the bike, and
set off down the road, LOL, just to be stopped by the police a
few kilometres down the road and told that I could not cycle on
these roads. There was not a single road in the immediate area
where I could cycle into the city!!! A few minutes later the
very bus that I was on came by and picked me up. (I was supposed
to stay on the bus all the way into Hong Kong City).
Once on Hong Kong Island I thought it safe to try again and told
the bus driver to let me off. Wow, what a busy and built-up
place it is - at first it was a bit scary!!!
Skyscrapers and high-rise buildings filled the skyline, busses
and trams criss-crossed the island. I felt small and
insignificant as I tried to avoid colliding with any of them.
First up, I was looking for accommodation and I soon found that
the world Rugby-7’s were on that weekend and each and every
whole was filled!!
Eventually I found a room at Alisan Guesthouse, but not for this
night but for 29 and 30 March. It was only the “staff” room, so
it was really, really small with just a small bed. It was cheap
so I took it and went in search of a place to stay for the
I found a room at the Holiday Inn and lived in complete luxury
for one night!! I also contacted Carlos and we arranged to meet
later in the evening. Carlos had a meeting on the island and
afterwards we met for coffee and a long chat.
First thing in the morning I went in search of a China Visa
application centre, just to be told that the longest they can
give me was 7 days!! Will have to think about that one!! A far
bigger problem is, however, that my passport is nearly full and
I now only have 2 empty pages left.
I could only get into the room at Alisan at 13h00 so I wandered
the streets in awe of all that is Hong Kong. The streets were
filled with rugby fans dressed up to the 9’s for the big game. I
walked to the ferry port and took the ferry across the bay for a
mere $2.80. Once back on the island I took the escalator (that
runs at a steep slope up the side of the mountain) to what is
known as Mid-Levels, and then walked to the tram station that
takes one up to the view point. The queue was far too long to my
liking and after a while of standing in the queue I gave up and
continued down the road by foot.
The big plan is to wait until Monday (tomorrow) to go in search
of the South African Embassy and enquire about obtaining a new
passport – then go to the China resource centre and see if I can
get another visa for China. Well, if all else fails there is
always the Queen Elizabeth!!
It turned out another fruitless day as I visited the South
African Embassy and was told that a new passport would take 4
months!!! I had no option but to fill in the forms, have
photographs taken and pay the required fee.
Next stop was the China Visa Office which turned out even more
disastrous as the queue was miles long and by the time I
actually got to a counter I was told that 15 days is the maximum
they will give me and it seemed that they wanted proof of
accommodation and transport, what a pain!! I just felt like
saying: Fuck that!!!
I left tail between my legs, decided to have a cup of coffee,
and ended up leaving my newly purchased umbrella behind. Nothing
surprises me anymore, I just expect the worst!!
At least when the city gets too much there is always a temple
close by. I walked past some rather interesting ones today,
dwarfed by the high-rises, these tiny temples offer peace and
calm in sharp contrast to the hectic city life. Giant incense
coils hang from the ceiling, and smoke slowly rises up, giving
the whole temple a hazy look. I believe that some of them can
burn as long as 3 weeks.
1 April - Hong Kong
I took a walk back to the South African Embassy to find out if
Amanda could pick up my passport in South Africa and have it
couriered to me – and if so (a) what it would require and (b) if
it would expedite matters at all. I was told to write a letter
of authorisation to the Pretoria office and that it “may” be
slightly faster that way.
On my way back I located the Giant bicycle store at 15 Wood
Road, HK, and enquired about whether they could box the bike for
me. That was the only positive thing the entire day! I picked
up laundry and did not even check it, as I was sure some items
would be missing. At least one more positive thing was that I
popped into the coffee shop where I left my umbrella the day
before, and they still had it. Happy dances, I am grateful for
The rest of the day I tried to find a map of South Korea and
Japan on my Garmin, but to no avail. I tried to download one
from the internet, but I obviously do not know how as it did not
work. The only official one by Garmin (as far as I can see) is
their “world map” which I cannot download but have to purchase
on a disk or memory card and which will then be sent to me.
Even the smallest thing I try lately ends up in disaster!!
Eventually, I left the room and went downstairs to the little
Pub which looked quite cozy from the outside. I took my laptop,
found a nice seat, ordered a rather expensive beer, and settled
in, just to find that they had no internet!!! This unlucky and
disastrous stage will also pass; it is just a matter of time.
It has been raining in Hong Kong since I arrived here, not
perfect for sightseeing. In the meantime, I found myself
accommodation ‘till the end of the month.
I’m leaning more and more towards the idea of staying in Hong
Kong ‘till the end of the month. I need to have some personal
maintenance work done i.e. dental work and reading glasses; a
facial and a pedicure would not be uncalled for either.
The following night I met up with Carlos and Melony for a drink.
We visited the very well-known Lan Kwai Fong street - what fun.
Hong Kong is a hectic and competitive city. I understand that up
to 2.8 million people in Hong Kong suffer from some kind of
insomnia. It is said that this insomnia is a symptom of the
hectic lifestyle. In Hong Kong, the most common problem is
stress; both work stress and city life.
I joined the crowds and pushed and shoved my way along the
narrow lanes. When that got too much I walked up the mountain
side to “The Peak”. It was quite a walk, and as it was misty
there was no view at all. Once at the top I took the bus back to
the hustle and bustle of the city.
Back on level ground I headed for the ferry pier and took the
Star ferry across the harbour to Kowloon to visit the night
market and a few temples. On the way back I stopped at the
promenade to watch the famous city skyline.
It was a public holiday known as “Tomb-Sweeping Day” (Ching Ming
or Qingming Festival). The holiday runs from April 5 -7. It is
believed that from this date on temperatures will begin to rise
and rainfall will increase, indicating that it is time for
plowing and sowing. It is also a day of paying respect to the
dead. Cleaning the tomb and paying respect to the dead persons
with offerings (both flowers and food) are the two important
parts of remembering their past relatives. Today, with cremation
taking over from burying, only flowers and food are presented….
no more sweeping!!
The streets were packed as everyone was on holiday and it seems
that the younger generation was not paying their respects but
was shopping instead. One could hardly move due to the crowds,
although, I headed for the dried food market. I should, at least
theoretically, be able to cure all ailments here. I don’t know
what dried gecko is good for, but if needed, you can find it in
It was time to
explore the outlying areas, and I jumped on the MRT and went to
see the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. It was raining all day
and the temple not as impressive as expected. What was far more
amazing was the fact that the Qingming festival was still in
The monastery was
packed with people lighting both candles and incense and placing
flowers and food for their deceased relatives. I got caught up
in the whole ritual. It was not a morbid or serious affair; in
fact, people were laughing, chatting and having a good time. I
noticed that it was not only the deceased’s favourite food that
was provided, but also, in some cases, a beer or two.
On my way back to
the MRT, I spotted a trail and started walking along the path
with no idea where the path went, but I followed it up the
mountain. It was a stunning walk; lush and green without any
sign of the city. I continued on until the path came to an end
at a Christian Institute with quite beautiful old buildings.
Well, that was the end of my walk, so I headed down the mountain
again, back to the train station.
I was keen to see
the Po Lin Monastery, so I headed to Lantau. Once I got there it
was bucketing down, and the cable-car ride looked very
interesting. I decided to leave it for a day when the weather
Again, I headed
for the New Territories and in my wanderings I came upon a
strange "tree-house”. Some say the Kam Tin Tree House was a
study hall with a banyan tree beside it. Others say it was a
temple; what is sure, is that, since the abandonment of the
building, the banyan tree grew bigger and bigger and eventually
completely enveloped the building.
Great was my
surprise to find an old walled village on this rather
overpopulated island. The way of life in this walled village
remains fairly traditional. About 400 people live in Kat Hing
Wai, and I understand that most of them still share the same
In Hong Kong horse
racing appears to be the main recreational passion among all
levels of society. There seems to be off-course betting branches
on each and every corner. In the 1990’s, all stables were moved
to Sha Tin Racecourse, which has subsequently been equipped with
the world's first parade ring, covered by a retractable roof and
a Diamond Vision television screen that set a Guinness World
Record when built. Hong Kong is said to have the highest racing
revenue turnover in the world!! If I look at the crowds studying
the racing papers, I can believe it.
me to the local hiking group, and I went on my first hike with
them. I started off well, but once at the top it started
raining, and it continued raining all the way down. Besides
being wet, it was a lovely walk. Amazing to think that it only
takes 20 minutes to leave the city and find yourself in a lush
and rural setting. Afterwards, Carlos and I went for a much
needed coffee, dripping water all over the coffee shop.
As the days
passed, I became increasingly fond of Hong Kong. The city runs
like a well-oiled machine, 24 hours a day. I love the sounds of
the city; the buses, the trams, the cars, the subways, the
chatter at the sidewalk eateries, the distant music, the police
sirens and car alarms. This constant humming makes me feel at
home. These sounds relax me, and I drift off to sleep, knowing
that the world is alive and well, without me having to take care
I decided to stay
in Hong Kong for a month in order to do a few things I have
neglected during the years. I, however, seemed to have so much
fun that I never got around to doing those boring things. This
day I finally made an appointment for my hair and spent the
entire day at the hairdresser. I got the name from Melody and,
interestingly enough, it was a South African lady who owned the
shop. With the hair done and dusted I could at least tick one
thing off the list. Most people enjoy having their hair done,
but I do not like anyone fiddling with my hair, so I am usually
irritated as hell by the time I leave.
finally cleared and I made good use of it. That evening I took
the bus up to the top of Victoria Peak to see if I could get
some pictures of the city. As always, it was a stunning bus ride
and the view from the top equally impressive. Half of Hong Kong
and all its visitors had the same idea LOL.
Early morning I
was off on my second hike with the hiking group. Again it was a
beautiful walk along, what is known as, the Dragons' back. We
ended up at a beautiful beach where we had lunch. That evening I
met up with Mat for a drink; it was so good to see him, and I
could not believe that after 10 years he still looks exactly the
same. It seems it is only me aging at a rather rapid rate!!
I met Carlos and
his daughter Natalie at Lantau Island where we took the famous
Ngong Ping cable car to see the Buddha on top of the mountain.
The cable car stretches for 5.7 kilometres up the side of the
mountain to the Po Tin Monastery. It was a spectacular ride,
with views over the Lantau Island and beyond. We climbed the 268
steps to the 34 metre high bronze Buddha who sits on a lotus
leaf and keeps a watchful eye over the island.
After visiting the
Buddha, we took the bus down the mountain. The bus ride was
equally spectacular. We stopped at the small fishing village of
Tai O, famous for its shrimp paste and its stilted houses. We
followed the narrow footpath which runs through the village,
passed dried fish products, and I even spotted some dried
seahorse. With rumbling tummies, we set off for a restaurant,
and low and behold, would it not be South African, known as "The
Stoep”. The location was fantastic - right on the beach and the
food equally good. They served all the old favourites: bobotie,
tomato bredie, and even had a braai!!!
It was another
awesome day in Hong Kong. I joined Carlos and Melody on a family
outing, and there is nothing quite like local knowledge. We
caught a ferry to Lamma Island, where we followed the trail for
about an hour to a small fishing village where we had lunch.
It was a beautiful
walk with stunning scenery. Along the way we even passed an old
Kamikaze Cave which, I believe, was constructed by the Japanese
to house a flotilla of suicide motorboats.
We walked along
the path to the next village where we had lunch. The food (as
usual) was fantastic! Melody did the ordering (and paid for
everything!!) and huge plates of food quickly arrived, we did
our best but could not finish it all! After lunch, we caught
another ferry and then a bus to Stanly Market where we wandered
around for a few hours. While we were having coffee, Melody set
off and returned with beautiful sandalwood fans, for both me and
Natalie - how awesome was that? I was spoiled rotten on this
day. As we ambled along the narrow lanes of the market, I
admired a top but decided to give it a miss. I went off to take
so photos and on my return found that Natalie had bought it for
me!!! How kind is that? Too soon the sun started setting, and
it was time to return home.
I did nothing on
this day….. I sorted out my photos and updated my diary.
Afterwards, I took the tram to Kennedy Town, strolled around,
and then headed back to have a foot massage. I had the whole
treatment (LOL, including the tea!! - they claim it boosts
circulation and frees the flow of the qi!!)
Took the tram
downtown and found the local chop shop street. Instead of a
signature, traditionally people used a hand-carved seal or
stamp, typically in stone or jade, with the Chinese characters
of their family name. These stamps are known as "chops”, and
many say that, in a company, whoever holds the chops, holds the
Chop Alley is a
little street lined with chop shops where you can get your own
chop made for a very reasonable price. They have a beautiful
array of choices and styles – round chops, square chops,
irregular chops, chops of all sizes and colours, chops made from
different materials with various designs.
Then it was off to
the dried fish street. To an outsider, the ingredients seem like
an overwhelming random jumble. But they are all selected for
their contributions to yin and yang, selected to create balance
in the body in accordance to traditional Chinese medicine. Dried
seahorses are used to remedy kidney and respiratory ailments and
help balance and clear up skin.
16 April -
I joined Melody,
Carlos and Natalie for a day trip to Macau. It was only an hour
by ferry to this very interesting little country. Macau is a
tiny country measuring only 29 square kilometres and so very
different from Hong Kong.
Firstly, the two
official languages are Cantonese and Portuguese, and although
Macau is also very populated it seems to have more low-rise
areas. Well-known for its gambling halls, Macau has now eclipsed
Vegas in gambling income. The big difference being that, beyond
the gambling halls, one can find cobblestoned streets with a
curious mix of Chinese temples and Portuguese buildings. The
ruins of the Church of St. Paul, where only the façade remains,
draw crowds of tourists and it took a walk up the hill before I
could get any half decent photos.
We dined at a
Portuguese restaurant, strolled around the massive casinos, and
stared in awe at the money being spent!!
I went on a
walk-about with the local photography group. The theme was
visual density, and what fun it was. I, once again, realize just
how talented these people are - wow! Once done we all went for
a beer and by the time I went home I was just in time to watch
the light show at the waterfront. It was a beautiful, clear
evening and just magical to be out watching the show.
Hong Kong is an
extremely livable city, and everything is rather convenient. I
have to mention the Octopus card which does not only get you on
the bus, tram or ferry, but it can also pay for your supermarket
shopping, parking, fast food, sandwich and coffee shops, a trim
at the barber, and a round of drinks in a pub. You just swipe
and go. I love it!!
I woke up earlier
than usual and headed for Hong Kong's New Territories. The
further away I am from the city centre, the quieter the metro
became. I headed for the Ping Shan Heritage Trail and obviously
not many people go there. It was a short but interesting walk;
my favourite part was the moon gate at Chin Shu.
took camera but no memory card!! Oh well, at least it gave me
the opportunity to experiment with the phone camera. I also
stopped off at the Wetlands Park, but as it was a holiday, the
park was packed with families enjoying their day off.
I joined a lovely
group of people on a short night hike. It took no more than 10
minutes, and we were out of the city and into the woods. It was
a clear evening with great views as we walked along. Afterwards,
we stopped at Slim's for a beer and a snack; what a great
evening and what a nice group of people. Hong Kong is very
cosmopolitan and more than half the hikers were people from
other countries, now living in Hong Kong.
It feels to me
that I have truckloads of karmic debt. The Universe has blessed
me with so much love and random acts of kindness that I do not
think I can ever repay it. Today I discovered that someone has
paid for my Ace membership on the 365-project!!! How awesome is
I went to visit
Carlos where he lives in the New Territories, and again I was
impressed with the convenience of everything in Hong Kong. The
complex where they live is just as convenient, with everything
one needs close by, from parks to shopping centers, movie houses
I found a company
online that can arrange South African passports in as short as
15 days (instead of the 4 months the embassy takes). I printed
out the forms, completed them, but in the end decided against it
as it was rather expensive. The price, I should mention,
includes a courier service that collects and delivers the forms
and passport, so all in all it was not all that expensive.
It was time for my
dentist appointment, never a pleasant task, but it had to be
done. A follow-up appointment was made for the third, which was
later than expected. I was getting itchy feet and was keen to
get going again.
I woke to a rainy
morning and took the time to update my journal and have a
pedicure (long overdue, I should mention). Someone mentioned
that about 60% of the land in Hong Kong is countryside, with
land supply being so tight and the need for accommodation so
high, that I wonder for how long the country parks will remain
What I love most
about Hong Kong is that it is probably one of the safest places
in the world. LOL - no need for a “reclaim the night” movement
here. I like that I can walk home late at night with no need to
worry about personal safety.
Another reason I
like Hong Kong is that it is such a cosmopolitan city. Ethnic
Chinese makeup the bulk of its population, but there is also a
sizeable presence of expatriates and people of different
ethnicity. Many Indians trace their roots in Hong Kong as far
back as when most of the Indian subcontinent was still under
British rule. Sikh soldiers participated at the flag raising
ceremony in 1841, when Hong Kong was declared a British
possession. The earliest policemen in Hong Kong were Indians
(Sikhs) and the present police force still has some Indians.
I was up early and
met my fellow hikers on Lantau Island for yet another hike! It
was a great walk over the mountain along the Olympic trail to
Discovery Bay where we had lunch. It was terribly foggy and,
therefore, no view at all, but it was an interesting walk past
small rural villages. Afterwards, I took the ferry back to
The old streets of
Hong Kong are lined with many Chinese Medicine shops that sell
all sorts of exotic products, from herbal medicines to dried
snake meat. In between the dried goods suppliers are small TCM
practitioners - some have a pot or two of prescribed herbs
simmering in earthenware pots, in preparation for customers!!
I walked along the
“Avenue of Stars” and only recognised one person, the famous
Again I went on a
short night hike, this time Carlos came with and we again ended
up at Slim’s for a beer and a shared plate of nachos.
I was sure getting
my share of hiking in as I set off on another hike. This time we
ended up right on the other side of the island, at Stanley. Some
hikers left after the hike and the remainder of us went for
lunch at a local restaurant. Afterwards, we bought a beer at the
7-11 and sat on the beach drinking it. What a wonderful day it
First thing in the
morning I went in search of a post office and once located,
mailed a letter to Amanda, giving permission to pick up my
passport on my behalf. Gosh, I have not posted anything in
years!!! It suddenly felt so old fashioned! The stamps were
however beautiful! After that little task was done I continued
on to Kowloon and I finally handed in my camera to be cleaned.
As it only took a few hours, I walked around the streets
enjoying all the strange and unusual things for sale.
Just after midday
I met Carlos for a walk along the old Lung Yeuk Tau Heritage
Trail. It turned out to be a fascinating walk through 5 of the
old walled villages. Most of these villages are enclosed by
brick walls and fitted with an entrance normally facing east in
order to generate a good feng shui. Along the way, we met
another traveler and joined forces for the rest of the walk. We
ended up in Kowloon where Carlos treated us to a good cup of
For once, I had
nothing planned for the day so went for a visit to the
hairdresser and had a hair treatment. As usual it took forever;
at least they give you a glass of wine while sitting there!!
Afterwards, I went in search of a new nose ring, as I have been
wearing the same one for years! That evening I tried to take
pictures of the neon signs, which did not really work, and I
returned home empty handed.
I went for another
walk with the Hong Kong photography group. As it was May-day (or
Worker’s day) the theme was “People at work". It was an
interesting walk with a wonderful bunch of people. Afterwards,
we met at a local pub, had a beer and shared some photos.
As almost no one
in Hong Kong has a garden, the city’s urban parks are very well
used - clever landscaping means it never feels crowded. I was
getting itchy feet and could not wait for the 5th so I could
move on. I had one more dental appointment on the 3rd and it
could not come fast enough.
As I only have two blank pages left in my passport, I will be jumping
through some hoops to avoid countries where I needed a visa, or
at least, until such time as my new passport arrives!!!
Finally, the third arrived and I cycled the short distance to the bike
shop so they could box the bike for me. I took a walk to the
dentist and emerged after a long, long time!!! At least that
was done. That evening I met Carlos and Melody at a restaurant
and we had a meal together before my departure.
4 May - Hong Kong
I booked myself on a dive and was up early to get the MTR to the pier
where I met the other divers. I was rather impressed with our
dive boat, as it was something like a live-aboard, with a cabin,
a lounge, kitchen and deck area - all very fancy!! The dive,
however, was a bit of a disappointment as the vision was poor
and one could hardly see anything at all. At least the food made
up for the poor dive as it was excellent. I did not even bother
to do a second dive, which should say something about the poor
quality of the water!!