Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Trip to Hong Kong, Macau and South Korea - Jan 24th 2010

Day 1

Plan was to take a holiday with four nights in Hong Kong, including a day trip to Macau, and seven nights in South Korea before returning home. Coverage of this holiday is brought to you from the previous evening as our departure time was 0:05 on Jan 24th.

Once taekwondo was finished on Saturday afternoon I really felt that the holiday had begun. The taxi driver arrived bang on 9pm, the pre-booked time. He seemed inexperience and in a hurry even though I told him that I wasn't. We arrived at the airport with plenty of time and were one of the first to check our baggage in. The clerk from Cathay Pacific informed me that we require visas for our visit to Macau even though I argued with him that I had visited a Website indicating that Australians were free to travel for 30 days and Koreans for 90 days. He was insistent and said that many people had had bad experiences with Flight Centre and the slack attitude towards the need for visas. Had me slightly concerned.

After checking through immigration our carry on baggage was scanned and I was chosen for a body and bag bomb residue check. Must have had something to do with my beard. No problem evident.

Two hours to kill upstairs in the departure lounge surrounded by a very limited selection of duty free and overpriced consumer outlets. Miky and The Boy had a bit of a sleep whilst waiting.

We were allowed to board earlier than most passengers because of The Boy. When we arrived at the gate he wanted to go to the toilet and so we lost our place in the queue. Miky boarded without us.

Aboard the Airbus the first thing differed we noticed was that the seats don't lean backwards but slide down and forwards so that you don't inconvenience the people behind you. Great idea. It has always been a pet hate of mine because I could almost guarantee that the person in front reclined their seat as far as possible to make eating and sitting as uncomfortable as possible.

Next surprise was that the trays had a handle to pull down with instead of a silly little latch for locking into position. There was also a power point behind the tray.

Actually, the four hours sleep that I had wasn't too bad. The breakfast was very sweet. A little odd I thought. We arrived in Hong Kong about 15 minutes early - 7:15 I think. HK was very foggy and only 12°C. Immigration posed no problems but I was unable to investigate the visa requirements for Macau. We walked to the carousel and straight to our luggage. That hasn't happened on too many occasions. Attempted to purchase an Octopus Card (a smartcard payment system) for the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) but didn't have enough cash. Thought maybe it wouldn't matter too much if we purchased indivual tickets as we wouldn't be doing too much travelling.

Miky had read about the outlet shopping at Tung Chung on Lantau Island on Korean blogs. Caught a double decker bus (The Boy was most excited by this and had to ride at the front up top) to Tung Chung which was HK$3.50/adult and HK$1.80/child. Unfortunately there is no change given on HK buses and therefore it cost us the smallest money we had available - HK$20. An Indian guy who asked me previously at the bus stop for a light was heading to the Citygate Outlet at Tung Chung also. He had only eight hours available on stopover to Auckland to study his MBA in tourism management. Someone had mentioned that he should visit this place. Quite a chatty bloke. He did want to make sure with the bus driver that he was getting off at the correct station but it is illegal to talk to bus drivers whilst the bus is in motion. There's a sign informing you of this also.

Had to wait, from 9:30, for the shops to begin opening around 10 or 11 o'clock. There were no Chinese style food outlets and only western-style fast food was on offer. Bit disappointing really. Was quite looking forward to making our trip an asian-style experience as much as possible. Ate at Delifrance. Cheap food - small portions. For our waiting I noticed that there were almost no seats anywhere in the shopping mall. Perhaps that's part of the plan to keep you shopping and spending.

When the shops did finally open between 10 and 11:30 Miky went to town. Whilst waiting for her to go to the fitting room in the first shop some guy checked out here ID tag on her suitcase. I had to shoo him away as he obviously had that that the suitcase was for sale. Why would a suitcase be for sale in a womens' clothing shop, idiot?

Visited a supermarket with the main intention of purchasing water. Had to walk through this very windy building just for the water. I made sure that I received some schrapnel for the bus as I didn't want to get caught again. The Indian guy had tried to obtain his change as he left the bus. Funny to see an Indian arguing with a Chinaman about money.

Miky spent two hours shopping and we boys were bored shitless. Bought lots of shoes, some clothes and a gym bag. And this was in the first few hours of a holiday going for some 13 days. Bit backward methinks.

Made our way to the Tung Chung station. The ticket machine wouldn't take my HK$50 note. Closer inspection informed me that it took HK$10 and HK$20 notes but the silly thing didn't let me insert multiple notes even though I wanted to purchase multiple tickets valued at HK$46. And then the entrance point makes it very difficult to bring some luggage with you. The MTR journey to Hung Hom station was uneventful. That is until Miky tried to exit and her card denied her. There was no reason for it, the transit officer was perplexed, but The Boy's ticket was HK$1.50 short event though I had paid the correct fare previously.

Miky knew about the overpass from the station to a shopping mall beneath our hotel - Harbour Plaza Metropolis. Perfect. Took a while to check in as there was a valuable envelope awaiting collection, our ferry tickets to Macau as it turned out, and the manager had to be present for my signature.

Harbour view from Harbour Plaza Metropolis, HK.

Our room overlooks the harbour, well it would if it wasn't still foggy at 2pm, on the 20th floor. Ate lunch/dinner at the Wu Kong Shanghai Restaurant on Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui. Miky was cranky and just about lost it. Well, considering that it was nearly 4pm and we hadn't eaten anything except a small meal at 9:30 it was understandable. She's not big on Chinese food, neither am I actually, and wasn't sure what to order. Luckily the food we decided upon was quite nice. Our choice was sauteed shrimp (nothing special and overpriced), glutinous rice and beef(yummo), spring rolls and pork and rice. Saved the day, actually. The waiter was funny because he talked and served very quickly. He even poured the tea quickly and from a great distance. It looked like the staff wanted to get rid of us so that they could set up for the evening meal. Funnily enough their sign out the front says they are only open for about 45 minutes of the day. I was a bit wary of a shop down in the basement but it wasn't too bad.

Restaurant sign on the left.

The shop has very limited opening hours.

More shopping, rather pointless at that because Miky was so tired, and this city really appears to be The City Without Seats. Asked the concierge at iSquare (amazing how popular an "i" has become these days) where we could drink and sit down and she pointed out a bakery and cafe on the 3rd floor. We paid HK$72.60 for an apple tea and an English tea with lemon. Tasted ok.

Great tree on Nathan Road.

Went back to the hotel around 8pm. Nice to have a courtesy bus available from the Harbour Plaza Metropolis to the Kowloon Hotel (also owned by them) situated conveniently on Middle Road just off Nathan Road every 20 minutes.

Didn't take too many photos on the first day.

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