Hong Kong Harbour and Star Ferry

Hong Kong Harbor and Star Ferry Heading to Hong Kong Island

Arrival   Halong Bay   Sanya, China   Nha Trang, Vietnam   Phu My, Vietnam   Sihanoukville, Cambodia 

Life at Sea   Laem Chabang (Day 1)   Laem Chabang (Day 2)   Koh Samui, Thailand   Singapore  

Hong Kong, China

When we got off the plane, we could not locate our guide. Since the terminal was so long, Bob McQ and I took off to one end looking for our guide while the main group stayed at the other end. Although we had no luck, the main group had linked up with the guide in our absence and then off we went on the bus to our hotel, the Harbour Plaza Metropolis. Our hotel was ideally situated with a short walk to the Tsim Sha Tsui East shopping district and a mile from Temple Street and the Avenue of the Stars. Also, the hotel offered a free shuttle to the Peninsula Hotel, which was near Nathan Street, a crowded shopping district with signs cluttering the sides of the streets and over the top of the street like a canopy.

After checking into our rooms, a six of us met in the lobby to check out Nathan Street. After walking along the sidewalks choked with tourists and natives bustling and crowding and pushing and shoving, and being bombarded with guys trying to drag us into tailor shops or selling fake Rolex watches, we decided to head over to Canton Street, which was less crowded and lined with upscale designer shops such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, and well, you get the idea. Getting into these stores wasn't easy. Each had a line up like discos on Saturday night, and doormen let people in a few at a time.

However, our stomachs trumped any urge to shop, and soon Bob led us into the Marco Polo Hotel for a fine lunch. After lunch some of us continued to wander around the city to get our bearings while others succumbed to the urge to catch a few winks before dinner. Some of the group agreed to meet in the lobby of the hotel and go somewhere close for dinner. Off the lobby we spotted an entrance to the Metropolis Mall, where we found a Japanese and a Chinese restaurant. We opted for Chinese. After a lot of back and forth misunderstanding by the barely understandable waiter, we got some unremarkable Chinese food and then went out separate ways. Most of us opted for bed because by then the effects of jet lag weighed heavily on us.

Full Day in Hong Kong

We awoke Friday, January 20, to a cloudy, cool day similar to Seattle in winter. That day we split up and went off on our own, with some people going to the museums while others struck out to explore the wonders of the city. We found out that we could buy Octopus transit passes at the Hung Hom train depot across the street from our hotel. Since most of us were over 65, we got a significant break on the passes and also found out that some rides were free for seniors (such as the Star Ferry).

Curt and Dean at Ferry Dock

Dean and Curt at Ferry Dock on Kowloon (Courtesy of Ralph B.)

Several of us took advantage of the free ride on the Star Ferry over to Hong Kong Island, where we could take the bus or the tram up to the top of Victoria Peak for a sweeping view of the bay and greater Hong Kong, which encompassed not only Hong Kong Island, but Kowloon across the bay where our hotel was and Lantau island and (perhaps on the clearer day) the New Territories. Luckily, Dean and I opted for the bus, which after a harrowing ride up a narrow winding road, skirting drop-offs that looked hundreds of feet down, we reached the top. Although the view was hazy, we still found the views to be spectacular.

View from Victoria Peak

View from Victoria Peak

After checking out the view and the souvenir shop, we decided to take the tram back down. With the hill being very steep, we had to sit backward as the tram eased us down the mountain at an angle of about 50º. At the bottom, the line to go up snaked over two blocks! So, taking the bus up and the tram down was the smart way to go.

Once back at the ferry terminal, we looked for a nice Chinese place for lunch. After wandering around a bit, we found the huge Central IFC Mall with a variety of shops and restaurants inside. After a delicious lunch, we decided to take the Ngong Ping Cable Car up to see the Giant Buddha on Lantau Island.

Since it was Chinese New Year, the Year of the Dragon, the city was busy getting ready for the festivities, due to start the next day.  While some of us toured Hong Kong and Lantau islands, others wandered around Kowloon, taking in the sights.

Ralph and Decorations for Year of the Dragon

Ralph B. in Front of the Entry to a Huge Mall Complex (Courtesy of Ralph B.)

The Giant Buddha

Meanwhile, back on Hong Kong island, we had to figure out how to get to Lantau Island, where the cable car would take us to the Giant Buddha. To get to the cable car station, we had to take the subway on Hong Kong's magnificent transit system, the MTR. Luck again helped us out with a MTR station on the lowest level of the IFC Mall. After about a 20-minute ride in the first rate subway system, we arrived at the cable-car station. We opted for a regular car rather than the "crystal" car, which had a glass floor. The attendant put us into our own private car and the cable wisked us off into the mist.

Tram to Giant Buddha

Cable Car to Giant Buddha

After a 4-mile, 25-minute dangle above two bodies of water and several mountains, we reached our goal. Out of the mist loomed the most impressive, awe-inspiring statue I've seen since the Statue of Liberty. From the cable car station, we walked through Ngong Ping Village, a gauntlet of souvenir and trinket shops. But after maneuvering through the village, you soon come to the Po Lin Monastery and several hundred stairs up to the base of the Giant Buddha, which I estimated at about 40 – 50 feet tall. Although the Buddha is the center piece of Ngong Ping, the site offers many other attractions, such as fine restaurants, a video called Walking with the Buddha, the Monkey Tails Theatre, and so on.

Giant Buddha of Hong Kong

Giant Buddha of Hong Kong

But unfortunately, it was getting late when we arrived, and we needed to get back to the hotel for dinner. Since we'd found no other restaurants near the hotel, Dean and I wandered back into the Metropolis Mall and decided to try the Japanese restaurant, which turned out to be very good and more relaxing than the Chinese restaurant of the previous evening. Two other guys from our group had also selected the Japanese place. After a fine meal, we decided to go back to the room and call it an early evening. The next morning, before boarding our ship the Zaandam, we wanted to check out the Hong Kong Museum of Art.

Tripped Up by the Year of the Dragon

Sunday, January 22, dawned with drizzle. We got up early in hopes of taking a quick tour of the Museum of Art before embarking on our ship, The Zaandam. Unfortunately for us, everything was closed for the beginning of Chinese New Year! As the morning went on, the rain let up and four of us decided to take a walk through Kowloon Park. The park wasn't too impressive. In fact, the Chinese garden in Portland, Oregon, is far more impressive than the one in Kowloon Park. The best part of the park, in my opinion, were the beautiful birds on display in cages, a small zoo in the middle of the park.

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped by the main subway station and saw some Chinese boys doing a dragon dance in honor of the new year.

Dragon Dance

Doing Dragon Dance by Subway Station

After watching the boys do their dance and swing and sway the dragon, we ambled onward to the hotel to pick up our luggage. By noon, we were back at the hotel to check out and embark aboard the MS Zaandam for lunch.


Our Ship, the Zaandam, Docked in Hong Kong

We spent the rest of the day unpacking and exploring the ship. And then in the evening, we had our first of many excellent dinners in the Rotterdam dining room.

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