Hong Kong Harbor and Star Ferry Heading
to Hong Kong Island
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).
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.
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
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 B. in
Front of the Entry to a Huge Mall Complex (Courtesy of
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.
Cable Car to
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.
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
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
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.
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
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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