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..............Cindys Gallery - Photos of my Life
Hong Kong & Macau
It had been 10 years since our last visit to Hong Kong & we were keen to see how it had changed. . We booked a package deal with Air Asia which included 6 nights accommodation right in the center of Kowloon at the Park Hotel in Shu Shin Shar. We arrived at the hotel around 9pm & were instantly immersed in the chinese sounds, sights, smells & culture of Kowloon.

One of our first tasks was to re-activate a bank account we had set up years ago with HSBC bank. This required a trip to Hong Kong Island and we were expecting this to be a frustrating , tedious task but we were pleasantly surprised. Upon entering the bank we were met by a staff member who asked us (in English) what assistance we required and quickly shuffled off to find 2 young ladies who ushered us into an office.They were extremely helpful & fixed up our account immediately. One of them even studied our tourist map & marked points of interest! We'd never received service quite like this before & it wasn't as though we had an account with a huge sum of money. Perhaps it was the "foreigner service" we received, who knows, but it was certainly unexpected.

Ferry crossing to Hong Kong Island

Bustling Kowloon
Luckily we decided to take a harbour cruise that afternoon as it turned out to be the only day with reasonable visibility. The rest of the trip saw the harbour cloaked in a low lying mist which obscured the buildings completely. Hong Kong was busier than we remembered, but the city itself seemed surprisingly clean. Not spotless like Singapore, but definitely cleaner than a lot of Australian cities.

A common site in Hong Kong is what we refer to as the "copy men". You can't walk 2 paces from your hotel before being apprehended by one of these characters. They all seem to be Indian & they all make aim for foreign tourists touting "copy watch?, copy handbag?". A walk down Nathan road will see you apprehended by at least a dozen of these rogues, all offering to take you to a small room somewhere & sell you a fake Rolex watch or Chanel Handbag.

Of course no trip to Honkers would be complete without the "tailor" touts offering custom made suits to all foreigners who happen to walk or briefly glance in their direction. At first its amusing, after the 2nd day its a nuisance, 3rd day it becomes annoying & by day 4 you're ready to punch their lights out! Derek is not known for his patience at the best of times, but these guys were testing him to the limit. By the end of the week he'd worked out a system. Instead of ignoring or scowling at the touts he would say "thank you", take their busines card & promptly deposit it in the garbage bin or even better he'd take their card & offer it to the next tailor tout saying "would you like a suit, I can highly recommend this tailor". He even had some of the touts laughing at his antics. You'd think we'd be used to being offered suits (living in Thailand) but the Phuket touts have nothing on these guys.

Fresh vegetables in the market

Local Butcher (pig organs are in there somewhere!)

The modern food alternative

One of the greatest challenges for us in some Asian countries is the food. As we don't eat meat, it can be a little difficult to find eating venues that don't specialise in pig organ soup or chicken chop! Even so called "vegetarian dishes" are often doused in a ladle full of pig organ stock to add "flavour"! As a result we tend to avoid traditional chinese cuisine, opting for more traditional western fare. In Hong Kong this was proving quite difficult, apart from the obligatory junk food like McDonalds & Burger King there was very little in the way of western foods at reasonable prices. However, we were determined to find something we could eat, so the search continued each evening for a "little gem".

We are fond of Indian food & thought this would be fairly easy to find in Hong Kong, how wrong can you be! We were handed a leaflet for an Indian restaurant which was on the 5th floor of a building, so we decided to give it a try. Upon entering the building, our initial instincts said "mistake". however we ignored this & got into one of those very small, old fashoned lifts with the double grated doors that close with a big thump. When the doors close you realise how small it really is & hope to god you make it to the 5th floor without getting stuck. We reached floor no.5 & stumbled out into a dingy corridor which had an advertisement for the restaurant on the wall. We walked up & down the corridor half a dozen times & never found it. We did find a very seedy indian guest house , but nothing else. We couldn't wait to get back in the lift as this building was fast giving us the heeby jeebies. When we reached the ground floor we couldn't wait to get out in the fresh air, feeling as though we'd escaped death.

Luckily I had done some research on "tripadvisor" before we left & remembered a small place called "Ebeneezers" which reportedly made great pizzas & curries. We eventually found the place & they did infact make a very pleasant pizza including an unusual greek pizza with fetta cheeze & garlic which became our favourite. The restaurant seemed to be run by a multitude of races, including turkish, indian & possibly lebanese. We were served by an indian gentlemen in a very striking mint green shirt with matching turban! He also doubled as the pizza delivery man, complete with motorcycle, pizza box & of course - mint green turban!

Pink Flamingos in Kowloon Park

Hydrofoil Ferry Crossing to Macau
Just as New York has the oasis of Central Park in the middle of the city, Hong Kong has Kowloon Park which we spent a lovely morning walking around. Located right in the city center, it hosts a wonderful array of plants, huge trees & birdlife. The pink flamingos on the lake are wonderful , as are the gorgeous colourful parrots & assorted rare birds in the aviary.

We also decided to visit Lantau Island. This is about 1 hour by ferry from Kowloon, we had no idea what was there but decide to take a look. I'm not good on boats (see visit to Vungtau Vietnam), & the thought of an hour's ride is a little daunting, but I decide to be brave as the water looks fairly calm & Derek tries his best to reassure my concerns. Lantau Island turns out to be a delightful little place with thousands of 50 year old pushbikes! It seems everyone travels by bike & there is hardly a car to be seen - bliss. This makes it very quiet & extremely quaint. We take a long walk along the beach front & explore the village, finding a small antique chinese jewellery box which I can't leave without.

One thing we were keen to do on this trip was go across the chinese border & visit Shenzen (China). We had tried this on our last trip to Hong Kong eight years earlier but had forgotten to take our passports. Apparently Shenzen is a great shopping venue with bargain prices & is a favourite shopping venu for Hong Kong residents. We board the train about 9am, which gets us there in time for the shops opening at 10am. Getting out at the Chinese end, we follow the crowds to the immigration officers, filled out all our forms & are ready with passports in hand. Whichever country you visit, the most miserable people you will meet always seem to be at the Immigration counter. It must be a very depressing job as they all look as if they're about to slit their wrists. This one scowls at us & tells us we don't have a visa! We apparently have to go upstairs & purchase one, even though there are no signs indicating this anywhere. We find the visa office, fill out more forms & wait our turn. Meanwhile we notice a very upset Australian woman at the counter trying to tell the unresponsive staff that some guy in a red suit has stolen her money! We are quickly called to the counter & told we can only pay for our visas with Chinese Yuan. As we've only just entered China we naturally only have Hong Kong Dollars, so we go back downstairs to find a money change office. There are none to be found. Nowhere to change money, so therefore no chance of getting a visa. We do however spot the man in the red suit who offers to change money for us who we avoid like the plague! We decide this is all too difficult & head back to Hong Kong. China remains a mystery to us & it seems we are destined never to visit.

Lantau Island beach

Bicycles at Lantau Island Ferry Terminal

Our suite at "The Venetian"
As we'd never visited Macau, we thought this was our chance. It's only an hour away by ferry from Hong Kong, so we lashed out & booked a room at the famous "Venetian" hotel for one night . The Hotel is Venetian achitecture copied to perfection, with canals running around the outside of the hotel & the inside. You can take a gondola ride & be serenaded by a Venetian tenor, or you can have dinner in St Marks square. When we arrived at the hotel we couldn't quite believe our eyes. This place is enormous & it's a bit like checking into a giant shopping mall. The lady behind the counter gives us our room key & a map to find our room! We listened to her directions as she drew lines on the map for us to follow - e.g. go left at the fountain, right at Starbucks & look for the South Tower lifts. We wander off anticipating getting lost & that's exactly what happened. It took us about 20mins to find the correct lift. We eventually find our room & it definitely has the "wow" factor. Couldn't really be called a hotel room, it's more like a luxurious apartment. It's split level with a lounge room, raised bedroom & the biggest marble bathroom we've ever seen. All the fittings are gold & all the furnishings are very plush & we feel like royalty.
St Marks Square is astonishing, you'd swear you were sitting outside, the sky is blue, there's a few fluffy clouds & a gentle breeze blowing. It is however all a fantasy, we're actually sitting in an enclosed building made to look like "outside". The only thing that gives it away, is that it never becomes night, it's always daytime. We enjoy a very nice italian meal & a nice (but expensive!) bottle of red. Most people come for the enormous casino in the hotel, but as we're not gambling fans we just take a stroll around the tables & watch everyone else give away their money. It's one of those places you have to stay at once in your life. It's so big it's totally impersonal, but at the same time it's extremely impressive.

St Marks Square (or is it?)