|(Story 6) Bullfrog's (AKA Gordy Snyder) really great world tour - Hong Kong|
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|“PuDong ji chang guo nei dai da”
Leave two suitcases at the Supreme Tower; pack two changes of cloths, grab the cameras and it’s off to Hong Kong to visit my niece, Laura. Many of you remember my younger brother, Don. Laura is his oldest daughter, and she works for Dell Computer, formerly in Australia and now Xiamen, China during the week and in Hong Kong during the weekends.
“PuDong ji chang guo nei dao da,” I told the driver. “You speak good Chinese,” she said in passable English. I was off to PuDong airport for the 2 hour domestic flight to Shenzhen and a 1hour ferry boat ride to Hong Kong. Earlier in the week, Ms. Sun checked the flight schedules and advised that there were departures almost every hour. Laura suggested that I not fly international; “it’s more expensive and there are fewer flights” she cautioned in an email. She also told me about the ferry boat ride and provided schedules. Isn’t the Internet wonderful! The combination ferry boat – domestic China flight is a weekly journey for her. Even on a Chinese-language website, I selected the flights; depart Shanghai at 12:00 PM. The tickets were purchased at the airline office in the Supreme Tower Hotel. Simple! Once you know the system, it’s the same world wide. Chinese airlines list the fares. Weeks in advance, good discounts are offered. By the time I selected the flights, the heavily discounted fare going down was gone but the return was still available. Moral of the story … don’t wait. Still, I saved a few $.
The cab drop-off at PuDong was at the domestic terminal. Inside, a quick look at the flight display board, check in, quickly through security and to the departure gate. No bags to check. I was early and the flight was on schedule. What else.
There’s a ticket booth for the ferry boat just outside the baggage claim area of the Shenzhen airport. Pay the fee, take a 5 minute mini-bus ride to the ferry terminal, get a seat assignment, and wait. “Be sure you have multiple entry visa for China,” Laura cautioned. Without one you will not get back in. You’re also required to present a completed custom’s form prior to proceeding to the departure lounge. The ferry to Hong Kong Island was scheduled for 17:50 PM; I had lots of time to kill.
While waiting, an elderly lady sitting next to me became very curious about my picture notebook and what I was writing. Taking out the Kodak digital camera, I acted as if I was taking pictures, and then I pretended to write notes in the book. She nodded her head up-and-down indicating she understood. She was traveling with her grandson and we struck up a conversation. “Where was I from, why was I in China, and where was I going?” Those answered, I heard her say to her grandson, “Wu shi.” I recognized that she was guessing my age at 50. It’s common in China; the cab drivers did it all the time. I turned and said, “Liu shi er,” 62. Looking surprised she said, “Liu shi ba.” She was 68. She was a delightful lady and I asked permission to take picture of her and her grandson. She agreed. After fussing with her hair briefly, she sat back and looked straight into the camera. I got the picture. Turning the camera to show her, she fumbled to find glasses in her purse. It reminded me so much of my Mom, and I told her about Mom. She smiled and understood. Mom always had 5˘ & 10˘ - store glasses around the house; if she couldn’t find one pair there’s another within hand’s reach. Moments after showing the picture, it was time for them to board the boat they were taking. She and her grandson were gone. It was just another moment in time like so many others on this trip.
Turbo jet ferries ply the waters of Hong Kong almost 24 hours a day. The boats arrive and depart on time; they skim across the open water effortlessly at 30 to 40 MPH. I’m guessing that there is seating for upwards of 150 people. Mine was about 25% full. Sit back and enjoy the ride. Along the way enjoy the scenery; fishing boats, ocean freighters, boats of all sizes and shapes. 1 hour passed quickly. Of course I was taking pictures along the way, very curious about everything I was seeing.
Massive seaport terminals lined the shores where huge cranes reach deep into the bellies of the ships, unloading and loading cargo. Smaller “tender boats” bring containers to and from ships that are too big for the docks. The “new” Hong Kong International Airport was off in the distance to the right; go under a very modern bridge connecting Lantau Island with Kowloon; a small lighthouse on Tang Lung Chua. It was dusk as we docked at Honk Kong. “Clear customs and walk straight ahead to the McDonald’s,” were Laura’s instructions. “I’ll meet you at McDonald’s.” Down the escalator and within minutes we hugged. It was so great to see her.
It was only a short cab ride to the apartment she shares with Melissa, her partner she met in Australia. As mentioned earlier, Laura works for Dell in Xiamen during the week and returns to Hong Kong on the weekend. Melissa works in Hong Kong. Laura takes the ferry to Shenzhen on Monday, flies to Xiamen, has an apartment during the week and returns on Friday.
After setting a time and place to later meet, Laura and I walked down through the Soho district to see the sights, then met Melissa at Good Luck Thai restaurant for dinner in Lan Kwai Fong (LKF) district, a very popular district near the heart of Hong Kong; numerous restaurants, pubs, bright neon signs and lots of music. There’s an almost continuous escalator running up the hill from the central district to the condos and apartments high above the city. After dinner Laura and I each had another beer at Bulldogs pub (also in LKF) and watched AFL (Australian Football League) or Footsie. It’s quite different from football as we know it in the states. Players are always in motion. No time outs, each player covers the entire field. No off-sides. No time outs, no helmets or bulky protective equipment, no specialty teams, players must be in top physical condition. I doubt that NFL football players would ever be able to handle the action, especially the huge bulky linemen on many NFL teams. Run with the ball, kick and pass the ball, get crunched and tackled. Get up and keep moving. I’d challenge the top NFL players to give it a go to see how long they would last.
It was time to call it a night; we would be up early for a full day on Saturday.
Very hilly with narrow streets intersecting at all angles is an appropriate description of Hong Kong. Adding to the blend – the immaculate and creative high-rise office towers, condominiums and apartments, older historic buildings, bright red taxi cabs, double-decker busses and trams, cars, trucks, bicycles, scooters and pedestrians. The harbor and boats. These all make Hong Kong a thriving, pulsing city. The districts of Soho and LKF that were filled with revelers the previous night were filled with shoppers the next morning. A walk through the street markets of Hong Kong; meat, fish, veggies, fruits, electronics, clothing, package goods. Find it all in the street markets. The narrow streets were alive.
A visit to HK would not be complete without a tram ride up to the 552 meter high Victoria Peak, with its commanding view of the city and harbor. After posing for pictures, we hopped on a double-decker bus for the twisting, turning ride down the back side to Repulse Bay, Stanley Bay and Stanley Market. These roads are handled with ease by the highly skilled drivers. After some shopping it was back to the apartment to pick up gear for Gaelic football. This time we went underground, riding the MTR under Victoria Harbor to Kowloon, then a brisk walk in the hot afternoon sun to King's Park at Jordan on the "Dark Side" (as it’s called.)
Having prior soccer experience, it was a natural fit for Laura and Melissa to join Gaelic football teams. Gaelic is quite unlike traditional soccer; you can hold and run with the ball in your hands, but you must pass or kick it to yourself or a teammate after a certain number of steps. Men’s and ladies teams each played two 13-minute fast-paced matches. Non-stop, no time outs, no off sides, no hard tackles; just try to get the ball away from the other team and score points by kicking it into the net like traditional soccer or by kicking the ball through uprights. Without a scoreboard, loosing track of the score during the matches was common. There were serious discussions along the sideline to determine the score. Melissa got skunked by a highly skilled teenager during one match.
I decided to take pictures from the sideline and got several good action shots.
During social hour (or two or three) afterwards, lots of adult beverages were consumed. It gave team members and spectators an opportunity to talk amongst each other. And for me an opportunity to show the digital pictures.
Social hour came to an end well after sunset. At first we jumped into a cab for the ride back to HK. The driver didn’t have a clue where we wanted to go; he didn’t speak English. At the next stoplight we jumped out, paid the driver and grabbed the next MTR. After dinner at India Today restaurant in Soho district, we watched English Premier Soccer on the tube at a small pub after which it was back to the apartment for the evening.
Rain, rain, go away. It didn’t; it poured Sunday morning. Laura and I headed down to the central market by bus for shopping; I wanted to look for a CD and buy a map of HK. With cameras and overnight bag in tow, we headed out. Fortunately we waited for the bus under the cover at one of only a few covered bus stops on HK.
Turns out that Sunday is house keeper’s day off. Hundreds, no thousands of house keepers (condos included) meet every Sunday to gossip, share stories, compare notes. On clear days they meet in the outdoor parks. On this rainy Sunday, they met under the walkway shelters between stores. At first, I asked Laura, “What are these ladies lined up for, is there a spectacular sale at the department store?” Laura laughed and explained. It was quite some sight to see. And the noise.
Melissa met us for the short Star Ferry ride to Kowloon where I would catch the 14:00 PM turbo-jet ferry back to Shenzhen and then the flight to Shanghai. The Star Ferry has been plying the short route between Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon mainland since colonial times. It is the cheapest way to make the journey. But what fun. Poets, authors, movie stars, politicians, famous and infamous, well known and unknown, millions have crossed Victoria Harbor on these trusty little green and white ferry boats. Click through to http://www.starferry.com.hk/new/cn/index.asp for more informaiton. A visit to Honk Kong would not be complete without a ride on the Star Ferry. We walked brickly to the jet-ferry terminal; we were a little behind schedule due to the rain. With the ticket purchsed, I settled my account with Laura, and we said our good-buys. Hugs and kisses all around. I passed through security, turned to wave one more time. And again a few steps later but Laura and Melissa were then gone. I felt disappointed to not see them just one more time.
Down the long corredor, my two-wheeled camera case and overnight bag in tow. A short wait at the gate, enough time to answer several questions about my visit from a multi-lingual representative of the tourist bureau, on to the boat and back to Shenzhen.
Clearing through immegration back into China took just a few minutes and was completed without difficulty. Jump onto the bus to the airport, and the 18:00 PM flight to Shanghai.
After standing only briefy in the queue at the Shanghai airport, I handed the cab driver the direction card to the hotel, in Chinese, of course. He nodded, grunted and off we flew. The cab rattled when it went too fast; at times I thought it was going to fall apart. However, we arrived safely on one piece, 126 RMB ($15.23). Check in, get the bags from storage and up to the room 2604 (facing north) for the final nights in Shanghai. This room had twin beds but “standard” bathroom facilities. I’d requested a change of view when I checked out Friday. There was a supurb view of Shanghai’s tallest buildings on the Bund, the most notable the Pearl Tower.
Monday afternoon was spent with Ms. Sun finding the store in the heart of Shanghai to get film developed. There was still some time for sightseeing; we walked to Yu Yuan in Old Shanghai, Shanghai Old Street. The buildings typify the archeticture at the turn of the 1900s. Tourists flock to this area for the taste of “Old Shanghai.” Lots of souvenier shops, too; I couldn’t help myself. The name of the game … always bargain.
Our final meeting was held at our sister-company’s office Tuesday morning. We reviewed the results of the China visits and developed a list of follow up items.
My days in China were at an end. Ms. Sun and I shared a few thoughts about our time together during the cab ride to pick up the pictures. It was a beautiful day, clear skies. We stood at the wall along the river on the Bund. I took a few pictures. Three weeks had passed quickly. Many great memories. Separate cabs this time, me back to hotel to pack for the continuation to Thailand and Ms. Sun to home.
PuDong ji chang guo ji … on to Thailand
There’s a ticket booth for the ferry boat just outside the
baggage claim area of the Shenzhen airport. Pay the fee, take a 5 minute mini-bus ride to the ferry terminal, get a seat assignment, and wait for departure time.
While waiting, an elderly lady sitting next to me became very curious about my picture notebook and what I was writing. I asked permission to take picture of her and her grandson. She agreed. After fussing with her hair briefly, she sat back and looked straight into the camera. I got the picture.
interior of the turbo-jet boat
Along the way enjoy the scenery; fishing boats, ocean
freighters, boats of all sizes and shapes.
Along the way you go under a very modern bridge connecting
Lantau Island with Kowloon
It was dusk as we docked at Honk Kong.
Good Luck Thai restaurant for dinner in Lan Kwai Fong (LKF)
district, a very popular district near the heart of Hong Kong.
There are numerous restaurants, pubs, bright neon signs and lots of music in LKF.
A walk through the street markets of Hong Kong; meat, fish,
veggies, fruits, electronics, clothing, package goods. Find it all in the street markets. The narrow streets were alive.
There’s an almost continuous escalator running up the hill from
the central district to the condos and apartments high above the city.
A visit to HK would not be complete without a tram ride up to the 552 meter high Victoria Peak, with its commanding view of the city and harbor.