Tuesday, 29 October 2013

香港日記 Hong Kong Diaries. Part Two.

Friday 18 October
Why not today?’ asks the concierge smiling patiently. ‘Much better you buy now.’ The debate is about when to buy an Octopus card, the smart card which covers fares on Hong Kong’s mass transit system and a whole host of other purchases besides. ‘But we like walking!’ we insist, ‘we’ll explore on foot today and buy a card tomorrow.’

Confident that we’ll prove that we’re made of sterner stuff than your average tourist, we step out into a beautiful, balmy day. Of course, the concierge knows best. Within a few blocks we’re wilting; the heat creeps up on you here, turning to a pleasant walk into a bit of a trek. Overcoming any slight apprehensions about trying something new, we head for the cool sanctuary of the nearest MTR station and after a quick, easy transaction we have our very own Octopus cards and are ready to go.

Conquering the MTR
We soon discover that this cheap, fast, efficient transport system is the key to our successful holiday. It’s the pulse that keeps the life blood of Hong Kong flowing and means we can travel anywhere we like for a couple of dollars. 

Something else that makes discovering the city a delight is the friendliness of its people who genuinely do everything to make you feel welcome. Pulling out a map here is not seen as an invitation for some freak to come up and offer to lick your shoes or sell you drugs, but for a polite, concerned, ‘Sir, madam – you appear to be lost. May I offer my assistance?’

At Kowloon Park we take time out to sit and enjoy an oasis of tranquillity amongst the hustle and bustle of the big city. There are fountains, fluting birds hiding in the trees, exotic butterflies drinking from hibiscus and when a group of adorable tiny school children pass us, I can’t resist taking out my camera. 
One of the teachers spots me, but instead of getting me thrown out the park, she has a word with her small pupils who wave and chorus, ‘hello’ and ‘bye bye’ to us making us feel like honoured visitors.

What I’ve really been keen to do though is travel across Victoria Harbour to Hong Kong Island on the Star Ferry and, oh, when we do I love everything about it. From the green and white livery of the ferries, the old-fashioned sailor suits worn by the staff and the star patterns punched in the wooden seats, it’s the most fabulous, romantic way to see the waterfront. 

 Later in the week, we’ll take the Star Ferry across an inky-blue harbour under a full moon, an image that will always stay with me. The skyline is vibrant with electronic displays and on one of the soaring commercial buildings, I watch mesmerised as a series of white lights resolve themselves into falling leaves, leaping deer and finally spell ‘hope’. 

We need to work on our 'selfies'!


Lane Mathias said...

Sounds so wonderful, Chris. I have ferry trip envy!

Chris Stovell said...

They almost couldn't get me off it, Lane - I was happy to keep going backwards and forwards!

Mandy K James said...

More, more! I want MORE!

Chris Stovell said...

Don't encourage me, Mandy - I'm happy to bore for HK!