Although we were booked on a tour, the 9am start was not an issue and we were up and about just before the ship docked after a 180 degree turn, alongside the local ferry terminal. Downtown Hong Kong can currently only cope with two cruise liners at once and as tourism is a major industry, apparently they are building a new cruise terminal at the airport, capable of dealing with 5 ships. Oh boy, that will be fun with about 10,000 cruisers arriving in one hit. Can you imagine the logistics of that exercise? We are not sure that they meant locating near the new airport or the old one, but whichever it is, the effects on this very crowded city are just mind boggling.
Yet another light breakfast parfait before meeting at the vista lounge for our call – coach 3 of 8 doing just this specific tour. These are 49 seater coaches, so work out the numbers.
Our tour guide today was Jupiter. She spoke excellent English and had a great sense of humour and an infectious laugh. I hope the lady in front of us who was coughing and spluttering for the whole trip isn’t infectious. The coach bullied its way into the very busy morning traffic and headed through the tunnel under harbour to the base of Mt Victoria to catch the funicular railway to the summit. At this point – probably 10am, the queue was horrendous and even though we had tickets and were shepherded towards the front, we still had over 30 minutes of waiting time to board this very popular attraction. We were advised to try and sit on the right and it goes without saying that by the time we could climb aboard, every single right side seat had been taken! From what others who were doing their own thing said later, they gave up queuing, so be warned, if you are not on an organised tour, the wait may well be over an hour and that is with just two ships in port, so it is not going to get any better, particularly on a clear day. Many spoke of earlier visits where a trip to the top merely meant a nice view of the cloud cover from within it.
A nice ride to the top where there is a modern shopping mall. Paula wanted an ice cream and had no HK dollars. It cost her $6USD for one scoop...
Back on the coach and down the mount to Aberdeen village and a leisurely 20 minute sampan ride past the largest floating restaurant in the world - Jumbos. I think it might have been around here that I lost my Puntarenas hat and I don’t know how. Drat. That is $5 wasted. On then to what was billed as a “jewellery factory visit”. I don’t know about you, but my definition of a factory is of a place where the majority of the employees are involved in the manufacturing process. What we actually got was a modern showroom, with mirrored walls and about 50 people in smart suits, selling, or trying to sell, expensive jewellery and just one artisan behind a glass screen making rings. A stop that was way too long and unnecessary, especially as we were running a bit late.
The final stop was Stanley Street market where at least people could shop if they wanted. We spied our favourite atrium waitress here who was on our tour and we helped her choose an appropriate hat! On the trip back to the dock, she was getting increasingly anxious as we were supposed to be back 2:30pm but didn’t get back until 3:40 – and her shift started at 4pm! She made it OK. We could have skipped the jewellery factory and no one would have minded – especially the men.
Meanwhile, we headed up to the buffet for refreshments before part two of our day. The ship was due to leave 11pm as scheduled, as the cyclone or typhoon or bad touch of wind, was no longer deemed a problem, not to the captain anyway.
We had been given the addresses of one or two shops selling dance shoes, by the ever helpful Alana, so we headed off on foot, to 242 Nathan Road (just in case you dancers are interested in the future). It was hot and sticky and like most cruisers I suspect, we popped in and out of several establishments on the way, to take a temporary advantage of their air conditioning. It was a fair old hike in the heat of the late afternoon and we arrived at the approximate place around 4:50, but there was no sign of the shop we wanted! There was a sign pointing upstairs to “Joy dance shoes”. (Joy, if you are reading this back in NZ, it must be nice to know you have your own establishment in Hong Kong, but this is to let you know that the staff are sneaking off early, as it was closed.)
Back downstairs and there was a tiny, tiny shoe shop in the corner, with dance posters on the wall and a good range of shoes. With a bit of help from a lady who popped in, who managed to persuade the elderly owner to accept US dollars, as his English wasn’t too good, Paula emerged with a bag containing not one, but two pairs of dance shoes. If you want to know the name of the shop, it is “Wankee Shoes”. Absolutely no comment from me deemed necessary. Mission accomplished, we trudged back to the ship and through “Harbour City”, a new and very large shopping mall that forms the entrance to the cruise terminal – which isn’t signposted too well I might add, until you are just about on the steps to the terminal entrance anyway.
Hot and sticky we staggered into the atrium and found our waitress, who sorted out my usual complex coffee order and a berry smoothie for Paula.
As it was open dining (meaning that anyone could take dinner in the dining rooms any time on any table), there was no problem crashing out after a shower, then heading to the upper deck to see the highly acclaimed laser light show using 44 of the buildings on the harbour.
I think we were badly misled here, as you really needed to be on shore to see it and experience the sound. From the ship, we heard absolutely nothing and saw very little. It is a 15 minute show at 8pm every night and I think we missed out.
Back down to the dining room at about 8:30 for dinner, where we were joined by M & M just for a cuppa as they had eaten, plus Sue & Darryl, Teri & Alex. I think ours was the only table in the whole room with more than two people on it and as there was also a couple on from the normal first sitting, making 8, Allan & Ronaldo were the hardest working staff in the room. One of the reasons for eating was that the menu was appetising so after the prawns, Paula had the lemon chicken and I had the pork spare ribs. Very nice too.
A busy day and it continued as there was a cultural show in the theatre that included one chap throwing chopsticks at a plywood target like a dart board and piercing it. He invited a couple of men from the audience to have a go and they couldn’t even hit the target, let alone pierce it!
Alan & Alana had their first night off since about May after the ship refit, but we all went up on deck for the sailaway at 11pm. Just as we were almost at the open water, there was a thunderstorm and heavy rain so we went to the cabin instead.
I tried for ages to get some sense out of the internet, but no luck at all, so although I managed to upload, I still couldn’t access any emails and the computer didn’t want to log off their system. The danger here of course is that if you don’t successfully log off, the system continues to charge you by the minute, so as I crash out, I have the nagging feeling that by the time I get on again, there won’t be too many minutes left, so the first job tomorrow morning is to try and log on so that I can log out!
Well that three weeks has been an interesting one as this first part of the cruise is mainly covering countries and cities we are either not too interested in or have been to before. Now Paula has been to the hot, sticky and crowded Hong Kong, she has no wish to return! Curiosity has been satisfied.