Overslept yesterday morning. Oops! Probably for the best because by the time we made it over to Lantau Island it was a sweltering afternoon. We took a 25 minute cable car over the island’s rolling hills to Ngong Ping village, a Disneyland-like row of restaurants and souvenir shops- not to mention the International Cable Car Gallery, featuring ‘several cabins sourced from overseas to broaden visitors’ understanding of cable cars’.
Big Buddha seen from Po Lin monastery
Once we’d caught our breath after the walk up to Big Buddha, a 34m high statue drawing a large crowd, we wandered over to sit in the shade of Po Lin monastery. Very peaceful; incense was burnt outside the temple so it wasn’t overpowering inside. Only managed to spot one monk from far away – must try harder.
The bus from Ngong Ping across the island gave us great view of Lantau. It careered up and down jungle-clad hills and swerved along the glittering coast – unfortunately it was going too fast for us to make out the stop for the beach, so carried on all the way to the ferry port. Didn’t want to go anyway. And why step off an air-conditioned bus into the afternoon heat?!
The day before we went to Stanley, a beach town described by the guide book as ‘a crowd-pleaser’. Easy to see why when offered the culinary delights of Pizza Express, fish and chips, and burgers – with the option of snails for those Gallic tourists really missing their cuisine. A bit touristy for us. We spent a pleasant afternoon on the beach and walking around Ma Hang park, before heading back home to Kowloon to drink a £1 litre of beer in the bustling Temple Street night market.
We’re about to check out before flying to Hanoi this evening, very exciting! We’re both looking forward to being on the backpacker trail – so far we haven’t met many people our own age, the crowd seems to be mostly families, expat businesspeople and retired couples. (The bus to Stanley summed it up pretty well – a lovely Australian couple who saved us the two front seats on the top deck for the views, and an Australian businessmen swearing loudly into his phone the whole way there). Although the jet lag’s made the city overwhelming at times, it’s been a great five nights here. Highlights include wandering around the history museum, eating delicious food for less than £3, seeing flamingos in Kowloon Park, enjoying the cheesiness of the Symphony of Lights and being asked by a waiter when eating our noodles, if we were tourists, how come we knew how to use chopsticks?
Next post from Hanoi!
We made it in one piece! After an 11-hour flight with great entertainment (watched Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and would definitely recommend!) and as much drink as we wanted, we got our pre-booked transfer to the hotel. So pleased we had this sorted beforehand- would not have wanted to negotiate Hong Kong transport on the two hours sleep I managed on the plane. By the time we unpacked and headed out for dinner we were pretty much shaking with tiredness. First impressions of HK- neon, warm, busy, enormous high-rise buildings, but the landscapes are greener than I expected.
We set off for Central and Shueng Wan, getting to grips with the easy peasy subway system on the way. In the packed Maxim’s we went to for lunch we were seated at the same table as a French girl and her mum; any awkwardness dissolved when Matt was served a large ball of unidentified meat which he didn’t order, but ate anyway. They told us they were working here for Elle Gourmet and recommended a few great places to eat and explore, which was greatly appreciated by us clueless tourists!
We took the Central-Mid-levels escalator up the steep hill towards Hollywood road- the longest escalator in the world. On either side there are stylish boutique windows making it seem as if you’re at ground level, until you look down and see they’re two or three floors up. Man Mo temple was fantastic; various cavernous rooms filled with heady sandalwood from the many incense coils burning overhead.
Outside Man Mo temple
A couple of beers and a good night’s sleep later and we’re starting to feel like humans again. Plans for the coming days include hopefully joining in with morning Tai Chi in the parks, seeing the skyline light show at night and heading to the beach. Watch this space!
‘It is wise never to travel unprovided with a small flask of brandy and water,’ wrote Lillias Campbell Davidson in her 1889 guide Hints to Lady Travellers at Home and Abroad. Similar essentials, advised Davidson, include ‘a tiny case of court plaster, a tiny case of needles, a map and road book, some lighter literature, air cushions, suitably covered with chintz or satin, for putting under the feet, and for nervous invalids, the addition of another cushion to sit upon is a still further prevention of headache and that shattering of the nerves which make the mere thought of a journey by rail or carriage a nightmare to the imagination.’
No satin cushions for this lady traveller.
Items currently stuffed in my backpack include sleeping bag liner, mozzie net and spray, torch, padlocks, spork, pack of cards, flip flops… The only toiletries I’m bringing are a pack of wet wipes, suncream and multi-purpose soap – and no make up whatsoever. In fact my current face of foundation, bronzer, blusher, eyeshadow, liquid eyeliner and mascara is the last makeup I’ll be wearing for a fair few months. Liberation!
Have rounded off a great summer at home with one of Mum’s Sunday lunches, something which I always miss when I’m away from home. Now of to the pub to say bye to friends before we jet off tomorrow evening. My next post will be from Hong Kong!
When I tell people that I’m going travelling with my brother, I expect one of two reactions: either encouraging head-nods and general enthusiasm, usually accompanied by sighs of “isn’t that nice that you two get along so well!”; or, more commonly, the person I’m talking to will look as if they are about to vomit. “I can’t think of anything worse.”
In just under a month’s time we’ll be heading to Southeast Asia. Matt’s just got into his uni of choice for 2013, and I graduated with a First having been chained to a library computer for the better part of a year. We’ve both wanted to take gap years for a while, so why not together? We’ll save money, visit the parts of the world we both want to see, and have a laugh- fortunately we get on quite well.
Having said that, the reactions are understandable- the thought of spending seven-odd months in the company of a sibling is enough to make anyone nauseous. Will those things that I find hilarious about my brother turn out to be headache-inducingly irritating? Will I inevitably lapse into the role of older sister, organising everything and enjoying nothing?
I have no idea how it’ll pan out. The gap year guidebooks don’t generally include a section on ‘travelling with siblings’…