China [September 2006] – Day 4

Posted On By Rob

Friday, September 8th – Hong Kong Island, Ocean Park, Temple St Markets

Hong Kong’s famous Star Ferries

Rain! Well, we missed breakfast for the second day running (due to the hours of the hotel restaurant) so we ended up at the Pacific Coffee Company at New World Plaza (near the Kowloon ferry terminal).

We had some time to check email and drink coffee before heading to the Star ferry terminal. The day was bleak and miserable (rain streaking the ferry) however, it was an exciting journey across to Hong Kong island.

After some creative footwork, we ended up on the observation deck of the Hong Kong Financial building, which is located on the 55th floor, offering sweeping views of downtown Hong Kong.

Happy Valley Racecourse (through the rain)

Unfortunately the rain prevented us from what would have been a good view across to Kowloon. Descending, we decided to head to a theme park (due to the rain) called ‘Ocean Park’ which is located on the other side of Hong Kong island.

We caught a double decker bus and it took us past the famous Happy Valley race track and through a tunnel towards the town of Aberdeen. When we arrived at Ocean Park, it was still slightly raining, but we decided to go in anyway (we were worried the roller coasters and other rides might be closed).

As it turned out, Ocean Park is also a Zoo of sorts, so we spent some time looking at the various wildlife on display. The park is an interesting mix of zoology, archaeology, amusements and thrill rides. We haven’t seen such an odd mix in one amusement park, it was great!

One of Ocean Park’s roller coasters

The range of animals was impressive and included a walk in bird aviary – probably one of the largest we’ve seen. Our first ride also happened to be Toni’s first time – on the log ride.

As we were turning a corner heading toward the fall, Toni started to get soaked by the water (or was she?). She turned to Rob saying "I really didn’t expect to get this wet.." only to find Rob with a huge grin… next time Toni will probably take the back seat!

As the day progressed, we caught a lucky (and calculated) break – the rain stopped, and the park was virtually empty.

The roller coasters all opened, as did the rest of the rides. Funny thing, unlike theme parks back in Australia, all the rides were open.

Toni’s first triple loop roller coaster

We eventually ended up on the mine shaft roller coaster (pictured previously) as well as on the first triple loop roller coaster Toni had ever experienced – which is a big deal for someone who is scared of them!

This was just Toni’s second roller coaster featuring loops (after the Cyclone at Dreamworld) and the first with both a corkscrew and three loops.

One thing we noticed – you can get a lot closer to things. There just aren’t the same levels of fences and off limits areas often found in amusement parks back home.

We also went on a giant Ferris Wheel which gave us uninterrupted views of the surrounding area, despite Toni’s discomfort (she is not a big fan of high places).

You could get very close to the action

After the Ferris Wheel, we bought lunch using our Octopus cards, and continued exploring. The park also contained a fairly comprehensive dinosaur museum, and a Panda enclosure.

Toni hates them, but Rob loves them..

Ferris Wheels

Although we enjoyed seeing live Pandas (for Rob, for the first time) they did not really do much. We must have caught them during nap time, for they mostly slept or occasionally ate. It’s not surprising they are endangered!

Another interesting attraction was the Dolphin school where they are taught tricks, and perform in scheduled shows throughout the day.

Boring, lazy.. black and white

The park is split into two sections, connected only by cable car. To travel to the second part, we had to ride the cable cars, which wasn’t something Toni was looking forward to.

On our trip across we saw mechanics suspended from the cables above fixing some length (a section not in use) – it looked like they lacked any kind of safety harness – crazy!

By now the day was starting to get ahead of us, so we did a quick tour of the second half – mostly consisting of a go kart track and the Dolphin School – before making a return trip to the first section of the park.

We took a few more rides on the roller coasters before exiting the park and catching a bus back into town. We had decided to head to the Peak Tram, which is the world’s longest serving cable car system.

Can you believe these crazy cable cars?

We had to really race across Hong Kong, as we were running out of time. We shot through some sort of botanic gardens, and into the Peak Tram terminus. There were a lot of people queuing for the tram, and Toni I and were separated when boarding.

Toni enjoying the Peak Tram

The angle that the Peak Tram ascends must be seen to be believed! The trip isn’t long, but certainly saves a huge amount of effort, and the view is exceptional. If you ever spend any amount of time in Hong Kong, the Peak Tram is a must-see.

The Tram completes its trip at an anvil shaped building which has shops, restaurants and a viewing deck, which provides a sweeping view over all of Hong Kong and Kowloon.

Being a tourist Mecca, the viewing deck was packed. We had a look, took photos and admired the view – but only briefly. The peak of Mt Victoria is a very interesting place. We did a lot of walking, which almost killed us (very strenuous)!

Our first goal was to find the absolute highest point we could. We got very close, but the highest point is actually covered in satellite dishes (and fenced off).

Rob at the Peak

We were literally alone (very uncommon on Hong Kong) and had plenty of time and space to roam around. We were walking past some of the most expensive houses in the world, and exploring parks (Victoria Peak Garden) and gardens with complete privacy – not a soul around.

We followed ‘Governor’s Walk’ and eventually made our way to the other side of the mountain where we stood above Aberdeen looking south and west to the South China Sea.

The highest point we could find

There were precious few other tourists, and as we took in the view, we were lucky enough to find a vending machine which accepted Octopus cards, and gulped down some flavoured tea(!).

Toni at the Aberdeen vantage area

Evidently, few tourists leave the sanctuary of the peak’s two shopping malls (their loss). As the sun started to set we retraced our path back to the Peak complex. Avoiding the mass of tourists, we entered the smaller mall (Peak Galleria) and located a fairly expensive restaurant to eat at.

After dinner, we made our way to the top of the second mall where we were practically alone.

Hong Kong
Night time view of Hong Kong from the peak

This vantage point was slightly lower than the main peak building (the anvil) but offered a very similar view and a whole lot more privacy & serenity.

All done, we left the peak and returned to the MRT station at Admiralty. After a quick stop off at the hotel (to drop off my camera and bags) we continued on to a night market in New Kowloon. Imagine our surprise when we arrived and everyone was packing up!

So, we headed for a different night market in Kowloon (closer to the hotel) on Jordan Street and Temple Street, which is actually fairly well known.

Night markets are quite common in Asian countries (we explored similar markets in Taipei) and tend to be quite large, often spanning several city blocks.

A surprising find: Victoria Peak Gardens

The typical stall contains all manner of items for sale from Chinese clothing, watches, hand bags to CDs, DVDs and even trinkets and jewellery.

One stall merchant tried to renegotiate the agreed price for a miniature golf pen & stationary kit which resulted in Toni snatching our money back and leaving the merchant frustrated at fouling a potential sale.

It’s not done to haggle after a price is agreed on!

We did purchase a number of additional items (mostly as gifts) and Toni bought Rob a collapsible tripod for his SLR camera.

After spending about an hour and a half, we returned to the hotel and packed our bags – ready to check out the following morning.

Previous post China [September 2006] – Day 3
Next post China [September 2006] – Day 5

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.