Today I explored Hong Kong Island itself.
The first port of call was the Man Mao Temple. Built in 1847, and undergoing serious renovations in 2011. The temples air was so heavy with incense that it became difficult to breathe.
I profess to not seeing much of the temple as it was quite literally covered inside and out with bamboo scaffolding. Although there was one moment of levity as it was explained how the temple had two sets of doors. The main entrance to which we would all pass, and a second set just inside which would never be opened lest it let the devils inside. Needless to say on the day I visited these were wide open and covered in newspaper as the frame was repainted.
Next stop was the Peak Tram. This famously steep railway takes you up to the Peak which is where you’ll get the most spectacular views of Hong Kong. When I arrived the queues were huge, and as the train arrived the crowds surged forward I attempt to get on and bag a seat on the right hand side of the carriage so the views could be enjoyed. However, I feel that it was so overcrowded that no-one really enjoyed the short ride to the top.
Arriving at the station you are not greeted by a stunning view. What you are presented with is a modern, sterile shopping centre. A huge plaza dominates the top, dotted with all the familiar fast food and coffee shops. But it is only a short walk before you get to experience that view; and what a view it is.
When I arrived it was still fairly misty, so visibility was not all it could be. But this did not detract, as you look down onto Victoria Harbour and across in Kowloon.
I confess to immediately looking for those skyscrapers that I can see from my hotel window and using these to zero in on my own location. It was then that it struck me that Hong Kong is actually a remarkably compact city, one that is compressed into a small area and has grown vertically rather than becoming a sprawling metropolis.
It’s also the first time that I’ve questioned my decision to bring just a single 35mm lens with me as there is just so much that could be taken in with a wide-angle, or viewed in detail with a telephoto.
Truth be told, if you have no interest in the shopping or cafes, there is not really a lot to do once you’ve grown accustomed to the view. It is certainly worth a visit, but I wouldn’t make it the priority of a trip.
Next I made the winding trip down to Aberdeen Harbour, where I boarded a small boat known as a sampan and took in a trip around the harbour weaving in an out between the ultra expensive yachts and cruisers and the ramshackle house boats owned by the fishermen.
We also passed the Jumbo Kingdom, a floating restaurant that I’d quite like to visit but is a bit out of my way for someone eating on his own.
My last port of call was Stanley where there is a famous market selling mainly clothes and souvenirs from what I could see. Much of this was dedicated to t-shirts poking fun various world leaders; including Obama dressed in a Chinese workers uniform which I found quite amusing.
I bought a couple of ‘jade’ dragons, soon to be destined for the top of my iMac, and retreated to a bar along the seafront for some shade and a most refreshing pint.