Sunday, November 18, 2012

18/11/12 – Honkers.

Today was a much less fast-paced day compared to the previous. We started off having a leisurely breakfast and chatting to an older couple from Perth. They are in Hong Kong for the next few weeks – a much longer stay than our mere three nights.

After breakfast, we headed out to start our day. Originally, I had fairly grand plans as to what I wanted to do today, including having high tea at the Peninsula Hotel. However, we realised that Emma was gluten intolerant, and wouldn’t be able to eat any of the tasty treats they provide. I actually called up the hotel to see if they had gluten free options available. They do! But, you need to advise them two days in advance. Crap. In two days we’d be in Seoul. Oh well, take that one off the list then. Perhaps another time.

I had a few things that I really wanted to do. One of which, geekily enough, was to check out a few model aircraft stores that I’d heard about in Hong Kong. There was one in Central, and one on the mainland in an area called Prince Edward. Seeing as the Central one was much, much closer, we decided to start there. We headed to the Man Yee arcade, a very swish shopping centre. The first time I looked through the directory, I couldn’t see the listing for the store, and was pretty sure that the shopping centre looked far too up-class to have a dingy model aircraft shop in it. So, we headed outside the arcade, and looked for any other building with the name “Man Yee”. There was a laneway nearby called “Man Yee Lane”, but it was really a dirty back alley. Still, it couldn’t hurt to have a look through there, just in case there was the store in there.

Nope. All that was down there were a few aluminium can depositories and a rather sad looking used clothes stall. We did a loop around the block, and on the way, Emma found a book store. She had a look inside, and while most of the books were in Cantonese, there was an excellent stationery section. Now, I’m not sure how many of you reading personally know Emma, but if you do, you’ll be aware of her burning white hot passion for stationery. Did I mention that everything stationery in Hong Kong is still the official name brands, but about a quarter of the price that it is in Australia? Well, needless to say, Emma was a happy girl after that store.

We headed back into the arcade, doing a double check for the store. Emma took one look at the directory, and then spotted where it was in the centre. I really should read things more thoroughly. We headed up to the top level of Man Yee Arcade, and found the store. It was closed, due to it being a Sunday. I asked the information desk what time it would open on Monday, and the lady informed me that it would be about “1pm tomorrow”. By that time on Monday, we’d be on a real plane, on our way to Seoul. Crap.

So then, we decided to head to Central Station, and on to Prince Edward. On the way, we were starting to get fairly hungry, so we stopped in at a McDonald’s to grab a quick bite to eat. I’m going to try and limit myself to one McDonald’s meal per country on this trip. Let’s see how that goes… Anyways, after waiting in line at the crowded McDonald’s, we got our meal and headed out into the nearby alleyway. In the district that we were in, there were a lot of fillipino women hanging around. Being a Sunday, I deduced that all (or at least the majority of them) were maids, and that Sunday was their only day off of the week. Needless to say, being the only two Caucasian people in the street led to a lot of long stares at us. Some were friendly and smiling, to which we smiled and waved back. Others were less so. Some were just creepy deadpan ogling. Nothing frightening, but not very welcome attention.

After scoffing down my strange marinated chicken burger… thing… We got on the subway and headed for Prince Edward. One thing that I’ve noticed about Hong Kong’s subway is that it is very windy. Not inside the station mind you, the glass doors between the train tracks and the platforms prevents this. Rather, inside the trains themselves, when they gather speed, there is a significant amount of blustery wind within the carriages. I’m not entirely sure if this is the air blowing in from outside, or if the air conditioning fans are just linked in proportion to the speed of the subway train. Either way, it makes for a refreshing trip each time you step on.

Once we arrived in Prince Edward, we headed for a nearby shopping mall. Within it, I was looking for a particular model plane shop. I rounded a corner, and soon found the store. I went in, and had a really nice chat to the owner, Danny, who spoke very good English. We talked about everything aviation-nerd-like, and thankfully Emma wasn’t too bothered by my excessive chatter with him. I ended up buying two models from the store, a Qantas Airbus A380-800, with the registration of VH-OQC. For those of you paying attention (and I fully don’t expect you to), that was the exact aircraft that brought me to Hong Kong no less than 48 hours ago. I thought it was fitting to get a model of the plane that was the most enjoyable flight I’ve been on. I also got a JAL Boeing 767-300ER, the aircraft that will take me from Seoul to Japan in a few days’ time.

After spending a good 20 minutes inside the store, I headed outside, happy with my purchases. We had a quick browse around the other floors.  Bad idea. I discovered that this shopping centre had at least another two model aircraft stores in it. I went into each, and had a nice long look around, and bought an aircraft from each of them. A Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-300, the plane that will take me to Seoul tomorrow, and a Qantas Boeing 737-800, with the registration VH-VZD. The only reason I got this one is because that was the rego of my very first flight to Melbourne, back in 2009. This bloody plane is what started my travel bug. I blame it for the thousands of dollars I’ve spent on seeing the world. Actually, I shouldn’t blame it, I should thank it. The travel bug is a fantastic thing to have.

We then exited the mall before I spent any more money on model aircraft, and headed back through a “goldfish market” street to the subway station. The goldfish street, while pretty, was also very cruel. Hundreds of fish in plastic bags, only just bigger than their bodies. They floated there in the water, idly stroking their fins through the still water. What’s worse, they had even larger aquatic animals at the back of the shop. One tank, the size of your average suburban fish tank, contained a baby sea turtle. This made me feel very disgusted, and we left without paying the shop any more attention. Clearly animal rights isn’t very high on the list of the Chinese’s priorities.

A short subway ride later, and we were back in Sheung Wan. We stopped in at a chain restaurant, Café de Coral. Judging by the size of the crowds in there, it was popular with the locals. We had BBQ Pork and Chicken with rice. And, at around $4AUD for the meal, it was fantastic value for money.

We then went back to the room, where Emma had a nap, and I uploaded some travel photos to Facebook. As a side note, all of this reporting on my travels takes a lot more time than I remember! A good two hours flew by while I chose, uploaded, tagged and wrote descriptions for all of the photos. Still, I shouldn’t complain. I enjoy sharing the experience, in whatever way I can.

After the nap, we decided to go to the Peak. It was really the last big “tourist” thing to do on our list in Hong Kong. Harry had told us the previous night a few things about The Peak. Firstly, that the tram up to it is fairly hair-raising stuff. Secondly, that the view is spectacular. Thirdly, that it is a very big tourist trap. He was right on all accounts. The tram ride was incredibly steep. The view, even on the cloudy night we went on, was amazing. We were able to see across the harbour and into the distance, the millions of lights of the thousands of buildings twinkling in the evening air.

Finally, The Peak is a big tourist trap. The tram dumps you out into a large shopping mall built on top of the mountain, with all of the touristy restaurants being there. Including a Bubba Gump’s. This time, we resisted, and decided not to eat there. This shopping centre was almost impossible to find your way out of, too. There were no clear signs – obviously they wanted you to stay in there and shop as long as possible. I spent a good 15 minutes frustratedly walking around inside, trying to just find a way to get out without setting off a fire alarm.

Eventually we did, and the view outside was brilliant. We then turned our attention to the issue of dinner. There was one restaurant I had read about in the guide that I was keen to go to, but upon actually seeing it, I was turned off by its tackiness and fake-ness. Emma agreed wholeheartedly. We ended up eating at quite a nice Vietnamese restaurant that based all of its food off of Vietnamese street food. So, for dinner, we had some nice light salads and rice paper rolls. Very tasty, and while not super cheap, it was a reasonably priced dinner.

Afterwards, we made our way back down the slopes on the tram, all the while I marvelled at how steep an angle we were travelling at. When you look out and see buildings which are at some bizarre angle to your field of vision, it is quite disorienting.

All in all, it was a fun day, and a nice way to finish off our time in Hong Kong.

Tomorrow: Our last few hours in Hong Kong, and then onto Seoul! The home of people who ride invisible horses and sing one really catchy tune!

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