Covered or mentioned in this post:
Chiang Mai taxis, Gold Coast marina, Lady Candy super yacht, Octopus Cards, walkways, shopping malls, local markets and shops,
For those of you who don’t follow the blog regularly Gaun and I have been in holidaying in Hong Kong, which with a packed schedule has meant the blog has been quiet for a week. Heaps to share with you so lots of new posts in the next few days.
The trip to Hong Kong happened as a result of an invitation from my good friends Gina and Andy who came to see us in Chiang Mai for Christmas 2013. They offered their Hong Kong home as a holiday base and Gina as a tour guide if we ever wanted to explore the island.
This year for us has already been really busy but the next 12 months will be mostly taken up with building our new home in Isaan and settling there so if we didn’t do Hong Kong now we could miss out on a place to stay and the help of a local to show us the sights.
Luckily the timing for our holiday break from a permanent holiday 🙂 coincided with a cheap period for AirAsia, which flies direct Chiang Mai to Hong Kong, and we picked up two return tickets for around A$280.00. The only slight downside was that the flight left at 6.00 am, which meant a really early start to the day. The plus being that we got an almost full day in Hong Kong as the flight got in at 9.45 am Hong Kong time – one hour ahead of Chiang Mai.
We booked a taxi to pick us up at 4.30 am, as the trip to the airport takes around 30 minutes. For your information to book a taxi call 053-262-878 and ask for someone who speaks English. The lady I spoke to was great and understood our address, which is always helpful.
These taxis are metered but for a trip like this you will get a fixed price. For us from Land & House in San Sai it cost us 450 THB or around A$15.00. If you book directly with the driver you can do it for 300 THB or A$10.00 but unfortunately I had lost the card of the driver we have used previously. UPDATE: The guy we used this time can be contacted on 081-7165853 and his name is Rung Mingsuwan.
Of the 150 THB extra over a what I have paid previously, 100 THB was because it was such an early callout and the other 50 THB is the booking fee paid to the taxi company.
Every the time I have used them their taxis have been spotless and the drivers helpful with the luggage.
The check-in and Immigration all went smoothly and the flight at 2 hours 45 minutes is just the right time before total boredom sets in! For any farang living here without a multiple re-entry visa read HERE about what you need to do to get back into the country!
Gina arrived at the airport to collect us just as we came out of Chinese Immigration into the terminal and, I have to confess, were heading to McDonalds for a coffee. It is always a slight relief to meet up with your connection in a foreign country especially when you are a first time visitor. It is all a bit strange and you feel a bit disorientated especially when you have only had one coffee to start the day and no local money.
We got a taste of Hong Hong straight up when we got into the taxi for the trip to Gina and Andy’s place. The taxi guy had six mobile phones in action. Gina’s record is eight in a taxi. What he was doing with them all is a mystery but it was all go and very different from a quiet Thai taxi ride.
When Gina and Andy decided to move to Hong Kong to expand their Australian business they looked around to rent accommodation close to their city office on Hong Kong Island. What they got for a minimum rental of around $2,500 a week was a small two or three bedroom unit with no outside space and stuck in the hectic pace of city life. They came up with an alternative – a large houseboat moored in the Gold Coast marina a 40 minutes bus ride out from the city, which they bought and is now their Hong Kong pad.
The marina itself is home to many expats, a lot of them Cathay Pacific airline captains, and is also chockers with large, beautiful and expensive boats, most of which were empty while we were there. A collection a super yachts lined one of the wharfs. This is the place to browse if you need ideas of how to spend your Tatts Lotto winnings. The biggest was Lady Candy, the yacht shown below and this is the link in case you wanted to charter her HERE.
The Gold Coast marina is a gated complex, like a Chiang Mai Moo Baan, with a central building housing a restaurant, gym, TV room etc. Between the clubhouse and marina there is a swimming pool and tennis courts.
Just outside the marina entrance was a small selection of good quality shops, bars and restaurants + McDonalds of course. A large hotel, surprisingly called the Gold Coast Hotel, overlooks the water on the right hand side and heaps of condos on the left as you can see in the photo below.
The Yellow Submarine, our Hong Kong base, is a multi level boat primarily designed as live in accommodation. Taking her into open waters is not such a good idea where, being top heavy and shallow bottomed, a large wave could roll it over, which did happen to one of the marina boats when it took a large boat wash side-on in open water! Andy tells me they sink really quickly.
The top deck is under the canvas and has a large dining table, a kitchen bench and sink, BBQ, fridge and lounges. Great for a party. Inside the main living area has a big kitchen and lounge with heaps of light from wrap-around windows giving views onto the water. Gina designed the kitchen and it is very smick and modern. The whole area is a lovely restful place to chill out at the end of a busy Hong Kong day.
Four steps down and there is the main guest bedroom and a small office. Another four steps down and there are two single bedrooms, a bathroom and the main bedroom with ensuite. All air conditioned with heaps of polished timber. A very comfortable layout.
Having settled into the boat and with the afternoon free we headed back out again this time on the top deck of a bus, which is an excellent way to view the scenery in air conditioned comfort and take some photos. Gina, being the well planned tourist guide she is, had two spare Octopus Cards to lend us for the stay.
These are magical time savers and so convenient for helping you get around on public transport and more. They are “usable in MTR, Light Rail, Trams, Peak Trams, Star Ferry, Buses, some minibuses, convenience stores such as 7-11, Circle K, supermarkets, fast food outlets, or public telephone booths” – Australia, we have some catching up to do. You can find more information on the Octopus Card HERE and the wonderful MTR site can be found HERE with everything you need to know about planning your Hong Kong trip. I cover the rail system in another post and you can find it HERE.
Buses are everywhere in Hong Kong. They are so regular that as a tourist you never need to time your arrival at a bus stop. Just turn up and the bus you want will appear pretty soon after. Regular buses, trams and an underground train system means getting around Hong Kong is super easy and cheap.
OK. Back to a few photos of our trip into the city. The Gold Coast marina is a way out of town but the trip is a pleasant one as the road follows the coast for some of the way with great views over the harbour and bridges.
Can you tell me the huge difference between this photo and one taken in Thailand? No motorbikes. You will rarely see one in Hong Kong. We might have spotted half a dozen in the six days we were there. When I did see one it was worth a photo – that’s how rare they were!
As a photographer the main adjustment to shooting here from those photos taken in Thailand is that much of Hong Kong city scenery is captured by pointing the camera upwards. In Thailand the action is mostly at ground level.
One of the other great ideas incorporated into Hong Kong traffic planning are these walkways that take you many places in the city. You can get between buildings and different areas of the city without ever coming down to street level. As with everything in Hong Kong they are immaculate, no graffiti as you’d find in Australia and extensively used.
Gina wanted to show us a mixed selection of sights incorporating one of the flash shopping malls as well as the smaller streets and local markets. The malls here are of a league way beyond anything you’ll find in Australia. Every shop seems to be a brand label outlet, many of them for brands I have never heard of. Still if it’s got a European sounding name it has to be worth an exorbitant price tag. The Chinese and foreigners cruising these places to actually shop must be cash rich and totally status obsessed. No wonder the container port is so busy importing all this stuff!
I will cover shopping malls in far greater detail in another post and add the link here when published. They are amazing to explore especially for this country Thai farang 🙂
Some of the backstreets are more “local” in feel and you are mixing with local Chinese people living a non-branded life, which is my preference when travelling and trying to “touch” a new country.
As well as the local markets there are obviously the supermarket chains supplying the foreign and westernised Chinese. This was a classy place situated in one of the underground malls leading to a train station:
Unlike an Australian city Hong Kong doesn’t seem to sprawl as much. I was surprised a couple of times to be walking down a street and seeing the end of the city down a side road like here:
So finishing up a big day out we headed home on the bus for a well earned glass of chilled Aussie white. Thanks Gina.
Thanks for reading.
More Hong Kong posts to come:
Cable car to the Big Buddha;
Flowers, birds and gardens;
Dragon’s Back hike and lunch at Stanley; and
The final day – endless food and champagne.