People, Peaks and Peking Duck
We were booked on the "City Highlights" tour, (operated by the same tour company who forgot us at the airport) with commentary by Billy the Kid. We got off to a late start and an overcast morning meant the tour had to be reversed, allowing time for the fog to clear off Victoria Peak.
After passing through the unbelievable opulence of post British rule with befitting social comments from BtK contrasted by the incredible slums of matchbox high-rises, we were deposited at the Jumbo Floating restaurant and directed towards the "optional" (HK$120 extra) sampan tour of the fishing village. Although some of the fishermen waved at the gawking tourists, I got the distinct impression that most of the residents did not appreciate the rich Aussies and Yanks intruding into their lives. I like my privacy and I would hate some peeping tom peering over my fence while I was hanging up my undies. I would have been less uncomfortable with my voyeurism if I had believed that the residents were going to get a cut of the tourist dollar.
Our next port of call was the Dynasty Jewellery Factory where the cheapest items were around $400 more than I was willing to part with. The BOSS became quite attached to a very pretty ring but once again, through stealth and cunning, we avoided temptation and the Amex card stayed firmly in my wallet.
Billy the Kid was a very interesting character. He loved to throw in veiled political comments and could happily quote statistics on everything from income tax and unemployment percentages to how many teachers committed suicide last year (due to the government closing down 200 primary schools caused by the one child policy... or so says BtK.) These comments came thick and fast as we passed through the windy mountain roads of Repulse Bay and Stanley. Did you know there are over 1600 Rolls Royces in Hong Kong and number plates don't have the (unlucky) number four in them.
The BOSS had been looking forward to shopping in the legendary Stanley Markets - her mother having regaled her with stories of $2 t-shirts and $20 Reeboks and returning with 2 extra suitcases and 20 kilos overweight from her previous trip [Qantas staff were not charged excess baggage]. To my bitter disappointment and the utter devastation of the BOSS, Stanley Markets had gone upmarket! Gone were the muddy little streets with shabby little stores. Gone too was any semblance of character. We spent 45 minutes wandering aimlessly through rows of the same old thing we had seen the night before, passed the packed "American Bar" and the equally packed "Irish Pub" and found a tiny little Chinese restaurant in the corner patronised by Chinese people. These places are fabulous and even if they don't have a menu in English, they always have pictures of the food you can reasonably expect to appear on your plate - so lots of pointing and finger waving makes up for the lack of language skills. Having not been sufficiently humiliated the previous evening we bravely ordered wonton noodles again. This time we did not need a roll of toilet paper to hide our mishaps and managed not to draw too much attention.
The other passengers on the bus listened enviously as we told them of our wonderful gastronomic discovery - they had chosen to spend their time shopping and now their tummies were rumbling. One couple told us of their great find the previous night on Nathan Road - Peking Duck for HK$38. I listened very carefully to the directions as Peking Duck happens to be one of my favourite foods.
Our final stop on the City Highlights tour was Victoria Peak - still covered in the morning fog. At least the tram ride down the hill was just as I had remembered.
Overall rating: 2/10 for the tour but 7/10 for Billy the Kid.
Recommendation: Forget the tour - but if it's a nice day take the tram to Victoria Peak, just don't be tempted by the HK$29 Haagen Das icecreamery at the top.
After our tour ended mid afternoon and a busload of tourists scattered in all directions in search of food, Billy the Kid took a select few to his "recommended" electronics store, bypassing all the cowboys with their flashy neon signs. We were in search of a digital camera and I knew the model I wanted and the price I should pay, so the sale went smoothly with the minimum of haggling and I hope they give Billy his cut. You should all now notice the difference in quality of our photographs.
The BOSS spent part of the afternoon in the hotel gym and then we went in search of the Peking Duck for dinner. I will not even attempt to describe the restaurant - just look at the picture (taken with the new camera) and take special note of the carpet. Once again, ordering was done by pointing at photos and the duck was indeed superb. I felt slightly guilty about only paying AUD$6 for such excellent food, so we ordered mango pudding for dessert.
Now whilst I had full intentions of raving about this place and making recommendations all over the travel websites - they spoiled the whole experience by charging the 'sucker tourist' HK$20 for tea and $10 for the plate of nuts, neither of which we had actually ordered. Although we are only talking about the difference of a few dollars Australian, it still left a sour taste.
Our hotel is pretty cool. It's right on Nathan Road and funnily enough it's called the Nathan Hotel. It's very quiet and clean with great mattresses and 12 TV channels with the most amusing Chinese commercials. The only problem is that there are no power points except the one for the kettle. Instead of being tucked up nicely in bed I am sitting on the floor in the hallway, updating this entry whilst charging the laptop at 2.30am trying not to wake the BOSS. No, I don't have jetlag. I survive normally on 6 hrs sleep a night and unfortunately I fell asleep watching Chinese telly at 9pm. My future sleep patterns are now in jeopardy but it may sort itself out when we fly the next leg to England. I might just wander down and sit in the lobby (in my jammies) and surf the internet for a while.