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Hong Kong (Continued)

Despite the 12-hour time difference between Hong Kong and home, we had no problems sleeping. We hit the hotel’s complimentary breakfast buffet in the morning. Wow! What a spread! This buffet was like a fancy Sunday brunch that hotels in the States offer on special occasions like Mother’s Day. There were several food stations that included American breakfast items, Japanese cuisine, Chinese cuisine, Indian cuisine, a bakery station, meat carving station, and more. I was just mad we did not arrive at breakfast sooner so that I could try out the various stations. At breakfast, we met some of the people with whom we had corresponded in the Facebook group before the trip. It was nice to finally meet in-person.

Traci and I gobbled down our breakfast and then hurried to the lobby where we were supposed to meet for our half-day tour of Hong Kong. While waiting in the lobby we met other members of our Marathon Tours group. There were 28 of us for this portion of the trip. We also met our Marathon Tours representative for this leg of the trip. This was the first trip that Traci and I have done in which the travel representatives travel with their clients. They even ran the Great Wall Marathon events with the group. We were well taken care of during our entire time in Asia.

A local guide from Gray Line Tours arrived and led our group to the awaiting motorcoach. The rain was coming down in buckets. We arrived at our first destination - the Victoria Peak Tram. Viewing the city from the top of Victoria Peak I’m told is a must-do event in Hong Kong. We boarded the tram which has been taking visitors to the summit since 1888. It was an interesting ride up. The angle of our car made all the buildings appear to be tilted as we ascended the mountain.

The rain had let up a little as we reached the top but a thick fog had moved in below thus preventing us from seeing the famous view of Hong Kong. Darn! Oh well, there were shops, eateries, and other diversion at the top of Victoria Peak to keep us occupied until we needed to regroup. Traci and I tried our hands at an exhibit that lets you take illusion photographs if you can line up the angles correctly.

Victoria Peak

view from the Victoria Peak Tram


foggy day on Victoria Peak


trying illusion photos since it was a foggy day on Victoria Peak


Our group was driven down the mountain by motorcoach instead of the tram. We stopped about half-way down for a photo opportunity. At this elevation, we were below the fog and had a decent view of the city. It was at this stop that I saw several signs that said “No spitting”. We asked our guide what this was about and he told us it was aimed mainly at the Mainland China visitors. He explained that spitting is socially acceptable in Mainland China but not in Hong Kong. He said we would see what he meant during the rest of our travels through the country. I did not witness much spitting during the Beijing leg of our trip but I did in the other Chinese cities we visited. The spitting is not a simple ‘twpuh’. Instead, it is a loud, hawking, throat-clearing build-up before the actual expulsion. I’ll admit it made me chuckle each time I heard this. Traci was not amused.


All this led to a discussion on the complicated relationship between Hong Kong and Mainland China. Hong Kong was a British territory for a long time; hence, drivers drive on the opposite side of the road than in the Mainland. English is much more prevalent in Hong Kong. Hong Kong became part of China in 1997 but Hong Kong runs its own affairs. The language of Hong Kong is Cantonese Chinese whereas the language of the Mainland is Mandarin Chinese. The currency (Hong Kong Dollar) is different from the Mainland's RMB. Neither place accepts the other’s currency. We needed our passport and a multi-entry Chinese visa to travel from Hong Kong to the Mainland. There are other differences but you get the idea.

We were driven to a dock where we boarded a small Chinese boat called a sampan. Our destination was to a section of the harbor called the Aberdeen Fishing Village where the traditional “Boat People” live. They live on their sampans for most of the year and make a living by fishing. Their way of life is really dwindling. I don’t think I saw their community; however, I saw many fancy yachts as we navigated the harbor. We also went past the very elegant floating restaurant. Our guide told us it is really expensive to eat there.

Sampan Ride in Aberdeen Harbor


floating restaurant



Back on the bus, we were driven through the maze of skyscrapers and high-rises to get to our next destination. Hong Kong is the financial capital of Asia. It was a busy Monday morning with traffic galore. Hong Kong used to be a hub of manufacturing but much of that work has moved to Mainland China. We rode past several abandoned building. We arrived at what I thought might have been one of these abandoned buildings. As we exited the bus, we all commented on the wonderful smell of baked bread in the air. I am not sure where it was coming from. We entered a rather worn building entrance and were led upstairs for a jewelry presentation. Afterwards, we were released into a showroom where we had the opportunity to make purchases. Traci and I are not big on shopping these days. Traci at least had a look around the showroom. I, on the other hand, helped myself to the free soft drinks being offered and chatted with our fellow travelers.

Back on the bus we went so that we could be driven to our final stop of the tour - Stanley Market. Along the way, we rode past some coves with nice beaches. I wasn’t expecting to see beaches in Hong Kong but there they were. They were empty due to the rain.

Stanley Market is a street market. There is a knock-off section where you can buy imitation name brand products for cheap. Traci and I were only interested in buying a refrigerator magnet to add to our collection. We were able to find one before it was time to head back to the bus.

After being returned to the hotel, the rest of the day was at our leisure. Traci and I hit the streets in the pouring rain in search of lunch. I wanted noodles and/or Chinese dumplings. We strolled several blocks in the vicinity of our hotel. There were many mini shopping malls and eateries. One thing I noticed was the number of 7-11’s. There seemed to be one on every block and at least once, I saw two on the same block.

7-11 everywhere


Traci and I settled on an eatery inside one of the mini-malls when I saw a sign with pictures of what I was looking for. It was a very small restaurant in which the cash register was next to the stove. I felt like we were eating in someone’s kitchen. The menu was in Chinese and English. One of the waitresses spoke enough English to take our order. We ordered a bowl of noodles and some chicken wings. I asked for forks because I was not ready to try chopsticks. The plastic forks we were given were so flimsy that we could barely pick up the noodles. The waitress made a gesture in which she appeared to be offering assistance. I nodded yes and to my surprise, she came to our table with a pair of scissors. She stuck them in our bowl and began cutting up the noodles. That was unexpected.

Our wandering eventually led us back to the Victoria Harbor waterfront where our hotel was located. It was there where we saw upscale restaurants and chains such as Ruth Chris. We crossed the street via the pedestrian bridge to walk along the beautiful waterfront where we could see the city skyline in the background. We eventually crossed back over and ended up on the Avenue of Stars. This is an area where there were statues and tributes to some of Hong Kong’s most famous citizens such as Bruce Lee and Anita Mui. I had never heard of Anita Mui but I enjoyed reading the information posted about her. She was an actress and a mega pop star. She became synonymous with a music genre called Cantopop. She was referred to as Asia's Madonna.

Avenue of Stars

Bruce Lee



Jet lag was starting to get the best of us so we retreated back to our hotel for a nap before our next adventure. We had heard about the Temple Street Night Market and decided we would make it our destination for the evening. I checked with the concierge and the front desk for direction on how to get there. They gave me a map but I got different instructions on which subway stop was closest to the market. Nonetheless, we set off to into the night. There was a subway station just a block from our hotel. That was the most amazing subway station I had ever seen. It was like an underground city. It was huge. There were stores and eateries. Just like the airport, the floors were spotless. The place even smelled clean. There were people-mover conveyor belts like in the airports. We had to do quite a bit of walking to get to the ticket kiosks and train platforms. The kiosks were pretty simple to use once I figured out I was supposed to touch my destination on the screen to begin the transaction. I did ask for directions to the Night Market one more time. This time I asked at an information booth in the station. The young lady got rather frustrated with me when I was having trouble understanding her accent. She eventually grabbed a map, circled our stop, and then yelled the name of the stop, “Yau Mei Tei!”. There was no doubt of our destination at that point.

I was surprised to find that at 9 PM on a weeknight, the subway trains were packed. We were crammed in there so tight that I was having trouble finding something stationary to hold onto. I was afraid I was going to fall into the crowd as the train sped off. Fortunately, it was not long before we reached the Yau Mei Tei stop.

Finding Our Way

Hong Kong subway map


found our way to the Yau Mei Tei stop


I was in sensory overload as we emerged from the Yau Mei Tei subway station. The sidewalks were crowded with people. The streets were filled with cars, buses, taxis, and mopeds. There were neon signs and large digital billboards everywhere we looked. We were in a different part of town than the lively area near our hotel but this section of town seemed even livelier. It kind of reminded us of New York City except the traffic flowed in the opposite direction.

It was a 3-block walk to the Temple Street Night Market. The Temple Street Night Market is several blocks of pedestrian-only streets. Vendor tents are set up in the middle of these crowded streets. I could hear what sounded like live music but I wasn't sure which block it was coming from. There seemed to be many tourists in the area. As a result, we saw a lot of souvenir merchandise. However, just like Stanley Market which we had visited earlier that day, there were many other items being sold at the night market.

Temple Street Night Market


The air was filled with the aroma of all types of food. The sidewalks were lined with food stands and restaurant buildings serving food from around the world. I still wanted to try some Chinese dumplings. I was looking at a posted menu of one of the restaurants when a friendly host who spoke pretty good English invited us in to try the dish advertised on their poster board. We ended up ordering the dish along with spring rolls and a Sprite. The advertisement was a bit misleading as I thought the dumplings came with the bowl of soup also shown in the photo. Instead, we only got four small pork dumplings. They were tasty but definitely not filling. In fact, I hadn't had a filling meal since we left the States. I was beginning to believe this was going to be one of the rare occasions that I would actually lose weight on vacation.

It was around 10:30 PM when we left the restaurant. The night market crowd had thinned dramatically as the vendors were now packing up. Traci and I were headed back towards the subway station when Traci's sweet tooth kicked in. Therefore, we made a detour across the street to McDonald's so that she could get a sundae or something. We do not frequent the golden arches at home but it is fun to check out their menus in different countries. You can find some interesting items that are not sold at home. This McDonald's was no exception. Instead of the apple pie or cherry pie desserts we see at home, the McDonald's in China offer sweet taro pie or pineapple pie. We decided we had to try the sweet taro pie. The cool thing about McDonald's in this part of the world is that you can place your order through a kiosk and then hand your printout to a cashier. There is no need to deal with the language barrier. The sweet taro pie had a sweet purple filling with small chunks of taro in it. Traci did not like it but I did.

Dessert at McDonald's




The subway stations and trains were much less crowded during our trip back to our hotel. Our first full day in Hong Kong had been an exciting one full of new experiences. We were now confident we could get around the city on our own during tomorrow's day of leisure in which there were no tours scheduled for our group. Continue...


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