Tuesday 1 March 2011

Hong Kong - Day 2

Despite our late return to the ship the previous night, Katie was determined to get up early and catch a tender to the shore as early as possible this morning. At 8am, tickets would start to be issued onboard Arcadia to control the flow of people using the limited capacity of the tender ferries. So we decided to catch one before that started, and so we got up, had some breakfast and got back onto the tender ferry at 7.45am. In hindsight it was a very good idea, but I didn't think that at 6.30am when my alarm went off, and we'd only had a few hours sleep.
Our limited plan for the day was to head back to Stanley Market to see the rest of it and so we caught the local bus (number 6) from the bus station, paid the fare of about 3 pounds for 4 of us and arrived 40 minutes later after enjoying the same stunning scenery that we had experienced yesterday from the coach.
Knowing that we didn't have any time limits today made it much more enjoyable, and I added a couple of items to the list of things I'd bought yesterday. Yesterday I found a nice waterproof jacket - easy to pack away in case of emergency showers, I could have done with that in Brisbane and Pago Pago - and today I found a replacement for my phone case which I'd lost a few weeks ago in the Aquarius bar onboard Arcadia. Katie bought a new memory card for the video camera at cost price after striking up a conversation with the shop owner about how she worked for the company that made them!
We left on the same bus at about 1pm with the intention of getting off near to "Ocean World", as the name suggests, a wildlife park where, strangely, they also had a couple Pandas. Maybe they were saltwater Pandas. But it wasn't to be. The bus, unknown to us, didn't travel the same route on the way back, and instead climbed into the mountains on its way back to the bus station. It was a shame, and not for the first time this trip, we found ourselves on a magical mystery tour, not really sure of where we were or where we would end up. Still it was all part of the adventure. As it was lunchtime, we decided to get off at a random stop where it looked like there might be somewhere to eat, and succeeded in finding somewhere suitable - with free wifi - bonus!
After lunch and after we'd found our bearings (which wasn't easy, even with the use of my phone and GPS) we walked back towards town. It was a nice walk, although along a busy street, and it was getting warmer and sunnier too. We reached a more commercial area of town which had lots of tall buildings on each side of the 3 lane road, shops on the ground, offices and appartments above. The pavements were full of people, it was like Oxford street the week before Christmas, just with taller buildings. Keeping all 4 of us together was proving touch so we decided to split from Trevor and Jean so that we could do our own thing. I'd been looking to take advantage of the lower prices in Hong Kong to buy a new personal laptop, and I'd been keeping my eyes open the whole time we were here without much success. Most of the electronic shops we'd seen so far, were small and didn't have much, if any, choice. So it was with some luck that in the last couple of hours before heading back, we stumbled across a large electronics outlet with a good choice. We spent over an hour in there looking, debating, looking again, comparing, asking questions and finally found one I liked at a price that I thought was reasonable. It's been a while since I bought a new computer, so Katie helped a lot with her insider knowledge of processors and memory options! As we'd been conditioned to do for the past 2 days, it wouldn't have been right to walk out of the shop without asking for a discount! I got a small one, plus a free mug and a USB lamp, both of which looked like they were being given to everyone who had shown even a vague interest in buying something. Still I'm happy with it, and can now play and edit those HD videos that the video camera is producing. For those who are interested, I know there might be a few who are reading this, it's a Dell Inspiron N3010 (13") with 2GB memory and an Intel i3 processor running Windows 7 Home Premium. If you find the best price you can in the UK, I'll tell you how much I paid :-)
We'd left ourselves with enough time to reach the pier again where we'd agreed to meet with the others at 5pm, but I was still getting a little nervous. The last ferry was scheduled at 5.20pm and after that, well, I'm not sure as we didn't have our passports with us. Missing the tender ferry didn't bear thinking about. With the use of my phone and Katie's paper map, we headed off in the general direction and knew we really didn't have far to go, but when we reached a main road with no way of crossing it, we got ourselves a bit lost in the maze of walkways, shopping centres and convention centres that sat between us and the waterside. You might think that it would have taken a fool (or even 2 fools) to manage such a feat, but I promise you it wasn't straight forward. The frustrating thing was that we could see where we wanted to be, but couldn't find a way of getting down to ground level, or onto a walkway that took us where we wanted. As time marched on, we started running up and down escalators, looking for exits that would take us to the correct side of the buildings, it all got a bit manic. When we asked someone who worked in the maze of hotels, he told us to go back the same way we'd come, and it must have been the look of exasperation on our faces that made him change his mind and redirect us through a concrete car park and a bus depot before we started to feel we were on the right track. It was the feeling of not knowing how far we had to go, and a real sense of being lost that made it worse. We finally got back to the pier, substantially more sweaty and out of breath than our fellow passengers, just after 5 and much to our relief! It turns out that they had also had issues, which made us feel better.
After all that, we had to wait onboard the tender for quite a while before we departed back to the ship as it was the last one of the day. We've caught the last one of the day several times before, and we usually have to wait for the previous tender to reach the ship and unload so that they can count the people onboard Arcadia, before the last tender leaves shore. Then they know how many people they're leaving behind, or whether everyone is accounted for.
Every night in Hong Kong, there is a big light and laser show. A lot of the bigger commercial names who own the buildings put on a sycronized show set to music that you can see from Kowloon, or the best place, from the water. We'd been informed that day that Arcadia would be sailing that evening just as the show was taking place. As with most of the ship, we were stood outside in our favourite bar at the back at 8pm. The temperature had started to drop away, but it was still warm in a jumper. The railings were lined with people, and somehow they had managed to pipe the music and commentary from ashore, onto the ships speakers. We stood on a raised area around the swimming pool as we slowly sailed through the harbour waters between Hong Kong island and Kowloon. Hong Kong is best seen at night anyway, but with the music and the light show, it was a really magical view. Some of the buildings had search lights sweeping the sky, others had neon lights that covered the entire front of the building and changed colours as we sailed by. Green lasers danced and pierced the night sky and reflected off the clouds on both sides of the ship, and the "regular" towers with their huge lighted signs on top, and windows below filled in the gaps between the main performers. I don't know anywhere else in the world where you could get this kind of view. Without exaggeration, it made the Manhattan skyline look normal. As a sail-away, it rivaled our departure in Sydney.

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