Monday 16 May
Arriving at 7am after the 11.5 hour flight from London, Sylvia headed for the rather dingy Cathay arrivals lounge where she spent the day waiting for her connecting flight to NZ. I jumped the speedy airport express and in 30mins was in a taxi heading to long time friend Pat’s place. Taxis here don’t take cards so the poor driver had to take me to a money machine after i handed him a card to pay. After dropping my bag at Pats I went for a stroll.
Hong Kong can best be described by saying they drive on the left but walk on the right. Heading into the wet markets where the locals get their food it’s utter chaos – raw meat hanging unrefrigerated, the smell of rotting vegetables and raw fish.
In spite of Pat leaving excellent instructions on how to bus and train to his work I decided to walk. On the stroll to the ferry terminal I encountered major construction work with guides standing around to direct one through the detour route. A quick ferry trop to Tsim Sha Tsu with its flash Rolex and Tiffany shopsturned into normal cheap shops not too far down the road.
It was interesting to note that all the shops are grouped together. You get a block of toy shops then kitchen and so on. So if you want to buy a big pot you have about six big pot shops all together.
The streets are jammed with cars, the footpaths with people. The pace is slow. It’s a constant effort to avoid the head down people with eyes glued to there mobiles. A few kms out the ground starts to rise, the footpath intertwined with merging motorways; at one stage it runs out so a dash across the road and over barriers is required. The road heads up around the west side of Kan Shan Country Park. Here monkeys run along the guard road on the edge of the foot path. One I watch steals some food from a rather angry iguana.
A couple of hours into the journey the road starts dropping down to the Shi Tin and Shing Mun River area. Here high rise apartments rise with a back drop of the jungle on the hills behind. A huge sewerage plant is nestled in the gully. The foot path descends steeply to the flat land at the bottom. “Moments like these i do wonder just how long my knees are going to last”
The last 5ks are flat, the last two or so along the banks of the smooth waters of the river. The foot and bike ways are wide with lots of activities including line dancing and board games being played out along the way.
Arriving at the Hong Kong Sports Institute i was greeted by Pat. Pat is the Scientific Conditioning Manager at this huge complex which trains elite athletes for both the Olympic and Asian games. Apart from all the normal sports they also train jockeys Karate, Kung Fu and fencing athletes. Pat and I did karate together through the eighties, he was also an instructor at the then Institute of Sport, the gym I went to. Much more funding is put into sport here than in NZ with elite athletes being paid quite well. Unfortunately photos were not allowed.
After a tour of of the many areas we caught the train and bus back to town. We had missed the rush hour but it still seemed a pretty packed train to me. Back in town we visited a few local bars where Pat was greeted with a big smile and handshake. We dined at Beef & Liberty on Wing Fung St where i had the best burger i have ever tasted, along with a nice bottle of Pinot.
Tuesday 17 May
Pat kindly had organised a late start so we strolled up to his local breakfast place. It’s amazing to observe the construction going on around here. They seem to build in places one would think impossible. Tall buildings being renovated have bamboo scaffolding running twenty stories plus high.
Pat headed off to work and I took an east-bound tram to check out the city. After covering not much distance in an hour of the same scenery (tall buildings with small shops at the bottom) l headed back.
I found a temple at the top of Stone Nullah Lane. Here people came to do their thing by lighting large bunches of incense, kneeling and shaking them, before distributing them in various parts of the temple.
This old lane apparently used to be a river running to the shoreline at the bottom. It is full of small engineers, sheet metal, mechanics and other work shops. A BMW sits on the street outside one shop bonnet up and injectors removed. Space is at a premium in this town.
As I write this we are about to land in Auckland. I actually have quite a bit of work to do before Sylvia and I leave for Mexico and the US on Sunday.