When we first saw the details of our holiday I have to say Hong Kong was a standout port of call amongst a very attractive itinerary. We have all heard about it but I amongst many others had never been lucky enough to visit. The sense of anticipation as we drew in to the harbour at sunrise was high.
There was a touch of sadness though, we had strung two offered cruise packages together, some of our new found friends were getting off here but there would be one last night together as they would be disembarking the next day.
The cruise terminal in Hong Kong is very smart and modern.
There was a free shuttle bus laid on to a choice of three railway stations and we had already decided this was one place you could easily get around under your own steam. With no pressure to get back in time for sailing on the first day we set off towards the city centre .
First impressions of the underground system were very positive. We were dropped off by coach at the entrance to Kowloon Bay shopping mall and then walked against the general flow of commuter traffic towards the station. A goodly walk, but the mall was in pristine condition.
On the station platform we were impressed by safety standards.There was no way you could get pushed on to the tracks in a crowd here.
The carriages themselves were spotless.
And working out which train you needed and it's progress along the route was simple to understand with illuminated lights showing along the mapped route on the carriage wall.
This shot was taken later that evening but shows the standard of cleanliness and is typical of most of the central stations that all seemed linked to air conditioned shopping malls.
Admittedly we did get off at the wrong station but that was my fault. We had gone over to Hong Kong island passing under the harbour were as our intention was to get the Star Ferry across. No worries, we used it to go back to the other side instead but first a quick look at the HK equivalent of Holywood's Avenue of the Stars. A pleasant promenade but not exactly memorable, possibly because we didn't recognise any of the actors.
The Star Ferry reminded me very much of the Mersey Ferry back in Liverpool. In all the modern surrounds they have a lovely nostalgic feel about them. Long may they continue to operate, they are superb value for money too ( unlike the Mersey Ferries out of commuter time!)
On the other side of the water life seemed pretty manic.
You can if you wish negotiate the streets or use the air conditioned walkways overhead. The shopping was jaw dropping. I have never been in a Mall before where I didn't want to walk in to s single shop as I knew the prices would be eye wateringly expensive. You name the brand, they have a store here. All premium labels too. None of your Debenhams or Lewis's. The Armani store was bigger than our local M&S!
Fortunately Claire isn't a shopping fan so we headed away from potential bankruptcy and in a bid to escape the crowds headed up the hill on a moving escalator system. Quite amazing and free of charge too, takes you some considerable height in a series of covered stairs. We went in search of the Botanic Gardens.... there might be some avian activity there... and soon found ourselves in HK's zoo.
Again free of charge, there was a large number of Asian primates being exhibited along with a few other species but we didn't hang around. I can't bring myself to taking pictures of captive animals, I don't know why.
After a little peace and quiet and for me a quick session in the gardens which held Magpie Robin, Red Whiskered Bulbul, Spotted Dove and Tree Sparrow of which only the latter gave a decent photo call.
although there were some fairly spectacular butterflies to look at too.
We went in search of the Peak tram station which takes you to the viewing platform high above the city.
We had decided to go there fairly early to avoid the crowds but we found that we didn't have to wait long to get on.
The views from the top are quite spectacular but visibility was far from perfect which I would guess is often the case. A mixture of cloud and heat haze making sharp images very difficult to obtain.
In this weather it was difficult to imagine Christmas was just around the corner but we were reminded by bumping in to the man himself.
I think this summed up HK for me. It's all very modern, very well run but the pace of life isn't for me.
Expensive shops, some poor person being sped off by ambulance, the city all around carries on as normal.
I guess it's probably the same in so many places around the world. I am lucky to be out of the rat race now and can choose to duck out when and where I want.
Technology passes me by so quickly I have a dial on my mobile phone which never gets used. We didn't see anyone actually going in to one of the expensive stores but the huge Apple store had queues all day with shoppers waiting to collect the orders they had placed on line, probably from within the store !
There is no sign of the pace slowing down either. HK is already ranked number one in the world for skyscrapers and it appears that they are plans for a lot more !
Way up in the sky though, wildlife does seem to live in harmony with their surrounds as this urban Black kite demonstrates.
We decided to hang around in the evening to witness the famous light show so after a pleasant drink watching the world go by and a rather mediocre but expensive Chinese meal we headed back to the Avenue of the Stars and waited for it all to begin.
The skyline is very impressive after dark. I had plenty of time to try getting my settings right.
Most of the time forgetting about the 1/60th minimum shutter speed for hand holding.
Still, not too bad I thought. Let the show begin.
Well it did and all I can say is that at best it was underwhelming.
A few laser lights that might have been impressive 30 years ago but surrounded by todays technology decidedly out of date. Ah, well. It was free so no complaints !
We headed back to the ship for a farewell drink with our little gang and started to think about what we should do the following day.
I couldn't face another day in the crowds so we got on the train and headed off in to the New Territories hoping to find a station where the surrounds looked appealing. After travelling for 30 minutes and discounting all the stations we stopped at we decided to turn around and go back. I suppose secretly I had hoped to end up at the Mai Po bird reserve but that would have been totally unfair to Claire. We headed back towards Kowloon having a quick peek in a shopping mall on arrival. I was interested to see the retail prices on camera gear and was unimpressed by the offerings in store. Prices were just a few pounds cheaper than the UK and not worth taking home although the one exception, Canon's latest DSLR the 7D2, was a couple of hundred cheaper.
We looked for a bit of sanity and found Nan Lian gardens and Chi Linn Nunnery. Claire sat and read while I had a wander. The gardens aren't huge but they are attractive.
They had a few interesting species too. Chinese Bulbul
Red Whiskered Bulbul in the ornamental pools
a delight to photograph
Overhead lots of Little Swift too distant to photograph with my 70-200mm lens but the Magpie Robin was more confiding.
Along with the Chinese Bulbul I added another lifer here, the Masked Laughing Thrush so it was far from a wasted journey. However, with no positive plan on what to do next we decided to head back to the ship. Claire was going to enjoy the sun which we hadn't seen much of up to that point, I was going to take a look at the nearby open water, which from the shuttle bus I had noted had a large Cormorant population. I could at least add them to my photo trip list. So, armed with my bigger 300mm lens and a 2.0x teleconverter off I went, happy as larry.
The Cormorants were still fairly distant, as were most things but to my surprise and delight there was a lot more to be seen than the Cormorants,
Great and Little Egret.
Black Crowned Night Heron
and along the water front, Pied Wagtail
Scaly Breasted Munia
and best of all, this female Daurian Redstart gave me the sort of shots I was looking for.
Along with Pied Kingfisher,Jungle Mynah and Chinese Pond Heron, Hong Kong had delivered the goods. My bird list had grown substantially all of a sudden.
To be honest,I saw very little of Hong Kong really. I am told there are some delightful spots where you can find peace and tranquility however, on arrival I was envious of our friends who were staying for a few days. After two, I was ready to depart but I won't say I don't want to go back either.
Still, next stop was Ho Chi Minh City,Vietnam .... well sort of.