First stop: Shenzhen.
We were amazed at how easy it was to get to Shenzhen from Hong Kong International Airport. You simply follow signs for the Sky Pier, buy your ticket, hand over your baggage tags (if you had checked baggage on your flight), and then go to the pier to board. Someone picks up your bags, and you pick them up when you get to the ferry terminal in Shenzhen (Shekou).
Unfortunately though, we arrived into Shekou at lunch time. This meant that the visa-on-arrival desk was closed. You need a visa to get into China. We had to wait for an hour in the terminal until it opened again. It was closed from 13:30 – 14:30. But that aside, it was a seamless process.
We met our friend, Petula and her daughter, Viola, for a late lunch at Gaga (I think). We had delicious salads and fruity ice tea. I was so hungry I’d forgotten what I’d ordered and started eating Mr H’s salad instead of mine. Oops. Both were delicious.
Shenzhen is a new city – developed only in the last 30 years. The financial district (the very new part) is very well planned and laid out, with some impressive buildings. Back in 1999/2000 I had spent 6 months in China (Suzhou). Shenzhen really didn’t feel much like the China I remembered from 13 years ago. This may be because China has changed a lot, and probably because Shenzhen is such a new city. It still felt different to Hong Kong though. A bit more ‘China’ than that.
There isn’t a great deal for tourists in the city. But we enjoyed wandering around – the huge squares (some with line dancing – something which was familiar from my time in China at the turn of the century), the new smells and scenes. And we did visit one tourist attraction – Window Of The World. It has replicas of famous landmarks from around the world; some huge, some tiny. Everything from the Sydney Opera House to the Pyramids to Niagra Falls, the Eiffel Tower etc. An odd place, but something different! It was so hot and humid that Mr H had to go and buy a new shirt afterwards!
We ate some great meals whilst in Shenzhen – dimsum in the shape of little piggies and homecooked Chinese food being the highlights.
From Shenzhen we took the train to Hong Kong. It’s an easy ride, which takes about 40 minutes from the Chinese border to Hong Kong harbour (on the Kowloon side).
Hong Kong is a fantastic city – it has a real buzz to it. On the Kowloon side it feels very Chinese and on the Hong Kong island side it feels very cosmopolitan. On the first night we ate at a Thai hole-in-the-wall type restaurant in Kowloon Walled City. For years this area was ruled by gangs, but now it is full of Thai people, restaurants and shops. The food was so authentic and pretty cheap. Breakfast the next day was at the Australian Dairy Company. There was nothing Australian about it. Another hole-in-the-wall type place, that had a queue of about 40m snaking up the street. Service is brisk, the food is simple. But it is truly delicious. Their specialty is eggs. Scrambled eggs. I had scrambled eggs with bread. The others had macaroni soup + scrambled eggs with bread!
Having been to Hong Kong before we didn’t feel a strong urge to go and see lots of touristy things. Instead we wandered around some of the local department stores and walked along the Avenue of Stars, before heading out for more food. This time we went to Soho. It is such a change from what we’re used to in Manila – it was thronging with people, spilling out of bars and restaurants. Such a good atmosphere. We ate at a Greek restaurant and then went to meet Mr H’s friend for some drinks in a few bars.
On our last day we headed down to Aberdeen where one of my cousins, Pablo, lives. I was expecting it to be a bit more open than Central Hong Kong, but I was wrong – lots of densely packed, high rise apartment blocks. We jumped on a boat to Lamma island to go and get an early seafood dinner. A short ride across, and it is totally different to Hong Kong. Very quiet – just a line of seafood restaurants along the shore. We chose our fish, had it cooked up and enjoyed our meal with the sun going down over the bay. A great end to a great trip.