Thursday May 12, 2016

“An enigmatic city of skyscrapers, ancient traditions and heavenly food!” – that’s how one writer describes Hong Kong. And, although we’ve only had 24 hours in which to do it, we’ve managed to sample all three. The skyscrapers were obvious as we left the vast International Airport and drove through forests of glass-&-concrete towers and vertical housing en route to our beds in the downtown Marco Polo Prince Hotel. The ancient traditions are harder to spot in this mostly-modern, money-driven, rapidly changing metropolis – but they were waiting here and there for us and our cameras: for example, in the colourful Taoist temple we visited late yesterday afternoon. And the heavenly food? Well, that just kept coming last night, dish after delectable dish, as we sat down to our first ‘yum char’ feast in a rather posh Hong Kong restaurant.

We have (as you’ve probably gathered) arrived … and this Mad Midlife Chinese Adventure is actually underway. Our 11-hour-plus flight from Godzone passed without a hitch or a hiccup, and the Cathay Pacific crew fed and watered us in style! We touched down around 9-ish in the evening, and enjoyed lit-up views of crowded, colourful Hong Kong (and its spectacular bridges and tunnels) through the windows of our coach.

7.3 million people are somehow jammed into Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories – a combined area of 1100 square kilometres (that’s roughly the size of urban Auckland). Most of them speak Cantonese (whereas most on the Chinese mainland speak Mandarin). We rode a cable-car up steep cliffs to Victoria Peak for some panoramic views … enjoyed a sampan ride amongst the rich-boys’ yachts and humble fishing boats of Aberdeen Harbour … and tried bargain-hunting in the famous Stanley Market.

(No, Ethel, none of these places sound very Chinese. But you can blame that on the British, who forcibly grabbed control of this key location at the end of the Opium Wars, in the mid-1800s – and didn’t give it back until July 1, 1997.)

STILL TO COME: Next up, we’re in for a treat, flying south into Mainland China and beautiful, semi-tropical Guilin – a region of stunning landscapes described as “the best under heaven”. So watch this space …

PEOPLE-NEWS: Our internationally renowned Quacky Yellow Ducks are looking for new homes as people get caught doing silly, embarrassing or hilarious things …

  • Sherrol claimed the first duck, winning our “Check-In Check-Mate” Award before we’d even left Auckland. She was spotted standing happily in the Malaysian Airlines check-in queue instead of the Cathay Pacific … but was quickly rescued and restored to the bosom of our group. 

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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