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Pete's Churchill Odyssey 2005

3rd Dec 2005
Mong Kok

Saturday, 3rd December, 2005
Today, we’re on our own and Anne has big plans for the markets.
The day started early with e-mail rendezvous with both boys – about 6am our time and 10pm the night before, for them back home. We wandered down to breakfast at about 9. Not nearly the same number of people, quite probably because we’re later, but also perhaps because it’s a Saturday.
We then walked along to the markets at Mong Kok and Anne began to seriously began to sort through the stalls.
I have never been in a place where there was quite so much stuff that I had no intention of buying. There was nothing. Not a thing!
Anne finally got into one or two side shops that were stocking oddments of clothes but it was a question of working your way through hundreds and hundreds of garments in order to find one or two ‘labels’ which were nice. Its like a huge charity shop … the clothes, once you rummage them out are very cheaply priced and fore quantity, there’s usually a bit of leeway for bargaining.
We also walked the Flower market and the Goldfish market – the latter just tanks, bags and shops full of fish – goldfish, tropical fish, salt water fish. We saw a tank of ‘Nemos’ for sale and a few yellow tangs, quite possibly originating from Joe’s business in Hawaii. Just up from the flower market is the bird market. With stacks of small song birds in tiny bamboo cages, parrots, sulphur crested cockatoos, mynahs and love birds.
… and then there’s the dogs and cats. Beautiful little pups and kittens playing around in pens … and right in the middle of all the pet shops a dodgy looking fry-up joint which presumably purchases the ‘left-overs’.
At the bird market, some of the traders stood around holding small birds in the sunlight, perhaps to make them sing, others just had ranks of cages all stacked up on the street. All the birds looked as if they’d simply been plucked from the wild and the cockatoos in particular, all stood right at the end of their perches with chained legs extended. They stood trying to get as far away from the anchor point as possible.
We ended up somewhere in a huge shopping plaza; obviously a local one as there were no other western faces discernible in the thousands of people packed in there. We went up to the food hall on the fifth floor which was just a babble of Chinese voices – you literally couldn’t hear yourself talk.
Only one of the stalls had any bi-lingual characters labelling the food and that was a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet and so much to Anne’s disgust, that was the hostellery where I decided to get a bite to eat. I don’t think I’ve ever had a KFC before and possibly a Hong Kong-cooked ‘chicken zinger’ is not a very fair judgement on normal KFC cuisine … or maybe it is?
Anne, on the other hand, fancied her chances at a dim sum bar several shops along the way and managed to order something after a lot of shouting and pointing. We managed to secure one seat at a table with three Chinese and so I stood around chewing my way through my zinger while Anne slurped her way through dim sum with the rest of them. One of the Chinese eventually left and I grabbed his seat.
We walked back to the hotel Back to hotel fairly directly and had an hours sleep.
As the second part of the hotel package we have a “Pre-dinner cocktail cruise of the harbour” which should deposit us back on the wharf in time for the 8pm light show.
We caught the Number 7 but from opposite the hotel – not the “Public-Light-Bus-16-Seats” which I’d sort of been hoping for but a commodious double decker. The driver didn’t speak any English and couldn’t be bothered or perhaps didn’t have the time to get involved I trying to get the correct fare off us and just waved us on board. We sat upstairs, side windows open and looked at all the street level bustle and the lights coming on as dusk fell.
It took about 20 minutes to get to Tsim Sha-tsui (or somewhere like that) and we then fought our way through the subway and found ourselves at Kowloon Pier Number 3 and 4 where we made contact with our operastors; “Water Tours”.
Standing on the wharf and watching the various boats and junks bobbing around like corks made us feel quite queasy, but luckily when our boat made its final approach to the dock it looked fairly substantial and stable.
The lights of Hong Kong looked even better after three very large and complimentary gins from the bar and we were on the water about an hour and a half – some of our other travellers were dropped off at buses and restaurants along the way, but we stayed the course and were deposited back on the wharf at about ten to eight.
The Hong Kong light show is, perhaps not quite as described by an English couple standing next door to us, “the greatest free show on earth” but it is fifteen minutes of spectacular, co-ordinated flashing lights and laser. Unfortunately, you have to be standing along the wharf at Ocean Terminal in order to get full benefit of the music which the lights are set to; we just imagined what it must be like.
Ocean terminal was mobbed with people looking at the new Christmas decorations and watching the switching on of the Christmas lights (velly exciting!) It was a completely over the top display of tinsel, baubles and ribbons with thousands of Chinese having their pictures taken beside the display.
We had dinner at Stonegrill, Ocean Terminal another major gastronomic event worthy of note. Here you choose your food and they bring it along with some little slabs of stone heated to about 400 degrees and you cook your own. As you’ll see from the pics, I got 4oz of steak and 4 oz of tuna. It was fantastic.
Before they bring the stuff along to you they come and pin aprons round your neck and as Anne had her jacket over the back of her chair, that gets a special zip on cover as well. Once you’ve been fitted with the appropriate protective clothing, you then get a safety talk about the implications of touching a 400 degree lump of stone and then you get a cookery demonstration.
We were stuffed after that lot, but worked some of it off jogging our way through the streets in order to make sure we met up with the hotel courtesy bus at the back of the Peninsula at 10.30. We just made it and enjoyed the trip back to up the Metropole though a busy Sunday night in Hong Kong.

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