Asia to Australia

In the end we catch a taxi to Chek Lap Kok airport and arrive at terminal one with a couple of hours to spare. We haven’t eaten so make our way to an Italian restaurant. I have anti pasto and the kids and Simon have pasta. Not very Asian for our last meal in Asia but hey!

The flight to Singapore goes swimmingly, we are lucky enough to be on a brand new airbus with the most up to date on board computer thing. There is power to recharge the PSP’s, word processing and USB connections. Plus over 100 films on demand and loads of other gadgety stuff. Added to this is the bonus that the plane is half empty and we have lots of room to spread out. Yeh!

We hardly have time to get from one plane to the next at Singapore (half an hour) before we set off again this time bound for Sydney Australia. This plane unfortunately isn’t as good and full. The fella sat behind me isn’t too impressed when I put my seat back but as I am being squashed by the fat chunker in front of me who has pushed his seat right back I don’t have much choice. In the end after putting up with him punching the back of my seat, continually touching my hair and then apologising loudly and generally being an arse, I take a sleeping tablet.

I lie there listening to my MP3 player, drifting in and out of sleep and reliving our time spent in Asia. I do cry a bit, I feel really empty and heartbroken that we are leaving and if I had the choice would definitely head back to Bangkok and then onto Cambodia and maybe Laos. Despite the fact that almost everyone I know who has visited Australia seems to love it I’m not too sure how I feel about going there. I know Simon and the kids feel differently and I’m determined to make the most of our time anyway.

I wake up half an hour before we are due to land, fairly refreshed and having slept for about 5 hours. I feel a grim sense of satisfaction when I hear the knobhead behind me complaining of having had no sleep at all and I make a point of exclaiming loudly how well I slept in the hope of pissing him off. We buy a speaker for my MP3 player with the vouchers that we were given by Singapore Airline way back at the start of our trip.

We get our gear and catch a shuttle bus to the Virgin Blue part of the airport where we check in once again, this time for Cairns. We are all completely knackered by now and the kids crash out until 9.30am. By 1030 we are once again in the sky and the flight attendants are kind giving the kids something to lean on as they struggle to get comfortable. Finally we land around 1.30pm, another long journey over and I’m so glad.

We get in a taxi and head for Cairns City Backpackers Hostel. I’m a little upset when we arrive to find a notice on the door saying they are closed and will be back in about 2 and a half hours. I’m too exhausted to make a fuss though and sit there like a weary turtle with my rucksack still attached too tired to even take it off. Simon goes off up the road and phones the fella who arrives apologising about 20 minutes later. He shows us to our room, not so good we had wanted 2 separate rooms and have ended up with a 4 bedded dorm. He also informs us that although the hostel price includes dinner at a restaurant in town. (One of the reasons we booked it) the kids won’t be able to get theirs as the place is licensed and they won’t be allowed in – great. He does give us 4 dollars off the room and a couple of internet vouchers but we’re still a bit fed up.

By now it’s raining heavily but we have to go out to get some food. We trudge off to the local shopping mall but as its mostly closed end up eating at a restaurant. The food is good we have pie and chips and wolf it down. Wander back to the hostel and crash out on the bed, it’s only around 8pm but we’re all asleep by about 5 past.

Shopping

I woke up first as usual around 8.30 this morning. We spend the morning completely unpacking our rucksacks and compiling a massive pile of stuff including CD’s, clothes, entrance tickets and souvenirs to send home. Our packs have been so stuffed over the past few weeks I was worried some of the zips might break but luckily they have held up well and are all intact.

We have some fruit for breakfast that we bought from the 7-11 next door in an effort to try and save some cash and then head off out to the mall. Simon buys a few new clothes and we get the kids some new sunglasses. We also take Ali’s guitar to a nearby music shop. He has been gutted over the last week as the strings have started to buzz and despite changing them it hasn’t improved. The fellas in the shop are cool and explain that the change in temperature from Beijing to Lijiang to Hong Kong have caused the neck and frets to move slightly. Anyway a bit of fiddling around and tapping at the frets and it sounds great to Ali’s delight.

We go out in the evening to a Japanese restaurant and have a fabulous meal. We weren’t too sure of the portion sizes and when it arrived I thought we had over ordered but we ate most of it and agreed cooking our own food at the table was good fun and well worth the money.

Its 1130 now and i’m in bed – last night at The Holiday Inn and I do feel a bit sad. At last our Asia adventure is over and we are flying to Singapore tomorrow at 4pm and then onto Sidney. We will arrive in Australia around 6 in the morning and have booked a further flight straight onto Cairns. We had originally planned to work our way up through Queensland to The Great Barrier Reef and then back down again for our flight to New Zealand at the start of July but when we investigated into trains/buses this morning found it would be cheaper to fly.

Going to sleep now last night in a comfy bed for a while I guess.

Hong Kong Island & Victoria Peak

We have had a very good if tiring day today. Although we had set the alarm for 9am I was wide awake by 7.30 and up writing a few emails by 8. We have planned to spend the day sight seeing and after breakfast at Starbucks we set off on The Star Ferry for Hong Kong Island. The famous ferry has been taking passengers across Victoria Harbour for over 100 years and we told the kids Simon may have been on that exact ferry when he lived in Hong Kong as a baby!

From the ferry port we caught a bus up to The Peak. This is an expensive area to live in, as it is cooler and breezy up here and the views across the harbour are, on a clear day outstanding. The kids made us laugh they loved the bus ride and claimed never to have been on a double decker bus before. I’m not to sure about that but -simple things!

At the top we wander around taking a few photos before making our way up to the viewing platform on the top of a shopping and restaurant complex. We stop off for a drink and lunch at a Forrest Gump themed place. The food and the views are great but oh so pricy! Maisie has a blue drink that costs a fiver and despite the fact that it’s nothing more than slush and not very pleasant we all have a swig when she can’t finish it!

On the way down, we stop off at a gaming station where Ali kicks my arse in a boxing match on the Xbox and I have a go on Need for Speed Carbon on Nintendo Ds. Next on our list of things to do is ride the worlds longest escalator, this is Maisie’s choice but before we reach it we get distracted by the shops. We buy some CD’s- The View, Arctic Monkey’s, Towers of London and The Fray. They are quite expensive, around the same cost as in England but we are desperate for some new sounds on our MP3 players and don’t mind paying. We also buy a Lonely Planet Guide to Australia and NZ and choose the “On a shoe string” version as finances are starting to look a little tighter these days.

The world’s longest escalator turns out to be “nothing short of thrilling”(Sarcasm) even Maisie gets fed up and we decide to head back to Kowloon. We catch the MRT back to Nathan Road and Maisie and I take advantage of the rooftop pool for an hour. Its good having a bit of luxury, I feel of all the places we have stayed during our trip that Hong Kong has the most potential for having much fun and it’s cool to be staying somewhere really nice.

In the evening we go to a Brazilian style restaurant and have a great time. We have a buffet that includes lots of different types of salads, vegetables and puddings and the waiters continually bring different skewers to the table. The choices include legs of lamb, racks of beef, pork ribs, goose, sausages, chicken legs and squids to name just a few. We had a flag on the table to indicate if you want the waiters to keep offering and Simon was in 7th heaven! We have a bottle of red wine and leave there having once again overeaten with the sound of Brazilian guitars ringing in our ears.

Get back to The Holiday Inn and plan our last few days in Asia which basically results in no plan. We had thought about going to Disneyland tomorrow but having looked it up on the internet it isn’t geared towards older kids at all with Space Mountain being the only big ride. We weigh up the costs and in the end decide to give it a miss. We’ll think of something to do in the morning.

Hong Kong Museums

We wake up to warm, humid sunshine. Hurray! What a relief after the cooler weather of mainland China. My first impressions of Hong Kong are really good. It looks exactly as I expected with massive tall buildings, bright neon signs everywhere, narrow, dingy alley ways and a distinctly Asian feel. I love it! Feeling very at home here already, Nathan Road reminds me a bit of our favourite city Bangkok and I can’t wait to get out and about.

We walk up the road and find a French style deli for breakfast. We only have fruit and yogurt but it still comes to over 12 quid. (170 Hong Kong dollars) Scary! We head off first for the History Museum and what a great choice. It’s so good here, we have a brilliant few hours wandering around the exhibits and I could have easily stayed for longer. We largely ignored the ancient history and concentrated on trying to explain to the kids the more recent events as they have shaped Hong Kong.

In the late 16th century trade between China and Europe began in earnest. There was a huge demand for Chinese tea and silk but unfortunately there was nothing the Europeans could offer the Chinese until they began running opium into the country. The British had a virtually inexhaustible supply from the poppy fields of Bengal in India and by the start of the 1800′s opium was the basis of nearly every British/Chinese transaction.

China’s attempts to stamp out the trade included confiscating and destroying a massive shipment of the drug which had left millions of Chinese in the grip of addiction, but this gave the British a reason for military action against China. In 1841 a British naval landing party hoisted the Union flag on Hong Kong Island and in 1860 Britain took possession of the Kowloon peninsula. In 1898 a lease was granted for the New Territories and it would be another 99 years before Hong Kong was finally handed back to China.

We also learnt a lot about the Japanese Occupation of Hong Kong and some of the natural disasters that have happened here including typhoon damage. There are some examples of the so called “spirit money” here also. I love this Chinese custom. The Chinese are very superstitious and honour their dead ancestors in many different ways including providing them with paper offerings of every conceivable thing they could need in the after life. These paper cars, houses and domestic appliances etc are burnt on the graves of the dead. We also see some massive Chinese dragons.

By now the kids are flagging a bit and we head off to the space museum where we spend an hour looking at space suits, planets and solar systems. (Not really as interesting I thought but they seemed to quite like it!)

We go to Pizza Express for lunch and then to the hairdressers. Maisie and I are so desperate for a haircut and I end up having my fringe chemically straightened as well. Whether it will last as long as the fella reckoned I don’t know but we’ll see! It’s not that cheap at 27 quid but in comparison to prices in England a bargain I guess!

We spent the rest of the evening quietly enough, had dinner in a local place which was good and fairly cheap at 11 quid and then walked along the harbour front. Feeling very tired now so off to bed.

Hong Kong

After going through customs and immigration we caught the KCR rail line to Kowloon. We have booked some accommodation, through the hostelworld website we have been using throughout China, in “Chungking Mansions” on Nathan Road. Described as the crumbling home to scores of guesthouses our expectations aren’t very high and we’re not surprised to find a real dump when we arrive. Still it would have been ok apart from the completely unreasonable owner. It was a long story but in the end Simon and him had a big row over the state of the room and the cost and we decided to cut our losses and try elsewhere.

Right next door is The Holiday Inn. Simon has been saving points up on a loyalty card that allows us some free accommodation at Holiday Inns and we decide now is as good a time as any to use them. Hong Kong is a very expensive destination and any decent place will cost around 90-100 pounds a night so we go for that. It’s in a great location 5 minutes walk from Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong’s famous skyline. What a treat, after our time spent in China it’s a luxury to be in a good hotel and we can’t wait to jump in the bath and sample the complimentary bits and pieces.

We head off out for dinner and chose an Indian restaurant with good reviews. We are fairly conservative with our order but despite this our bill still comes to 47 quid. Oh my god, so glad we won’t be here too long.

At 8pm we go to the harbour front to watch the nightly light show. It’s very cloudy but it’s still really great. The lasers cut across the sky and the tall skyscrapers are lit with every different colour. It’s beautiful like a firework display and has a slightly surreal feel to be gazing out across the choppy water in the humid, warm breeze. Simon gets some fantastic photos to show off on our site.

We get back to the hotel and make some plans for tomorrow. We have discovered that all of Hong Kong’s museums are free on Wednesdays so plan to take advantage of this and will be heading off for a bit of history and culture.