11pm 17th November
It’s really the end now. I’m typing this from the departure lounge of Hong Kong International Airport. We’ve had a great couple of days in Hong Kong.
Yesterday we spent some time scouring the markets on Hong Kong Island for various artifacts to fill our hand luggage with. The markets were quite manic, but not as mad as we’d thought they’d be. After buying too much stuff we headed up to the Peak: An area of Hong Kong on a hill overlooking the main throng. My brother-in-law, Jeremy, had booked us a table on one of the restaurants with a stunning view out over Hong Kong. Some nice shots from there, and a good meal.
Today we headed over to Ocean Park for some theme-park fun. It was a fun day, lots of animal attractions which we love and a fab mile long cable car ride across the harbour to the headland. We seemed to have picked the last day of term though; it was chock full of school kids. Oh well, we enjoyed ourselves despite the insane crowds.
After Ocean Park we headed to the mainland, Kowloon. There we drank in the utter madness of the markets there. The markets on the mainland are absolutely nuts compared to the relative tranquillity of HK island’s market. Tons of cheapo stuff, we managed to get away with only buying a £6 new handbag for Ness! Following our shopping we visited the Felix bar which commands stunning views out across to HK island, and some amazing loos — the urinals make it look like you’re relieving yourself right out over Kowloon!
Next stop was the Intercontinental Hotel for a bite to eat and more views, this time from the ground. Nice jazz playing too, was nice to hear some live music. All too soon we had to make our way back on the ferry, pack and get ourselves here to the airport.
Our flight’s in a couple of hours, so til then we’re just trying to keep awake. The 14-hour flight leaves at 1am but gets in at 6am local time, so we need to keep awake and then sleep on the flight if we’re to have any hope of mitigating the jet lag.
So…this really is the end of what has been a tremendous holiday. Neither Ness nor I have ever done anything on this scale before; and we’re not likely to ever be able to do so again! I can honestly say I’ve had the best holiday ever. There’s not one thing I regret doing, or worse; not doing. New Zealand was everything we hoped it would be, and our various stop overs were excellent fun too. As an added bonus after 5 weeks of living in extremely close proximity to each other, Ness and I haven’t even had a single argument!
If I were to find one thing from this holiday which has changed me, it would be my new appreciation of how wonderful and amazing the world is. You can only get a taste of it from watching things on TV, but actually being there and experiencing it is so much more powerful. The views and scenery we’ve in a small way captured on camera, but the experiences of swimming with dolphins, seeing whales and other marine mammals, skydiving, paddling about on a beautiful fjord, watching shooting stars in the southern hemisphere and so on…these things we can’t capture and can only hope we remember for what they were: amazing.
Anyway, enough of such prattling. I’m knackered, my body clock is striking something like 4am but I had to stay up a bit longer and get on a plane, back to normality. I’m painfully aware I’m wittering on, but I made a rule on these blog entries to write what I thought at the time and not get involved in editing and re-writing the entries. That way I hoped to capture what I was really feeling at the time, and not end up writing some sanitised travelogue. More cynical people might of course just blame it on laziness…
Filed under: New Zealand Trip
Posted at 15:27:42 GMT on 17th November 2006.
Hong Kong Phooey
8am 16th November
Somewhat jet-lagged, I’m awake naturally at 8am. We’re here, finally, in our hotel room in Hong Kong. Our flight from Sydney was delayed by an hour or so due to strong head winds from connecting flights; then those same winds slowed us too. We landed at Hong Kong and made our way through security and customs, then hailed a taxi to the hotel. The journey was quite something — Hong Kong at night is a spectacle, so many huge buildings, so many lights. It was more how I had imagined Tokyo to be than Tokyo actually was!
The hotel was teeming with people milling around, we weren’t mentally prepared for it. After the peace and tranquillity of New Zealand it was a culture shock. Soon we discovered why it was so busy: So many flights had been delayed, lots of guests were still in their rooms in the hotel. Our room wasn’t ready; despite us being late ourselves. We were given access to a shower and a free dinner, but it was still 10pm before we could get into our own room. Retrospectively I think we should have kicked a bit more of a fuss up about it, but being awake for nearly 24 hours and our brains weren’t quite ready.
Nevertheless, it was lovely to get some sleep. The room is fairly nice; we can just about see the harbour (through some nasty-looking buildings). Internet access at last too; though I need to buy some wireless access cards to get access. Despite there being 24 wireless network access points within range, none are set up for free access; boo!
Filed under: New Zealand Trip
Posted at 15:25:58 GMT on 16th November 2006.
Bye bye Aotearoa
6:15am 15th November
Hopefully our last early morning. The alarm went off at 4:15 this morning and boy it hurt. Ness and I are both suffering from a bit of a cold, which didn’t help us get up. Yesterday we visited a wildlife park to finally see our first live kiwi. They’re very odd-looking creatures; cute though! We then dropped off the van at the rental place and in doing so discovered that Christchurch airport closes overnight! Unlike the 24/7 Heathrow, we couldn’t just go in early and then doze on a seat until 4am — we’d have to get a hotel for the night.
We checked in at the hotel opposite the airport, and boy am I glad we did so now. A proper shower and whatnot and at least a few hours’ decent kip mean that this morning wasn’t quite as awful as it could have been. Next door to the hotel was the Antarctic Experience — an attraction demonstrating the wonders of the Antarctic. It was pretty good too: it certainly killed a couple of hours anyway. After that we had dinner in the hotel, then had an early night.
We’re now just waiting to board our first plane of the day — a flight to Sydney. At Sydney we have a 3 hour wait to transfer to a flight to Hong Kong; and our adventure continues! Still no wireless internet here — I’m hoping our hotel room in HK has a decent internet connection and I can finally upload all these stories!
Update: finally got half-decent (well…shite really but that’s another story) internet access. Fixed xania.org (yay) and hopefully it won’t break again until I get home!
Filed under: New Zealand Trip
Posted at 23:27:33 GMT on 14th November 2006.
Kiwi at last
5:45pm 13th November
Last real day today, and now we’re all parked up at our last camp stop it’s all rather sad. I really don’t want this trip to be over; and really it isn’t as we still have several days in Hong Kong yet. But nonetheless it does feel like it’s over.
Yesterday we enjoyed our visit to the Moeraki Boulders — they’re really unusual. Nobody quite knows why these large spherical balls have been created, then buried in sedimentary rock to be finally eroded out onto a beach. Spooky really, just goes to show what amazing things Nature can throw up from time to time!
After the boulders we popped to Aoraki, an area to the east of Christchurch. We’d be recommended visiting there by the camp-site owner in Invercargill — we’re very glad we popped along as it was gorgeous. A very french-influenced quaint port town with some lovely views of the sea. We did our usual trick of going into a bar ostensibly “for a drink” and then ending up finishing a bottle of wine and leaving somewhat drunkenly many hours later!
Today we’ve been looking around Christchurch. It’s another pretty (for a large city) place, and we spent a happy few hours wandering around the Botanic Gardens and the various shopping areas. It’s still just a city though, nothing too amazing. We’ve just parked up; Ness has popped out to see the shops while I’ve just emptied the camper van of its various effluvia for the penultimate time.
A quiet night in tonight, then tomorrow we’re off to find some kiwi. About bloody time, we’ve been here a month and still not actually seen New Zealand’s iconic flightless bird. After that we’ll be dropping the van off then killing time until 4am the next morning to check in at the airport. No sense getting a hotel for the night; we’re just not going to be in it long enough. Not going to be too nice a night; but what can you do. Hopefully there’ll be some wireless internet access at the airport at least. The last week I’ve been incommunicado from the internet; it would seem the south island’s behind in internet stakes with hardly a camp site having internet access let along wireless. From texts from my parents it’d appear xania.org is down at the moment too; I hope it’s something easy to fix.
Filed under: New Zealand Trip
Posted at 23:25:55 GMT on 13th November 2006.