Today was our last full day in Hong Kong, so rather than stay in the center of the city as we have been, we decided to get out and see something a bit different. With our Big Bus Tour passes from yesterday, we were able to get out and see another side of this lovely city-state.
We got up nice and early to make the most of the day and in hopes that we might beat the heat a bit (no real luck there). We climbed aboard the Star Ferry which took us over to Hong Kong Island. From there, we boarded the open-air Big Bus and began our journey away from downtown. It took a while for us to get out of the city center, since traffic here is quite thick. However, once we passed through an immensely long tunnel, we could feel the difference almost immediately. Sure, there are still giant buildings, but fewer people and there was generally a more remote vibe.
One of the first things to catch our eye was this amazing amusement park called Ocean Park, which has the coolest roller coaster we have ever seen. Because land here is at a premium, the amusement park bought two different pieces of land on either side of a huge hill. The two sections are connected by a super-long gondola which looked very scary to me. The awesome part though was this twisting and turning roller coaster on the side of the hill overlooking the South China Sea. That must have some of the best views of any roller coaster in the world (granted, it is so hazy here right now that they probably can’t see much of anything). We didn’t want to take the time do an amusement park, and I have a tendency to vomit when riding such roller coasters, but it looks like an awesome time for people who are into that kind of thing.
As we wound our way through narrow roads along the coast of the South China Sea’s Repulse Bay and Deep Water Bay, we heard tales of the many rich and famous people who have vacationed here over the years. There have been a couple of famous movies filmed here including “Love is a many Splendored Thing” and it soon became clear that this area is a playground for the wealthy. Perhaps it was the beach-side Ferrari dealership that gave it away or it could have been the Lamborghini we saw driving past us. Either way, it is clear these beaches provide a nice getaway for people living in Hong Kong who need a bit of respite. If we were here longer, we would have definitely spent some time swimming and lounging on the beach.
The next beach town we came to was Stanley, famous for its huge Stanley Market. We had heard this was a great stop, so we decided to hop off the bus and see what we could. The market spread across several blocks, twisting and turning like a maze. As with all of these, there are lots of items that repeat themselves and you can find in any market in Hong Kong. However, there were also handmade crafts, beautiful clothiers and handmade jewelry. Phil found lots of toys to play with and was especially impressed by the remote-control car that could climb up a wall. We found a few little tokens to buy here, but I could tell Phil was starting to lose interest in shopping after about an hour, so we hopped back on the bus and left Stanley.
Our final stop on the bus tour was probably the coolest. We were dropped in historic Aberdeen, a town which used to be primarily a fishing village, it still houses many people making their living in this way. It has been known for centuries as the home to a group of people called Tanka (which is now considered an inappropriate word and instead they are called “Boat People”). These people have lived their lives as fisherman, living on junks in the water. Over the years, the government has tried to get them to move out of the bay, but there are still several who live here. As part of our tour, we got the opportunity to ride a Sampan, a flat-bottomed wooden boat. We puttered through the harbor, saw a huge floating restaurant called “Jumbo’s” and looked at boats that range from resembling mansions and some which resemble shanties. The financial paradox is overwhelmingly clear and really fascinating. We could tell there were still many people who make their homes on these boats, but we also saw a number of people who are just making their living as fisherman. It is fun to think about their catch today going on the table of a local restaurant tonight.
Exhausted from riding in the blazing sun all day, we decided it was time for a break. After a good rest in our air-conditioned room, we headed out for a final night in Hong Kong. We found an awesome bar called Castro’s, the first bar in Asia to really feel like our kind of place. Friendly bartenders, small but not overcrowded, with delicious draft beer. Hanging out here, looking down on the neon-filled streets below, and rehashing all that we’ve learned and experienced while being here was the perfect punctuation mark for our visit. We are a little sad to leave Hong Kong because we could easily spend a ton of time here, but alas we must travel onward. Tomorrow, Vietnam!