Bangkok , Ayuthaya Travel (Part II)

December 24, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Ayuthaya Travel (Part II), Bangkok, Uncategorized 

[continued from Bangkok , Ayuthaya Travel (Part I)]

Bangkok , Ayuthaya Travel (Part II)

Day 3 : Thursday, 6 December 2007

On the morning of 6 December 2007, we hired a “tuk-tuk” to bring my wife and I around the city for sightseeing. A young Thai man named See was our “tuk-tuk” driver and our tour-guide too.

Writer(R) and See(L), the tuk-tuk driver-cum-tour guide in Bangkok City, Thailand

The first place he brought us was the famous Grand Palace. When we arrived there we felt extremely disappointed to be informed that the palace, a Thai’s icon, was closed to public then. It was going to hold the Thai King’s 80th. birthday celebration. The palace is truly a grand and stunning one. Below is the description of it:

The Grand Palace

Located on the eastern bank of River Chao Phraya in the Rattanakosin District, this beautiful palace in a large area of over 200 000 sq. metres is surrounded by a high and unfriendly-looking white wall.

The Grand Palace was built in 1782 during the reign of King Rama I (1737-1802) who used it as his royal residence. Subsequently, other Thai kings lived there too from the 18th. century till the middle of the 20th. century.

The last king to live there was King Rama VIII or King Ananda Sun Mahidol(1925-1946). The present king, King Bhumibol Adulyadej (King Rama IX), who succeeded him (his brother) does not live there. Instead, he lives at another place not far from the old one and is known as Chitralada Palace.

The Grand Palace, Bangkok

The Grand Palace, Bangkok

The Grand Palace is now used for religious, state and royal ceremonies. It has several buildings built in unique Siamese architectural style.

The Emerald Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Kaew)

In the compound of the Grand Palace is Thailand’s grandest and most sacred Buddhist temple known as Wat Phra Kaew. Built in 1785, it houses a Buddha statue known as Emerald Buddha Statue. There are other statues, such as monkey kings and giants resembling the characters in the Ramayana mythology, around the golden temple. Besides, artworks from art masters during the Rattanakosin era are displayed here.

The Emerald Statue of Buddha, Bangkok

The Emerald Statue of Buddha, Bangkok

As we could not visit the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew we visited a famous temple known as Wat Pho or Wat Phra Chetuphon nearby.

Wat Pho or Wat Phra Chetuphon (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)

Wat Pho houses a large reclining Buddha statue of 46 metres long. The walls inside the temple are beautifully painted with colourful pictures depicting the Buddhist way of life of the Thai people.

Statue of reclining Buddha in Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand

Head of the statue of reclining Buddha in Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand

Feet of the statue of reclining Buddha in Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand

This temple has a monastery for the monks. Besides, it is the birthplace of the traditional Thai massage school. Around this temple are several beautiful stupas and large statues of guards with serious looks at some entrances of the temple.

Stupas at Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand

Statue of a giant guard at Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand

Statue of a giant guard at Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand

Having completed the tour of this temple, we headed north-east to another famous temple, Wat Intrawihan

Wat Intrawihan

Located at 114, Wisutkasat Road in Phra Nakhon District, Wat Intrwihan was built towards the end of the Ayutthaya Period. Standing tall in the compound is a large golden statue of Buddha. It was built in the reign of King Rama IV in 1867 and completed in the reign of King Rama VII. It claims to be the world’s tallest standing Buddha statue and is known as Phra Si Ariyamettraiya or Luangpor Toh.

While we were at the temple we were shocked to see many cats and dogs roaming

freely in the compound and their excreta was all over the place. As we walked around the temple we were careful not to step on it.

Wat Intrawihan

Wat Intrawihan

Statue of Lord Buddha, the world tallest statue, at Wat Intrawihan, Bangkok, Thailand

Anantasamakhon Throne Hall

Located in the Dusit District is a majestic building of marble built in the Italian Renaissance style. It was constructed during the reign of King Rama V and completed in the reign of King Rama VI.

It receives foreign dignitaries and holds the Royal Advisory Council meetings. It was once used for parliamentary meetings.

In 2006, royal personages from 25 countries celebrated King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 60th. anniversary of monarchy reign at this building. He is the world’s longest reigning king.

Anatasamakhon Throne Hall, Bangkok, Thailand

King Rama V Monument

In front of Anantasamakhon Throne Hall is a large open space known as Royal Plaza. In the centre there is a monument of an equestrian statue of King Rama V (King Chulalongkorn) in a field marshal uniform. The Thai people loved him so much that they raised fund to get the statue cast by a French sculptor in Paris and placed it there in 1908 when he was still alive.

King Rama V (1853-1910) succeeded his father in 1868. He had travelled to many foreign countries in Asia and Europe and learned about their reforms and governments. With that knowledge he modernized his government. Besides, he abolished slavery in his country. In 1896 he built the first railroad in Thailand connecting Bangkok and Ayutthaya. His subjects called him “The Great Beloved King”.

During his reign he had four queen consorts and some royal common wives. He was the only Thai king who had the most number of children, about 77. His second son, Vajiravudh (1881-1925),  succeeded him as the sixth king (King Rama VI) of the Chakri Dynasty in 1910.

Monument of King Rama V(1878-1910), Bangkok, Thailand

Not far from the monument, we saw a colourful arch with a large royal emblem at its top at the crossroads of Ratchadamnoen Nok Road and Si Ayutthaya Road. It was erected to celebrate the Thai king’s 80th. birthday. We also saw four horsemen, police and many people lining the roads from Chitralada Palace to the Grand Palace. They were wearing yellow T-shirts and holding national flags and yellow royal flags waiting to cheer their king. The king who would pass them while he was on his way to the Grand Palace to celebrate his 80th. birthday.

An arch celebrating the Thai King’s 80th. birthday, Bangkok, Thailand

{To the Thais, yellow symbolizes devotion to their beloved king. On the evening of the previous day (5 December 2007), the king’s birthday was celebrated nationwide with festivities and prayers, and thousands of people packed the streets near the Grand Palace to watch a spectacular firework display.}

Democracy Monument

Located on a large roundabout where Ratchadamnoen Klang Road, Prachathipatai Road and Bandinsor Road meet, is the Democracy Monument. It was erected in 1939 to commemorate the June 1932 military coup which resulted in the establishment of the constitutional monarchy.

In the centre of the monument is a turret which has two golden offering bowls on its top. The “1932 Constitution” is on the top bowl. There are four wing-like structures standing round the turret. They represent the army, navy, air force and police guarding the Constitution.

Democracy Monument erected in 1939, Bangkok, Thailand

Victory Monument

There is another monument not far from the Democracy Monument. It is known as the Victory Monument which was erected in 1941 on Bangkok’s largest roundabout where Phahon Yothin Highway, Phaya Thai Road, Ratchawithi Road and Din Daeng Road converge. This monument commemorated the Thai victory in a brief, bloodless war with the French colonialists in Indo-China. The victory led to Thailand annexing some territories in western Cambodia, and northern and southern Laos. Some of these territories were formerly Thailand’s and ceded to France in 1883 and 1904.

The monument has 5 human statues standing round a tall obelisk. The statues symbolically represent the army, navy, air force, police and civilians.

Victory Monument erected in 1941, Bangkok, Thailand

Mahboonkrong Centre(MBK Centre)

After the interesting Bangkok City tour, we went to a popular shopping centre known Mahboonkrong Centre(MBK Centre) which is near BTS Central Station (Siam).

There are a few more shopping centres near it, e.g. Siam Centre, Siam Discovery Centre and Siam Paragon. Later, we went back to our hotel to have a rest.

Silom Road

In the evening, my wife and I went to Silom Road by “tuk-tuk” again as it could manoeuvre easily in a traffic jam and reach any place quickly.

Silom Road is in the heart of the Central Business District of Bangkok. Multi-storey buildings line the road. They house banks, trading companies, insurance companies, finance companies, law firms, shopping centres, luxurious hotels, etc.

The road is full of traffic and the walkways are always crowded during day and night. This place is easily accessible by either Rama 6 Road (an expressway), Rama 4 Road or the Skytrain.

Silom Road, a crowded road at night, Bangkok, Thailand

Hill-tribe women selling hand-made products on Silom Road, Bangkok, Thailand

Silom Road during the day

Silom Road during the day

When night falls roadside food stalls and other stalls appear and attract influxes of visitors both locals and tourists. Most of the tourists would head for the red light district of Patpong which is very near to the Sala Daeng Skytrain Station.

Sala Daeng Skytrain Station, Bangkok, Thailand

Patpong

Patpong has two short roads, Patpong 1 Road and Patpong 2 Road, which are parallel to each other and sandwiched in between Silom Road and Surawong Road.

Patpong belongs to the Patpongpanich family. It is estimated to be worth over US $100 millions! When the family bought it in 1946 they built a road, Patpong Road, and shophouses for rent along the road.

A Red Light District

Later in 1968 the whole area was transformed into a red light district catering mainly for the U.S. soldiers who needed recreation and recuperation (R & R) after their duties in Vietnam during the Vietnam War (1965-1975). Its notoriety spread far and wide by word of mouth in the 1970s and 1980s. In fact, the place has been featured in many western movies such as Deer Hunter (1978) and Miss Saigon(1989). Besides, many authors have written about it in their novels.

Since the Vietnam War was over in 1975 the place has become a tourist attraction and many foreign tourists as well as Thais like to patronize the bars there.

Night Market

In the 1980s, the enterprising Patpongpanich family set up stalls  for rent in the middle of Patpong 1 Road. These stalls are now a busy night market selling goods ranging from souvenirs, caps, T-shirts and shoes to jewellery and watches. Their presence has affected the night entertainment business of the bars there.

Night market in the Patpong Red Light District

Night market in the Patpong Red Light District

Hard Bargain

From Silom Road, my wife and I walked to Patpong 1 Road. There were many stalls on the latter road which was closed to traffic. Stopping at one of them, my wife thought of buying a child’s frock for our grand-daughter. She was shocked when she was told by the seller that it cost 850 baht! After a few minutes of bargaining she was finally offered 200 baht.  Tourists should make a hard bargain there if they want to buy something, otherwise they may be fleeced by unscrupulous sellers.Then we decided to see the bars along Patpong Road. As we were walking past a few of them and trying to get a glimpse of some activities inside, some touts were inviting us in for a sleazy show. As we had no intention of watching it we did not heed them but kept on walking. I remember what our Ayutthaya tour guide had told us about these Patpong bars. He said, “If you go inside with a lot of money, you will come out without a cent!”

Chinatown (Yao Wa Rat)

Having seen the Patpong area, we left for Chinatown that is not far from Patpong. It is a place where shops sell all kinds of products which are mostly Chinese and Thai, such as herbs, jewellery, clothes, watches, handbags, electrical and electronic gadgets, etc.

Chinatown at night, Bangkok

Chinatown at night, Bangkok

Sea Food

When night falls, roadside stalls in Chinatown suddenly appear and do brisk businesses, especially those that cater to food lovers like us. When we were there we looked for a sea food restaurant. We found one which was selling crabs, prawns, squids, snails, fish and cockles. The cooks could grill, steam and fry them for customers. Although they were not cheap we asked for a large crab and told a waitress to get it grilled over red hot charcoal. We tried other dishes too. We finished the delicious meal with some fleshy Siamese durians and a refreshing fresh coconut drink . Then we left Chinatown for our hotel.

A seafood restaurant in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand

Large crabs for sale at a seafood restaurant in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand

A worker grilling prawns at a seafood restaurant in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand

Day 4:   Friday, 7 December 2007

Thai Body Massage

On the morning of our last day in Bangkok, we went for a Thai body massage at a shop, Mr. Feet, which is a few doors away from our hotel, Bangkok City Inn. While we were fully clothed, our young masseuses expertly massaged our limbs and the back of our bodies. Occasionally, we felt a little pain in some parts of our bodies when strong pressure was applied. After having been massaged for an hour we felt relaxed and energized. All our muscular and joint pain due to walking too much during our last three days in Bangkok and Ayutthaya miraculously disappeared. Before we left the shop I saw a floating market in one of the large pictures printed by the Thai Tourism Board on a wall. We regretted to give it a miss as we had to depart for Malaysia in the evening.

Floating Market

In the early days, there were many floating markets in rivers and man-made canals or khlongs which were lined with dwelling-houses in Thailand. Later, when supermarkets were opened and people found it more convenient to shop at these places. Consequently, the number of floating markets dwindled a lot. Nowadays, there are few floating markets left in Thailand and they attract many tourists.

At a floating market, ladies in straw hats row about their small boats laden with fruits, vegetables, food, flowers, groceries, etc. looking for customers who usually live along the waterways. A busy floating market is a fascinating sight as you can see it in the photo on the left.

The largest floating market in Thailand is at Ratchaburi which is 101 km west of Bangkok. Small floating markets can be found in Bangkok, e.g. Tailing Chan and Wat Sai floating markets.

A floating market in Ratchaburi, Thailand

After a Thai body massage, we decided to walk to Phetburi Road nearby. While crossing a bridge over a large canal or khlong known as Khlong Saen Saep, we saw boats plying on the waterway.

Khlong Saen Saep

Khlong Saen Saep is a long canal connecting Khlong Phadung Krungkasem which flows into River Chao Phraya in the west to Prachinburi and Chachoengsao in the east. Today, it is a busy waterway which has 30 stops for over 100 passenger boats.

Originally, the canal was built to transport soldiers and weapons to Cambodia which was in conflict with Thailand during the reign of King Rama III.

After crossing the bridge we came to a long road, Phetburi Road.

Khlong Saen Saep, a busy waterway in Bangkok, Thailand

Phetburi Road

Phetburi Road is a busy road lined with large buildings. It has a lot of traffic during day and night. Lots of stalls selling cheap food and snacks can be found on the roadside and five-foot ways in the morning. It is indeed a bustling place. Photos below show different types of stalls along the road.

Phetburi Road, Bangkok, Thailand

A newspaper shop on Phetburi Road, Bangkok, Thailand

A hawker selling food on Phetburi roadside, Bangkok, Thailand

A roadside satay seller on Phetburi Road, Bangkok, Thailand

From the Phetburi Road three tall building could be seen in the distance. One of them which was 88 storeys high, Baiyoke Sky Hotel, was the tallest in Bangkok.

Three tall buildings as seen from Phetburi Road, Bangkok, Thailand

Thailand General Election

While we were in Bangkok, the Thai people were gripped with a general election fever. The previous government of Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, was toppled by a military coup in 2006.

Posters of candidates for the Thailand general election 2007 can be seen at many places in Bangkok City

Posters of candidates standing for the coming Thailand general election on 23 December 2007 could be seen along major roads in the city. The photo on the right showing three candidates was taken along Phetburi Road. Besides, large portraits of the Thai king were put up in front of large buildings like hotels and government buildings in celebration of the king’s 80th. birthday.

Thai King’s portraits can be seen at many places in Bangkok City, Thailand. The king is respected and revered by Thais.

While walking along Phetburi Road we were surprised to see lots of electric cables and telephone wires hanging untidily high above the road. It was undoubtedly an unpleasant sight.

Unpleasant sight of wires and cables above Phetburi Road, Bangkok, Thailand

Later we walked back to the budget hotel, Bangkok City Inn, claimed our luggage and took a taxi to the airport at 2.00 p.m. to check-in earlier before we departed for Malaysia at 6.00 p.m.

Bangkok City Inn

Located in Bangkok downtown, Bangkok City Inn is surrounded by many shopping centres which are within walking distance, including Central World, Zen, Big C, Siam Paragon, Siam Discovery, Siam Square, Siam Centre, MBK Centre, Gaysorn Plaza, Peninsula Plaza, Pratunam Complex and Amarin Plaza. In addition, bustling markets

and entertainment establishments are also nearby. The area is easily accessible by the Skytrain and some main roads. Taxis, tuk-tuks and buses are easily available here day and night.

Bangkok City Inn, Bangkok, Thailand

We had stayed at Bangkok City Inn for three days and concluded that it is worth staying there. The rooms are clean and the bathrooms are large. The accommodation is inexpensive and free breakfast is provided daily in the clean and comfortable dining room. Its staff are helpful, friendly, and always smiling. They have made our stay a memorable one.

Friendly staff of Bangkok City Inn, Jongdee(L) and Kai(R), Bangkok, Thailand

Check-In at Suvarnabhumi Airport

After checking-in at the airport we walked a long way to a place to wait for our plane. On the way, we came across a model of a royal Thai throne. Opposite the throne is a sculpture of a long serpent with a few heads, known as Vasuki, the “King of Serpents”. It is being pulled by several demigods and demons. There is a statue

of  Vishnu Kurmavatara with four hands standing on a “mountain”. The “mountain” with the serpent round it is carried on a “tortoise’s” back. It is a beautiful sculpture.

Sculpture of King of Serpents, demigods and demons at Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Bangkok, Thailand

Vishnu Kurmavatara

According to a legend about Vishnu Kurmavatara written on a board placed in front of the sculpture, I quote:

“This scene depicts Vishnu Kurmavatara and the churning of the Milk Ocean. The naga, Vasuki, (the King of Serpents) curled around the mountain, Mandara. Vishnu, incarnated in the form of a great turtle, supports the mountain on his back. Devas (demigods) and Asuras (demons) pull the naga’s body to churn the water of the ocean for thousands of years in order to produce the nectar of immortality, Amrita. From the churning, numerous opulent items are produced, including Dhanvantari carrying the pot of Amrita. In the end, the cooperation between Devas and Asuras is shattered. The Devas fulfill their plan of acquiring all Amrita and disperse the Asuras out of Heaven to the Underworld.”

Statue of Vishnu Kurmavatara at Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Bangkok, Thailand

Departure for Malaysia

Our air flight back to Malaysia was supposed to be at 6 p.m. but we departed Suvarnabhumi Airport at 7 p.m. On the way to Malaysia, my wife and I agreed that our three days’ stay in Bangkok was too short as we had missed many places of interest there. Anyway, we are now planning to visit another foreign place soon.

Writer and wife checking in at Suvarnabhumi International Airport before departure for home in Malaysia

Thank you for reading this travelogue and hope the information is useful to you.

Written by: Choo Chaw, Kluang, Johor, Malaysia

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Shenzhen, Hezhou, Quilin, Zhaoqing Travel (Part I)

December 8, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Quilin Travel (Part I), Uncategorized 

Shenzhen, Hezhou, Quilin, Zhaoqing Travel (Part I)

Writer at Changi International Airport

Writer at Changi International Airport

China is a large country with the world’s largest population of 1.4 billion. She is rich in history, arts,  traditions and cultures of 5,000 years. Besides, China has unrivalled natural physical beauty.

Since China opened her door to foreign investors in 1980, it has transformed from a country of poverty to one of the world’s fastest growing economies.

Early year 2005, my wife and I decided to travel to China for the first time to learn about her people, culture and history. The first two main places we wanted to visit then were Shenzhen City and Quilin.

Below is the itinerary of our travel.

Day 1    Travel to Hong Kong                                                                                                                        Day 2    Shenzhen City Tour
Travel to Hezhou City I
Day 3    Gu Po Mountain Visit
Silver Cave (Lipu)
Day 4   Quilin City Tour
Day 5   Quilin City Tour (Last Day)
Li River Boat Cruise
West Street (Yangshuo)
Day 6   Travel to Zhaoqing City
Day 7   Zhaoqing City Tour
Back to Shenzhen City
Day 8  Travel Back to Malaysia

Day 1: Monday 30 May 2005  Travel to Hong Kong 

Our Tour Group  On 30 June 2005, my wife, son and I joined a group of 17 Malaysians for an exciting tour

Writer in the Tour Group

Writer in the Tour Group

of some cities in the two China provinces of Quangdong and Quangxi. As summer in Southern China is hot and wet, we decided to bring along light clothing and umbrellas for the trip.

At Changi International Airport in Singapore, we boarded a China plane (A737 300) and at about 5.30 p.m. the plane took off for Hong Kong. After a few minutes of flying, we felt slightly hot in the plane. I was wondering whether the air-con inside was under utilized. During the flight, the plane encountered a few moments of minor turbulence over South China Sea. Although we were asked to be seated and tied ourselves with safety-belts during the turbulence I was surprised to see the air-stewards and air-stewardesses continuously distributing food to the passengers.

Arrival at Hong Kong   After 3 1/2 hours of trouble-free flight, the plane landed safely at Hong Kong

Boarding a green bus at Hong Kong International Airport

Boarding a green bus at Hong Kong International Airport

International Airport (Chek Lap Kok) on Lantau Island.

Then we passed through the Hong Kong immigration, custom and health checkpoints smoothly. After that we boarded a green coach and were on our way to mainland China.

Before entering mainland China, we had to go through another immigration checkpoint at the border, Shenzhen Checkpoint.  We went through the checkpoint fast as there were not many people at the late evening (10 p.m.)

Day 1: Monday 30 May 2005   Arrival at Shenzhen City 

Sunon Hotel, Shenzhen City

Sunon Hotel, Shenzhen City

After the Shenzhen checkpoint we boarded another coach and began our 7 day-tour in south-east China. At 11.00 p.m. we checked in at Sunon Hotel in a narrow street, Yongxin Street, in Shenzhen. After checking in and leaving our luggage in our room, my wife and I hurriedly went out shopping near the hotel. We were surprised that at such late hour, shops were still open and the brightly-lit streets were crowded with people. It looks as though Shenzhen is a city that never sleeps.

About Shenzhen    Shenzhen is a fast growing metropolis with a population of 5 million. It is located in the southern coastal area of Guangdong Province and 35 km north of Hong Kong City. It faces

Tour guide with striped T-shirt on writer's right

Tour guide in a striped T-shirt on writer’s right

the South China Sea in the east and high mountains in the south-east and low ones in the north-east.  It is commonly known as Hong Kong’s “backyard”.

In 1979, China, under the leadership of Deng Xiao Ping, opened its door to foreign investors. Since then she has transformed from a country of poverty into one of the world’s fastest growing countries. She  produces goods ranging from apparel to vehicles. Her goods are sold everywhere in the world as they are produced cheaply by her hardworking people.

Economic Zones    Shenzhen is divided into three parts: the Special Economic Zone (SEZ), Shenzhen City and Shenzhen County.

Shenzhen City Skyline

Shenzhen City Skyline

The SEZ attracts many foreign investors as China offers significant tax concessions during the early life of their projects. It now has many industries, including machinery, automobile assemblies, electrical goods, electronics, textiles and foodstuff.

The world demand for goods is so great that Shenzhen has built three harbours for a large number of container-ships which help to export its goods.

Day 2: Tuesday 31 May 2005   Shenzhen City Tour 

After breakfast at the Sunon Hotel restaurant, we went on a sightseeing tour of Shenzhen City.

Old Shenzhen City   First, we went to the old city. It was once a busy fishing village with a population of 30,000. The streets here are narrow, crowded and jammed with traffic. Quaint buildings are still standing there. It is a popular place among both locals and tourists as it offers myriads of merchandise ranging from apparel to the latest cell-phones as well as a variety of local cuisines.

New Shenzhen City   When our coach brought us to the new city, we were amazed to see a complete change. The new city is planned and modern. Here the streets are wide and lined with trees. Multi-storey skyscrapers are mushrooming on both sides of the streets for commercial and financial purposes. The tallest is 356 metres high. They house offices, banks, shops, restaurants, hotels and many more. High-rise residential buildings can be seen in the outskirts of the city.

Cars of Popular Brands   It is amazing to see many cars of popular brands on the roads. The people in the city must have benefited from the rapid economic growth in Shenzhen and become affluent. As China’s one-child policy has stopped many from having a second child, more people have much disposable income to buy a car.

Lotus Hill Park (Lianhua Hill Park)

Lotus Hill Park (Lianhua Hill Park)

Shenzhen City has no interesting historical and cultural sites, but it has some interesting attractions, like the theme and amusement parks, viz. “Splendid China Park”, “China Folk Culture Village” and “Window of the World”.

Lianhua Hill Park (Lotus Hill Park)    After the city tour, we went to Lianhua Hill Park (Lotus Hill Park) which is about 2 km from the city. It is a clean, refreshing, open space with carpet grass. The park is on a gentle slope of Lianhua Hill (106 metres high). A small road leads to the top of the hill where a statue of Deng Xiao Ping is

Writer in Xingyu Mineral Museum

Writer in Xingyu Mineral Museum

located. Locals bring their families there for fun, relaxation, jogging, hill-climbing and kite-flying.

Xingyu Mineral Museum   Then we went to Fu Tian District in Shenzhen to visit Xingyu Mineral Museum. Its exhibits include crystals in their natural shapes and forms, crystal balls of different colours, jade made into jewellery, miniature boats, fruits and animals and intricate embroidery works. Most of the exhibits in the museum are for sale.

‘Pixiu’   The only exhibit  that attracted my attention was a figure of an unusual creature known

A brown pixiu

A brown pixiu

as Pixiu’ (dubbed as David’s Deer). It is a mythical animal with a dragon’s head, horse’s body, lion’s paws and kylin’s horns. The Chinese believe that if you have a ‘pixiu’, you will have a peaceful and healthy life, good luck, wealth and power.

Day 2 : Tuesday 31 May 2005   Travel to Hezhou City 

At 11 a.m. we left Shenzhen City and headed west for a long journey to our next destination, Hezhou City in Quangxi Province.

Expressways   Travelling west on the Guan Shen Expressway, we

An expressway to Quangzhou City

An expressway to Quangzhou City

noticed the scenery changed from urban to rural. The expressway cuts across the Pearl River Delta. The delta is one of China’s most densely cultivated areas as rivers, Xi Jiang, Pei Jiang, Tung Jiang and Pearl River, from all over the provinces flow through this fertile region to the South China Sea. In the countryside, villages of old buildings, fish-ponds, duck-ponds, paddy fields, vegetable farms and orchards are common sights.

The expressway passes by many towns. When the the traffic was approaching Quangzhou City, it started to crawl. Vehicles ranging from smoke-belching heavy ones to the latest model cars choked the expressway. Then our tour guide told us that we were not going to visit Quangzhou City as the traffic jam there would set us back two hours. So we bypassed the city

Nan Jiang Fishing Port Restaurant, Sihui City

Nan Jiang Fishing Port Restaurant, Sihui City

and travelled along a few more expressways, such as Hua Nan, Guangfo and Guan San. The motorists using these expressways have to pay toll charges which are high.

Lunch-Time   At 1.30 p.m. we stopped at a restaurant, Nan Jiang Fishing Port, in the outskirt of Sihui City which is near Sansin City for lunch. The food served here was bland and salty. As we were hungry, we ate it without much complaint. Then we were on our way again to Hezhou City.

Bad Roads   This time the journey was uncomfortable as the coach was travelling on narrow, old roads in Quangxi Province. It had to make a detour at places where roads were under repair. While

A petrol station that has a simple washroom

A petrol station that has a simple washroom

travelling in the mountainous areas, our coach-driver had to drive cautiously on the narrow, winding and steep roads. There are many heavy vehicles travelling on these roads. Each time a big vehicle passed by, it came too close to our coach making us worried.

Simple Washrooms     At 3.30 p.m. our coach stopped at a petrol station, Fan Lin Petrol Station, for refilling. Some of us went to a washroom nearby. When I entered the washroom for gentlemen, I was surprised to see a row of small cubicles with low walls of 1 metre high and without doors.

Out of curiosity, I entered one of them. Then I figured out that if I wanted to do the big ‘business’ I would have to squat over a narrow deep drain which ran under all the cubicles. As there was no water in the cubicle, I would have to leave the

A blue arch marking the border between Quangdong and Quangxi Provinces

A blue arch marking the border between Quangdong and Quangxi Provinces

cubicle without flushing away my “deposit”. I was told that it would be flushed away at intervals together with the rest by a large among of water rushing down the drain and making all the ‘things’ disappear down somewhere. I was told by the ladies that their washroom had the same toilet facility as the gents’. Some of them who were shy used umbrellas to hide themselves for privacy!

Quangxi Province   Soon we entered Quangxi Province from Quangdong Province. There is a blue arch over the road that marks the border btween the two provinces. Quangxi province is less developed than Quangdong Province. It is a common sight to see

New Century Hotel, Hezhou City

New Century Hotel, Hezhou City

farmlands of paddy, maize and vegetables, orchards of lychees, longans, plums and peaches, fish-ponds and duck-ponds in the rural areas. Along main roads, traditional industries such as stone-cutting, bamboo-collecting and brick-making can be seen.

Hezhou City   After about 8 hours of travelling from Shenzhen City, we finally arrived at Hezhou City and checked in at a hotel known as “New Century Hotel” along Gu Po Hill Road.

A large crossroads without traffic lights in Hezhou City

A large crossroads without traffic lights in Hezhou City

Hezhou City is in the east of Guangxi Zhang Autonomous Region with a population of 900,000. It has a history of more than 2,000 years. Besides cultural relics and historical sites, it has beautiful landscapes of limestone hills and caves attracting many tourists from home and overseas.

Motorized Tricycles   The roads in Hezhou City are wide. Most of the busy crossroads do not have traffic-lights. The most popular means of city transport here is motorized tricycles. On these vehicles, the drivers sit in front of their passengers. It is surprising to see many young women driving these vehicles for a living.

 

A motorised tricycle used as a taxi in Hezhou City

A motorised tricycle used as a taxi in Hezhou City

Day 3: Wednesday 1 June 2005   Gu Po Mountain Visit

An International Passport Incident    After breakfast at the New Century Hotel restaurant, we were shocked when we learned that one of our tour members had lost his international passport. He was bombarded with a lot of questions about his lost passport. A thorough search in his hotel room paid off. It was found hidden under his comforter. He said he could not remember putting it there the previous night. Anyway, we heaved a sigh of relief when we were told that it was found.

A rainy day in Gu Po Mountain

A rainy day in Gu Po Mountain

After that incident our tour guide told us to hand over our passports to him every night and he would keep them in the hotel safe deposit box. He added that he would return them in the morning.

Gu Po Mountain    At 8.30 a.m. we departed for Gu Po Mountain (Gu Po Shan). The road to the mountain is narrow and bumpy. When we arrived at the foot of the mountain, it was raining heavily. Crystal clear water could be seen rushing down a stream with rocks at its bottom. The place was lush green and scenic and the air there was clean and

A stream in Gu Po Mountain

A stream in Gu Po Mountain

refreshing.

Angel Waterfall   To go to a beautiful waterfall called Angel Waterfall, we took a 9-seat vehicle. It took a few minutes to reach there. Standing in front of the waterfall we were awestricken by the spectacular sight of water continuously rushing down the steep 30-metre high waterfall.

Legend   According to a legend, there was a long drought in the

Angel Waterfall in Gu Po Mountain

Angel Waterfall in Gu Po Mountain

farms near the mountain. One day, an old lady went to the mountain and spent many days praying to an angel for rain. Finally, the angel answered her prayer and the farmers were happy to see rain falling down for many days. That is how the mountain gets its name, i.e. Old Lady Mountain (Gu Po Shan) and the waterfall, Angel Waterfall.

When we came down the steep mountain, we stopped at a winery where gluttonous rice is made into rice wine. We tasted a few types of wine, each containing different amount of alcohol. A few of us bought it. Then we went to a small tea farm to learn about tea-making. Later we went back to the foot

Writer's son(left), wife(centre) and himself(right) at a winery in Gu Po Mountain

Writer

of the mountain where our coach was waiting to take us to one of the most spectacular karst landforms in the world in Lipu. It is known as Silver Cave.

Day 3: Wednesday 1 June 2005   Silver Cave (Lipu) 

On the way to Lipu, we passed through a few towns and villages. We also crossed a long bridge which is over Xijiang river (China’s third longest river) in the mountainous region.

Stunning stalactites and stalagmites in Silver Cave

Stunning stalactites and stalagmites in Silver Cave

Silver Cave    Silver Cave is in Maling Town of Lipu County. It has been opened to tourists since 1999. It is about 2 km long: passing through twelve limestone-hills. It consists of three parts: Lower Part, Grand Hall and Upper Part. It is like a fairyland inside the caves as one can see stunning stalactites and stalagmites of different shapes and sizes resembling “musical curtain”, “preaching Buddha”, “waterfall on snowhill”, “pearl-decorated umbrella”, “twin towels”, “sea corals” and many more. It took us more than an hour to walk from one end of the cave to the other. The beauty of the structures is enhanced by colourful lighting.

Dinner:   After the awesome experience in Silver Cave, we had an early dinner at Silver Cave Restaurant nearby. At 6.20 p.m. we left for Quilin which is 85 km north of Silver Cave.

On arrival at Quilin at 8 p.m. we checked in at a three-star hotel, City Garden Hotel, along Zhongshan South Road. Later, all of us went for a foot massage. After that painful and ticklish treatment, we felt fresh and rejuvenated. Then we went shopping in a few streets which were brightly-lit.

Silver Cave entrance an mountains

Silver Cave entrance and the hills

City Garden Hotel, Quilin

City Garden Hotel, Quilin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Written by: Choo Chaw, Kluang, Johor, Malaysia

Hong Kong Travel (Part II)

December 2, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Uncategorized 

{Continued from Hong Kong (Part I)}

Hong Kong Travel (Part II)

Day 2:  1 May 2007

Ocean Park

It is a large theme park covering an area of 87 hectares. It consists of two parts: the Headland on the higher ground and the Lowland on the lower ground. To enter the theme park, visitors can use either the Main Entrance at the Lowland or Tai Shue Wan Entrance at the foot of the Headland. There are covered elevators or cable car to go up to the Headland. 
The Park has been in operation for 30 years. It is a place where people, young or old, like to have fun, entertainment and excitement.

Ocean Park Headland

Ocean Park Headland

 

 

An Ocean Park Entrance (Tai Shue Wan)

An Ocean Park Entrance (Tai Shue Wan)

With over 40 attractions and rides, the Ocean Park keeps attracting millions of tourists, annually.

At the Ocean Park, thrill-seekers can ride a roller-coaster of The Dragon and Mine Train, drop 60 metres to the ground suddenly made possible by The Abyss, get wet while riding a boat in The Raging River, drive go-karts in Grand Prix, spin in Space Wheel and swing in Flying Swing

Ocean Park Rollercoaster: Mine Train

Ocean Park Rollercoaster: Mine Train

For animal lovers, they can join Animal Close Encounters programs to see animals like foxes, wolves, bull frogs, rabbits, dogs, jelly fish, sea lions, dolphins, fish, pandas, sharks and birds.

Ocean Park Tower

Ocean Park Tower

Those who enjoy relaxing rides can go for a cable-car ride, Ferris Wheel, Ocean Park Tower and SkyFair Balloon ride.

For show-lovers, they can watch shows performed by dolphins and sea lions at Ocean Theatre, world class ice-skaters at Tai Shue Wan Theatre and birds at Amazing Birds Theatre.

Ocean Park Tower  When my wife and I were at Ocean Park, we went for the Ocean Park Tower ride. It rotated as it moved slowly up to a height of 200 metres above sea-level providing a 360 degree aerial view of the South China Sea, Aberdeen and small islands as well as the Headland theme park below. We went up twice as we loved to see the stunning scenery.

A popular seal show

A popular seal show

Ocean Theatre: A Dolphin and Sea Lion Show

    After the enjoyable Ocean Park Tower ride, we went to watch the dolphin and sea lion show at Ocean Theatre which is a stone throw from Ocean Park Tower. Before the show started we were entertained by a group of musicians for half an hour. It was fun to sing along with them.  
In the show, three dolphins showed off some stunts, like jumping out of the water to do the twist and turn, and touch a ball high

A cable-car ride: Breathtaking views

A cable-car ride: Breathtaking views

above the water, giving a trainer a piggy back ride and dancing in the water, while three sea lions made us laughed as they kept teasing their master.

Ocean Park: Lowland    After the dolphin and sea lion show, we went to queue outside the cable-car station. It did not take us long to wait for our turn. Sitting in a cable-car and moving down to Lowland, we enjoyed the spectacular, scenic views of Repulse Bay,

Skyfair Ride: A large balloon that brings up 30 passengers

Skyfair Ride: A large balloon that brings up 30 passengers

the coastline, the lush green terrains, islands and blue South China Sea. 

SkyFair Ride   On arrival at Lowland, we headed straight for the SkyFair balloon ride. The helium filled balloon took us to a height of 120 metres for bird-eye views of the coastline and South China Sea as well as Lowland below.

The balloon has a diameter of 22 metres, contains 6,000 cubic metres of helium gas and can take 30 passengers in its gondola at a time on a fine day.  

An Acrobat Act in Lowland, Ocean Park

An Acrobat Act in Lowland, Ocean Park (Giant Panda House in the background)

After the enjoyable balloon ride, we went to watch an acrobatic show staged by a team of daring young men.  

Giant Pandas   There are two famous giant pandas, An An and Jia Jia, in their HK$80 million habitat on a higher ground in Lowland. When we were there it was closed to visitors. We were told that it was under renovation.

Later, we went back to Headland by cable-car again to have a last look at the breathtaking scenery. In the evening, we left Ocean Park through Tai Shue Wan Entrance and took a bus, No. 629, to

The Peak Tower

The Peak Tower

Central. Arriving at Central, we took another bus, No. 15, to go up the famous Hong Kong peak, Victoria Peak or, simply, The Peak.

The Peak or Victoria Peak   The Peak or Victoria Peak is in the south-western part of Hong Kong Island with a height of 552 metres. It is the highest mountain on the island and forms a backdrop of the island city.

The road to the top is narrow, steep and winding. The side of certain parts of the road is almost over the steep slope of the

The writer and his wife on the Peak Tower Rooftop

The writer and his wife on the Peak Tower Rooftop

mountain. While ascending the Peak, our experienced bus-driver, skillfully, negotiated some difficult bends. He, finally, brought us to the top safely in 40 minutes.

The Peak Tower  When we reached the height of 395 metres above sea-level on The Peak mountain, we were amazed to see the latest landmark of the island, The Peak Tower, with a height of 33 metres. It is built in a unique modern structure that looks like a large rice-bowl or wok.

Hong Kong City seen from the Peak Tower rooftop

Hong Kong City seen from the Peak Tower rooftop

The seven floor tower houses restaurants, shops and entertainment areas. It provides a rooftop platform for viewing the breathtaking scenery of the cities on both sides of Victoria Harbour: Hong Kong and Tsim Sha Tsui. The rooftop platform is 428 metres above sea-level.

Peak Galleria  Opposite The Peak Tower is a large shopping complex, Peak Galleria. It has lots of shops selling a wide range of goods and restaurants.

The Peak Tower Rooftop  In the evening, we went up to the rooftop of The Peak Tower by elevators. When we reached there we

A life-sized wax figure of Maggie Cheung (a Hong Kong actress) at Madame Tussauds, Peak Tower

A life-sized wax figure of Maggie Cheung (a Hong Kong actress) at Madame Tussauds, Peak Tower

were surprised to see a lot of people there. As it was so crowded we could not get to the edge of the rooftop to have a good view of the skyscrapers of the city below. After waiting, patiently, for a few minutes, we got a good spot. Standing there, we were mesmerized by the awesome panoramic view of the colourfully-lit Hong Kong City below and part of Tsim Sha Tsui City in the distance. It is like a fairyland with a sea of colourful lights.

Fireworks on Labour Day  After 8 p.m., fireworks were, suddenly, shot into the air from the city-skyscrapers lighting up the sky, brightly. They were set off, intermittently, to celebrate Labour Day (1 May 2007). The extravaganza lasted for several minutes mesmerizing all of us on The Peak Tower’s observation deck.

Madame Tussauds Hong Kong  The Peak Tower has a wax museum known as Madame Tussauds Hong Kong. It houses over 100 stunning life-like wax figures of entertainment, fashion, TV and film celebrities,

A Peak Tram

A Peak Tram

historical and national heroes, sports heroes and music icons, like Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, Leslie Cheung, Andy Lau, Maggie Cheung, Anita Mu, Bae Yong Jun, David Beckham and President Hu Jintao. We did not enter the wax museum as we have visited one in London.

The Peak Tram  Visitors can go up or down The Peak by The Peak Tram. It is the world’s steepest funicular railway that brings 120 passengers up the Peak in about 8 minutes each time. It is pulled up along a 1.4 km track by a thick haulage rope. The gradient of the track is between 4 and 27 degrees. When the tram is moving along a steep track, the passengers will think that the nearby buildings are tilting.

The Peak Tram is similar to the one on Penang Hill in my country, Malaysia. It has been in operation since 1888. While riding on the tram, passengers will have panoramic views of the cities on both sides of Victoria Harbour and the harbour itself. (Ticket: HKD30 one way)

The Peak Descend    At 8.40 p.m. we came out of The Peak Tower and decided to descend the mountain by The Peak Tram. But we were shocked to see a very long queue outside The Peak Tram terminal. As we were not sure how long we had to wait for the tram, we decided to go down The Peak by bus No. 15 again.

Lush green terrains of Lantau Island

Lush green terrains of Lantau Island

While descending The Peak, we felt the bus jolted a few times along the long, narrow and winding mountain road. But the skilful driver brought us safely to the foot of The Peak in 25 minutes, 15 minutes faster than the ascend!

Day 3:  2 May 2007

A Visit to Lantau Island  On the third and last day of our stay in Hong Kong, we decided to go to Ngong Ping Village on Lantau Island to see a giant Buddha statue, known as Tian Tan Buddha. It would be a welcome change for us to visit a countryside.

Lantau Island  After breakfast at Mongkok we took an MTR train

Tung Chung Bay in the foregound and Tung Chung Town in the background

Tung Chung Bay in the foregound and Tung Chung Town in the background

to Tung Chung, a small town on Lantau Island. Lantau Island with a small population of 45,000 people is the largest island of Hong Kong. The views of Its pristine terrains of lush green valleys and mountains are spectacular. The island’s highest mountain, Lantau Peak, has a height of 934 metres. Half of the island is now protected for its natural beauty and charm.

Skyrail  On arrival at the Tung Chung MTR station, we proceeded to the Skyrail terminus nearby to buy tickets for the cable car ride

Boarding a cable-car of Skyrail at Tung Chung Skyrail Station

Boarding a cable-car of Skyrail at Tung Chung Skyrail Station

to Ngong Ping. Although there was a long queue to the ticketing counters, it was moving fast.

A “Special Day”  After 20 minutes of lining up, I finally came to a ticketing counter. I was shocked when the ticket seller told me that I had to pay HKD10 more for a ticket as that day was a “special day”. But I told him that the price of a ticket should be reduced as it was a “special day”. He then explained that “special day” means ” holiday” when there were many visitors and so the

Hong Kong International Airport in the distance

Hong Kong International Airport in the distance

price of a ticket was increased. Having understood what he meant, I paid for the tickets for the Skyrail ride for my wife and myself .

Skyrail was opened on 18 September 2006. It is a 20-25 minute cable-car ride from Tung Chung to Ngong Ping Village as the distance is 5.7 km.

A Scenic Journey to Ngong Ping Village  While we were in a Skyrail cable-car moving over Tung Chung Bay towards Hong Kong International Airport, we saw airplanes taking off from the airport one at a time. Then our cable-car turned at an angle at Airport Angle Station and moved away from the airport and over the bay again towards Lantau Island.

Ngong Pin Village, Lantau Island

Ngong Ping Village, Lantau Island

As it was gliding high above the island, we had breathtaking views of lush green mountains and valleys of North Lantau Country Park and the South China Sea. Occasionally, we saw nature walking tracks in the protected park.

Soon we saw Ngong Ping Village and a figure, Giant Buddha or Tian Tan Buddha, sitting serenely on top of a hill in the distance. Finally, we arrived at Ngong Ping Village.

 Ngong Ping Village  The village looks new and has been

A performer standing on sharp knives with his bare feet

A performer standing on sharp knives with his bare feet

designed and landscaped to reflect the Chinese ancient culture and spirituality. The houses look like those we saw in Beijing Hutong.

An Amazing Act    Entering the village we were attracted by a small crowd watching a show performed by some Chinese men dressed in red Kung-fu uniforms. They were demonstrating their acrobatic, fighting and other skills on a small stage. One of their acts amazed me. In the act, a man in red stood barefooted on sharp knives without getting hurt in the soles of his bare feet.

"Walking with Buddha" Building

"Walking with Buddha" Building

“Walking With Buddha” and “Monkey’s Tale”  As we strolled through the crowded small village, we passed shops selling food and drinks, souvenirs, antiques, apparels, etc. There is a Chinese traditional building with red walls and yellow roof featuring a multimedia show, “Walking With Buddha”, that traces the Buddha’s path to enlightenment. Another building nearby shows an animation presentation about a monkey learning the importance of humility and kindness. It is called “Monkey’s Tale”. Having seen the village, we entered a large garden known as Tian Tan Garden.

Tian Tan Garden (‘tian tan’ in Chinese means ‘heaven’)    We left the Ngong Ping Village and entered a

Tian Tan Garden and Tian Tan Buddha on a small hill

Tian Tan Garden and Tian Tan Buddha on a small hill

garden adjacent to it. The garden is known as Tian Tan Buddha Garden which was opened on 10 September 1996. In the middle of the garden stands a large bronze Chinese traditional urn with three large colourful joss-sticks planted in the middle. Near the urn is a circular mound altar which is smaller than the one in front of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. There is a row of stalls further down selling postcards, hats, fruits, ice-cream, drinks, snacks, etc.

Giant Buddha or Tian Tan Buddha  Standing in the middle of the garden, we looked up and saw a huge bronze Buddha statue sitting on a lotus throne atop a hill. Many tourists were walking up the 268 steps to the statue. The statue is known as Giant

Three of the six statues of pretty ladies making an offering kneeling in front of Tian Tan Buddha

Three of the six statues of pretty ladies kneeling and making an offering to Tian Tan Buddha

Buddha or Tian Tan Buddha which is 34 metres tall. It is the tallest seated outdoor bronze Buddha statue in the world. Completed in 1993, it took the engineers 10 years to construct the large figure. It is an engineering feat.

On the way up the steps, we saw a few large bronze sculptures, like an ancient Chinese urn and lamp, in the middle of them. The climb to the top was slightly difficult, as it was long and steep (about 268 steps). But when we reached the top we totally forgot about our tired legs. It was because we were overwhelmed by the hugeness of the statue. Besides, the panoramic views of the Ngong Ping terrains and the bird’s eye view of Tian Tan Garden and a Buddhist monastery, Po Lin Buddhist Monastery, near the garden, were spectacular. Kneeling down at the base of the Giant Buddha

Po Lin Buddhist Monastery

Po Lin Buddhist Monastery

statue are six bronze statues of beautiful ladies each making an offering to Him.  

Po Lin Buddhist Monastery and Wisdom Path   Po Lin Buddhist Monastery was built in 1917. (“Po Lin” in Chinese means “Precious Lotus”). Not far from the monastery is a place where tall wooden pillars carrying sacred texts are planted in a figure of the infinity symbol, symbolizing the immeasurable splendour and infinity. This place is known as “Wisdom Path”.

Return to Tung Chung  After an enlightened tour of Ngong Ping Village and Tian Tan Buddha Garden, we walked to the Ngong Ping station and boarded a Skyrail cable-car. Then we were on our way back to Tung Chung.

As we were travelling to Tung Chung by Skyrail, we saw an unusual thing on a high hill. It was a lonely white Chinese graveyard. I wonder whose graveyard that is and why it is high up there.

Tsing Ma Bridge

Tsing Ma Bridge

Before reaching Tung Chung, we saw some fishermen in the waist-deep water of the Bay of Tung Chung searching for shellfish.

Tsing Ma Bridge  On arrival at Tung Chung, we took a bus to Admiralty. On the way, we crossed a long suspension bridge known as Tsing Ma Bridge. It has two decks carrying road and rail traffic and is part of the Lantau Link which links Lantau Island as well as Hong Kong International Airport to the urban areas in Hong Kong. Opened in 1997, Tsing Ma Bridge is the world’s longest road-and-rail suspension bridge (1.4 km long) but the 6th. longest suspension bridge (2.1 km long).

Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre

Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre

On arrival at Admiralty, we decided to go to Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai.

Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre    At Hong Kong Convention and Exhibiton Centre, we were surprised to see a multitude of tourists there. The Centre is a large building with the world’s tallest glass wall and a roof that resembles a seagull’s wings in flight. Opened in 1988 and expanded in 1997, the integrated complex houses exhibition halls, theatres, hotels and restaurants.

"Forever Blooming Bauhinia" Monument at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre

"Forever Blooming Bauhinia" Monumentat at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre

Golden Bauhinia Square  Located in front of Convention and Exhibition Centre is Golden Bauhinia Square. It was at that square that the historic ceremony at which Britain handed over Hong Kong’s sovereignty to China at midnight on 1 June 1997 was held. Erected in the square is a beautiful gold-coloured monument of a flower known as “Forever Blooming Bauhinia” to commemorate the handover in 1997.

Bauhinia trees are common in Hong Kong and produce large beautiful flowers that have become the emblem of the Hong Kong flag. 

Star Ferry  Having visited Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre,

A Star ferry crossing Victoria Harbour

A Star ferry crossing Victoria Harbour

we went to the Wan Chai ferry pier to board a green-and-white ferry, Star Ferry, to Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon. (Fare : HK$2.20).

The ferry began its operation in 1898. As it was crossing Victoria Harbour, we saw spectacular sceneries of the cities on both sides of Victoria Harbour and a large cruise ship known as Star Cruise Pisces berthed at a terminal. This ship reminds me of her sister

Clock Tower at Tsim Sha Tsui

Clock Tower at Tsim Sha Tsui

ship in Singapore known as Star Cruise Virgo which brought my wife and I on an enjoyable cruise in the Straits of Malacca on 11 September 2001 (American date).

Clock Tower  When we arrived at Star Ferry Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui, we went outside the terminal and saw a tall structure in an open space. It was Clock Tower which was erected in 1915 as part of the former Kowloon-Canton Railway Terminus. When the terminus was demolished in 1978 Clock Tower was left untouched . This 44-metre tall tower, built of red bricks, was declared a historical monument in 1990.

As we were strolling along the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade, we came across a few prominent buildings. Among them were the following:

Hong Kong Cultural Centre at Tsim Sha Tsui

Hong Kong Cultural Centre at Tsim Sha Tsui

Hong Kong Cultural Centre

  It is a venue for classic performing arts, Western and Asian.

Hong Kong Museum of Arts  It features Chinese antiquities, paintings and calligraphy, arts works from around the world and many more.

Hong Kong Space Museum  Opened in 1980, it features astronomy exhibits. Besides, its egg-shaped roof houses Stanely Ho Space Theatre where Omnimax and Sky shows are presented. When I was there the museum was advertising three shows, viz. “Small Solar System Bodies”, “Jan Goodall’s Wild Chimpanzees” and “Mystic India”.

Hong Kong Space Museum at Tsim Sha Tsui

Hong Kong Space Museum at Tsim Sha Tsui

In the evening, we left Tsim Sha Tsui  for our hostel, Dragon Hostel, in Argyle Road in Mongkok.  At the hostel, Stanley, the kind, helpful and friendly hostel owner, allowed us to use his Internet service for free. We took that opportunity to send e-mails to our loved ones in Malaysia and Singapore.  

Day 4:  3 may 2007  

Departure for Macau  In the following morning, we left Hong Kong with fond memories. We travelled by ferry to Macau to have a day tour there before going back to Malaysia.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this travelogue.

Written by Choo Chaw, Kluang, Johor, Malaysia

Hong Kong Travel (Part I)

December 2, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Uncategorized 
Hong Kong Travel(Part I)
 
Geographical Facts on Hong Kong:
Location of Hong Kong (60 km north-east of Macau

Location of Hong Kong (60 km north-east of Macau)

Hong Kong is a well-known territory in the world. Located in the south-eastern part of China, it consists of Kowloon, the New Territories, Hong Kong Island, Lantau Island and over 260 small islands in the South China Sea. It has a total area of 1,104 sq. km. and a population of about 7 millions: 90 % of them is Chinese. Most of them are live in Kowloon and the northern part of Hong Kong Island. Hong Kong Island is considered as the most densely-populated island in the world. “Hong Kong” in Chinese means “Fragrant Harbour” as it was once a busy port where fragrant wood products and incense were actively traded. It is separated by a narrow stretch of water known as Victoria Harbour from Kowloon, but it is now connected by three underwater tunnels, viz. Cross-Harbour Crossing, Eastern Harbour Crossing and Western Harbour Crossing.

Historical Facts on Hong Kong:    In 1841, Great Britain seized Hong Kong Island from China. A year

A Hong Kong street in 1865

A Hong Kong street in 1865

later, China ceded Hong Kong Island to Great Britain under the Treaty of Nanking. In 1860 China ceded Kowloon and Stonecutter to the latter again. In 1898, China granted 99-year lease on New Territories, Lantau Island and other islands to Great Britain.

In 1997, Great Britain returned Hong Kong to China, after ruling it for over 150 years. Since 1997, Hong Kong has become a China’s Special Administrative Region (SAR), operating under the “one country, two systems” principle. It means that it enjoys a high degree of autonomy in all affairs except foreign and defence for at least 50 years.

A Vibrant City   Hong Kong is a vibrant city and a well-known financial and banking centre in the world. Besides, it is a famous tourists’ destination which offers lots of attractions ranging from historical colonial buildings, places of worship and lush green scenery to restaurants serving delicious and diverse local and

An Air Asia Plane

An Air Asia Plane

international cuisine, shopping malls, unique modern architectural sky-scrapers and theme parks. For these reasons, my wife and I decided to visit the city in 2007 for three days (from April 30 to May 2, 2007).

Air Asia (Malaysia) often offers cheap airfares to many destinations in Asia. As Hong Kong was not in its list of destinations, we booked the return ticket for a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Macau. Hong Kong is 60 km north-east of Macau.

Hong Kong Itinerary  Below is the itinerary of our memorable three-day tour in Hong Kong.

1.     Travel to Hong Kong / Tsim Sha Tsui / Kowloon Park
2.     Urban Areas of Kowloon / Nathan Road
3.     Avenue of Stars / A Symphony of Lights
4.     Joy Guest House /  Dragon Hostel / Victoria Harbour Tunnels
5.     Central / Chater Garden / Legislative Council Building
6.     Legislative Council Building / Sir Thomas Statue / A Street Tram
7.     Ocean Park / Ocean Park Tower / Ocean Theatre
8.     SkyFair at Ocean Park
9.     Victoria Peak / Peak Tower / Wax Museum / Peak Tram
10.    Skyrail / Lantau Island / Ngong Ping Village
11.    Tian Tan Garden / Giant Buddha
12.    Po Lin Buddhist Monastery / Wisdom Path / Tsing Ma Bridge
13.    Convention and Exhibition Centre / Golden Bauhinia Square
14.    Star Ferry / Clock Tower / Museums

Day 1: 30 April 2007

Travel To Hong Kong    On the first day of our journey to Hong Kong, we left our homeland, Malaysia, by an Air Asia plane for Macau. On arrival at Macau, we took a ferry to Hong Kong which is 60 km. away. The

China Ferry Terminal at Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon

China Ferry Terminal at Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon

70-minute ferry journey was smooth except for a few minutes of rough ride on the choppy sea near our destination. {We took the budget Air Asia plane to Macau because Hong Kong was not in its list of destinations then.}

Tsim Sha Tsui  At 1.10 p.m., we reached China Ferry Terminal at Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. From the terminal, we walked through Harbour City (a megamall of four levels of shops, services and restaurants, and a departmental store), crossed a pedestrian bridge over Canton Road, walked through Kowloon Park and finally to Tsim Sha Shui MTR Station.

Mass Transit Railway (MTR)   Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is an underground system that is quite extensive in Hong Kong. It is a fast, cheap and convenient way to move around in Hong Kong.

Writer, wife and a sculpture of dolphins behind them

Writer, wife and a sculpture of dolphins behind them

On the way to the MTR station, we stopped for a few minutes in a garden on the rooftop of Harbour City to admire the beautiful dolphin sculptures. These animals were named the official mascot of Hong Kong’s 1997 handover from Great Britain to China. There are big trees in the garden and we wonder how they are able to survive on the roof-top.

Kowloon Park   We also stopped in the shady and beautiful Kowloon Park to watch some waterfowls in a pond, like swans, ducks and flamingos. Then we sat in a shady area to rest our tired legs.

Octopus Card   On arrival at Tsim Sha Tsui MTR Station, we bought an

Beautiful Kowloon Park, Tsim Sha Tsui

Beautiful Kowloon Park, Tsim Sha Tsui

electronic fare card known as Octopus Card. We bought it as it was convenient to pay for public transport as well as bills at restaurants and stores.

Joy Guest House in Sham Shui Po    Then we left Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station by train for Sham Shui Po where we checked in at a small hostel known as Joy Guest House in a high-rise building in Yee Kuk Street. It is run by a young enterprising couple, Buno and Pansy. After resting for an hour, we left the hostel and started our tour in some urban areas in Kowloon.

Urban Areas of Kowloon:    In Kowloon we visited three urban areas,

A busy street in Sham Shui Po, Kowloon

A busy street in Sham Shui Po, Kowloon

viz. Sham Shui Po, Mongkok and Tsim Sha Tsui. After visiting them we found out that they have many things in common. They have, among them, a predominantly Cantonese-speaking population, many old multi-storey residential blocks, street-markets, crowded streets, large signboards with colourful neon lights hanging over the main streets, an MTR station, air-conditioned noodle and chicken rice shops, restaurants, shops and roadside stalls selling the same kinds of products at bargain or wholesale prices, some shopping complexes selling branded goods and heavy traffic in the main streets. These places have frequent influxes of bargain-hunters and food lovers from neighbouring areas and Hong Kong Island.

Busy Nathan Road

Busy Nathan Road

Among all the urban areas in Kowloon, Tsim Sha Tsui has the most number of attractions. It has historic buildings, skyscrapers, a variety of museums, a cultural centre, a beautiful garden, large shopping and

entertainment centres, a scenic promenade where tourists will be mesmerized by the spectacular views of the city on Hong Kong Island and Victoria Harbour.

Nathan Road     There is one important road, Nathan Road, which runs directly from Tsim Sha Tsui in the south to Sham Shui Po in the north. It was originally known as Robinson Road, named after the 5th. Governor of Hong Kong, Sir Hercules Robinson. But in 1909, it was changed to Nathan Road, named after the 13th. Governor, Sir Mathew Nathan, as there was a road on Hong Kong

Avenue of Stars

Avenue of Stars

Island having the same name. Along this long busy road are tall buildings that house shops selling branded goods, restaurants, banks, hotels, etc.

"Jackie Chan" in the Avenue of Stars

“Jackie Chan” in the Avenue of Stars

Avenue of Stars    In the evening we went to the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade where there is a well-known

A stature of Bruce Lee

A stature of Bruce Lee

place which pays tribute to famous film stars and the people involved in Hong Kong film-making. It is known as “Avenue of Stars” that is similar to the Hollywood’s “Walk of Fame”. It was opened  in 2004 and features sculptures, plaques with famous film stars’ names (some with the stars’ handprints) and movie history milestone. At the entrance of the place stands a large bronze sculpture of a Hong Kong Film Award.

At this place, there are some kiosks selling film-related items, taking photos of tourists, selling snacks and drinks, making hand models from wax, etc. and are patronized by many tourists.

A Spectacular Display of Lights:  “A Symphony of Lights” Extravaganza 

"Symphony of Lights" Extravangaza

“Symphony of Lights” Extrangaza

Avenue of Stars is the best spot for looking at the stunning skyline of the Hong Kong City on the other side of Victoria Harbour during the day and night. It is also the best place for watching the city’s “A Symphony of Lights” extravaganza at 8 pm, nightly. This dazzling light and sound presentation of neon lights, laser lights and searchlights on more than 30 skyscrapers on both sides of the Victoria Harbour choreographed to some lively musics mesmerizes the tourists. It is supposed to showcase the vibrancy and charm of Hong Kong as a metropolitan city.

“A Symphony of Lights” earns Hong Kong the Guinness Book of World Records as the “World’s Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show”.

Tourist Cruise Boats    While we were at Avenue of Stars watching the “A Symphony of Lights”, we saw some

A Tourist Cruise Boat in Victoria Harbour

A Tourist Cruise Boat in Victoria Harbour

boats chugging along the Victoria Harbour. They were carrying tourists to watch the spectacular show and see the stunning sight of the brightly-lit skyscrapers. After the 20 minute light show we went back to our hostel in Sham Shui Po.

Day 2: Tuesday 1 May  

In the morning of the second day, we checked out from the hostel, Joy Guest House, and walked to a coffee-shop to have our last breakfast in Sham Shui Po. (Most of the food and beverage shops in Hong Kong are air-conditioned.)

Secondhand Goods  As we were walking along Yee Kuk Road, we saw some workers busy loading

Loading secondhand refrigerators for export

Loading secondhand refrigerators for export

secondhand electrical goods, such as refrigerators, TV’s, VCD/DVD players, radios, etc., into a blue container. Out of curiosity, I asked a local man about the activity and he told me that those things were meant for export to third world countries. After a hearty breakfast at a coffee-shop in Sham Sui Po, we left for Mongkok.

Dragon Hostel in Mongkok    On arrival at Mongkok, we entered another budget hostel, Dragon Hostel, in Argyle Street. As we were too early to check in, we left our luggage with Stanley, the hostel owner, and decided to visit Central on the Hong Kong Island.

Busy Argyle Road in Mongkok

Busy Argyle Road in Mongkok

Instead of taking a ferry from Kowloon to the island, we took an MTR train from Mongkok to Central. This rail transport is faster as the train goes through a tunnel under the Victoria Harbour water.

Victoria Harbour Tunnels    Hong Kong Island is now linked to Kowloon by three tunnels built under the Victoria Harbour water, viz. Cross-Harbour Tunnel (opened in 1972), Eastern Harbour Crossing and Western Harbour Crossing. These tunnels help to reduce travelling time between the financial and commercial cities on both sides of Victoria Harbour.

Central    Central, Admiralty and part of Sheung Wan on Hong Kong Island were the early British settlements

Cheung Kong Centre (62 floors)

Cheung Kong Centre (62 floors)

when Hong Kong became a British colony in 1842. They were, originally, known as Queenstown but later Victoria City. Nowadays, the name “Victoria” refers to Victoria Harbour and Victoria Peak in Hong Kong. Central has been Hong Kong’s hub of commercial, financial and banking activities since the arrival of the British in 1841.

Central Business District    Located in this central business district (CBD) are many multi-national commercial, financial and banking headquarters, five-star hotels, large shopping complexes and shops

selling branded goods. Besides, it has some historical buildings built in the British colonial era, such as Western Market, Government House, Legislative Council Building, Court of Final Appeal, Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware, Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Star Ferry Terminal and St. John’s Cathedral.

Skyscrapers  Standing in Central, we felt so small in size as we were surrounded by skyscrapers, like

Bank of China Tower (70 floors)

Bank of China Tower (70 floors)

Cheung Kong Center(62 floors), Island Shangrila(57 floors), Bank of China

Tower(70 floors), Standard Chartered Bank Building(45 floors), HSBC Main Building(52 floors), AIG Tower(40 floors), Jardine House(52 floors), Exchange Square(52 floors), Two IFC(88 floors, the tallest building in Central), and many more.

Bank of China Tower    Among the skyscrapers in Hong Kong, I find Bank of China Tower the most unusual one. This unique building is easily recognizable in the distance. Built in 1990, it has geometrical lines which are supposed to resemble a bamboo plant symbolizing revitalization and hope. It was designed by a well-known Chinese American architect, Ieoh Ming Pei, who is an MIT and Harvard graduate in architecture. He was born in Canton,

Chater Garden

Chater Garden

China in 1917. Louvre Pyramid in Paris (1989), Raffles City in Singapore (1985), Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio and Museum of Islamic Arts in Doha, Qatar are some of his designs.

Chater Garden    While walking to a public garden, Chater Garden, we heard a lot of noise. At first, we thought birds were making the noise there. But when we reached the place we were surprised to see many groups of foreign maids having picnic and chattering away. Then I jokingly told my wife that the name of the garden should be changed to “Chatter Garden”.

Foreign Maids in Chater Garden  A lot of foreign maids were at the garden because it was a public holiday, Labour Day (1 May 2007). I guess they meet each other on weekends too and Chater Garden is one of their favourite rendezvous. At present there are about 250,000 foreign maids in Hong Kong and most of them are from poor countries, like the Philippines and Indonesia.

Legislative Council Building

Legislative Council Building

Chater Garden is named after an influential Hong Kong businessman, Sir Catchick Paul Chater (1846-1926). It is a medium-sized garden with many shady trees and a pool of water located right in front of Legislative Council Building.

Legislative Council Building  Standing in Chater Garden, I saw a majestic, quaint building. It was built in 1912 in neo-classical style with columns and arches along Jackson Road. Originally, it housed the Supreme Court. But in 1985, it was taken over by the Legislative Council which still occupies the building.

On top of the front roof of the building is the Statue of Justice, a

Statue of Sir Thomas Jackson (1841-1915)

Statue of Sir Thomas Jackson (1841-1915)

blind-folded lady, Themis, (the Greek Goddess), carrying a sword in one hand and scales in the other. Strangely, this statue has one thing that is different from the Statue of Justice on top of the Old Bailey in London. The latter is not blind-folded.

Statue of Sir Thomas Jackson (1841-1915)  It is not easy to find a bronze statue of an important person in Hong Kong. But in Chater Garden, I found one. It was the statue of Sir Thomas Jackson (1841-1915) in front of HSBC Building. HSBC erected it there in honour of his excellent service when he was its Chief Manager from 1870 to 1902.

Court of Final Appeal Building  Not far from the Chater Garden is the Court of Final Appeal Building. It was built in neo-classical style in 1917 by the

Court of Final Appeal

Court of Final Appeal

French Mission. In 1953 it was sold to the Government which successively used it as the Education Department, the Victoria District Court, the Supreme Court and the Information Centre. Now it houses the Court of Final Appeal.

A Street Tram  In the afternoon, we left Central and walked to a bus station near Lippo Tower in Admiralty. We intended to visit Ocean Park in the southern part of Hong Kong Island.

On the way to the bus station, we saw an unusual double-decker vehicle moving noisily but slowly on a railway with a cable attached

A street tram

A street tram

to its top. It is a street tram that runs along a 13 km railway line on North Hong Kong Island. Since 1904, this classic icon of Hong Kong has been providing an old fashion-style travel experience in the hustling and bustling city. For a ride on a tram, you need to pay a small sum, HKD2.

At the Admiralty bus station, we boarded Citybus no. 629 and soon we were on our way to Ocean Park in the southern part of Hong Kong Island

{To continue reading this travelogue, please go to Hong Kong Travel (Part II)}

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