Firstly, I would like to thank the Colton family for their hospitality during my stay. I was really made to feel at home. Debbie and Adam your kindness and generosity knows no bounds.
Hong Kong: Day 1
So Hong Kong then. Well I arrived exhausted after a 13hr flight and was stuck waiting for my baggage for over an hour, ( I was really beginning to plan for the possibility of living on three pairs of boxers and two t shorts for the rest of the year). However, once I finally managed to collect my baggage I hopped onto the uber-fast airport express which transported me to the main island in just 24 minutes. When I say this train was everything the London Underground is not, I mean it. It was efficient, fast and clean. You aren’t even allowed to eat and drink as there’s a thousand dollar fine for doing so.
That said, once I arrived into Hong Kong central I had to try and direct a local taxi driver to the Coltons apartment using a rudimentary Chinese translation of the address I had got off google translate. All in all, I should probably have got it done professionally. In fact, the driver did originally take me to the correct location and tower, it was just that upon arrival I was directed by the staff at that block to go to the other tower further down the hill. The distance between the two can hardly be more than 30 metres but in sweltering 32 degree heat and near enough 80% humidity, schelping my suitcases was still a struggle. Nevertheless, upon arriving at tower three I was duly informed that I had been in the right place originally and therefore had to schelp all my stuff back up the hill. At this point, due to the thick trackies and coat I was wearing from the flight I began to sweat like mad. Long story short , I finally managed to reach th Coltons flat looking altogether worse for wear but was welcomed in and given a chance to refresh after a long journey.
Once I had had my shower I think I began to take stock of the room, which usually functioned as the kids playroom, and had the most phenomenal view looking out onto Victoria peak. You see Hong Kong isn’t a city in a usual sense. It remains 80% vegetated. As such, the peak, a jutting mountain overlooking Hong Kong, therefore remains mostly subtropical jungle. I’m this way the houses and blocks interspersed amongst the trees make for a quite impressive backdrop.
I was then duly informed by the Colton family that I could tag along to a barbecue they were attending at a tower slightly further down the mid levels. When I say this veranda had a hell of a view I mean it. The barbecue area was perched on a terrace looking right out over the main city, providing a spectacular setting. It was honestly jaw dropping. If you have the chance to visit Hong Kong in the future I highly recommend it. The barbecue was great fun and I was given a taster of expat life, which I must say is a world away from North London and Leeds. I met American-Australians, scientists trying to cure Motor Neuron disease, photographers and travel lifestyle writers. It was an interesting group of people from all across the world and felt distinctly global. I loved it.
After dinner we headed back to the apartment and I caught up on sleep which I hadn’t had since I left London.
Hong Kong: Day 2
The second day started with a much needed lie in. As the Colton kids are quite young they were up early but such was my tiredness that I managed to sleep through the hullabaloo. The morning was therefore a slow one, dominated by breakfast and helping the kids build some knex. It reminded me a lot of last summer and SlC.
After some time, we decided to get the Peak Tram up to the top of Victoria Peak. However, first we had to walk down through the mid levels and the botanical gardens which also function as a sort of minature zoo. It seemed as if the orangutans were trying to escape from the cages but the kids loved it. Again, it felt odd standing in a tropical zoo flanked but jutting skyscrapers on all sides. Adam was telling me how Hong Kong has run out of space and now has a 99.2% occupancy rate and a population the size of London in a much smaller area. He also pointed out that the fountain at the end of the botanical gardens used to be the end point of the island and notified me that the rest was all built on reclaimed land from the bay. Hong Kong really is a marvel of urban planning. We reached the bottom of the hill in good time and had to queue for about an hour in baking heat before we could purchase tickets. Supposedly it’s better to sit on the right hand side of the peak tram as you get a better view on the way up. I must say I don’t think it would have made much of a difference. The cool thing about the tram was that it was effectively built on a vertical slope so you also feel like you are going up the mountain at 90degrees. Adam, again told me that the colony had started from the peak and progressed downwards towards the bay, as in the 19th C the lack of air conditioning meant the peak was the coolest spot on the island. Today, properties on peak are amongst the most expensive in Hong Kong and cost about 10-12 million pounds each while rent for some of the HSBC buildings is approximately £400000 a year. As Adam said, its Monopoly money.
Nevertheless, the peak today is very commercialised with a shopping centre on the top and everything from a Burger King to Starbucks. It does take away a little from the otherwise very natural site. It is however,very Hong Kong. Once we got to the top we grabbed some lunch and I decided to purchase a ticket for the sky deck to look over the city.
The view is phenomenal as is the head set which gives you a brief history of all the buildings and the city. After taking half an hour to take in the view, I met up with the Coltons for the hike down the Peak. While completely vegetated on all sides, the walk is a tricky but fun way to burn off lunch and amazingly the Coltons youngest managed to run down the peak closely followed in pursuit by Adam. It’s definitely good for fitness, that’s for sure.
Upon reaching the bottom we went back to apartment and got some swimming stuff so that we could use the apartment blocks pool. This was a nice way to cool down and relax after the hike. By the time we left the pool it was late afternoon, and time for the kids dinner. In the meantime I got ready to go out for the evening.
Once the kids had been put to bed by the babysitter, Debbie and Adam, took me on the MTR ( the ultra modern underground ) across the bay to watch the famous Hong Kong light show. At night, looking back across the bay with the city lit up, Hong Kong really comes to life. This was the first time I think I felt the general buzz of the city. Once the light show finished we got the star ferry back across the bay not before being caught in a mini monsoon without a rain coat( typical). This is apparently the cheapest form of regular public transport in the world. Anyway, once we had docked safely we preceded to walk from the Bay Area up into mid levels completely undercover. Again it is easy to see how well planned Hong Kong is. At this point we reached the longest escalator system in the world (so I was told), which is flanked on either side by shops and reminded me a bit of the walkways of Las Vegas. We stopped off about half way up to get dinner in a fantastic little Lebanese place which had some of the best pitta and haloumi I have had outside of Israel. I highly recommend it ( it was called Maison Lebanese ). After some great food and conversation we headed back to the flat.
All in all I have had a great time in Hong Kong which is entirely down to the Colton family.