After 2 days in the former Portuguese colony of Macau, Andyb summoned Lisab onto the ferry bound for Hong Kong. This wasn't on account of Macau being a boring place, rather the lush had taken to gambling away the remaining holiday fund in the MGM Grand, one of the many casinos the island offers. Macau is a mixture of old colonial buildings and new sky scraping luxury hotels and offices. It doesn't take long to wander off the tourist trail and into the real life of the locals. Back streets are full of cobblers shops, hardware stores, grocers and people gathered around enjoying a game of Mahjong. So when we weren't betting on 3 "is the magic number" (which incidentally it isn't) we spent our hours noseying around the residential streets and gaping in awe at the high rise flats, replete with washing hanging from the balconies, where most Macau folk live.
Macau apartment blocks
One of the oldest casino's in Macau (that Lisab was barred from entering)
Closest Lisa got to entering casino Lisboa
The new casino Lisboa dominates Macau's skyline everywhere you go
They've gone Olympic crazy, even in Macau
The Fortaleza do Monte
We had enjoyed a spacious double bed roomed hotel in Macau and so were stunned to be faced with the smallest hotel room in the world when we reached Hong Kong (this was officiated by a Guinness Book of Records adjudicator). Although not ones to complain, we did have to refuse the first room offered. It held a single bed that they laughingly tried to pass off as a double. Our digs were located in the ironically named Chungking Mansions - which is a huge concrete block housing guesthouses for the poor and down market shops & restaurants. It's bang in the centre of Kowloon on Nathan Road - the main shopping centre in Hong Kong. Andyb wasn't at all tired of the constant touting for business from the local salesmen offering "a suit sir, for you sir, good sir, half price sir" or "a rolex sir". It was a joy to have them join us for a half a mile walk down the street as they attempted to change his mind from his original and sustained answer of "NO".
The most attractive part of Hong Kong is the amazing sky line view at the Harbour front. As daylight descends into darkness, the skyscrapers light up like christmas trees. There's even a "light spectacular" conducted every evening at 8pm. Much like the warning before entering onto a rollercoaster though, we wouldn't recommend it for the faint hearted, bad backed, pregnant, young or infirm amongst you. This is due to the thousands of people who jostle, kick and punch their way to the front for the best vista. Better wait until 8:15pm when the crowds disperse, because the lit buildings are just as impressive without the laser, light & music show.
Hong Kong harbour at dusk
On a relatively clear day we trekked up the Peak (only jossing - the temperature was 31 degrees celsius with a humidity of 99% - we took the tram) to take a look at Hong Kong from above. Again this was an impressive sight, and allows you to grasp just how built up Hong Kong has become. Land is still being reclaimed from the sea; there continues to be new buildings and extensions to existing buildings going up all the time.
The view from the peak
Shortly after this photo, Bruce Lee was on his back side, and Brad Pitt ran crying in terror. It took 10 men to escort The B-Meister from the building.
Andyb lost his toyboy title, as his 36th birthday brought him to the same age as his wife (for the next three months). Lisab scoured the Rough Guide's "free things" section to celebrate (happy bloody birthday) and came up with a visit to the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware, in Hong Kong Park. It's an informative, if sometimes repetitive, museum and gives a thorough insight into China's tea trade. He did get to taste China's finest in the Lock Cha Teahouse next door though. This was a great experience. Whilst Lisab enjoyed a white peony tea, Andyb opted for a (very expensive - well it was his birthday) green tea that was served in a doll's tea pot. They made a real ceremony of brewing it each time. The Brunton's were well impressed and have declared tea as their new hobby, so all are welcome at 244 for a thimble full of cha upon our return. The day was rounded off with a fancy meal, and whilst Andrew enjoyed a Black Sheep beer (his first in 8 months), observers could have mistook it for Lisab's special day, as she ordered apple martini AND had a baked alaska for pudding.
We decided to join thousands of Chinese tourists and headed to Ocean Park for the day. We arrived early and had the rollercoaster to ourselves for the first two goes. We even got to sit in the front car; very thrilling for the Brunton's as it was our first time. As the day got later, the crowds got larger, the temperature hotter and the atmosphere more humid. We could have coped with one variable, but not all of them together. So, after the panda viewing (which meant queueing for 30 minutes and shuffling past them for 3) we gave up and boarded the bus back. This wasn't before we'd witnessed the tourists ooing and awwing at the dolphins and sea lions flapping their fins and flippers in the marine show, and not before we'd fried in the hot seats (that only mad dogs and Englishmen occupied) watching the un-natural event.
After 5 days in the city, we felt like we'd seen enough, besides even the salesmen got bored of asking Andyb if he wanted "a suit sir" and were only going through the motions. It was an obvious wrench to leave the fire hazard that was Chungking Mansions, with the windowless, three quarter bedded, freezing cold or boiling hot (depending on whether the aircon was switched on or off) room that we had called home.