The Old Fogies go to Hong Kong Park

 Looking to get away from the stifling Central district, we sought refuge in Hong Kong Park. Although relatively new (the park opened in 1991), part of the site was known as Cantonment Hill in early colonial days in 1840s. This was also the site of the Victoria Barracks, built between 1867 and 1910.

Hong Kong Park covers an area of 8 hectares and is a very pleasant mixture of old and new which blends nicely in the natural landscape. On a hot steamy day, it was nice to sit next to the various water features which include waterfalls, streams and ponds.

Around the park are a number of historic buildings dating from the colonial period, Flagstaff House built in 1846) now houses the Flagstaff House Museum of Teaware, the Cassels Block from the former barracks is now the Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre since 1992 and Rawlinson House is now the Cotton Tree Drive Marriage Registry.

The park is very attractive, full of interesting little corners including an Olympic square, lily ponds, fountains, unusual sculptures, Flagstaff House is in front of the Lippo towers that look like they have Koalas attached .

The park also has a large aviary with over 80 species of birds living in a designed tropical ‘rainforest’. 

The walkways take you amongst the canopy and provides great vantage points to watch the birds.

One thing that you will notice as you walk around is that the official organisations within Hong Kong do love signs. They leave nothing to chance, warning you of all the dangers in the park.

If you are visiting Hong Kong, Hong Kong Park is well worth a visit and a peaceful oasis amongst the high rises. It is well designed to provide plenty of interest with stunning views of the various tall buildings in the Central district.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

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The Old Fogies Travel on the Peak Tram in Hong Kong

The Peak also known as Victoria Peak is the highest mountain on Hong Kong Island, at 552 m (1,811 ft). In the 19th century, the Peak attracted European residents who enjoyed the panoramic views over the city and its coolness especially in the searing heat of the summer.

However its steepness was a problem and many of the residents would hire or own Sedan Chairs which would be carried by locals. There was an increase in residential development with the opening of the Peak Tram in 1888.

The Peak Tram is a funicular railway in Hong Kong, which carries passengers to the upper levels of the Peak. The Peak Tram is one of Hong Kong’s attractions which transports of seven million passengers a year.

We joined the queue at the lower terminus station and looked at The Peak Tram Historical Gallery where over 200 pieces of memorabilia of the Tram and Hong Kong are exhibited. The station has a single track, with platforms on both sides. One platform is used for boarding, the other for exiting the tram.

Whilst waiting, we wondered whether there would be much ‘fun’ on this funicular railway but as the Tram came into sight, the excitement levels began to build.

After boarding the tram, the Peak Tram’s began its route which covers a distance of about 1.4 kilometres (0.87 mi) and an elevation of just under 400 metres (1,312 ft). Initially there is little to see except trees and bushes, but as the Tram climbs, more panoramic views appear.

Near to the top, there is more excitement with the ‘The Peak Tram illusion’, this illusion occurs on the uphill journey when the high rises of Hong Kong on the right ride of the tram appear to fall toward The Peak. This illusion is due to the tilt of the tram and the reclining body position of passengers inside the tram.

Arriving at the top, you enter the Peak Tower shopping and leisure complex which has numerous food options, shops, Madame Tussauds and the Sky Terrace where you can enjoy 360 degree views for a fee.

In a ultra-modern city, it seems that many residents of Hong Kong and visitors take pleasure in the relics from the past. The Peak Tram also connects the city to a more natural environment with plenty of people trying to escape some of the extremes of the Hong Kong weather.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

 

The Old Fogies travel on the Star Ferry in Hong Kong

Victoria Harbour dominates Hong Kong and one of the main sights in the harbour is the green Star Ferries that ply their trade between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.

The ferries have iconic status in Hong Kong because for over 100 years, they have been a reassuring constant in a century of change. The Star Ferry Co Ltd was created in 1898 to cater for the large number of people who wanted an inexpensive crossing between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Today, many of  the commuters using the service have been replaced by the many visitors who are keen to take a ride on the old ‘workhorses’.

The Star Ferry operates on the cross-harbour routes between Central to Tsim Sha Tsui and Wan Chai to Tsim Sha Tsui and also run a Harbour Tour tourist cruise which takes a circular route to all the Tsim Sha Tsui, Central and Wan Chai stops.

We went to the Central Pier to get the ferry and looked around some displays about the Star Ferry before making our way to the embarkation point. You can travel on upper or lower deck but the trip is so inexpensive that most visitors travel on the upper deck.

To enter the part of the pier where you get onto the ferry, you need to pay your fare by getting tokens, which are available in the vending machines at the piers. You then drop your tokens in the turnstile to enter, cash is not accepted on the ferries, passengers must use an Octopus Card (pre-paid card) or buy tokens to pay for the ride.

Aboard the ferry, there are rows of wooden seats and small windows which gave wonderful views of the harbour as the ferry slowly makes its way across the harbour. In many ways, Star Ferries are a relic of the past and that is part of their appeal, they have plenty of character and symbolic importance for Hong Kong.

The short trip was soon over and we made our way down the ramp and onto the pier at Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon.

Watching the ferry making its way back into a now murky harbour, it was somewhat reassuring that in a city that was hurtling into the future, there were ties to the past that are respected and enjoyed. For centuries, ferries were the only way to make the crossing between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon but now Victoria Harbour is crossed by railway and road tunnels. However the romance of the Star Ferry still carries on with tourists and commuters making the short journey and enjoying the wonderful views of the harbour.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

 

The Old Fogies visit The Peak in Hong Kong

One of the main attractions of Hong Kong is The Peak also known as Victoria Peak which is the highest mountain on Hong Kong Island, at 552 m (1,811 ft).

In the 19th century, the Peak attracted European residents who enjoyed the panoramic views over the city and its coolness especially in the searing heat of the summer. However its steepness was a problem and many of the residents would hire or own Sedan Chairs which would be carried by locals. There was an increase in residential development with the opening of the Peak Tram in 1888.

The Peak Tram is a funicular railway in Hong Kong, which carries passengers to the upper levels of the Peak. The Peak Tram is another of Hong Kong’s attractions which transports of seven million passengers a year.

We joined the queue at the lower terminus station and looked at the The Peak Tram Historical Gallery where over 200 pieces of memorabilia of the Tram and Hong Kong are exhibited. The station has a single track, with platforms on both sides. One platform is used for boarding, the other for exiting the tram.

There was some excitement as the Tram arrived and boarding took place, the Peak Tram’s route covers a distance of about 1.4 kilometres (0.87 mi) and an elevation of just under 400 metres (1,312 ft), initially there is little to see but as the Tram climbs, more panoramic views appear. Near to the top, there is more excitement with the ‘The Peak Tram illusion’, this illusion occurs on the uphill journey when the high rises of Hong Kong on the right ride of the tram appear to fall toward The Peak. This illusion is due to the tilt of the tram and the reclining body position of passengers inside the tram.

Arriving at the top, you enter the Peak Tower shopping and leisure complex which has numerous food options, shops,  Madame Tussauds and the Sky Terrace where you can enjoy 360 degree views for a fee.

Residents were originally drawn to the Peak because of its views and coolness and we looked forward to escaping the hot humid conditions with a walk around the summit of the Peak. One of the most popular walks is the loop along Lugard Road and Harlech Road which takes you on a circuit around the summit.

Moving away from the crowds at Peak Tower, you enter a different sort of wonderland full of strange tree foundations and waterfalls. Gradually views of Pok Fu Lam reservoir and the the outlying islands appear.

For many decades, the residents of the Peak were European and often part of the colonial administrative elite, however since the handover of Hong Kong it has been wealthy Chinese who have paid large amounts of money to buy properties on Peak making them some of the most expensive in the world. For all the wealth, access to the properties is problematic with narrow, steep tracks to overcome.

With the only the odd walker and jogger, the walk was a pleasant change from the frantic pace of the city with a number of vantage spots along the way to enjoy the fantastic views and information boards that give information about trees and wildlife.

Towards the end of the walk, you are rewarded with spectacular views of Kowloon, New Territories and the harbour before arriving back at the Peak Tower complex.

After a few days of high humidity and crowds, the Peak was a welcome change of pace and with some reluctance we made our way back to the Tram and frantic city streets.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

The Old Fogies have a Day at the Races at Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong

If there is one thing the Old Fogies enjoy, it is a day at the races and we were fortunate to be in Hong Kong at a time when the horse racing season began. Hong Kong has two race courses, Happy Valley and Sha Tin which offers top quality horse racing.

Sha Tin was built-in the New Territories district in the 1970s on reclaimed land and is located against a dramatic backdrop of high rises and hills. The racecourse was originally built with capacity for 35,000 and one grandstand, it now has capacity for 85,000 and two grandstands and considered one of the great racecourses in the world.

Fortunately, although the Sha Tin racecourse is in the New Territories, it is quite easy to get to using the MTR train system with a stop opposite the racecourse. We arrived fairly early and joined a heavy throng of racegoers making their way to the course. Overseas visitors can join the many locals in the main stand or pay extra for a guest badge which gives you more access to different parts of the course.

Entering the course, there were gongs to ring for good luck, feeling we would use all the luck we could get we banged away until we became part of a media scrum and faced with TV cameras and photographers. Thinking we had perhaps overdone the gongs, we were little concerned that we had upset somebody. However it quickly became clear that we were of interest with the local media because they were anxious to show overseas visitors enjoying a day at the races. Mrs Nice in particular seemed to be enjoying all the attention flitting from interview to interview, she even managed to sidle into my interview and take over.

The hot humid weather and media attention had us scuttling into the main stand and looking for some refreshments. Mrs Nice was tempted with some beef with rice and bought it over to the table, the tasty morsels of beef were few and hid big chunks of gristle in the sauce. It seemed to be a local delicacy which our fellow diners devoured with relish. We managed to eat the rice and vegetables, the gristle remained on the plate.

The Season Opening meeting is one of the main racedays and the racecourse arranged for entertainment in the parade ring, acrobats and Chinese Lions appeared for a routine before the jockeys came into the ring to line up before the senior members of the Hong Kong Jockey Club. A large Gong appeared which was struck in a ceremonial way to officially mark the start of a new season.

After the entertainment it was time for the serious racing business to begin and the horses began to appear for the first race. One of the reasons we enjoy racing is that it attracts a wide range of people and the crowd is often entertaining in its own right. The Hong Kong crowd differed considerably from your normal British crowd who often see a day at the races as a day out to socialise and have a good time. In Hong Kong, there is a social aspect but betting is taken very seriously and many people spend a lot of time studying form.

Perhaps we did not study form enough, for after a series of losing small wagers on the first few races, we made our way to the exit, banging a few gongs and touching the lucky horses on our way.

If you visit Hong Kong, a visit to Sha Tin or Happy Valley will be full of entertainment, both horse and human related. It is a great way to mix with the locals and see the Hong Kong population at play. The racecourses cater for overseas visitors with special tickets and access to different areas of the racecourse.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

 

 

The Old Fogies go to Hong Kong

 

We arrived in Hong Kong, the first destination of our round the world trip after a tiring overnight flight from London. Although quite weary, we were feeling extremely pleased with ourselves after surviving the first long flight on our journey.

Fortunately, Hong Kong International Airport is not too far from the centre of Hong Kong and the Airport Express train provides a quick and comfortable journey to the Hong Kong station stop. From this station there are a series of free shuttle buses that will take you particular hotels. We had decided to stay at a hotel that was a little way out from the Central district but had good transport connections.

Our traveling up this point had been quite smooth and straightforward, however this was due to change as the coach got snarled up in traffic. The roads were busy and the heat was beginning to build, after about an hour we finally arrived at the hotel. It was only when we got off the coach that we realised how hot and steamy it was, fortunately the hotel was air-conditioned so we stepped through its doors and embraced the coolness.

In the foyer was a board with information about typhoons, one had hit Hong Kong and Macau a few weeks before causing considerable damage especially in Macau. We had intended to visit Macau, however it was still struggling to deal with the damage and therefore we decided not to travel there.

Hong Kong in September can be really hot and steamy, but we were shocked by humidity levels of 98%, Mr Curmudgeon said that he did not believe humidity could be so high, we moan in London when it is about 25%!

Hot and steamy weather with high humidity became the theme of our stay in Hong Kong and any sightseeing was combined with going inside buildings to enjoy the air conditioning.

Hong Kong is an extremely interesting place that is going through its own transition from British colonial outpost to part of the Chinese empire. Recent demonstrations in Hong Kong suggest that this change is not without its conflicts, however there is a sense that Hong Kong is changing at a frantic pace.

Part of that change is the importance of commerce, large shopping areas dominate much of the Central and Kowloon areas with a large number of luxury brand shops. In contrast, the old Hong Kong neighbourhoods have a large number of traditional markets especially in Kowloon which cater for a wide range of tastes.

Even if Hong Kong is geared towards retail and commerce, there is plenty to interest the traveller. The Star Ferry and Peak Tram are historical relics of Hong Kong’s colonial past and the architecture is a mix of old and modern.

Surprisingly, Hong Kong is not just an urban landscape but is surrounded by natural landscapes with many walks and parks that will take you away from the high rises. Even in the Central area, visitors can enjoy the natural beauty of the Peak.

A trip to one of the racecourses will allow visitors to see the locals at play enjoying top class horse racing. Our visit to Sha Tin provided lots of fun and entertainment in a unique setting located in the New Territories.

We did feel that we had only scratched the surface in the few days we had in Hong Kong and would like to return and discover more of a fascinating place in which the West meets East in a number of interesting ways. Hong Kong can seem very familiar due to its British colonial past, however there are other aspects that reflect more Chinese influence that are less familiar and can surprise visitors.

For more details of our trip, read our individual posts about Hong Kong which charts our visits to some of its attractions and more unusual aspects.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.