Tuesday 28th July - Hong Kong

Going to Hong Kong was nearly as bad as attending a swine flu party.

Where do I start?
Well, after a nervous two-hour flight for my aunt (whereby she spent most of the time rocking back and forth with her fingers firmly stuck in her ears, muttering to herself - I think she has aviophobia), we landed in Hong Kong International airport (much to her relief).

Seeing as my aunt and cousins had never been on an airplane before, let alone left the Philippines, nearly everything was a new experience for them. One example included riding the Airport Express, where, upon seeing the numerous mountains of Lantau Island, my cousin screamed 'Amazing!' (in that cute 5-year-old voice of his) which in turn resulted in laughter from the other passengers. Another experience for them was using the Octopus Cards. These innovative pieces of plastic are supposed to be a step forward in making life easier, but instead appeared to be a step backwards. Or in our case, no steps were taken at all - the result of getting stuck at the barrier.

The first day was spent travelling (for what seemed an eternity) to our hotel, eating KFC (of all places to eat in Hong Kong), unpacking and having a siesta. It was not until the evening - when our time was spent relatively constructively - that we did anything remotely tourist-like. We went to the Avenue of Stars to watch The Symphony of Lights across Victoria Harbour, which was basically a spectacle of lights accompanied by music; an enjoyable sight and a great photo opportunity.

(Most of) The next day was spent at Ocean Park. Queues for rides were ridiculously long, and with two (very impatient and irritable) children with us, there was no time to stand around waiting in line. So we walked, and walked till we reached the top of the mountain where we were to ride a cable car to the lower parts of the park. Waiting in line - my mum being afraid of heights - I spotted her taking deep breaths in between reciting the chant 'Face my fear' sotto voce to herself. If only I knew beforehand that one could easily have taken a bus from the entrance to the lowland I would have saved her a hell of a lot of grief and a near heart attack.

Red Panda
Panda on the left: Hey! That's my pile you're eating from
Panda on the right: *yum yum yum yum*
Solo Panda
Anyway, we took the cable car, which seated exactly 6 people, just enough for all of us. As soon as the car left the station, the nervous mantra began.

I wish I could share the experience with you (we videoed the whole of the excruciating 9 min journey) but it takes what seems like a year just to upload a short video, so you'll just have to take my word for what happened.

From the start of the ride to the end, my mum's eyes were kept firmly closed whilst she recited various chants including the ABC, Otso Otso and counting from 1-42 where she started again from the beginning after feeling the car jolt as it made its steep descent to the lowland. During this time I had my finger permanently glued to the shutter button, my aunt was sat still, staring straight ahead as if she had just witnessed the end of the world and my brother was very considerate and sympathetic towards mum sporadically screaming at various points, telling her that it was a long way down and that we had stopped because the cable car was broken. Could you ask for a better son?

Mum 'coping'

Upon disembarking, my cousins headed straight for the kiddie rides, whilst I went point-and-shoot crazy at the panda enclosure. I was happy, my cousins were happy, but my mum was dreading the return journey on the cable car.

Back in Kowloon (after spending 6 hours in Ocean Park) we went to Ladies' Market (Chinese version of Portobello) and engaged in some light shopping.

Our final day was supposed to include trips to see the world's largest outdoor Buddha and Disneyland. But due to the long journey to the former (along with adverse weather conditions) we were not able to make it to the latter. The one time I didn't bring my raincoat (or even an umbrella) with me, Buddha took it upon himself to graciously send down the rain, and my, was he generous. After a few muggy shots and a couple of hundred steps later, we reached the top. Some high-five shots, a quick descent and a brief tour around Po Lin Monastery, we went back to Ngong Ping Village.

...small enough to fit in my hand
The view from the top
We were in a rush to get back, so didn't stay very long to take in all the sights and wonders. My brother and I took the cable car down whilst (understandably) the rest of them took the 45min bus ride back. The 25 min cable car journey was incredible, with an amazing birds' eye view of the airport, the surrounding sea and the magnificent landscape.

The cable car from Ngong Ping
Hong Kong International Airport

We stopped to eat our early dinner and found ourselves frantically running around Kowloon picking up our bags from the hotel, getting on the MTR and the Airport Express, only to find at check-in that immigration may find it suspicious that three British passport holders were travelling to the Philippines and not back to London. And so my mum embarked on a trek from check-in A to J to get our tickets from Manila-London and vice versa printed out. As if she wasn't tired enough. It was, in one word, stressful (to say the least).

Did I mention that I was wearing a very fashionable coned-bamboo hat the whole time? I got my fair share of stares AND looked cool. What more could one ask for?

Although, I have to say, my cool head gear was trumped by my cousin's:

How could I compete with that?

That's what I call daring
Don't you just love him?We just couldn't help ourselves
EDIT: The spacing between captions/photos and paragraphs are not my fault. Blogger doesn't want to comply with my editing. Damn Blogger.

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