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Down UnderMacau

On 31 October 2004 from Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR | comments closed

After posting on my website yesterday I walked up to Victoria Peak, the highest point on Hong Kong Island (not the highest point in Hong Kong). Unfortunately the views only got worse compared to the observation deck at the upper terminal of the Peak Tram, so I went back there. I decided to splash some money on the attractions there, notably the Peak Explorer and Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium. When I got back to Tsim Sha Tsui I found a good Japanese fast-food restaurant (‘Yoshinoya’) that serves big bowls of rice, chicken and vegetables for only 2,60 euro. After dinner I walked around Tsim Sha Tsui, checking out all the electronics for sale.

Today I took a ferry to Macau, another Special Administrative Region of China. Instead of being ruled by the British, like Hong Kong, Macau was ruled by the Portugese until 1999. I found out that it could have been ruled by the Dutch though, since we invaded the peninsula in 1622 with 800 men and met very little resistance. But a single cannon shot from a Jesuit priest (hitting a barrel of gunpowder) caused them to flee. What a shame. Anyway, Macau nowadays has still quite a few Portugese buildings remaining, and it is weird to see the mix of Chinese culture and Portugese heritage. I spent all day doing the Lonely Planet walking tour around the peninsula (including a visit to the excellent Macau Museum), and had to rush to catch the ferry back to Hong Kong. I really start to like this Pacific Coffee Company, if only for the free internet access at their coffeeshops (no weed here, strictly forbidden).

Down UnderHectic Hong Kong

On 30 October 2004 from Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR | comments closed

Yesterday I successfully managed to pack all my stuff in my bag, and to my surprise my large backpack was only 19,5 kg when I checked it in at the airport. It could have been 25 kg, because over that amount Cathay Pacific charges extra. I guess I am getting better and better at travelling light.

After packing all my stuff and bringing some old clothes to the Salvation Army, I sorted out the last photos I made in Australia, did a final e-mail check, and said goodbye to some friends I made in the hostel. Then I took the bus and train to the airport, where all went according to plan as well (I must say that I have had no problems or even delays with any flights on this trip so far). Cabin service on the Cathay Pacific flight was impeccable, and I arrived in Hong Kong well-fed, albeit slightly tired. I watched 3 movies on this flight: ‘Around the World in 80 Days’, ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ and ‘The Terminal’ (not that anyone cares, but I just felt like mentioning it).

Upon arrival in Hong Kong I took a bus to Tsim Sha Tsui, where I arrived a little after midnight. I was slightly worried about not having booked anything in advance, but that fear proved ungrounded, as I only had to walk in the busy street for about 5 metres before someone approached me with an accommodation offer. I took up the second offer, and got a small basic double room on the 13th floor of Mirador Mansions. I do have to move to an actual single room in Chungking Mansions today though, but for an average of 10 euro a night I do not really care, I only need a place to sleep and leave my backpack during the day.

Today I slept in a bit, before getting out into the city. I tried to find a bakery for breakfast, but bakeries are fairly uncommon around here (I found plenty of curry shops already open), so I had to settle with some bread roll and orange juice from Seven-Eleven. In Kowloon Park I tried to figure out where to go today, and met a 90-year-old medical doctor, with whom I had an interesting conversation. It basically came down to the fact that I should read the Bible myself, because people that are 90 years old (and he was still in his right mind, I must add) are wise. I told him I would consider it (that is, when I am stuck on an uninhabited island with nothing else to read), and took the MTR to Central.

“When it comes to public transport, nobody does it better than Hong Kong.” [Lonely Planet Hong Kong & Macau, 2004] I must say I fully agree with this statement, even though I have only spent a few hours in Hong Kong. I got an octopus card at the MTR (Mass Transit Railway) station. I only have to hold it over a sensor when going in and out of trains, busses, ferries, trams etc. and the correct amount is charged. Too easy. In Central I took the Peak Tram up to the Peak, where I am writing this post now. After all, I needed a cup of coffee (2,10 euro) and got free internet with it, not to mention views of an uncountable amount of skyscrapers when I look outside.

Down UnderLast Day in Australia

On 28 October 2004 from Sydney, NSW | comments closed

Today was my last full day in Australia, and I decided to go for a last walk through the city. I made another dozen photos of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, after all they are quintessential Australia. This time I even walked across the Harbour Bridge to make photos from the Luna Park and McMahons Point. On the way back I got a cheap haircut (5 euro), and closed my bank account. I already did most of the administrative stuff on Monday, like transferring money and cancelling my car insurance. In the end, Sydney is the only city in Australia where I could spend a week sightseeing without getting bored, and I have even managed to keep busy in the 3,5 weeks that I spent here.

In the evening I had some drinks with a few Norwegian backpackers, and we went to the karaoke in the local pub, where most of the hostel population was hanging out. Afterwards I got online (I have free internet access at the hostel now, since I programmed the website), and arranged my health insurance for upon return.

Down UnderBlue Mountains Revisited

On 27 October 2004 from Sydney, NSW | comments closed

Because my flight out of Sydney was not leaving on Tuesday like I initially planned, I decided to spend a few days in the Blue Mountains. In retrospect, I could have spend a few days in Canberra, instead of doing a one day tour that was too rushed. But going back just would not be worth the trouble anymore. Besides, it was almost a year ago since I last visited the Blue Mountains, and it still is one of the areas of Australia I enjoyed most, mainly because of the hiking tracks there. During the last few weeks in Sydney I have been going back to quite a few places where I went in my first week in Australia, and I already have some sort of nostalgic feeling about some places, very weird.

I took the train from Sydney to Katoomba on Tuesday afternoon, and after checking in at the hostel there, I went for a hike along the cliff. I managed to find a track that I had not done on my previous visit, and was able to make some nice photos of the valley and the Three Sisters.

On Wednesday I took the train to Wentworth Falls, and made a hike together with Caroline (German), Marleen (Dutch) and Simone (Italian guy). We took the Charles Darwin track to the valley, and some steep steps down into the valley. But at the bottom we had to wait for an hour before we could continue, since they were rebuilding the track; the hiker’s version of roadworks. The rest of the hike was without problems, although we were slightly worried about the weather, but the sky was clear again when we got out of the valley. I took the train back to Sydney in the late afternoon.