Those of you who read the last post on this blog will already know that Wednesday is free entry day at Hong Kong museums. It will, therefore, come as no surprise to learn that today we took the MTR to Sha Tin in the New Territories, where the Hong Kong Heritage museum is located. Once again, a very modern, very well presented museum but, for us, it wasn’t as good as the two we saw last week. I think a lot of this had to do with the similarity of many of the exhibits to ones in the other museums – Chinese painting and calligraphy, ceramics and dioramas of Hong Kong life.
There were two large sections on Chinese opera which I do not like but the costumes were fabulous and we had fun trying out the virtual make-up on ourselves . The exhibit on the rise of new towns was interesting and relevant as Sha Tin is one of the new towns which has grown considerably since the seventies.
We had a late lunch in a massive shopping mall, appropriately named the New Town Plaza. Loads of fancy shops and a great food court. Iain pointed out to me the many similarities to the Scottish new town of Glenrothes. I don’t know Glenrothes at all but I’m sure he’s right.
After lunch we climbed to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. The 400+ steps are lined with hundreds of life-size Buddha statues and the walls of the main temple with thousands of miniature ones. We tried to reach a smaller temple slightly further up the hill but some ferocious monkeys barred the way and we turned back. I think they thought we were after their babies……….do I look like Madonna?
After our visit to the Big Buddha and the Ten Thousand Buddhas I was starting to detect a pattern. Why, I asked myself, is the path to wisdom, enlightenment……………and the best views……….always up? However, today, the only way was up as we took a ride on the Mid Levels Escalator through Soho. Installed as a solution to traffic congestion caused by workers in the business districts heading home up the steep hill, at 800 metres it’s the longest escalator in the world. In the mornings the escalator only travels down, but from 10am onwards the only way is up!
The area around there – Hollywood Road, Soho and Lan Kwai Fong – is a little older and a bit more arty with galleries, antique shops and plenty bars and restaurants. I liked it, even in the rain! Two for the price of one Happy Hours in most of the bars makes a pint affordable too. A second visit to this area is definitely on the cards.
The day started sunny and clear so we set off early for Victoria Peak for the best views of the city. We have done this trip before but it was worth repeating, especially for Iain who wanted to add a few hundred photos to the several hundred he already had. First we went up to the viewing area of the Peak Tower and there we were entertained by a woman who seemed to be communicating via walkie-talkie with someone at the bottom of the hill using phonetic code. She certainly knew her alpha, bravo, charlies and as she signalled over and out I expected Z Victor One to appear screeching up the hill.
Another lovely day so we had to get out and about again. Iain has been wanting to go to the Botanic Gardens but we headed the other way taking the tram as far East as it goes to Shau Kei Wan to have a look at a few temples out there. We ended up visiting the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defences even though it wasn’t Wednesday and we had to pay! It was built around an old fort and many of the exhibits are outdoors so it was kind of like the Botanic Gardens but with guns.
It wasn’t all hardware though, they had a variety of uniforms on display some dating back as far as the Ming Dynasty when they wore armour made of studded satin. What a great idea, glamorous yet practical!
One thing you can’t fail to notice in Hong Kong is how worried they are about germs! Everything seems to be disinfected on a hourly basis. It makes you scared to stand still for any length of time in case you end up smelling of Dettol for the rest of the day!
Today we visited the Chi Lin Buddhist nunnery and the adjacent Nan Lian Garden. The nunnery is a beautiful, peaceful place and the gardens are beautifully landscaped in Tang Dynasty style. It’s easy to forget that you’re in the middle of such a busy city until you catch sight of all the surrounding high rises. Definitely worth a visit and no climbing involved. If you’re in the area head to The Hollywood Plaza for lunch and some retail therapy.
If you are on a budget it’s much cheaper to take the bus to the Peak rather than the Peak tram and you see a lot more from the bus (bus no 15). Also, going out for a drink in Hong Kong is expensive. If you want to go to a few bars go during Happy Hour – usually about 4-8 (Monday to Friday only) when drinks are often 2 for the price of 1.