Le Chic En Rose

Diaries of an independent traveller

We chanced upon Hong Kong’s Maritime Museum when we were trying to find somewhere for lunch on our last full day on the island. Having spent the morning wandering round Kowloon (see here) we were feeling pretty hungry and assumed we’d find something back at Hong Kong harbour pier with no problem. However, like many parts of Hong Kong, the area down by the harbour and ferry terminal is undergoing reconstruction. We wandered round the eclectic maze of buildings round Pier 8 trying to find a suitable cafe or restaurant without much luck before we saw a sign pointing to  Cafe 8 up the stairs.

 

 

Cafe style (you order at the counter but get served at the tables) we were lucky to get a table squeezed into a corner near the kitchens. It was evidently popular with the locals – one lady who must have been a university or college lecturer was conducting a meeting reviewing her students’ assignments at the table next to ours and there were several groups of business people having working lunches. What makes it special too is that it is a joint project between the Maritime Museum and the Nesbitt Centre – part of their mission is to provide gainful employment for people with special needs.

Revived by our bowls of soup and focaccias we decided we couldn’t miss the opportunity to explore the Maritime Museum on the floors below. We thought we would just spend an hour or so there and then maybe take a later afternoon cruise round the harbour. Suffice to say a even good couple of hours was nowhere near long enough to take in everything although we did our best!

 

 

 

The exhibits go into incredible detail about Hong Kong’s fascinating history from earliest times when traditional sampans plied across the seas around China. Gradually they began exploring further afield towards the Indian sub continent. There was so much information about the history of China and the myriad of dynasties that came and went over the centuries well before the British Colonial era. Interactive displays would keep children (and adults) happy for hours and indeed the museum runs many educational programmes. Advances in science, the importance of environmental protection and Hong Kong’s yachting and sailing history are all covered. I found the transformation of Hong Kong from a small fishing and trading outpost to multinational business centre with its high rise skyline fascinating.

It was also interesting to reflect how my great grandparents fitted into the jigsaw puzzle as they were part of the missionary movement that gained great popularity in the later Victorian era and spent many years as missionaries out in China (in West China and Shanghai). My grandfather was born in China in late 1898 but sent back to England as a small boy to live with relatives like his younger siblings after him. This period was covered in some detail in the displays – it seems rather strange today but the spirit of the times was very different back then. We learnt about the Opium Wars and the terrible effects that this drug had on communities at the time.

 

 

In a nutshell the Maritime Museum is well worth a visit – I couldn’t possibly describe everything here. The exhibition is housed over three floors with views overlooking the harbour on some levels. The light was not conducive to taking too many photos so please excuse the quality of the ones I’ve included here!

Finally the Museum shop (across the boardwalk from the museum entrance) is well stocked with a wonderful range of books, tasteful souvenirs, maps, prints of Hong Kong and much more. We just had time for a stroll around the harbour before dusk fell.

 

 

Our few days stopover in Hong Kong en route back to Australia was a great success. For all the other posts in the Hong Kong series see here.

 

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

We took the ferry over to the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbour a couple of times during our Hong Kong trip (see here). This former outpost of the Chinese mainland in colonial times is now reinventing itself as a tourist destination. It is a fascinating place to visit though not always the prettiest.

The ferry takes you across to Tsim Sha Tsui where a bustling waterfront and new arts complex greet you. We did a questionnaire for some school children out on an excursion – they were excited to practice their English with a couple from Australia! Somewhere in a Kowloon or Hong Kong classroom there must now be a picture of Monsieur and me on the wall as part of the kids’ assignment!

 

 

We wandered up one of the main streets, Canton Road, surrounded by a myriad of people, office workers – it was packed and extremely busy. The streets were lined with all the high end shops you could possibly imagine – Burberry, Louis Vuitton, Chanel to name just a few. However the place was in a state of flux and rebuilding – cranes and orange and white road bollards were everywhere. We didn’t have to look too far to see the poorer side of Hong Kong. Tower blocks with crumbling paint and in states of disrepair dominate the skyline. We were astonished that they were still upright.

 

 

There are numerous small streets with little shops selling all manner of food, delicacies and trinkets. The best time to come though is to see the famous night markets, the Temple Street Night Markets, which are a hive of activity after dusk. I’m reliably informed they are well worth a visit but for us this will have to wait for another day though we did explore the night markets on the Hong Kong side (see here).

 

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At the end of the high street we skirted round the remains of the infamous Kowloon Walled City. Leased to the Hong Kong British Colony by the Chinese Mainland in the late 19th century it was once an infamous maze of seedy streets, opium dens, crime and prostitution. It was virtually a no-go zone and later controlled by Triad gangs in the 1950s to 70s. After much deliberation and debate it was finally demolished in 1993 and replaced with the new Kowloon Walled City Park. Beneath the skyscrapers and flyover you can just see the old walls peaking out across the road.

 

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We didn’t go into the Kowloon Park itself but found instead the King George V Memorial Park not too far away. It was like many places we found in Hong Kong – a quiet oasis away from the noise and bustle of the city streets.

 

 

Kowloon is well connected not only by the ferry but also by road and the rail network, the MTR. It does take a bit of negotiating but is a quick and efficient way to get round Hong Kong and its environs.

All in all I was glad that we decided after some debate to stay on the Hong Kong side but it is well worth taking a look round Kowloon for another perspective. The markets and the museums that are housed in Kowloon are worth taking a trip across the harbour. Next week though we’re heading off to the Maritime Museum back on Hong Kong Island – one of the highlights of our trip!

 

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

 

A quick detour from my Hong Kong posts this week as wanted to share some photos from our recent trip out to Araluen Botanic Park. I have blogged about this beautiful spot before (see here and here for previous posts) but never managed to visit during the autumn months.

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The day was perfect – gorgeous sunshine, hardly a cloud in the sky and a wonderful backdrop for the greens, russets and gold tones of the foliage. We had our younger granddaughter with us who thoroughly enjoyed running around and exploring the pathways and being midweek we more or less had the place to ourselves.

 

The cafe, Chalet Healy, is open every day from 10am to 4.00pm (the kitchen closes at 3pm) and we stopped off for lunch and refreshments before continuing our walk.

We found a little island to explore and watched the waters of the stream meandering under the bridge. Although only half an hour or so from the metro area we always feel very away from it all up in the Perth hills and the fresh air does us all good – our little granddaughter was sound asleep almost as soon as we drove out of the car park!

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For more wonderful and interesting walks round the world join Restless Jo for her regular Monday Walk!

 

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

The iconic Star Ferry has plied its way backwards and forwards across Victoria Harbour, connecting Hong Kong with the mainland and other islands, for over a hundred years. Whilst there are now road and rail connections using the under harbour tunnels, there is nothing like viewing the surrounds from the water.

The ferries are so charming and evoke a bygone age. They first began operating in 1888, initially known as the Kowloon Ferry Company, before adopting the present name, Star Ferry Company in 1898.

The main route shuttles from Central Pier on the Hong Kong side to Tsim Sha Tsui on the Kowloon side though there are other options too. We used our Hong Kong Travel card, the Octopus, to get around on all forms of transport including the ferries (similar concept to the London Oyster card). You can find all the information you need about the Octopus card here.

 

We loved the old fashioned feel of the boats from the old metal gangways used to board and disembark, down to the wooden bench seats, which you can swivel round in either direction depending on what view takes your fancy. We saw tourists, locals carrying their shopping bags and smartly dressed business people alike all using the shuttle service. I was amazed to read afterwards that the ferries take 70,000 passengers per day (over 26 million every year!).

 

It’s a lovely feel being on the water – even on warm humid days we enjoyed a pleasant breeze. You get a wonderful perspective of the buildings and distant glimpses of the hills overlooking Hong Kong. Naturally there are numerous photo opportunities so I’m only including a small selection! If we go back to Hong Kong, a night  cruise on the harbour would be top of the wish list as we ran out of time on our short trip in April.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

 

Having explored the attractions of the Peak Tower and viewing platform (see last week’s post here), we decided to escape the commercialism of the shops and boutiques and head off to explore the nature trails that criss-cross the Peak (at 552 metres above sea level, the highest point on Hong Kong Island).

Monsieur remembered doing the circular walk around the summit a few years back. At the start of the trails we found a helpful map and some information about the history. The elevated hillside above the city has long been popular with locals as a way to escape the humidity and often stifling air of the city streets along with the pungent smell of the markets, particularly in the hot summer months. Wealthy citizens began to build their residences up the hillside where they could enjoy the superb views (Governor Richard MacDonnell started this trend when he had his summer residence built there in 1868). In the days before air conditioning the breeze must have been especially  welcome!

 

It was interesting to see photos of the quaint cafes and early trams of a bygone era. However originally the only means of getting up and down, apart from walking, was by sedan chair! Fortunately for the porters the trams started running in the later 19th century and continue to this day. I was astonished to read that the Peak was reserved exclusively for ex pats until 1947 – an insight into the spirit of the times.

So we set off along Lugard Road (named after Sir Frederick Lugard, governor from 1907 to 1912) enjoying the relative peace and tranquillity away from the crowds of the Peak Tower. We were surprised how few people there were – a few tourists ambling along, a couple of joggers and a family out with their dog. Another couple passed us by with their white terrier beautifully shod in a small set of black leather shoes (I’m not kidding just wish we could have taken a photo!). We could catch glimpses of the city skyline through the dense vegetation but we felt far removed from a bustling metropolis.

 

The idea was to do the relatively short Peak Circle Walk  that hugs the hillside and takes you back via Harlech Road to the Peak Tower and tram terminus. We passed the Lugard Falls and came to a clearing where work was going on, apparently to develop a picnic and pavilion area.

 

Here we came to a signpost……

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Now clearly I should have realised that we ought to be heading back to the Peak Tram Station as obviously it is signposted in both directions so should have been a clue that this was in fact the circular trail. For some reason we had kept seeing signs for the Morning Trail as we walked along so, thinking this was our correct route, I overruled Monsieur and we headed down left instead of right (I should add it was a bit confusing as the main signpost here had no mention of the Morning Trail but there was a smaller one at the side of the pathway).  Suffice to say it became obvious that we had moved away from the previously flat trail and were heading steeply downwards. It was pounding on the knees to say the least! Anyway by this stage we didn’t particularly want to turn round and go uphill again so we carried on wondering where we were going to land up. Past a gentleman loudly doing some sort of martial art ritual, we came to a spectacular lookout point.

 

We asked a walker coming up the path where the trail led but he turned out to be a Swiss tourist visiting his daughter, had only just arrived and was none too sure of his bearings either! However we had an interesting chat about the relative merits of Switzerland and Western Australia and I was able to practice my German so that was an unexpected bonus. So we kept walking downhill! Near Hatton Road the path wended down past the original city boundary marker from 1903. Apparently there are a whole series of these small obelisks round Hong Kong Island (see here for more details)

 

Eventually we came to small rest area and met a jogger who turned out to be local out on his daily run. He explained the Morning Trail was a longer one that took you up from the residential area called the Mid Levels towards the Peak. We could see why he was so enthusiastic about the area – such a beautiful resource on his doorstep and a chance to get out into nature and escape the urbanisation and pollution that affects the air quality in the city.

A few hundred metres further on we were back in residential streets and were able to hop on one of the many minibuses for the last leg into the city. We’d been able to experience a different side to Hong Kong – the Morning Trail had turned out to be a serendipitous discovery!

 

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For more fascinating walks round the world join Restless Jo every week for her Monday Walks!

 

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

 

 

 

 

The Peak is one of the highlights of any trip to Hong Kong.  The highest point of Hong Kong Island, it has long been popular as a place of retreat when the residents need a break from the densely populated city. Being at a higher altitude it is also a bit cooler than down below in the city streets.  No doubt that was part of the attraction in the colonial era when residences were built up the hill – no surprise that the area round the Peak is one of the more exclusive residential addresses on the island.

There is a famous tram that takes you up to the top but the queues are huge – apparently you can wait over an hour on some days. We did check the tram station out but decided it was better to take one of the many buses or mini buses that ply the route instead. For some reason the bus route round the corner from the tram was not operational when we were there last month, so we retraced our steps back down to the city and caught bus number 15c from Central Pier 8. The number 15 bus from Exchange Square also works as well.

 

 

Initial impressions at the top were that it was rather touristy. The Peak Tower looks a bit like a space station and houses a huge mall over several levels, a Madame Tussauds, numerous cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops.

 

 

However the viewing platform, the Sky Terrace 428, affords superb views on a clear day across Victoria Harbour and over to the Chinese mainland. We were very lucky though on the day of our visit – often the landscape is obscured by haze and smog and you can’t see much at all!

 

 

There were the usual touristy gimmicks – people trying to sell us photo shoots for example. Whilst the area overlooking Victoria Harbour was crowded with people taking photos, the far side of the platform was relatively quiet by comparison. I don’t think people realised there were more great views from this point towards the sea and other islands – it was actually quite peaceful!

 

 

After a quick bite to eat we headed off to explore the nature trails round the Peak. Monsieur had done the circular trail round the summit before and we planned a reasonably quick walk on this pathway before heading back down to town on the bus. In fact we ended up doing the longer Morning Trail down the hillside (quite by accident).  More about that next week!

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

We arrived in Hong Kong around lunchtime on our first day but by the time we’d got the train from the airport to Hong Kong Central and negotiated the shuttle bus to our hotel, the Novotel Century in Wan Chai, it was late afternoon. Having been plied with food on our flight from London we weren’t particularly hungry. Rather than having a large dinner we simply took advantage of the hotel executive lounge facilities for aperitifs and a light snack before heading out to absorb some of the Hong Kong street atmosphere at night.

 

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Wan Chai is like much of central Hong Kong – busy, bustling, people everywhere, shops, markets and an incredible contrast between the old and new, east and west, rich and poor. Monsieur had visited before for work reasons, which was just as well as it did take a little while to get our bearings.

 

The street markets were starting to pack up for the day – we strolled through taking it all in. There was something of a pungent smell but the food choices were incredible – all manner of exotic fruits, fish stalls (may explain the smell!), meat dishes and quite a few ingredients that I hadn’t come across before. The beautiful oriental flower stalls especially caught my eye.

 

About 10 minutes down the road eastwards of Wan Chai you come to the Causeway Bay area, noted for its high end shopping facilities – luxury malls, department stores and boutiques. All in all a huge contrast to the shops we found in Wan Chai!

 

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We weren’t there to shop as such but it was intriguing to peak inside the enormous Times Square Complex, probably the showpiece of Causeway Bay. A sky-high tower block, it houses many famous fashion brands – Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Jimmy Choo and the list goes on. I did a bit of window shopping and picked up a couple of things at Zara – just about in my price bracket! It was rather surreal having been wandering round the street markets a bit earlier and epitomises the many contrasts we found throughout our time in Hong Kong.

 

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

We got back from our travels just over a week ago and have been in post-holiday sorting out mode – correspondence, piles of washing, adjusting to the new time zone and climate etc. etc.!

We had a very enjoyable sojourn in Hong Kong to break up the journey – my first time there though Monsieur has been a couple of times on work trips. I found it a fascinating place of many contrasts, a real mix of east and west. It can be a bit overwhelming with the volume of people in such a small area but there are plenty of opportunities to find some peace and tranquillity.

Here are a few photos taken mainly in Hong Kong but also in Kowloon, across the harbour on the Chinese mainland.  More to follow along with some more posts about our UK travels. Our trip was certainly a contrast of seasons and culture!

In the meantime wishing everyone a very happy Easter and relaxing holiday.

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Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Just back in London for the weekend before flying back to Perth via Hong Kong. Since my last post we have been visiting family in the West Country and Yorkshire and there hasn’t been much time for blogging. Have many photos though to translate into blog posts back home.

It’s snowing again and bitterly cold so a weekend for finding a nice warm pub and staying well rugged up! It’s been a long time since we’ve seen so much snow here in the U.K. especially in March. Funnily enough last night was quite mild and Mlle took us to an amazing Thai restaurant, Som Saa, in Commercial Street just south of the iconic Christ Church Spitalfields. I love the vibe of this fascinating area with a rich history of refugees, artisans and colourful characters each making their contribution to its unique charm. A bientot!

Finally arrived in London after a slightly fraught journey with delayed travel plans resulting from the unseasonal spring freeze, which has caused havoc across the U.K. Haven’t landed on a snow-covered runway at Heathrow before!

We have had a whirlwind weekend catching up with our younger daughter, Mlle, in London. Seeing the canal at Little Venice frozen over was an amazing sight and even the Regents Park lake was still frozen over when we walked round there yesterday.

The best thing to do – head off in search of warmth, food and drink! I have a lot of posts to write up in due course but here is a glimpse of a little discovery at Temple opposite the Royal Courts of Justice. The Temple Brew House is housed in a basement in Essex Street very close to St Clement Danes Church. Unpretentious and welcoming it was just what we needed on a bitterly cold “spring” day – huge homemade chicken and mustard pies, craft beer for Mlle and Monsieur and white wine for me went down a treat!

More about our London travels to follow – a bientot!

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