Out to the islands

Trip Start Sep 03, 2013
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Trip End Mar 25, 2014


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Friday, November 29, 2013

We finished most of the packing last night so it doesnt take long to finish things off this morning after we had eaten our last 'free' breakfast.  With case in tow we then make our way down to reception to check out and await the surprise that the breakfasts have all been charged to the room.  But no, all is in order and we are soon locking our bags in storage for the day and heading out.We take the MTR train from Fortress Hill again, changing at Central and then passing beneath the harbour on a different line from last night and making our way out to Lantau Island and the town of Tung Chung.  Most of the line runs above ground and follows the road that goes out to the airport.  It is cold this morning and everyone is wearing their winter clothes but we dont have any with us.  I have decided that long trousers would be a good idea and they are helping to keep me from freezing although in the sun it is quite pleasant.When we arrive at Tung Chung we discover that the cable car we have come here to catch doesnt start running until 10:00 and it is only 09:00 now.  Not the first time this week we have arrived somewhere too early.  At first I wasnt too happy but it turned out to be quite fortuitous.  Instead of the cable car we took a local bus up to Ngong Ping which gave us a look around the island en-route.  When we arrive at Ngong Ping it is deserted and we have the place to ourselves almost.  This is the site of the enormous Tien Tan seated Buddha to reach which we now have to climb 100+ steps.  It is quite an impressive figure and dominates the skyline for miles.  Being so high and being a lovely clear morning there are also great views from the top.We descend a bit quicker than we had ascended and walk to the Po Lin monastery nearby.  I had been looking forward to coming here but didnt realise that the building was undergoing renovations to the extent that they must almost have been rebuilding the whole thing.  It was also covered in scaffolding and netting preventing a good look at it.  You could see enough to realise it would be quite impressive when completed but ...As we walked back to Ngong Ping the hordes were just starting to arrive as the cable car was now operating.  In another hour or so all you will be able to see here are people so I guess we had a lucky break.  We reach the cable car station to see the gondolas coming up with 12+ people per car whilst we able to enter a gondola all to ourselves for the descent, lucky again.  Whilst people coming up were fixed in their seats we were able to walk around in our gondola and really enjoy the experience and the views.  When I have been in cable cars before they have always followed the contours of the ground and never been that high above it but this ride took you to what seemed to be 100m above ground in places and you felt quite exposed to the wind rocking the car.  We had a thoroughly enjoyable ride down to Tung Chung passing over a couple of mountains, the harbour with the new airport just to the side and back into town.  When we left the cable car station the queues of people waiting to ascend stretched back about 600m and must have meant a wait of well over an hour for those at the back.  We walked over to the bus station and still more people were arriving to join the back of the queue.I had been planning on going to a small fishing village on the west coast here, Tai O, and then getting a bus back across the island to Mui Wo to take a ferry back to Hong Kong Island.  I was also very conscious of the time knowing that any delays along the way may mean getting back too late to get our transfer to the airport and the plane and ...  In the end we took the safe option and took the MTR back to Hong Kong Island instead giving us plenty of time not to be rushed later.  Arriving on the island we took the Star Ferry back across to Tsim Sha Tsui intending to go and eat at the same place we had enjoyed some duck on Wednesday.  We walked through the crowds until we got there but for some reason they dont start serving duck until 14:00.  We looked at a few more restaurants along the road but couldnt find anything we fancied in those that had English menus.  Instead we retraced our steps and took the Star Ferry back to Hong Kong Island, the tram back to North Point and went to the place where we had become regulars.  Here we enjoyed Mongolian style roasted mutton with vegetables and rice; very nice washed down with the endless cups of tea.With time to kill we walked around a fresh food market nearby envious of the vast choices available and the selection of fish for sale.  Jai wanted to transplant the entire market back to Phon Tong !  We bought a coffee and stood in the sun for warmth before returning to the hotel to reclaim our baggage and sit in reception until our transfer bus arrived.On the dot of 17:05 we were told our transport had arrived and as we left the hotel a smart white Lamborghini pulled up and I thought we had struck gold.  It was even licensed to drive in Hong Kong and China in case we felt like taking a detour en-route to the airport.  But no, our old bus was just behind it.  I can dream ...  There are an incredible number of seriously expensive cars on the road here and in the city itself we had passed Masserati, Ferrari, Porsche, Lotus, Rolls Royce, McLaren, showrooms.  If you could only afford a BMW you were probably better off walking, which we did.The bus whisks us through the harbour tunnel and out to Chek Lap Kok airport in about an hour.We then discover that we are by means at our destination.  We have to walk about 10miles (OK, slight exaggeration) to Terminal 2 where we drop off our case at the Air Asia desk and set off in the direction of the departure lounge.  We walk for a while then when we think we have arrived we actually have to board a train to continue our journey.  We leave the train and walk a bit further then find another train waiting to take us to the departure gates.  As the gate for our flight has not been announced yet we have to wait, along with quite a few others, in an area with no seats.  Bodies are stretched out on the ground around the TV screens waiting for their gate to flash up.  When the gate is announced it turns out that we dont need to board the next train and so we set off walking again.  We finally reach a dead end corridor that at first glance appears to be the gate itself but is actually a waiting area to catch a bus to a remote terminal where hopefully the plane will be.  Sure enough we are dropped off at a new terminal that houses about 12 gates and we find 507 in the far corner.  Outside the gate are 24 seats to accommodate the whole flight, some 200-300 people.  Luckily we are early so get one of the last couple of free seats. Time for a snack of pastries salvaged from our breakfast.  As we finally pass through the departure gate I am expecting another bus to take us out to the plane but no, there it is and we gratefully take our seats.  We depart on time at 20:50 HK time and arrive at Don Muang, Bangkok, at 22:45 Thai time, about 3 hours later.  We clear immigration with me using the Thai passport desks to bypass the foreigners queue and we soon outside with our retrieved case looking for a taxi.  It is bedlam with people milling around everywhere with the same intention.  The crowd has formed into four sort of queues and it takes about 30mins before we are actually sat in a taxi and heading into the city.As soon as we arrive at New Siam I pop out for a 7/11 coffee whilst Jai settles in to the room and then the bed looks so good as midnight arrives.
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