Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macao

In January 2014, I visited Guangzhou and Zhuhai in Guangdong Province, Hong Kong and Macao together with an Australian friend. We only had a few days in each place, but that was enough to get a pretty clear impression of the four very different places.

We travelled straight through to Hong Kong from Jinan by a flight to Guangzhou, then a train. The border formalities were dealt with at the train station in Guangzhou, with the usual frenzy of people jumping queues, but the trip was mostly uneventful.

Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, we stayed at Mini-Hotel Central, in the main business district, where the rooms are basically just closets with beds in them, and a shower and toilet behind the bed – but it was at least both central and affordable, and HK is an expensive place (especially on a Chinese teacher’s salary).

Although the hotel on Ice House Street was uphill from almost everything, there were some nearby, and famous, steps leading down to Duddell Street and Lan Kwai Fong, a very busy area frequented by foreigners and wealthier Hongkongers, where “eating and drinking establishments are considered upmarket in price and the area is also considered a tourist spot” (according to Wikipedia). HK really is expensive, but there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of people with deep pockets.

I didn’t really like the bars in Lan Kwai Fong, because they were, well, touristy, and full of Westerners (and I think I’ve already used the word ‘expensive’), but the Aussie longed for the Western food, stodgy and heavy with big lumps of meat, which was available there. Interestingly, most of the bar and waiting staff were from the Phillipines, and were there to make more money than they could at home. However, the horror of it all was relieved considerably on the second (or was it the third?) night by finding an Indian restaurant, which turned out to be very good. Needless to say, everyone we came across in this area spoke English, which was just as well, I suppose, because Cantonese is a notoriously difficult dialect for foreigners.

As usual, click on any of the thumbnails to open the photo gallery.

On the first full day, the Aussie wanted to hit HK’s most famous shopping malls, which had a lot less appeal for me than a trip to The (Victoria) Peak, so we went our separate ways during the day. I do believe I got the better deal, though I took far too many photographs of the same views on a walk around the Peak.

As usual, click on any of the thumbnails to open the photo galleries.

The next day, we went to Kowloon side. The main attraction there is the “Walk of Stars”, HK cinema’s answer to Hollywood’s.

As usual, click on any of the thumbnails to open the photo gallery.

In the afternoon, we visited the Ten Thousand Buddha Monastery (萬佛寺 wàn fó sì) in Sha Tin district, complete with the typical first-time visitor’s mistake of detouring via Po Fuk Hill columbarium on the way. At least there was a good view from Po Fuk Hill.

As usual, click on any of the thumbnails to open the photo gallery.

The ‘Monastery’, also known as ‘Man Fat Sze‘ in Cantonese, is not really a monastery (no monks live there), and it was quite a climb in the heat and humidity on the day we went there, but it was well worth seeing, which is probably why it has been used so often in films and TV programmes based in Hong Kong (probably most famously “Infernal Affairs”). The views looking out from the monastery were also pretty good. Again, I took far too many photos. I’ve tried to whittle them down, but the Buddhas (and Guanyin and her non-performing terrapins) are just too interesting.

As usual, click on any of the thumbnails to open the photo gallery.

The following day we travelled across the island by bus to Aberdeen and Stanley (the first was my idea, because it was once the world’s busiest fishing port, the second the Aussie’s, because it has a famous market). We actually arrived in Aberdeen in time for an early lunch, in a restaurant that closely resembled a works’ canteen, but it was at least a Chinese place, full of Chinese people, and not a tourist hangout. The food was nothing special, but there were no big lumps of meat and it wasn’t all fried.

Aberdeen has clearly diminished from its former greatness, but there was still plenty to see, and we seemed to be the only palefaces in town. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to take any of the day trips to the smaller islands, which were on offer.

As usual, click on any of the thumbnails to open the photo gallery.

It was only a short bus ride to Stanley. Where Aberdeen was decidedly Chinese, Stanley was still very English; it was like being in Margate, but with more bars.
I skipped the market – which looked every bit the tourist trap it was (I went down to the rocks instead) – but not the bars (well, only one bar, but it was pleasant to sit and watch the world go by at a slower pace).

As usual, click on any of the thumbnails to open the photo gallery.

As usual, click on any of the thumbnails to open the photo gallery.

As usual, click on any of the thumbnails to open the photo gallery.

The next day was time to leave HK and head for the mainland by fast ferry to Zhuhai.

Zhuhai

My Australian friend had a former English colleague, who had moved to Zhuhai with his Chinese wife, and they had a new-ish young daughter. Hence this particular choice of destination. It turned out to be pretty nice, but it rather obviously wasn’t going to stay that way, because the nouveau riche were moving in from Guangzhou in large numbers, and as a consequence, the place was being developed at some speed. On the other hand, it was possible to walk to Macau, whose casinos lit up the Zhuhai sky at night. We did go through to Macau for the day, but it was shortly before Spring Festival and the place was the most crowded I have ever experienced, just heaving with Chinese shoppers buying up everything (though mainly Pampers, it so happened). It was impossible to choose where to go, because once in the crowd, the crowd just pushed you along wherever it wanted to go. Getting a bus back to the border was a nightmare of pushing and shoving.

As usual, click on any of the thumbnails to open the photo galleries.

There was obviously a lot of new money in Zhuhai, much of it being spent on upmarket restaurants and bars. And kindergartens and new schools.

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