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Chapter ninety two - Hong Kong

Genuine copy Rolex, sir?

overcast 32 °C

Day 337: Hong Kong, Hong Kong 31/08/2012

Up early, a slap dash beard trim and a quick drink and we are out the door past the newly acquired antiques sourced last night and en route to the airport before our eyes even have time to focus properly. In need of a decent couple of hours sleep and a substantial breakfast after the beer took precedent over a decent dinner last night. Cue a trip to Duty Free and McDonald's for a camera and a couple of McMuffins. Just your standard Friday morning purchases really.

We are soon on the second last flight of the trip (sob) and the apprehension and excitement of the prospect of a new country - such a familiar feeling this year and one we shall miss - manifests itself in the pit of our stomach. Not only are we heading to another new territory, we are also heading into the unknown, with China being very much a place we have afforded little thought, due partly to its position at the very end of the itinerary and our denial that the final chapter would ever come...despite this the excitement and buzz of moving on to a new place is one of the great things we will remember from this year.

Some good treatment on our A380 flight and a welcome catnap sees us through the flight to Hong Kong and after a brief foray into the Business Class section of the cabin for some photos for the old man and his unhealthy Airbus obsession we are catching a bus into Kowloon in search of somewhere to stay. Forty minutes after boarding the bus to Kowloon, we pull up outside Chungking Mansions, a tried and tested centre of affordable backpacker accommodation, but a truly barmy set up to boot. Take one part 1960s high rise council block, one part Indian bazaar and a pinch of labyrinthine qualities and a multi-cultural melting pot and you get one overpriced, undersized bedroom, the sizer of a double bed and with a tiny en suite bathroom, ours with a genial and kindly old Chinese owner. Run out for some noodles and get our heads down for an earlyish night.

Day 338: Hong Kong, Hong Kong 01/09/2012

Awake refreshed in our attractive cell and despite the best efforts of the clunking, sputtering air conditioning unit and the paper thin pillow, we wake up feeling slightly less tired than we did yesterday. Our room in Chungking Mansions is situated on Nathan Road, the main thoroughfare through Kowloon and a beacon of absolute chaos, swathes of neon lights and a never ending snake of traffic. We take a stroll down to the waterside and after taking in the scale of the skyline, catch one of the ubiquitous Star Ferries across to Hong Kong Island (we are on the romantically named [i]Twinkling Star[i]) and at 30 pence an absolute bargain for one of Hong Kong's must do's.

Arrive at a damp Hong Kong Island and after getting our bearings we purchase ourselves a huge plate of noodles and gorge ourselves silly. The rest of the day is spent walking around Hong Kong Central, which seems a little disappointing given the buzz surrounding everything in Kowloon. We visit the very boring Western Market and see a graduate art exhibition at the HK Arts Centre before catching the ferry back and making our way back up the very busy Nathan Road to the Temple Street night market for a bit of retail therapy. A couple of bargains is followed by a very strange and overpriced dinner before we call it a night and make our way back to the Shoebox Inn, where the old man greets us with his customary 'welcome' and his wife makes an appearance to join in. Bed.

Day 339: Hong Kong, Hong Kong 02/09/2012

Another night's sleep that rates no more than 'satisfactory' in the Tommy Evs scale of sleep satisfaction sees us up and about in the shoebox reasonably early, trying to pack the bags in the ridiculous amount of available room. Leaving Chungking Mansions on a mission to buy some bus tickets to Guangzhou, I am offered 'has, marijuana, coke' twice in the space of approximately three seconds. Emerging triumphantly from the bus station and walking down Nathan Road with two bus tickets under my arm, I develop quite the sweat before we head out for another day in the big city. Our tour of Kowloon incorporates a very good lunch and a stroll through Kowloon Park. Here we sample the delights of the pensioners' trim trail (manage to hit the 'advanced' level of six chin-ups) and take in the laid back Sunday atmosphere. Amid hordes of domestic workers enjoying their day off gambling, gabbing and gobbling picnics we catch the rays and find ourselves sat watching a reasonably decent six-a-side tournament. Miss playing and make a note to self (get fit).

A trip back to the market to pick up a few bits and pieces is followed by a great noodle soup. We have the obligatory Sunday Night Skype and are well and truly stung for printing a few confirmation emails out...

Posted by tevs 13:19 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged food markets city busy hong_kong Comments (0)

Chapter forty one - Bangkok

sunny 28 °C

Day 150: Bangkok, Thailand 27/02/2012

So, up at 3am for our tuk-tuk to the airport. How we love these early, early mornings. At the airport for quarter to four, change the Sri Lankan rupees back to US dollars and realise the airport is a bit strange at this time, with nothing really open yet and after we get through security, we find some shops that are open and have a mooch around them. I heart SL t-shirt for Gemma.

Great flight to Bangkok, even I enjoy the food they serve and the metal cutlery and real glass are a first for me on a plane. Arrive at the airport and there is an enormous amount of ballache to get through immigration - the bloke at the front of our queue had recently had a lobotomy so we excused him for his lack of speed, social skills and welcoming persona. Catch the train from the airport, which is a modern, gleaming, glass and steel bullet, headed for central Bangkok. Alight at Hualumphong station in the heart of Chinatown after one change. We quickly find our hotel (The Train Inn), which is a stone's throw from the station and get a great room and despite it being our first experience of a shared bathroom, one of the best showers we have had in the past 5 months!

We go for a walk around the area, excited at the prospect of being in a new country and a huge city. Find an amazing noodle joint in Chinatown and get lunch for about two pounds. Continue to mooch around, mesmerised by the sensory overload that is Bangkok - amazing sights (including huge golden temple), some deafening sounds (traffic, etc.) and belly achingly beautiful smells emanating from the numerous street food stalls. I have never been so hungry, so quickly, so often as each street corner revealed a new speciality dish from spring rolls (a bit moreish!) to grilled squid to roast goose.

Amazingly, after such a long day we find the stamina to jump on the metro and head to Patpong night market, where we haggle hard to get some semi-bargains and dodging the touts for some of Bangkok's more lowbrow shows manage to somehow find our way to another food stall...

Day 151: Bangkok, Thailand 28/02/2012

Sleep well after a couple of Chang exports from the local 7/11 and a bottle of sparkling rose for Gemma. Get up and go out, walk through Chinatown again and again are confronted by so much incredible food! Stumble upon a wholesale market, where you can buy pretty much any item you can think of. In bulk. We see loads and continue to do our normal city exploration trick of walking, walking and walking some more. Head back to the market and buy a fake iPad for about forty quid. Grab another quality lunch on the go and have a walk along the river, where there are some great views to be seen, including a crappy little dog dressed up by its owner.

Eventually we head back to the room to find that the imitation tablet does not actually work. Walk back to try and change it but the market has shut for the night. Back tomorrow then I guess! More street food and another trip to 7/11 for the evening (we have visited this handy convenience store about sixteen times today, mainly for the strength of its air conditioning).

Day 152: Bangkok, Thailand 29/02/2012

Another busy day in Bangkok today! Up and out for breakfast, this time at the station. Again a bargain. Walk back to the market and the guy changes the iPad thing for us absolutely hassle free. Walk around the market again, just in case we missed anything first time. Turns out we see quite a lot of stuff we did not see before.

Get lunch in deepest Chinatown again at the side of the road. It was either pork or goose (we're not sure) and then take a tuk-tuk to visit the notorious Khao San Road, the backpacker ghetto of the world it seems. It's not quite as bad as we were expecting but it is still very busy, full of foreigners and market stalls and a KFC, McDonald's, Burger King and plenty of Irish bars. Cultural. Also notice that nobody on the road is smiling or even looking remotely like they are enjoying life.

Back to the hotel, then back to the market. Refund on the iPad. All plans to visit a rooftop bar overlooking the city are put on hold as the last few days catch up with us.

Posted by tevs 00:30 Archived in Thailand Tagged food markets thailand city bangkok busy Comments (0)

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