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Ocean Park is a bit of a misnomer as there are animals from all over. The giant panda was probably my favourite. They do look very much like the stuffed toys you buy. in fact the first time we tried to see it was sitting facing the door to its den and only showing its rear end to us. Outside the enclosure they were selling toy pandas and we picked one up and looked at its rear. "Yep, that's what they look like", we said to each other and went off to see the butterfly house. On our way back one of the pandas was out and eating (which they do 55% of the time, they rest 41% of the time leaving not a lot of time for anything else). I took about 40 photos of it - well I'm not likely to see one ever again unless I come back to Ocean Park.

The view a lot of people get to see of the Panda as it goes back into its den.

Animated dinosaurs leap out at you at the end of the "Dinosaurs Ė now and then" exhibit

The butterflies in the butterfly house sit on the wrong signs just to try and confuse you.

A butterfly with a drop of water caught in its tongue.

Panda hiding from the audience. Actually itís selecting the best parts of the bamboo.

Panda eating a handful of bamboo. It uses a false thumb Ė modified wrist bone Ė to hold on to it.

Still eating.

Walking to another spot for a bit of a rest from eating.

I think heís tired of all the attention.

 

 

Most of the birds are hard to photograph because they are in a cage of thick wire. This is an owl.

There is a butterfly house at Ocean Park, but there are also butterflies flying free.

Ocean Park is built on the side of a hill. As you go up the view is constantly changing.

 

One of the rides we didnít go on.

More view.

One of the ways you get to see more view is on the second longest escalator system in Asia. The longest is also in Hong Kong in Central Ė but that one only has an up escalator, you have to walk down.

Another ride we didnít go on.

The view from this ride would be spectacular, if you can stop screaming long enough to enjoy it.

 

This is a ride we did go on. It is effectively a lift that gives you an extra 200meters of view, with a rotating car to give you a 360 degree view.

 

The view from the top of the tower ride.

 

There are two halves to Ocean Park and the only way to get from one half to the other is via a cable car. Audrey doesn't like heights and I don't like machinery that I don't know the specs of. But the views were spectacular and we lived through it.

 

The warnings say not to swing the car. Considering that the cars are unclamped from the cable at each end to allow you to get in and out I can understand not putting strain on the clamp.

They have a huge amount of area, but most of it slopes at greater then 45 degrees.

 

And the view is rather spectacular.

 

 

As for the Ocean part. There is a shark aquarium dedicated to sharks and rays which is small (comparatively speaking) but very informative in the other information it provides. There is also a coral atoll aquarium, which has 4 layers of viewing platforms from the surface to about 50 feet deep. It's really quite impressive. The only problem is that there is no actual coral, or other invertebrates for that matter. It's hard to keep them together as at least some of the fish will eat the invertebrates and you spend forever replacing them. There were a few invertebrates in separate tanks, and it was a little disappointing as this is our main interest. Fish tend to be more spectacular and impressive to the average person.

 

The shows were all on in the afternoon, but the seals and dolphins were out for some exercise and feeding which was nice to watch.

 

A small shrimp. Using flash to photograph the animals was not allowed, so I had to do what I could in low light.

Anemones.

Sea star and sea cucumbers

Different sea star and sea cucumbers.

For those at work, here is a picture of me with a fish. If you donít know, donít ask. Just accept that they will want a picture of me with a fish in it.

 

We then caught another roller coaster bus back to Stanley to get Audrey a cashmere jumper and some Chinese signature chops for my children. It took him just under an hour to engrave the chops and we got back on the roller coaster back to Admiralty and then the MTR to the hotel for a bit of a rest and to pick up a tripod for photographing the Festival of Lights.

The show is only short but it's interesting watching a light show to music played out across about a dozen buildings. I think I got some good photos.

Finally at about 10pm we got around to having dinner - Won ton soup and a couple of mini shrimp rolls. It has been a strange day food wise as neither of us was really hungry, though we did go through Sogo and past their Godiva counter and have a dark chocolate decadence drink on the way to the Festival of Lights. It was the most intense dark chocolate drink I have ever had and decadence is a good way of describing it. If we get the chance we will go back and have another one!

I should mention our hotel room. It has an enormous bed. It's a trek to give Audrey a good night kiss. It is also set up to make the most of the views from the 30th floor. The wall between the bathroom and bedroom is glass so from the shower, bath or loo you can see out through the windows and over Mongkok. You can roll down a privacy screen if you wish, but as we are officially on our honeymoon (it took a while) it mostly stayed up. A seat has been built in to the window ledge so you can sit and enjoy the view.

There is all the usual cupboards and drawers, a desk, comfy chair and so on. We had the mini bar removed as there was no more room in the fridge with it all there and we have been keeping water (and chocolate) in there. We have a 42 inch plasma TV - on the wall opposite the bed - and a dvd player (the hotel has a dvd library and you just go and borrow what ever you like). There are 3 phones. The master IP phone on the desk from which you can look up information about your bill, the weather, currency exchange rates, get and send text messages and even make phone calls. There is a cordless IP phone, which you can carry around the hotel, and get calls made to your room no matter where you are. And there is a phone in the bathroom next to the loo if you feel so inclined.

 

The bath room is white marble glass and chrome. Nice and modern. The shower has both a rain shower head and a hand held shower with massage attachment and you just switch the water to which ever one you want (or both of you like). Best of all the towels are proper towels. Great enormous bath sheets rather than tiny towels you can hardly cover yourself with.

Audrey has plans of finding some nice silk to sew a few outfits when we get so we went off to the Western Market in Central. It's an education to watch Audrey when she wants something. When Audrey wants something she knows what she wants and while she will look she is very hard if not impossible to distract. The shopkeepers are very much in your face offering suggestions, telling you how much fabric you will need to make each outfit you want what colours and patterns you will want to buy. Audrey ignores it all, unless it's something useful. The shop keeper that had the fabric that she wanted was in for a bad day. Every roll of fabric that is the right colour will be touched each weight tested. The shop keeper had sense enough to do the burning test on the cloth before Audrey asked him for a lighter - silk will not hold a flame and smells of burning feathers, cotton continues to burn when lit and synthetic melts. Then comes the bargaining. I'm sure that he did make a profit on the sale, but it was a lot less than the marked price and was only offered as Audrey turned to leave.

Lunch at Yung Kee - Yum Cha this time. They are the best dumplings anywhere. The menu (it's all ordered now not selected from a steaming trolley) has full English translations, but Audrey has been ordering her favourites (and mine) for a long time now and they understand her Chinese well enough everywhere we went.

Finally decided on a screen protector for our laptop. It needs to be cut down back in Melbourne, but we are set up for that. It was also the perfect opportunity to have another Godiva dark chocolate decadence. We are going to try to make our own when we go home.

We unloaded and headed off to the Flower market where it was made clear most people don't want you taking pictures, so I put the camera away and enjoyed the flowers. I'm not the sort of person who sees his holidays through the camera viewfinder. I wander around with my eyes open and try to fit the things I see into the camera. It's more difficult but at least if I can't get what I see into the camera I have seen it and the picture I take reminds me of what was really there.

This led on to the Bird Garden (read Market). There was not a lot open, I think it's feeling the times. People don't want birds as pets it they might die or worse kill them. From there we did the other half of the gold fish market (we only managed to do half of it last time. Again shop after shop of interesting things. Audrey found some "Celestial" goldfish. These have eyes that look back over their own heads and into their own eyes. Strange looking fish.

The chameleons were the most captivating of what we saw. Their eyes are at the end of cones that stick out of their heads and they can move them around independently to look forward and backward at the same time. Or up and down, right and left, down and back and so on. Their feet look like they have been sliced down the middle with two toes on one side and three on the other. This gives them the ability to grab hold of things very securely. And on top of that they change colour! A couple of them were trying for stripes and doing a good job at it too.

Found! The market Audrey and her grandmother found last time. There was no poultry even though the street market (about 3 streets away was doing a roaring trade. This is an indoor market on 3 levels, but it follows the same strict hygiene and food freshness routines as the street market.

10pm and we are having a late dinner. Audrey had another bowl of shrimp wan ton soup, I had beef brisket and rice. When we get back to the room we finally get our complimentary honeymoon chocolates, and they were nice too. A dark chocolate heart with white, milk and dark chocolates inside.

And we started packing.

We finished the packing Wednesday morning. Making sure we could get to the things we needed to. After 7 nights in one place and with lots of shopping this can be a difficult thing. We ended up only needing 42 kg of our luggage limit. Our total hand luggage would have been over the limit if someone had bothered to measure it though so I'm glad they didn't.

We finished off the local Mongkok market. We figured out that this is the same market that came to the door of the hotel we were in last time (Grand Tower), but that it moved once the new development which included our current hotel (Langham Place) was built in the middle of the market area. We found a little supermarket that had some interesting wine. One bottle was "snake bile wine". Another had an 8 inch lizard in it. I wonder what customs would make of that!

Our hotel at the end of the local market.

 

A woman measures out an order.

Our hotel in the centre at the back. The newest part of the run down area of Mongkok.

 

A home is where you are. We thought this was a collection of bags until we saw the feet.

A young man reads while having a late breakfast.

 

Our Octopus cards ran out of credit on the last trip yesterday. Because of the HK$50 deposit it lets you run it negative for one trip but then you need to fill it up again before you can use it again. As this is our last day and we were only going to make a couple of trips we bought single use tickets rather than do a HK$50 top up.

Yung Kee for lunch. We finally managed to order the suckling pig. They had run out the other two times we went there. It was very different to the way it was served at the other restaurant. But also very delicious. We also had roast goose, stuffed crab claws and stir fried prawns with bamboo shoots. All very nice.

On our way to pick up Audrey's jewellery we passed a HMV store and Audrey went searching for some classical CDs that she can't get in Australia. She found them, so they were added to the list of items to be added to the luggage when we got back to the hotel. Audrey was very happy with the jewellery, which included a pair of cufflinks, which I will end up using more than she will, but they look very nice. What was missing was a gold chain to go with the pendants. White gold is the fashion in Hong Kong and the jeweller didn't have any gold gold at this shop. He did in the other shop in Tsim Sha Tsui. So e headed over there to have a look. Luck was on our side. There was a very nice thin gold chain that went well with the pendants and will look nice on its own. So that in hand and realising that there was not enough time left for another dark chocolate Godiva drink, we headed off back to the hotel to get changed before the flight.

The hotel's Mercedes was the most comfortable way to the airport and in keeping with our luxury holiday we chose that for the trip. This is when we noticed the drop in air quality. Most of our stays we had relatively clear skies (clear for Hong Kong) and could see a fair distance. Today you would be lucky to see one kilometre. The view from the Peak would have been pure grey.

Passing through the Business Class lounge we looked at the sad range of food available. It was exactly the same as it was six years ago, though I do think they put out fresh sandwiches (actually they put out a fresh lot while we were there).

We also managed to catch a nice sunset from the lounge. I had to photograph it through 2 lots of glass so there are a few too many reflections for my liking.

Our real estate agent Graham will soon have a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label for his efforts. We also found the chocolate section and went searching for some of Audreyís favourite chocolates. I like them too, but Audrey is fussier than I am where chocolates are concerned so we tend to get her favourites - I'm not complaining, I will happily eat top quality dark chocolates. We managed to leave with only 2 small boxes.

We got on the plane and made ourselves comfortable. A 3 course dinner was served at about 11pm Melbourne time (an hour after we took off) and after going through the video on demand and deciding that there was really nothing I wanted to watch decided that it was time to go o sleep - which we actually did manage quite well.

Breakfast which we ordered the night before was served at about 5:30. I had scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast, hot chocolate and orange juice. Audrey had the same but with a croissant rather than toast.

We landed at 7:00 and were out of the plane quickly and through immigration in only about 5 minutes. Collecting the luggage took a little longer, but we were still one of the first to customs and the first sent through to the line for quarantine. This was our plan as this is normally a short line. We had deliberately bought some wooden items, which we knew would be ok but that we would have to declare. We also had chocolate and Pringles (Cheeseums flavour which is not available in Australia), which we had to declare as food. We were through in less than 5 minutes and in a taxi and on our way home.

The rest of the day was full of checking e-mail, doing washing, unpacking, shopping and so on. The house still looks like a suitcase exploded (well there were two actually). We caught up on Dr Who before the final part of the story.

General observations of Hong Kong.

There are lots of people here. My children would run and hide, they don't like crowds at the best of times. Personal space is virtually non-existent, but everyone is very polite.

Walking down the street most people keep to the right (they drive on the left), except at some MTR stations where the arrows painted showing which way to walk and are followed by only about two thirds of people as they make you walk on the left. The escalators (and there are a lot of them) make you walk to the left of the traffic flow to get on them and then people stand on the right to let people who want to walk on the escalator pass them on the left. This creates an end result of people generally walking wherever they feel they want to. The easiest way to move through the crowd is to pick a local who is going in the same general direction as you and follow very close behind them. It's so much easier when you give up your personal space.

Men tend to wear average western fashions. Women tend to go for fashions that show off their legs - short skirts and long boots or long skirts with splits - and cover up their tops (chest, back and arms) completely. There were also a lot of people in shirts "All Blacks New Zealand" or "Vancoover" or similar on them. The people didn't look like world travellers. If the maximum was 22 or less everyone was wearing jackets. I would have been happy in shorts.

I now have almost 700 pictures to go through and two days of diary to convert from notes to real sentences.

The rest of our holidays has settled down into a nice relaxing time. Work again on Monday and I get to see what Solís announcements have meant for my job.

Addendum

Sunday afternoon I started feeling a bit fluish. After spending the night shaking and sweating and Audrey starting to feel ill on Monday morning we went to the doctor. Yes, we had been in Hong Kong so this had to be treated as a possible bird flu case. After over 6 hours, first at the doctor where the health department was contacted, then under health department orders taken to the hospital by ambulance (the ambos in full overalls, boots, gloves, masks and goggles) and put in isolation and more blood tests and a chest x-ray, we get told that itís not bird flu and we can make our way home. Itís the normal flu but itís bad enough.

Itís been a week of nothing. Forget about doing things when you have the flu, too much pain and to little energy to do anything. I didnít eat between Sunday night and Tuesday night (and that was a left over vanilla mousse). Thursday we had to go get some supplies and I took out the rubbish. At least I know there wonít be a lot of physical work on Monday.

We did experiment on the weekend and came up with this recipe for our version of the Godiva chocolate decadence. Itís about as nice as the original, though slightly different (The original also was topped with whipped cream and chocolate syrup).

"Chocolixir"

1 ice-cube tray of frozen milk (200ml)

1 heaped tablespoon callets Ė Callebaut dark chocolate buttons

3 tablespoons Sweet Ground Chocolate - Ghiradelli

0.5 tablespoons cocoa

Milk to make liquid

Grind callets with some frozen milk to a powder in (chilled) blender.

Add remaining frozen milk, some liquid milk and powders and blend until smooth and thick. Add more milk if necessary

Makes approx. 500ml.

Derived from Godiva's Chocolixir in Sogo TST, which is made with ice, water, a secret powder and pieces of Godiva chocolate.

©Copyright 1998-2003 Leon Altoff