Thursday, March 13, 2014

Another Full Day in Hong Kong

More murky weather led to Caroline and I planning another day of museum visiting, and shopping. Apparently, the weather is better tomorrow, so we are hoping for some views. We started the day with a visit to a renowned diner for breakfast. I was reading a blog about Hong Kong and we decided to try out one of the recommendations, The Flying Pan, in Wan Chai. It was a bit worrying to start with, as we came out of Wan Chai train station straight into a very obvious red light district. But in the morning it was rather sleepy, so we wandered down to where the diner was supposed to be, and it wasn't there. Well, it was, but that wasn't particularly obvious. It is hidden in what looks like an office block, and to enter one has to walk into a corridor and take a lift to the third floor. However, it is worth the effort, as the food, decor, and staff are all excellent. It was also convenient for us, as we could walk to or first destination.

Flagstaff House

First stop for us today was Flagstaff House and Hong Kong Park. We thought it would be a quick stop, but the park was so beautiful that we stayed around for quite some time. Also, we found ourselves suffering a little from the poor air quality, and walking around the hilly surrounds was tiring us out somewhat more than we'd have expected. Flagstaff House is a beautiful old colonial building, but much of it was unfortunately closed. Even so, the parts we could walk around were indicative of the grandeur of the house. We had gone to see a Teaware Museum hoping to see much of the history of this great cultural activity. Except the main permanent exhibitions of historic Chinese Teaware were closed and all we saw was the entries from the 2013 Ceramic Teaware Competition. To be honest, these were pretty amazing, but it still left us feeling a little let down.

Beautiful greenery of Hong Kong Park

Flagstaff House is situated in Hong Kong Park, and this was certainly not a let down. These magnificent sculpted gardens have water features, a conservatory, aviaries and sports facilities. I could have stayed for hours around the artificial lake which is home to Coy and Terrapins.

Coy in the artificial Lake

...and terrapins

We then took a train to the mainland side to see a 2000 year old tomb. Caroline and I both have a fascination with history and neither of us have much knowledge of South Asian or Chinese history. So we are determined to learn something of the history of the region. In the 1950's, after a fire destroyed a squatter camp, a building project was undertaken in Kowloon. While areas were being cleared a tomb was found in an area called Cheung Sha Wan. The Lei Cheng Uk Han tomb is situated in the middle of a residential area on original Kowloon land. One thing I've learnt from the visit to the tomb, is that much of Kowloon near Victoria Harbour is reclaimed land and Cheung Sha Wan is about 1.5 km further from the sea than it was 100 years ago. The tomb serves to place Hong Kong historically within the Han dynasty which ruled China from 200 B.C. to about 200 A. D. It is important because it bridges Hong Kong's pre history with its Chinese history. There is a exhibition of artifacts found in the tomb, and a viewing area to see the tomb (the tomb has been sealed off for preservation reasons).

Across the road from the tomb, we went into a cafe and had a coffee. It was an interesting experience as virtually no English was spoken by anyone in the cafe (coffee was a known word, and coincidentally, that was what we had), but everyone from staff to other patrons showed their friendliness with body language, smiling, waving, nodding to us. Any worries we may have had of being in an alien environment were allayed almost straight away as we walked in the cafe.

We then came back to Hong Kong island and spent a bewildering time finding our way around City Plaza which is situated right next to our hotel. It is a huge maze like complex of ultra modern shopping and entertainment which we struggled to come to grips with after wandering around old time Hong Kong for the past 48 hours. It goes to show that Hong Kong blends both old and new and as such is an interesting city to explore.

Amazing architecture towering over beautiful gardens

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