What a day! On Friday, Gilles discovered that Air New Zealand had reimbursed the tickets we had to buy twice because of the mix-up in dates crossing the International Time Line and Phoenix Travel Agency had our passports and visas for Mainland China ready in the afternoon.
We had grown worried, since that same day the front page of South China Morning Post announced that from now on, visa applications have to be filed from your home country. On top of that, we ran into an American who was in the line with us on Tuesday, April 22nd, trying to get a Chinese visa. He was sent away for the same reasons as us and also ended up going through a travel agency. Nevertheless, even through them, he could not get a visa and his passport was held until April 28th in the afternoon. His flight for the US left that day in the morning so he had to change his ticket. He was not happy!
For lunch, we tried one of the famous Indian messes in Chunking Mansions and later on, just for fun, looked at some of the many hostels in this maze of businesses. Heidi stayed in this place 20 years ago and wanted to show Gilles the narrow, low hallways and tiny rooms: it feels very much like being inside a submarine. The whole building with 17 floors is served by two slow elevators so the many guests with tons of luggage staying at the cheap hostels make things worse. The ground level is simply crazy, a maze of stalls changing money, selling food and the typical bazaars ware. These are mainly run by Indians and some Africans. Very different to the glamour of Hong Kong’s other buildings but really worth to pay a short visit!
We also followed the recommendation of the Lonely Planet and went to the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden and the nearby Flower Market. The latter is not spectacular at all, a street lined with shops selling pot plants. The Bird Market is simply a very sad story, birds of all colours and sizes are cramped into little cages where they can hardly move. Not talking about the fact that quite a few of them are protected and endangered species! We could not believe that an established travel guide would recommend visiting such a place!
In the evening we took the cable car up Victoria Peak. From there, 552 metres high above Hong Kong, you have an incredible view of the harbour and Kowloon. After leaving the cable car, nothing indicates that there is indeed a free of charge viewpoint outside the complex, so most people follow the big signs “Viewing Platform”, which costs another 20 HK Dollars. Of course, the path to both attractions leads through endless shopping arcades and a few restaurants. Despite the hazy weather, the view from the “free” platform was breathtaking.
An almost equally stunning, but different view offers the Avenue of the Stars. Right on the oceanfront, you marvel at the skyline of Honk Kong Island, maybe the most spectacular one. Especially now, since the 20 minute new laser show makes the skyscrapers look like a sea of ever changing colours every evening.