Yesterday we started the day at Oliver’s Super Sandwiches across the road from the hotel for breakfast. The “light breakfast”: cornflakes, fruit salad, toast, orange juice – all for HKD$25 each … a far cry from the HKD$165 for the buffet breakfast at the hotel.
Unfortunately this was not really enough to feed me for breakfast (I usually have several bowls of Weetbix), so I was a bit hungry all day – perhaps I’ll order two light breakfasts tomorrow.
We did a bit of MTR hopping yesterday and went over to Tsim Sha Tsui East and the Hong Kong Museum of History – admission is free on Wednesdays ! Unfortunately this means crowds, but since we were there fairly early in the morning (around 11am), it was not too bad. Good move we did go earlier – when we came out a couple of hours later, the Museum of Science right next door to the museum of History, had a lineup more than 100m long of people waiting to get in !
The Museum of History was pretty well set up. They have obviously gone to a lot of trouble with the displays, and while some of them are a touch tacky, overall it was very impressive. The video presentations in the various theatrettes are shown in several languages at different times (including english) – with clearly marked timers showing when the next session in your language is due to start.
The Museum is divided into sections, following chronologically through the history of Hong Kong. Starting with the ancient ages of the creation of the landscape over millions of years, followed by the pre-historic times with the first primitive inhabitants of the area. Next, they spend some time looking at the influence of the Chinese dynasties on the area, through to the interaction with European traders. Quite a bit of time was spent looking at the developing cultures, the conflicts between the Chinese and the British over trade and opium, then looking at the lease of Hong Kong Island to the British, and the influence on the early development of the nation.
A section on the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong during WWII was pretty horrific – the people really suffered during that brutal period in their history – and even after the surrender of the Japanese, they took quite a long time to recover and really start developing as a nation again. The section of the post-war development of Hong Kong was quite impressive – the massive influx of people from China and the struggle to find housing, reliable water, food, dealing with natural disasters and such. Finally, there was a section on the reunification of Hong Kong with China – which is still an interesting story that will take many more years to be told completely.
To become the thriving metropolis it is today in such a short space of time, the land reclamation, infrastructure development, services and culture – all lead to Hong Kong being a remarkable and thoroughly unique city.
Probably the highlight of the museum was in the cafeteria afterwards where we decided to have lunch. The dishes came with fruit salad on the side – a nice refreshing addition I thought. Interestingly, they seem to have taken the concept of fruit salad rather literally. It was a salad with fruit in it – lettuce, cucumber, tomato, potato, apple, cherry, rockmellon, honeydew, grape, blueberry, all smothered in mayonnaise !! Either a locally discovered delicacy, or an unintentional mistranslation of the intent of fruit salad. Quite unique.
If you are new to Hong Kong and want to get to understand a little more about the culture and history of the place, then it’s well worth the trip to the Museum of History.
As I mentioned, I would have gone to the Science Museum as well while we were there, except for the huge lineup of people waiting to get in. Since it didn’t open until 1pm getting their early won’t help – I suggest you go on a day it’s not free.
We headed up to Nathan Road, had a bit of a look around, before jumping back on the MTR down to Tsim Sha Tsui for the Hong Kong Space Museum and the Hong Kong Museum of Art.
Given the long lineups for the Space Museum and the shortage of time we had, we decided not to go in. However, while standing outside trying to make up our minds, we were cornered by a group of young school children, obviously on an excursion with instructions to improve their english language and writing skills. They asked us (one at a time) for our names, where we were born, and our favourite food in Hong Kong. Given the difficulties in understanding the difference between the sound of I and A, we both had to exercise patience in spelling Leanne, Simon and Australia – fortunately they seemed to know just how to spell noodles. Good thing I didn’t pick something like “Pan fried eel with sea cucumber dressing” as my favourite dish !
After extracting ourselves from this rewarding effort (with much amused giggling from their teacher), I decided I needed a rest, so I sat and watched the world sail by on Hong Kong harbour in the airconditioned foryer of the Museum of Art while Leanne went in for a look. Following this and a wander around the foreshore to check out the old clock tower, we headed back to the MTR station back over to the island.
On our way back, we decided to get off at Wan Chai and go check out the Expo Promenade outside the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on the waterfront. Unfortunately, by this time is was well and truely peak hour and what’s more there was a book fair on at the convention/exhibition centre and so there were thousands and thousands of other people all moving that way too, making it a sluggish walk. Finally we managed to extricate ourselves from the teeming masses and make our way around to the waterfront.
The main attraction here is the Golden Bauhinia, a 6m tall gold plated sculpture of a flower donated by the Chinese on the occasion of the return of the former British colony of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China. A nice gesture I’m sure, but it looks, umm, how can I say this ? Well, it looks like most things you see which are “made in China”; cheap, tacky plastic (although it is supposedly gold plated). A bit of a disappointment really.
We got back to the hotel for a shower and a rest, before heading downstairs to try out one of the hotel restaurants dinner buffet. Quite a nice spread, and Leanne enjoyed the seafood (although they massacred the lobster), but overall a little disappointing. I think we’ll stick to the other resturants in the Causeway Bay area for dinner in future.
A long and very tiring day, and we certainly slept well last night – which was a good thing, because today was an even more tiring day ! I’ll get to that later. I think it’s time to go out for dinner now – and I think Leanne wants to head to Admiralty. If I get a chance I’ll try writing up today’s excursion later tonight. Bye for now.