I had another another late morning in Hong Kong today, but that's because I only had one location in mind: The Peak on Hong Kong Island.
Last night on my way home I had bought a bottle of Aquarius Water. It's a wonderful beverage I first discovered in Japan. It's like the Gatorade of the Orient. No matter where I went in Japan I bought a bottle of it, and last night I bought a liter of it at a nearby 7-11. I took a swing of it for breakfast, brushed up and left for the day.
I walked West back to Olympic Station. It was difficult for me to find my way out of the station last night last night, but it was much easier in the daylight. Olympic Station is a huge station, that is several football fields long and multiple stories hight. It was also attached to a shopping mall, which is why it was so large. I also here learned that the reason it was named "Olympic Station" was in honor of several Hong Kong athletes winning gold in the 1996 Summer Olympics.
I took the train under Victoria Harbor and to Central Station. Hong Kong Island is the largest island in Hong Kong, and is the business section of the city. As a result, this area is full of white collar people, glass buildings, shopping centers and isn't nearly as old and decayed looking as Kowloon.
Before I began navigating my way to the Peak, I took a look at my map and saw I wasn't too far from Hong Kong Park. Because I knew how popular the Peak was, and since it was already near noon, I decided to hold off on the park for now. I walked past it, and eventually found the entrance of the Peak Tram. It was full of people, and the wait was over an hour long. It was so long that the line up went under an overpass and even crossed a busy street. I couldn't believe my eyes!
But being as this was the only thing I wanted to do today, I got in line. About a half hour in I got about a quarter of the way in and bought a drink from a merchant that set up shop near the line (he probably made a killing that day). In time I neared the tram entrance, draining my bottle of water. I crossed the street, entered the tram entrance and was greeted with cool air conditioning. There was still a line up, but it was much better inside than out in the mid-day heat.
There was a miniature museum set up along the walls of the tram station, which talked about the different events the Peak witnessed, such as its initial construction, the Canadians defending it against the Japanese, the many natural disasters and the different kinds of rail cars used. There was even a video at the end showing off the Peak and what awaited people at the top. Had it not been so crowded, I would have really enjoyed taking my time and learning more about the station and the Peak.
The tram arrived, emptied and accepted more passengers. I had to wait for three trams to come and go before I finally got on, and of course I had to stand. But by now I was so excited I didn't even care. I wish I had been sitting down when we turned the corner of the mountain and saw Hong Kong from above for the first time, though! The view was fantastic!
Arriving at the Peak, you enter a giant gift shop. One thing the Peak is most famous for is the "wax hand" molds. I saw one in the introduction video and wanted to try it out. First you dip your hand into a warm, thin solution (I thought it was wax, but the wax comes next, so I think it's some kind of oil for the wax to slip off easier) and then quickly put your hand into the cold water. Then you go back and and fourth between the warm wax and the cool water a few times, feeling the wax thicken on your hand. Once a solid white, you dip your hand into coloured wax, staining it however you would like. I chose to get it rainbow coloured. By now I had gotten a crowd watching me, all anxious to see the final product. My hand was done being made into wax, and although my fist was curled, the lady very expertly peeled it off. She melted a base onto it, and put it into a cute little red box for me to carry. I didn't get less than 10 steps from the counter before somebody asked for a picture of me and them all holding it in amazement. This was the second time somebody asked for my picture in just as many days!
While trying to find my way out of the shopping center, I found Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. I've seen Madame Tussauds in Los Angeles when I was younger, and there was one in London, and one in Paris, and one in New York, and one in Vancouver, so I didn't go in. I know from experience the wax statues are incredible. If you have never gone, be sure to go!
I finally found my way out of the mall, and I found someplace quiet to take out my wax hand and look at it. It was so hot out today I was worried it would melt if I kept it out too long. It didn't, but I didn't want to take any chances. Foolish me for buying such a fragile thing so early in the day!
I stopped at the Starbucks on the Peak (they're everywhere) and had another Lime Explosion like I had in Tokyo. It was still wonderful. I then went to the edge of the platform, took some pictures, and then wandered over to the boat shaped Peak building. A few flights of stairs more (and past a Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. store) I arrived on the deck. At the top, several young women were handing out headsets asking for people who spoke certain languages to line up in different lines. I got mine, in English, and wandered away on my own. I found a nice bench, sat down and learned about the Peak, Hong Kong, its skyline and its history. I learned a lot of it yesterday at the museum, but I still found it very fascinating.
It was not as fascinating as the view of the city, however! I've been told the city is even more beautiful from up here at night, but seeing it in the daytime was something else completely! I took more pictures than I'm willing to admit, walked around a bit more, and left.
It started to rain then, so everybody scampered inside, making the line to get onto the tram much shorter. I got back down the mountain, got off the tram and pulled over to the side to examine my map. My first stop was going to be Hong Kong Park, but then I noticed right near it, and closer to me, were the Hong_Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens. I don't have a zoo back home, so I had to go check that out!
The zoo was small. It mostly focused on the different fauna around Hong Kong, much like the museum did. There were different animals, like mammals and birds and reptiles and fish, but it was more of a side thought. The children there loved seeing the monkeys and lemurs, so I enjoyed it too.
Leaving the garden, I became disoriented. I'm still not sure where exactly I came out, but I eventually wound my way back over to Central. I used this as a landmark and, realizing later I forgot about Hong Kong Park, I went towards the Cenotaph. The Cenotaph in Hong Kong is much like all the other million Cenotaphs around the world, but this one was special to me. It was not only dedicated to the Hong Kong soldiers that died during World War II, but the also the Canadian soldiers that sacrificed their lives on the Peak, the same one I had just left.
I walked a bit further and found a park near the coast. I took a break here, gathered my bearings and stretched out. It was another exhausting day, but I was almost done. I got up, took some pictures of the nearby buildings, such as City Hall, and carried East a little more. Finally I found the massive Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, which was too big to take a picture of. It also had construction going on around it, which I thought was too bad because I would have liked to see the beauty of the building without the freshly laid tar, orange construction tape and bulldozers.
While walking up the side of the HKCEC, I found the treasure I was hunting for: the Reunification Monument. This monument was erected in 1997 when Hong Kong rejoined mainland China. Although a lot less impressive than I had hoped, I still took many pictures of it. It was here a man stopped me and gestured towards his camera. After traveling long enough, I understood what he wanted. He wanted me to take a picture of him and his wife in front of the monument. But... that wasn't what he wanted at all. He wanted a picture of me and his wife, the opposite way of the monument, as if I was the thing of interest there! I still have no idea why. Maybe because I'm a Caucasian and they had never seen one before? All the other times the requests to take my picture made sense, but this one did not!
On the other side of the HKCEC was the Golden Bauhinia Square; a golden flower statue. I still don't understand why the statue is so important, but almost every book I read about Hong Kong told me visit it. I wasn't very impressed but I took some pictures anyway.
The sun was setting, so I wound my way back to Central Station. I was hot, tired and hungry. I know I complain about the heat a lot, but it was literally like walking around a sweat lodge all day. Rivers of sweat poured down my body and my shirt and pants stuck to my arms and legs. In my fatigued state I couldn't figure out where the entrance to the Station was... but then I saw something I did recognize, something I never thought I would see here...
I hadn't seen a Pret in years since my trip to London, and while there I practically lived there! I of course instantly looked for a ham and egg bloomer and orange juice (with "Absolutely no Nasties") but couldn't find one. I instead had an egg sandwich, some fruit and a water. Feeling regenerated, and laughing at seeing Pret again, I carried on my way.
I found the station and took the train back to Olympic Stadium. Much like last night, the moment I got off I was confused as to where to go. It wasn't until I heard the faint music of the Symphony of Lights to my right did I realize which way was South. I headed the opposite way, past the shops and stores of Kowloon, and found my hotel.
Although not much was done today, I felt exhausted. I got to my room, stripped off my clothes and went for a shower. Then I drank about a half liter of my Aquarius Water, laid down on my bed and fell asleep.
Tomorrow is Tai O... and for the first time on my trip I'm a bit afraid because I have no idea what awaits me in this small fishing village, other than poverty, sadness and disease.
Until next time!
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
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Long before I started my blog, many, many years ago, I visited Innsbruck, Austria. I was on a Contiki trip through Europe and visited a plethora of locations such as Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, Venice, Lucerne and Innsbruck, just to name a few. It was an incredible experience and one that I think was a transformative moment in my life.
Off the record (or, on the record now, I guess), of all the places I visited, the only one I didn't like was Innsbruck. I couldn't get into it. We visited it in late March, so the weather wasn't the best. The trees didn't have any leaves on them, the grass was brown, and everything had a post-winter grey look to it. After visiting Munich and spending the night in St. Goar, my mind wasn't thinking about Innsbruck at all. Instead, I was more excited to go to Venice the next day, and the Vatican the day after that. My time in Innsbruck was uneventful, and all I wanted was to get back on the road.
That was in 2011, and now it's 2018. Has my opinion on Innsbruck changed? I would say yes. I'm more mature now and if I went back, I would better appreciate what I was seeing. As I've gotten older, I've been less impressed by the massive buildings and more enthralled by the history that created them.
Most people know how to ride a bicycle. They learned sometime as a child and never forgot. I am not one of those people. I tried learning when I was a child, a teenager and an adult, and I have never mastered the two-wheel contraption. Whenever I see a child zip past me on a bike, I get a little jealous inside. I've always wanted to learn, but it's just something I've never been able to do.
On my recent trip to Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, Alberta, I explored several of the many biking paths that wind through the area. The paths are also hikable, so I walked them instead. Although I've visited Cypress Hills several times, I never get used to the hills and lakes throughout the area. With dozens of kilometres of trails, you can spend a weekend there and never do the same thing twice. Although hiking around the park was incredible, I imagine it would be a lot more fun, and a lot easier, to bike it instead.
Those who attended my Chernobyl lecture at the Queen City Collective earlier in May would have heard me singing praises about HBO's new miniseries Chernobyl, and for good reason. HBO did a fantastic job on the miniseries by immersing the audience into mid-1980s Soviet Ukraine and by peeling back the layers of the disaster.
With that said, there were some liberties HBO took while making the show. As somebody who spent two days in the Exclusion Zone in 2016, I know a thing or two about how the events unfolded, and a few parts of the miniseries weren't accurate.
Chernobyl began by tackling a nearly impossible task. The miniseries had to break down one of the largest cover-ups in human history. They had to show the devastation of the world's deadliest nuclear disaster and also highlight the many countless heroes who stepped up to make a difference. It's natural to expect HBO to simplify this – and they only had five episodes to do it. I don't blame them for some of these mistakes, but I felt they should be pointed out.