We woke up to find yet another hot and humid day in the city of Hong Kong. Jacqueline suggested that we get out of the bustling city centre and head to the relative seclusion of the rainforests at Ngong Ping. We walked from our hotel to the Hung Hom railway station to catch a train to Tung Chung, on the island near the airport. The regular way to climb up to Ngong Ping is in the cable car, which departs directly from the Tung Chung station. But Jacqueline knew that there was a service path up, but it was not signposted from the airport. Getting to the trailhead was not easy, as we were following a poorly annotated blog post.
Eventually, with a bit of luck and gut feel, we found the trailhead, which quickly climbed up the mountainside. It was hard and sweaty work, and the numbered steps didn’t really seem to relate to the distance travelled. The path we took had plenty of large yellow spiders spinning webs along the sides of the path. I thought they looked pretty. Jacqueline disagreed. Our path took us past the pylons of the cable car. The scariest moment was when we walked past an aggressive nest of wasps, which chased us a short distance down the path, even though we did nothing to provoke them. Jacqueline also didn’t like the heat, which made us sweat through our clothes. It was also bucketing with rain, and the cable car stopped because of the wind and a few thunder strikes.
Eventually, we reached the summit at Ngong Ping, which included a traditional-style street lined with fashion stores and restaurants, and a Big Buddha statue on the top of a peak. We walked around and paid respects, before returning to the restaurants for lunch: Japanese-style curry and ramen. By the time we came back down, the rain and thunder had slowed, and the cable cars were running again. I was incredibly tired by this point, as we took the train back in to our hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui.
For dinner that night, we met up with Jacqueline’s family from her father’s side. We went to a restaurant on the eight floor of an apartment building. It served Malaysian style food as we sat and heard Jacqueline’s cousins many stories about her son’s Chinese acupuncture. Once again, most of the conversations were in Cantonese, with Jacqueline translating bits and pieces. Their English was generally better than her mother’s side, and so they would talk to me in English in places, but most of the conversation went by rapidly without me realising.
We now had our last day in Hong Kong before heading off to Adelaide. Taking recommendation from one of Jacqueline’s cousins the night before, we took the MTR from Tsim Sha Tsui to Diamond Hill, to visit the Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery. The garden was an oasis from the busy and bustling city of Hong Kong, being a new construction in the old Tang Dynasty style. It featured carefully manicured shrubs and trees, and colourful wooden pagodas and pavilions. It was really peaceful just to walk around it, taking in the smells and colours. Adjoining it, the Chi Lin Nunnery was a Buddhist temple built out of cypress wood without nails, again in the traditional Tang Dynasty style.
As the crowds started to get busier, we left and headed back into the centre of Tsim Sha Tsui. For lunch, we went to a fancy dumpling restaurant. We arrived shortly after opening time, so it wasn’t incredibly busy, even though it probably would fill up over the next hour. The service was incredibly quick, and the food delicious. We had tried to convince Jacqueline’s grandparents to come and visit, but they complained that it was too rainy outside.
We still had some time to spare, so we took the MTR across the harbour to Central to head up the Central-Mid-Levels escalator, the longest outdoor escalator system in the world. It featured some 20 or so individual escalators, running from near the Central station up the side of the steep mountains. After reaching the top, we had to walk back down, and then back across the harbour to our hotel.
Our final trip in Hong Kong was to take the airport shuttle bus to Kowloon station, and then speed around the harbour on the airport shuttle train to the airport. We arrived several hours early, with the notice that now that the rain had stopped, Jacqueline’s grandparents had decided to come and meet us at the airport, and they would be travelling by bus. We had expected them to arrive at the same time as us, but we could not find them anywhere. We were informed that they would be arriving on bus A21, though numerous bus A21s came and went. We later discovered that they instead took the E11, a long and winding route, meaning we waited over an hour before they finally arrived. We went and had lunch with them, Jacqueline’s grandmother still constantly commenting on my chopstick skills, and her grandfather reserved and quiet. Before we went through to our gate, they insisted on purchasing some Chinese biscuits to take with us. We had another hour or so waiting around before we boarded our Cathay Pacific flight to Adelaide.