Thailand & Vietnam Voyage
Monday December 9 to Wednesday December 11, 2013

The Pearl of the Orient

After Azamara Journey left Halong Bay, Vietnam we had our last day at sea as we travelled towards the final stop on our cruise of Hong Kong - the Pearl of the Orient. If we could choose how cruises were set up, we’d always have the last full day of a cruise as a day at sea - for us it is a fitting way to end the trip and a relaxing way to prepare to disembark at the final port of call.

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    As we woke on December 9, ship had already docked in Hong Kong and we were fortunate to be on the starboard side with how we were docked - so we had a wonderful first view of Hong Kong from our balcony in the dim light of the early morning. We were looking forward to the time we’d be spending in Hong Kong but we did, though, have that sense of melancholy of this cruise coming to an end.

    For the first time after a cruise we had booked a tour of city that would drop us near our hotel once the tour had finished. With that planned, we were in no hurry to leave the ship - our scheduled time to leave Azamara Journey was at the end of the scheduled departure times. We had a bit more of a relaxed time on the ship in the morning to enjoy the views before the start of our tour. Our luggage was loaded on the tour bus and we were thinking that this was a really good way to end a cruise.

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  • Monday December 9, 2013

    Victoria Peak, Stanley Market and arrival at our hotel

    Our initial tour of Hong Kong started with a trip to Victoria Peak on Hong Kong Island. The tour bus was the first (and only) western style tour bus that we had experienced on this trip - far better than what was used in Thailand and Vietnam.

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      We travelled under Victoria Harbour in the Cross Harbour Tunnel and the final ascent to the mountain peak was via a tram - a funicular railway that has been operating since 1888. The views from Victoria Peak at an altitude of 552 metres were fantastic. From Victoria Peak we took a scenic route to get to Stanley on the south end of Hong Kong Island. We had some time to check out the famed Stanley Market, but to be honest we couldn’t really see what was so great about it. We took a quick look through the tightly pack stalls and then opted to find somewhere to enjoy some lunch instead. We found what looked like a nice pub called the Pickled Pelican overlooking Stanley Bay and settled there for a pleasant lunch. When our tour reconvened we headed to Aberdeen to take a sampan boat ride.

      Our route from Stanley took us past a beautiful area on the south side of the island called Repulse Bay - clearly an affluent area, indeed. At Aberdeen Harbour we boarded our sampan - a flat bottomed Chinese boat. The harbour turned out to be a strange mixture of very expensive boats and very rough looking fishing boats of many shapes and sizes. The central feature of the harbour is a massive floating restaurant complex known as Jumbo Kingdom. We returned to Kowloon with a bit more scenic touring and the conclusion of the tour was at a hotel quite near to the one we had booked.

      There were plenty of the trademark Hong Kong red and silver Toyota Crown Comfort taxicabs on hand but with it being so close we figured just to walk to our hotel to check in.

      We had booked two nights at the Intercontinental Hong Kong and had settled on that choice primarily because of the anticipated view of the Hong Kong skyline. The hotel sits on the tip of the peninsula of Kowloon - directly across Victoria Harbour from the tall buildings on the north shore of Hong Kong Island. We booked a suite on the south side of the hotel to guarantee a good view of the harbour and we were not disappointed - the suite had a wonderful panoramic view of Hong Kong. Once we were settled in at the hotel and had freshened up a bit we set off again to take a walking tour of Kowloon for the remainder of the day. We did wander back to the area where Azamara Journey was docked and preparing to take another group of passengers on the reverse voyage to the one we had just finished. We settled on a spot for dinner not too far from the pier location and continued our walking tour into the evening under the incredible array of neon signs on many of the streets. We timed our walk to return to the Avenue of Stars promenade at the edge of Victoria Harbour to watch A Symphony of Lights - a nightly laser light show set to music. The information we saw indicated that a total of 47 buildings are involved in the light show. Many of the buildings were also brightly decorated in lights for Christmas.

  • Tuesday December 10, 2013

    Touring Kowloon and the famous Hong Kong markets

    For our second day in Hong Kong we decided on a hop-on hop-off bus ticket to travel around the city. As we had found in Singapore this turned out to be a good way to get around Hong Kong.

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      We picked up our first bus not too far from our hotel at the east end of the Avenue of Stars just after breakfast. We opted for routes that would take us to different locations to the tour we had taken on arrival in Hong Kong. On Linda’s must do list was checking out Hong Kong’s famed Jade Market - so we made sure that was on our day’s touring. We actually hit a number of markets throughout the day and evening - and there was a sameness to what was on offer. The only market we thought as unique was the Jade Market and even that had its fair share of junk. Most of the other markets had a lot of stuff that would be right at home in any Dollar Store.

      One thing that we truly found fascinating was the myriad of food vendors where much of the operation was out on the street. It appeared to be a very popular and cost effective way to eat in Hong Kong. It was an enjoyable day of sightseeing in a city that has much to offer. We were beginning to think that we should have probably planned at least one more day in Hong Kong to get the most of it. We ended the day with a drink in the Lobby Lounge of the Intercontinental Hong Kong - with its massive windows displaying the Hong Kong skyline. Was a nice way to end a good day of touring the city.

  • Wednesday December 11, 2013

    Final morning in Hong Kong and heading home

    When we had checked into the Intercontinental Hong Kong we were able to delay our checkout to suit our late afternoon flight out of Hong Kong. That gave us the opportunity to enjoy the first half of our last day in the city before having to check out and head to the airport.

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      We hadn’t yet made the ferry trip across Victoria Harbour, so we thought it was a good thing to do on our last morning so that we could explore a bit of Hong Kong Island on foot. from our hotel it was a short walk to the Tsim Sha Tsui Ferry Pier near where Azamara had docked two days before. We made the choice to go to the Central District - the area that was once known as the heart of Victoria City. To get there we took the the ferry to Central Pier - which looked to be the main and more frequent route of two regular routes operated by the Star Ferry Company. Victoria Harbour in an impressive harbour to cross with great views in every direction. In the early hours of this morning it was still quite hazy, but the scenery was still wonderful. Central has a much different feel that the other areas we had toured - with many of the city’s financial institutions based in this location. There was so much of the history and development of Hong Kong in a relatively small area. We spent as much time as we could exploring the central business district before catching a ferry back to the Tsim Sha Tsui Ferry Pier on the Kowloon Peninsula and then back to our hotel to prepare to leave Hong Kong.

      With the benefit of hindsight we would for sure say that we should have planned an additional day in Hong Kong, but by the early afternoon on Wednesday December 11 we checked out of the Intercontinental Hong Kong and took one of Hong Kong’s trademarked urban red & silver Toyota Crown Comfort Taxicabs to the airport. We were surprised that our luggage just fit inside the trunk of the car - with the lid unable to be closed completely so a bungie cord was needed to secure the trunk. We didn’t think we had that much luggage! The trip to the airport was efficient and things went smoothly at the airport. Then it was just a matter of a 15 or so hour flight back to Toronto and with this direction of travel through the time zones we arrived in Toronto about 2 hours after our departure time from Hong Kong. Overall it was a truly memorable trip. So many contrasts in the places we visited. We'd have to say it was unlike any other vacation that we have taken because we found the locations and cultures so very different from what we've experienced anywhere else that we have travelled.

Hong Kong Image Gallery

First look at Hong Kong from our room balcony on Azamara Journey
Looking across Victoria Harbour to the skyline on Hong Kong Island
One of Hong Kong's Star Ferries in the foreground with Seabourn Legend arriving in port behind it
Looking towards Central, Hong Kong with the morning haze starting to clear
The view from Victoria Peak on Hong Kong Island
Linda at the Stanley Market in Hong Kong
The spot for us to board a sampan (Chinese flat bottom boat) for a tour around Aberdeen Harbour
Panoramic view of Hong Kong from our hotel suite
Commemorative sculpture of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Torch
The Tsim Sha Tsui Clock Tower (officially Former Kowloon-Canton Railway Clock Tower)
1881 Heritage (Former Marine Police Headquarters Compound) decked out for Christmas
Night view of the Hong Kong skyline
A Symphony of Lights, Hong Kong
Apartment living in Hong Kong
Markets seem to be everywhere in Hong Kong
Fascinating Hong Kong restaurant amenities
Hong Kong street food
The Hong Kong Ferry - Day Star - taking on passengers for the return trip to the Star Ferry Pier
About WHITEonline

WHITEonline is the digital home of Gary & Linda White. We’ve been married since 1980 and live just outside Toronto in Ontario, Canada. Linda was born and raised in Toronto while Gary was born in London, England and moved to Canada at the age of 11. We enjoy travelling and taking photos while we travel. WHITEonline provides the opportunity to share some of our photos & experiences.

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