Saturday, April 4: As soon as I disembark from the Star Ferry onto Hong Kong Island, I see a Big Bus *Hong Kong* siting right in front of me. I’ve always been a fan of hop-on hop-off bus rides in cities all over the world, and whenever a city offers one, I’m happy to jump on! In this case, a Hispanic woman sells me the ticket. She’s talking a mile a minute, and I have to say I don’t understand half of what she says, but she’s stapling all kinds of tickets into a pamphlet and telling me I can get a one hour Harbour Tour, a free ride up the Peak Tram, a Sampan ride in Aberdeen, a night tour, plus numerous harbour crossings on the Star Ferry. All within 48 hours! In addition, I can take the green route (Aberdeen & Stanley Tour), the red route (Hong Kong Island Tour), or the blue route (Kowloon Tour). All for the exorbitant price of 550 HK$, or $71 (USD). Ouch. I buy the ticket without fully thinking it through, and it turns out I’m ripped off royally because I don’t have time to get my money’s worth out of it.
As soon as I leave her, I hop on the first bus I see, and as the bus gets underway, I find I’m on the green route (Aberdeen and Stanley Tour). This route goes to the south of Hong Kong Island, not through Central, where I mistakenly assumed we were going. As per my usual way of traveling, I don’t bother to look at the pamphlet and think things through BEFORE I get on the bus! Oh well, I’m on my way, and the bus is off, so this is the tour I’m in for. It’s a two-hour ride, the automated voice at the end of my earphones tells me, so there goes a chunk of my day. I shrug it off. Whatever I see, I see. Lately this is my attitude about travel. I can’t see everything, so whatever I see is good. First we pass by the Hong Kong Observation Wheel and some fairgrounds, where crowds of people are congregating.
We drive up into Central, where I can see the Bank of China (where I do my banking) in the crisscrossed building.
In the midst of all these skyscrapers is a modest, more traditional building, that occupies some of the most prime real estate on the planet.
This interesting Lego-looking building is the LIPPO Center, a twin-tower skyscraper complex (the second is behind the one showing), completed in 1988. It is nicknamed the “Koala Tree Tower” because it suggests koalas clutching a tree. The buildings were designed by American architect Paul Rudolph who designed clusters of obtruding windows to avoid the traditional severity of the skyscraper.
Some of the name brands are ones I recognize, such as Panasonic and Epson, others I don’t.
After passing through a tunnel, we make a stop at Ocean Park, a giant theme and adventure park, which I have no interest in visiting. It covers an entire peninsula east of Aberdeen, on the south coast of Hong Kong.
Then we head to Repulse Bay, highly popular because it has a number of shops and restaurants. The bay is bordered by the monstrous tower centered around the Repulse Bay Hotel, a restaurant and shopping complex.
I am sitting on the left side of the open air bus, and I realize as soon as we reach the south coast that I should be on the right. I can’t stand up because of low hanging tree branches, and so I can’t get any good pictures of the beautiful beaches and bays. A couple of times I almost stand up to take pictures, out of pure excitement, If I had done so, I wouldn’t be here today to tell the story!
Continuing on, we pass smaller bays and beaches, eventually arriving at Stanley, a residential town whose claim to fame is a bustling tourist market, selling souvenirs including clothes, embroideries and trinkets, and Hong Kong’s largest Dragon Boat Races. Many people get off the bus here, but I am waiting to get off at Aberdeen, where I can take a “free” (included in my ticket price) sampan ride.
Here at Stanley, the bus turns around and heads back past Repulse Bay and Ocean Park toward Aberdeen.
At Aberdeen, I get off the bus with a bunch of people, and we go on a Sampan ride. I’ll show you that in another post. After our sampan ride, I get back on the bus, and we head back past the fringes of Repulse Bay and then back through the tunnel toward Central.
Across Victoria Harbor in Kowloon, I can see the tallest building in Hong Kong, the International Commerce Center (ICC).
Finally, back to where we started, I get off the Big Bus *Hong Kong*, where I get back on the Star Ferry and head back to Kowloon across Victoria Harbor.