Border crossing from Hong Kong to China

Before leaving for China we had to do some planning of where we actually wanted to go in China. Trust us to leave it until the last minute. The only fixed points were Yangshuo (to visit Fran) and Beijing (to get Mongolian visas and catch the Trans-Mongolian Railway). Reflecting on our trip so far we were both pretty keen to focus on places where we could go walking and avoid visiting cities with no real purpose. Neither of us are super into cultural tourism attractions such as temples and museums, although we are keen on seeing some of those things.

Initially we wanted to go to Tiger Leaping Gorge or Jiuzhaigou which is a national park that mum had told us about. Both are pretty far west and once we looked into it further the travel times just looked too long. We could take a few overnight trains but we didn’t want to lose too many days to hours and hours of travel. When you search for ‘best hiking in China’ a lot of the results are to the west and in Tibet, so maybe that could be a future trip. For now with our overland travel goal we have cut back on the distances we want to travel and have planned a route approximately up the centre-right of the country, from Yangshuo/Guilin up to Xi’an then across to Beijing.

Andy and Tomi

Saying goodbye to Tomi

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Food tourism in Hong Kong

3:50am. Never a fun time to be awake. But this is when I had to set my alarm for to catch our flight out of the Philippines. We were driven to the airport and for our final meal we went to Jollibees for breakfast. It seemed like a fitting end to our visit to the Philippines. Filipinos are really into fast food.

Andy at Jollibees

Andy and the Jolly Bee at Jollibees

Back in Hong Kong we went straight back into holiday mode. Somehow staying with Warwick and Rose felt like a relaxing holiday in the middle of our travels (no gardening to do here). We had planned to visit one of the outlying islands but in the end the poor weather and the long travel distances put us off. Instead we spent a not inconsiderable amount of time sitting reading and playing with Tomi.

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Finding gas and dancing lions in Hong Kong

After finishing the Maclehose we were pretty pooped. Hank had to jet off back to the States the next morning and we basically lazed around the house.

We did go check out the nearby Wishing Tree. Apparently this is one of the main wishing trees in Hong Kong and it causes terrible traffic in the area over Chinese New Year. Traditionally the locals would write wishes on paper, tie them to oranges and throw them into the tree. After many years of this the poor tree was barely holding on, so nowadays there are wooden shelves for the wishes and the tree has some extra wooden supports to keep it upright.

Hong Kong Wishing Tree

Hong Kong Wishing Tree

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Walking the Maclehose Trail

On Tuesday morning Rose kindly drove us to the start of the track, or at least as close as she could go. Private cars are not generally allowed into the country park, so most people catch taxis from the gate. Being purists, we wanted to do the whole Maclehose, from end to end. So no taxis for us. The trail begins at an arbitrary point about 1km from the gate – maybe to achieve a length of exactly 100km?

We had planned five days to complete the trail, camping each night. Many people walk the trail in sections, taxiing back to the same hotel each night. This is certainly a viable option but I personally find it much more satisfying to do one complete tramp instead of a series of day walks. In saying that I can certainly understand the appeal of a hotel each night and a much lighter pack.

For this trip, Andy and I had signed up to a ‘Hank Package Tour’ which includes: sleeping bags, sleeping mats, tent, stove, pot and sporks for the group. He actually does this sort of thing quite a lot, although not usually internationally. Hank’s great at planning trips and convincing friends to come along.

Maclehose Trail distance marker

The Maclehose Trail has distance markers every 500m for its entire length

Hank is a huge fan and consumer of Mountain House freeze-dried (aka dehydrated) meals and had brought along nine for dinners, along with two breakfasts and one dessert. For the remaining dinners he had brought six Good to Go dehy meals which were a recent discovery of his. If you’ve been paying close attention you may realise that we had five meals for five days (four nights) of tramping. We had decided to treat the extra three as an emergency meal, but also planned to eat them for lunch on the last day. When you can taxi home at the end of every stage emergency food doesn’t seem quite so important. We only took two lunches in the end, planning to eat at a restaurant Sai Wan on the first day, a dehy meal on the last and we assumed we would come across another food outlet somewhere in between.

Hank and Andy at first distance marker

Hank and Andy at first distance marker – ready to walk another 99.5km!

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Preparing for the Maclehose Trail

After leaving Caitlin, Tom and Fran we caught the MTR train to the New Territories where Andy’s uncle and aunt (Warwick and Rose) live. They have been living in Hong Kong for over 20 years and we worked out that Andy hadn’t actually seen some of his cousins for about ten years. The timing was really good: three of their four children were home for the school/uni holidays.

You may remember Hank who we met up with in Singapore for a few days. While in Singapore he had mentioned that he had always wanted to do the Maclehose Trail, a 100km tramp linking up country parks in Hong Kong. Somehow this led to him flying out to meet us in Hong Kong two months later, lugging a tent, sleeping mats, sleeping bags and dehydrated meals for us to take camping. Conveniently he arrived the same evening we left our three NZ friends.

Buildings in Hong Kong

Buildings in Hong Kong – who knows how tall this building could be?

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Fast food and getting high in Hong Kong

We had rushed through South East Asia to meet up with our friends Fran, Caitlin and Tom in Hong Kong. They were going to be there on a two day stopover on their way to go skiing in Gulmarg, India.

We were running a bit late coming from the train so briefly stopped at Burger King for lunch, an inauspicious beginning to our eating in Hong Kong. Surprisingly we met the others with very little hassle at the hostel they had booked in Wan Chai on Hong Kong island. We were later told that this is the red light district but failed to see any evidence of this while we were there.

The first afternoon we headed to a rooftop bar that the hostel had recommended. They had told us that the drinks were priced pretty much the same as anywhere in Hong Kong, this may not be true but the views certainly justified the price. We were up on the 32nd floor and got a great view out over the island and Kowloon.

View over Hong Kong skyline

View from Wooloomooloo rooftop bar looking back over Hong Kong Island

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Crossing the border from China to Hong Kong

Crossing from China to Hong Kong is kind of like changing countries but also technically not. It was slightly intimidating for us because we were both planning to switch passports at the border. Andy is a NZ/British citizen and I am a NZ/Canadian citizen so we each have two passports. While in Hong Kong we want to post our New Zealand passports back to NZ to get our Russian visas because it seems like this is the best (maybe only) option. Then we will travel to the Philippines on our second passports. This will give us a nice window of almost a month to get our visas back.

We caught the metro to Guangzhou East Railway Station then found our way to the desk selling tickets to Kowloon in Hong Kong. This was all remarkably easy, the person at the desk even spoke English. Based on a sample size of about 18 hours there seems to be more English spoken in Guangzhou than Nanning. Definitely more tourists pass through there.

Steps in Guangzhou East Station

I loved how encouraging these steps were

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