Southeast Asia Dance Cruise: Two days in Hong Kong and still more dance cruising
Saturday, November 14 Hong Kong
The Diamond Princess picked up the local pilot around 5:30 in the morning and was docked in the Contaiiner Terminal by about 7:30. Although it was warm and humid it was still grey outside.
The consensus among those of us who had planned several excursions together was that in Hong Kong we could manage fine without taking an organized excursion. I remembered feeling quite comfortable travelling around when Bob and I had visitedHong Kong years ago, and again when I spent a few days there on my way back from Shanghai.
So Bernie, Jean, Joan, Raoul and I met in the atrium at around 9:15 and by 9:30 we were on the bus shuttle heading from the Pier into Kowloon - about a forty minute drive.
From our drop-off point we found our way to Nathan Street and at a HSBC bank we drew out cash and changed it for Hong Kong dollars. Then we wandered off to the street market where I acquired a great back pack with a detachable smaller back pack, with wheels for about 19 dollars (Canadian not Hong Kong dollars). The HK dollar is about 6.8 against the US dollar.
I am really bad at bargaining - I always feel bad about beating them down even though I realize the original prices are reallymarked up but Raoul helped by encouraging me to "walk away" and so I got it for considerably less than the marked price. Amanda is going to have to work with me on my acting skills though before I try much more in the way of bargaining.
We were amused by a bakery display. When we took pictures a woman came running out and shouting- no pictures! but here they are.
We then walked down Nathan Street in the general direction of the Ocean Terminal where we wanted to catch the Star Ferry across to the Hong Kong side of the harbour. It costs 2.5 HKD (about 1 dollar fifty) to buy a token for a one way trip across to HK.
We had a quick lunch at a little restaurant that served a cheap buffet meal, and then headed out to explore. After we had walked uphill for a while we took a cab up to The Peak terminal. We bought tickets to travel to the midway point. The crowds waiting to board the tram were quite horrendous, and we were running out of time.
We finally got to the boarding point where we were due to board the next tram.There is certainly no sense of personal space among this crowd. The crowds were shoving and pushing. One very aggressive woman who was next to me was pushing so hard that I thought she would push the woman in front of her onto the tram tracks. It really annoyed me so I stuck my arm onto the rail in front of her and glared at her. She backed off. Lucky because I imagine that smeared tourist blood and tissue on tram tracks would not look good on the Peak Tram advertising billboards.
We got up to the top of the mid station building only to be told that the only way to see outside is to eat in one of the restaurants up there, so we took the escalators down, shot a few photos - it was really foggy - and took a taxi back to the ferry to get back to the shuttle by 4:30.
Then it was another ride back to the ship in time for the sail away. The ship was going to reposition from the berth at the Container Terminal to anchor in Junk Bay, sailing through Victoria Harbour in time to watch the Light Show.
Our group met for dinner in the Savoy Restaurant. Carol was back from her excursion and joined us at our table of 6. For the first time this trip I felt like enjoying a glass of wine so I ordered a bottle of Piesporter Riesling from the Mosel region. That got finished pretty quickly as everyone had some so then Carol ordered a second bottle. Even though it was 6 of us sharing these two bottles, I must have had at least 3 glasses of wine over the course of the meal as somehow it kept getting filled.
There was a shrimp, squid and mussel antipasto on the menu. I asked the assistant Maitre d', a congenial fellow from Hungary if I could get it without the mussels but he said he thought it would be mixed right in. So I ordered the parma ham and melon instead. Then a huge plate of the antipasto sans mussels arrived. So my light meal turned into a big feast but I was so mellow from the wine that I just sat back and enjoyed it all. Tomorrow I will be good again!
Carol, Jeane, Raoul and I met out on the deck at 8 to watch the sound and light show. I was expecting something like I had seen in Egypt on the Nile, or in Greece at the Acropolis but it was something quite unique, different from anything I have ever seen before.
instead of lights illuminating the buildings from a distance the structures themselves are lit by systems on the facades of the buildings, and choreographed in patterns and colours so that it is as if the buildings themselves are dancing. It was quite spectacular- a sight not to be missed if you visit Hong Kong.
After the show Raoul went off to check on the bookings for our Bangkok excursion. The night air was pleasantly warm and not too humid and Carol,Jeane and I chatted for a while on deck while we cruised past the brightly lit high rise apartment buildings.
By 10 we were in the cabin and both Carol and I were ready for sleep. I actually tried to read my novel in my E-Book reader but fell asleep after about 4 pages.
Sunday, November 15 The second day in Hong Kong
It is just after 6 in the morning, and the Diamond Princess is at anchor out in Junk Harbour. I can see lights on the tall buildings at the tip of a section of Hong Kong but it is still dark. My room mate, Carol is still sleeping and I have taken my laptop out on to the balcony of our cabin so I would not disturb her.
The air temperature is quite comfortable - for me- although I suspect anyone else would be complaining it is cold. There is a slight breeze and I can hear the water slapping softly against the sides of the ship. Most people are probably still asleep although I can see lights on in a few cabins on the decks above.
I am craving coffee. I could probably pull on some clothes and go up to the Horizon Grill and get myself a cup but room service will bring us a carafe around 6:30. So I snuggle into my comfortable Princess Cruise Lines robe and content myself with anticipating that first sip in a little while.
Last night after our busy day walking around Kowloon and Hong Kong, I was quite tired when the six of us met for dinner. I think the effect of the two bottles of wine at our table compounded my tiredness but disturbed my sleep or maybe I really only need about 6 hours of sleep. Because I first woke at around 4 pm but managed to get back to sleep, sort of, for another two hours.
It has already lightened up considerably in the fifteen or so minutes I have been out here.
The coffee has just arrived. Hooray... Time to stop writing and enjoy the moment
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Carol and I sat and chatted on the balcony for a while drinking our coffee. I really lucked out with my cabin mate. We have very similar temperaments and interests, both of us are sound sleepers and not disturbed by the other person either coming in late or waking up early, and both of us are really quite easy about timing showers, using the hairdryer, needing coffee etc. So far it has been a real pleasure sharing with her, and I feel as though I have made a real friend in a very short time. That's not common for me, so I am very happy. I should thank Wendy for suggesting that Carol and I would get on well sharing a cabin and as a result we have this great upgraded mini-suite with this great balcony.
Today we are planning to go shopping! We had breakfast again in the International dining rooom then went to get a tender number.
The tender ride was about 45 minutes to take us to the Pier 4 on the Hong Kong Island side of the city. We had a vague idea of where we wanted to go, only it was much later when we realized we had been thinking of Kowloon and of course, we were on the Hong Kong side.
We walked through the IFC mall- very upscale shops. I saw an exquisite dress in the Escada store that looked as if it would suit my figure. So I tried it on. It was quite beautiful and would have looked great if I was 6 foot tall and weighed 100 lbs but on my small frame it was quite overpowering. Lucky because when I did the cost calculation it was 2500 dollars - thats US not Hong Kong dollars. Gulp!!!
Once we left the Shopping Centre we walked to the Central Town escalators. This is a series of outside (but covered) escalators to carry you up the very steep streets. Interesting. I have never seen anything like that before either.
As we progressed up we could look down onto the crowded streets with pavement restaurants.
We looked for somewhere to have lunch.
We noticed a lot of Asian people entering this particular restaurant, Lake Seafood Restaurant, so we thought if the locals eat there how can we go wrong? The place was absolutely packed for dimsum lunch.
We had shrimp dumplings and spring rolls that were ok but the meatballs and short ribs were awful - barely edible. I guess I have been spoiled by the quality of dim sum, and other Chinese food that I am used to in Vancouver but this meal was very disappointing.
By the time we finished niether of us felt like doing any more shopping - not that we had actually bought anything anyway - so we made our way back to the tender and were back in our cabin by about 3.
At 6 we went for supper- had a pleasant meal with Helene, Brian and Carrie. And then it was time for more
dancing, first in Club Fusion with Exotique, and then the Wheelhouse Lounge with Mauritzio - who plays and sings a nice variety of songs that are for easy dancing. He has a cd with about 22 of his favorites - I picked up a copy.
Monday, November 16 Cruising across the South China Sea to Nha Trang in Vietnam.
The workshops scheduled for this day at sea were Samba to be taught by Greg and Night Club 2 Step which Raoul was to teach.
Greg spent some time talking about the origins of samba as we see it today; very interesting, and then taught us a pattern which he called maxixe, I think. I know a similar step as corta jaca, which I learned as part of the silver level routine. It basically consists of half beat steps where you slip one foot sideways while you move the other foot forward onto the heel or back onto the toe. We were all having problems with the lead into it. When I learnt it previously in Vancouver, the lead was the initial step that takes a full beat so you know the half steps are coming up. This way you are dependent on a lead from the hand. Hmm... We will see what happens when we actually get to try it out, if they play any sambas tonight.
After the Samba Raoul got us moving smoothly around the floor to the night club 2-step. It is really quite a simple dance, at least as I have learned it on these cruises. The basic step you cross your foot behind on the second step but when you are moving side to side around the floor, you cross in front. And then you just follow the lead and turn when you feel the direction.
After the lessons a few of us spent some time sorting out excursions.
That evening we attended the show in the Princess Theatre called Ports of Call. I found it quite interesting because I had a mental list of familiar songs I was expecting to hear but they came up with a whole lot of different ones.
The dancing after the show was a bit awkward. By the time we got to the Wheelhouse Bar there was nowhere to sit near the dance floor. So when we were not dancing we could not watch the dancing at all. But Flare played some decent music and despite some grumbling we managed just fine until people left and we could reclaim our usual spots near the floor. Many of us were scheduled to meet at 7 am for excursions the next day so we did not dance too late anyway.
Tomorow it's Good Morning Vietnam!