Quickly stopping off at the Metro station straight after, I decided to pick up Hong Kong's Octopus card to make a few things here a little less complicated. $150 includes a $50 deposit for the card and $100 useable credit which can be then used on trains, trams and buses as well on other things such as food in certain restaurants and shops. A great system if only for the fact that it cuts down on the need to be carrying loose change for things like the tram ($2.3). The coinage here has become a little bit confusing as there seems to be multiple versions of the same value coins, so a coin with 10 on it can be either a 10 dollar coin or one valued at 10 cents, and to mix it up a bit more, there are also $10 notes in circulation. After one night in Bangkok I was already being weighed down with a bunch of coins that I was never going to be able to spend. For this reason, the Octopus card made perfect cents.
As I was going to be spending the day walking rather than riding, I immediately returned to the surface, stopping on the way up to help a young lady who was struggling to climb the steps with her heavy luggage box. "Thank you, you're my saviour, thank you" she beamed as we reached the pavement outside. It's a simple thing, just to help people out isn't it, and it makes you feel good about yourself when you know that what you've done, no matter how small is genuinely appreciated. "That's o.k" I replied, "you have a nice day", suddenly taking on a superman, Christopher Reeve like persona, calmly turning away to fly off to go and find more distressed luggage carriers, but with my cape unfortunately also in the laundry, I had to then walk off instead.
I heard her saying something in the background as I walked away, but the fact that I was in shorts and a polo shirt I can only assume she was shouting something like "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING YOU MADMAN? YOU'RE GOING TO BLOODY FREEZE IN THOSE THINGS". She wasn't to know that I had my rubber beaded stretch gloves in my bag incase things did get a little bit nip though. I'm not as foolish as I look, sometimes.
A further 15 minute walk away I crossed the road into the cities Victoria Park, a large public area full of people running, practicing martial arts, reading, spending time with family and friends or anything else they wanted to do. In the mid point I came across a queue of people waiting to get into a area with a few seats and a couple of relaxed police people keeping watch. This is where, on sundays starting at mid day, people are given an opportunity to raise any points or concerns that they would like to see addressed.
or as google translate likes to put it;
"Free Air Victoria Park Chung You have the right to comment"
With half hour to go before that started I decided to keep on walking, taking more photo's on the way, past a model boat pond with people racing / repairing their boats and then swathes of people just sat around enjoying the day. An stunning area in the heart of the city being used exactly how a public space should be used. Enjoyed by the people who live, work and visit.
At the harbourside I slowly meandered along the bay watching the ferries and junks passing by, it was here that I began to notice that my foot was starting to feel more uncomfortable than it had been for while. I concluded then that it would probably be for the best if I went back to the hotel early to save causing it any more damage. Before that though I thought I would just walk a short distance to see the oldest existing post office in Hong Kong, on the way walking under the central plaza where groups of teens had culminated. The groups here displayed no menace or signs of anti social behaviour that you might come to expect in other parts of the world, gathered in their spare time to practice dance moves, catwalk walks or anything else which might be a positive in their lives. There just doesn't seem to be a destructive or antisocial element to any of these groups, and it just leaves you with the conclusion that something is deeply wrong in the UK. I wish it was something that was easily addressed.
Built in 1912 and active until the early 90's, the old post office building still stands but is now an environmental office. As I stood there taking pictures of this almost nondescript building trying to make something interesting from it, a local man in his mid forties stopped and told me about a 150 year old temple nearby that was definitely worth a visit. Following the directions he had given I quickly found what he described amongst all the high-rise towers that loomed all around, a small Chinese temple that I never would have stumbled across without his interjection. I suppose that was a little bit of good karma for helping the girl up the stairs earlier on that day and I spent a good half hour here in self imposed silence, gingerly trying to take some photo's inside whilst others made their offerings around me, careful not to disturb their moment while I captured mine. I think I might be in need a quieter camera.
Finally I headed back towards the hotel but, despite my best efforts to disguise it, I was obviously limping quite heavily and it was painfully obvious that I had made an error of judgement in doing so much walking in one day whilst not fully fit. Luckily for me transport in Hong Kong is frequent and cheap and I did what I doubted would happen in my life time, I took a tram back to the hotel. Trams are so frequent that barely a minute goes by without at least one coming into view along the causeway that reaches right across the length of the island. When one does come along there is only one choice to make, whether you catch the one going East or the one going West. You make your payment when you get off at your exit, either in loose change, or as I now had the means to do so, a quick tap of the Octopus on the reader at the front. The tram dropped me about a minute walk back to the hotel, unfortunately it took me 3.
So what did I learn from Hong Kong on day one.
I found that quite apposed to what I was expecting, the air is fresh and breathable which I attribute to it's coastal position and abundance of parks and open spaces in the city, and of course the milder temperature must of helped. The people I have encountered so far seem friendly and approachable and the relaxed nature here is amazing when you consider the amount of people who live and congregate here. Where natural products can be used it seems they are with scaffold on many buildings all sturdily constructed of bamboo. Traffic moves freely enough most of the time with people being ferried about the island by buses, trams or subway trains which are all priced cheap enough to be used often and run regularly enough to not be over crowded when one does arrive. It sounds like a simple enough concept but it's one that I rarely see back home where transport is run primarily for the profit margins of a company rather than as a benefit for the people who live there. It really is amazing how smoothly everything seems to run in Hong Kong, especially when you realise that it is one of the most densely McCafe populated areas to be found on planet earth,
I also learnt that my foot is unfortunately far from healed and I need to now consider just cutting this trip short in order to return back to the UK sooner than planned. At the moment it means that I am unable to do some of the things that I wanted to do, or get to some of the places that I had wanted to see, but this also comes with the realisation that I doubt I will ever undertake this sort of trip again. It's taken a couple of years of hard saving to get the sort of money together to enable me to do this trip and I don't think I will be able to do that again with circumstances that have now come about back in the U.K.