Friday, 25 March 2016

Da Nang 2 / Miss Saigon? 18/3/2016

The 3 year old guide book I was using as a basis of travel last time described Da Nang as a place of little interest, with the exception of the excellent Cham Museum and transport links. Either a lot has changed in the last couple of years or the author of that particular segment never bothered to spend as much time here as maybe they should have.

The Cham museum is interesting if you happen to be into carvings from the Cham Period, being as it is the most comprehensive collection of Cham sculpture in the world, however without that interest the museum itself feels stuffy and stagnant with mostly plain walls, tiled floors and the majority
of items mounted without much thought on how to engage those who casually visit. The whole exhibit feels like it's being housed in the forgotten wing of a sixth form college and while it's undoubtably referentially excellent for those with more than a passing interest, I wouldn't in anyway refer to it as Da Nang's main attraction. In fact the 2 other museums here are probably more suitable for those looking for an overview of this part of the world.  The Da Nang museum covers a broader history of Da Nang itself, the geography and nature, the cultures and the conflicts in a fluid, easy and interesting way where as the Ho Chi Minh Museum contains a replica of the Ho Chi Minh house in Ha Noi as well as a courtyard full of weapons and vehicles seized from various armies, much like the outside of the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh city.

In fact, Da Nang is a little reminiscent  of a quieter version of Ho Chi Minh. The buildings and boulevards bear the same architectural french colonial traits and many of the shops found in the southern city are also present here. During rush hours the roads can become similarly manic but unlike Saigon where scooters and bikes would frequently blind side you, mounting onto pavements to carry on their journey when the roads would become jammed,  the roads here never tend to get completely clogged and the bikes tend to stay primarily on the roads unless pulling off to park up. It's still very much Vietnam and still seemingly chaos to the uninitiated, but it's a type of chaos that gives the tourist at least a chance of coming away from a walk unscathed.

What is a little less predictable is the traffic flow. Vietnamese drive on the right hand side is a statement that should probably be suffixed with "when it suits them" and with low obstacles and obstructions frequently forcing you into the road, it's sometime unnerving to step into the path of a vehicle that isn't following the rules. It isn't long though before you get used to not being complacent, and that will probably come just after the first time that you step out in front of something that you assumed wouldn't be there, Dropping off of a kerb to get around one of the many bikes being repaired, trucks unloading or parked up food carts soon becomes secondary to quickly looking around to make sure the coast is clear enough to do so.

As cool as Da Nang is, it just happens to be surrounded by some of the most outstanding coast and countryside views in the the world. The Hài Vân pass is a  21km stretch of road that runs along the coast from Da Nang to Hue and is renowned for both it's danger and beauty. Although it's no longer as busy as it once was due to an underpass (the Hoi Vân tunnel) that now feeds the majority of traffic underneath and away, trucks that are loaded with livestock or flammable goods are still required to use the pass for health and safety reasons. So motorbikes contend for the space on the long and winding road,  where a potentially lethal combination of tight curves, steep elevation and descents can result in the uninitiated or unprepared having a chew on the metal grill at the front of a pig laden HGV. I thought about it long and hard before eventually plumping to hire a car to see this one, also taking the time to visit the beach and have something to eat in the picturesque setting Lang Co with Lan. Someone saying that Da Nang has little to offer is surely missing the point.

The Han River is crossed over by several bridges. One is the largest swing bridge in Vietnam which although impressive itself (aspecially at night), is shadowed by the scene stealing Dragon Bridge which a major draw for tourists and locals alike. Built to incorporate the yellow steel dragon that spans it's length, (again vietnams largest) the dragon by night is lit sequentially by a myriad of colour but comes to life on Saturday and Sunday nights where for a brief period of time, traffic stops and crowds gather around to see it spectacularly breathing fire.  I was fortunate to see this on 2 occasion's. One from a boat on the water as part of a longer cruise with Lan, and the other close to the head of the dragon. This was a plan to either get some memorable photo's, or failing that, a cheap, even shorter haircut. Both experiences offer something different, and I would recommend both, or either if you ever get the opportunity to visit.

The nightlife of Da Nang is amply covered by late night bars, coffee shops and restaurants as well as the usual street vendors keeping choices wide. A walk along the waterfront is filled with groups of people dancing a variation of quickstep ballroom to vietnamese music, neon lit hover boards, kids in free roaming dodgem cars learning the the rules of vietnamese road navigation (i.e. just try to avoid everything), skateboarders, people walking, talking, taking photographs and just taking in  atmospheric buzz. Further up the river (but still central) is the Noveltel Hotel which houses "Sky36" on, (maybe predictably) the 36th floor, the most incredible club that I have ever be privy to.

Stepping out of the 2nd escalator you can immediately hear the music, but only after the short climb up the stairs to the open air venue do you really feel it, the energy, the movement, the energy, the positivity.  I have to state that with the exception of a couple of instances I have never really enjoyed clubs, preferring a good live band in a feel good venue as opposed to one that I used to associate with people in designer clothes, drinking designer drinks looking for a designer fight. Places where your only form of of communication with the around you is a nod or few misunderstood words as you struggle over the bass heavy "toons" that reverberate endlessly around the 6 walls with no means of escape. The Skybar just isn't that kind of place.

Yes there is drink, a lot of it and it isn't cheap but the music, loud and bass heavy isn't oppressive, it's only form of containment is offered by the floor from which is can bounce and escape into the cool, night air. Everyone, bar none wears a smile and there is no visible ill intent anywhere. Drinks can be waited for at the bar or brought to you by one of the staff leaving you to just enjoy your time without such petty frustration, enjoying the shows frequently put on by either separate performers the club has brought in to perform or the bar staff who occasional just break out into juggling flame lit bottles All the time the music keeps going, the drinks keep flowing, the people keep dancing and you are still able to have either a good clear conversation, or not if you've lost a count of your intake.

The downside to all this is the late night excitement is that it ends up with me having to apologise for waking up the staff at the Orange hotel where I stayed and whose insistence to me that my rolling in when I did wasn't a problem actually did nothing to alleviate my self imposed sense of guilt. I had tried in vain to wake the young lad who had slept dutifully by the glass door at the entrance, but each time I saw movement in his eyes indicating that something was registering (even fully opening at one point) it was immediately followed by a nothingness that would lead me to quietly tap again as gently as I could in order not to disturb anyone else that I didn't need to. It didn't work and eventually the door was opened by 2 of the girls who had come to investigate. It's very difficult to say sorry sincerely enough as you disappear into a lift to go to bed, trying to whisper and slip away knowing that you've inconvenienced 3 more people than you should have. So as a sub text I will write that the Orange Hotel where I stayed for 5 nights as well as all of the staff there were amazing, and although far from the least expensive place in central Da Nang at which I could have stayed, I doubt that there could be anywhere better or more focused on making the guest feel welcome and at home. For that I have to give them massive thanks and admiration because having live with myself for 42 odd years now, I know at times that I can probably make it very, very hard to be nice to, but they managed it somehow.

And then I accidentally stole their Laundry Bag.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Hoi an Old / New town- 14/03/2015

Hoi An is Dead, Long Live Hoi An.

The lazy laid back, peaceful streets are no longer as I remembered, replaced by the bustle of walking tourists all drawn by it's now renowned appeal and charm as they contend for space with the bikes of both sightseers and residents along the narrow roads. The old charm has been replaced by a new charm and while some would argue it has become a victim of it's own success, I would doubt those here that profit from revenue and exposure that the increased tourism brings would share that sentiment. Speaking briefly to those who are visiting for the first time, it's clear that Hoi An is still a place that can capture the heart and imagination of those come, the colourful streets and the almost incomprehensible amount of shops which now spread out much further than I recall still have the power to delight and entice. Hoi An is different, but the same.

At first glance, tailors and restaurants still make up most of the goods and services that are on offer here, but there are also plenty of other goods too. Art shops selling books and posters, gift shops selling souvenirs with prices to suit your your budget, trip planners, umbrellas, traditional conical hats and lanterns, in fact  Hoi An has most of the things that you could possibly want or need, and many more things you didn't realise you did until you saw them.

Whilst the old town has the ability to be borderline overwhelming at times, outside the centre is a quieter affair. Streets still interspersed with shops, restaurants and colour afford you a sense of space and relaxation and the means to wind down. Instead of the quietness and almost too remote feeling I remembered about the location of my hotel previously, a sense of life now permeates through from the old town that makes the same walk far more interesting and engaging. It's still far enough away to be devoid of the noise, hustle and action that is only a short distance away,  but the hotel itself, through no big design or planning of it's own, has now found itself in almost the perfect location.

Unfortunately the same problems with my foot remained and trips that I had planned to do from here gave way to short walks with the camera or visits to some of the museums and old houses in the town. Fortunately there is still plenty to see and do here without the need to be on your feet all day and for 120,000 vnd you can buy a ticket which grants you access to 5 of the places of interest in the town. The museum of folk culture is an old building that is segmented inside into 3 areas separated by 2 small courtyards, each area detailing some of the different arts, crafts and work practices of Hoi An's history as well as giving you the option to try a few things like local teas, see some of these practices (such as embroidery and calligraphy) being performed and buy something small to remember your trip. The collection here is worth the visit, as is the house itself with it's large rooms, large wooded beams and view from the front looking out past the road and over the river in front of the building. The sense of space inside some of these buildings belies the appearance of their modest sized frontages, but not all buildings in Hoi An are created equal. The restaurants and bars I visited last time still exist, Cargo on the waterfront is 2 units knocked together giving a feeling of mild grandeur inside and through alleys and behind numerous temples you will find homes which have more in keeping with the appearance of a traditional barn than the more common vietnamese split level houses. All have their own appeal if you can find the right way to see things and this is possibly one of Hoi Ans greatest strengths.

There isn't a wrong way. If you come here you can't help but get caught up in the way of the town, the friendliness and attitude of the people. Yes you will be a tourist and yes, you will be welcomed partly because of the revenue you also bring (this is a town built on trade after all), but there is also a warmness that you rarely find anywhere else. I have found this applies to South and mid Vietnam in general but here those levels are seemingly concentrated. Even bartering is easy and laid back because when it arises it's done on the understanding that they want something from you, you want something from them and all that needs to be worked out is the price that both parties are happy with.  Tourism is their business now, and it's one that they are exceptionally good at. The people of Hoi An may partly welcome you because you can bring them a little more prosperity, but they are also warm, funny and friendly without any of the financial stuff  muddying the water.

The old Hoi An I fell for in 2013 may be dead, but this Hoi An still has more than enough to warrant spending more than a little time here. It's probably very near the top of any of the places I've been to recently, and that's something thats not just down to one aspect. There are flaws but none so great that it ruins or outweighs all the plusses this place has. It can be frantically busy at times but there are always retreats to be found and more importantly enjoyed.

I've found a lot of retreats so far.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Da Nang and The Struggle within - 8/3/2016

And like that, it hit me.
not exactly what you think of when you hear the term "exhaustion", but I think that's the only word I can use to fit the description. I just had nothing left in the tank.

On the first day I walked from the hotel I was staying at to the Vincom Shopping centre,  a walk of about 50 minutes and there I grabbed a coffee, updated the blog and visited a couple of shops in the complex before heading back the same route along the streets, trying to get used to the flow of the traffic again and coaxing myself to actually cross the road when your senses are telling you not to, putting your faith that the traffic will avoid you rather than the other way around. At one point I stood at the side of a 6 lane carriageway of one of the main routes of the city for about 10 minutes as bikes, cars and trucks thundered through and I tried to find a gap that would give me just the slightest chance of survival. It was just like a real life game of "Frogger", but with just the one life, no extra credits and the potential for plenty of dead pixels.

It wasn't just the walk that tired me so much, but I just felt a bit flat from having to deal with the discomfort in my foot and the almost continual need to either find painkillers, rest or perform minor surgery. In the one. The first 5 days were mainly spent away from the main part of Da Nang, dipping in to visit the museums and some coffee shops interspersed with trips by car to places a little further a field, various points of interests that my friend Lan thought that I might be interested in seeing.

The Marble Mountains and temples which represent the 5 elements of earth, water, metal, wood and fire are worth a visit, not just for the temple on the one hill you can visit, but also for the sheer amount of carved statues that adorn the buildings in the surrounding areas, either on a personal, residential level or shops crammed with carvings for sale.

North along the stunning, white sands of My Khe beach that stretches about 20 miles along the coast, Son Tra boasts more temples, more spectacular views, a monkey mountain, a 1000 year old banyan tree, bamboo reservation area and a peak which you can usually view the vistas below. Unfortunately when we got there in the afternoon, the peak had been consumed by mist, visibility was reduced to barely more than 20 or 30 meters and the climb to reach it a little slippery.

The man at the top stared at me stoney faced contemplating his next move as he has done for many years, but I had worked out mine. I had been in correspondence with the NhiNhi hotel in Hoi An just a short distance south of Da Nang and they had informed me that the following week the town was hosting an International food festival. The opportunity of revisiting a Hoi An, a place with a charm that I freely admit that I fell for on my previous trip combined with a festival dedicated to the thing on which I thrive just seemed like something to good to miss.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Why Fly to Da Nang - 7/3/15

I had chosen to fly to Da Nang International Airport (middle of Vietnam) over Hanoi (North)for several reasons, despite planning on seeing things located between the 2. My reasoning for this choice was as follows (in no particular order).

Price and onward travel:
The price of the ticket from Hong Kong to Da Nang was pretty much the same as the price from Hong Kong to Ha Noi, but thinking forward to when the time would come to leave the country, Ha Noi has more direct flights to more destinations than that of it's smaller sibling, keeping the price lower on exit than it would be from Da Nang and with more operators offering greater options.

Size of the Airport:
In Hong Kong I had organised for a V.O.A (visa on arrival) for a month to be arranged for when I got to Vietnam. I had used a company only called "vietnamvisapro"to do the checks necessary for me to enter Vietnam, who would then provide me with the paperwork I needed to go to the V.O.A desk at the the Airport in order to be granted access to the country. I had left things a bit late (it's kind of my thing), applying the Friday before Mondays flight out, and despite my reservations about using the dated looking website, all the usual security notifications seemed to be in place and reviews online were positive, so before office opening hours on Friday, I filled in the details, paid my $9(usd) fee and selected the "1 Day" option. I immediately received notification by e-mail that my details had been received, about an hour later I received notification that payment had been taken, and then at 17:48 the paperwork I needed pinged through attached to a final email.

V.O.A as the name suggests still involves getting the actual Visa into the passport at the Airport. When you consider the amount of flights coming into Da Nang compared to the amount of flights coming into Ha Noi and the respective number of people then needing to be processed, the logical choice was to go to the one that would probably take less time and stress to get through. I have no experience of the operation at Ha Noi, but the queue at the V.O.A desk at my arrival in Da Nang was processed quickly and efficiently, meaning that the waiting time overall was no more than about twenty minutes. Just as a note, the cost of the Visa at the airport was $25 (usd) bringing the total cost up to $34 usd total, which is significantly cheaper I'm sure than what I paid at the embassy in Bangkok a couple of years before.

Contacts: I had friends here in Da Nang which would make the transition back into Vietnam a little less hectic than maybe it would be jumping straight into the hustle and bustle of Hanoi. They could help me focus in good places to see, places to visit and maybe give me a better understanding of real life in Vietnam. There is now no rush to get to where I'm going now, with my foot as it is I needed to maybe slow down and rest up a little bit more.

At last of all,
I was bloody knackered and just needed to stop a for a bit, before I involuntarily did so.
Maybe that's easier said than done when there is so much going on around you, especially when you are trying to stick to imposed time and budget constraints

Anybody want to buy a story?

Monday, 14 March 2016

Back to Vietnam - 7/3/2015

The flight back to Vietnam on "HK Express" wasn't remarkable in almost anyway whatsoever. I had managed to be at the wrong gate just before departure time which had resulted in a mad dash (read speed walk) across terminals, down steps, on subways and back up steps to get to the correct one, only for boarding for the flight to be delayed anyway.  As is now my usual practice I had booked an aisle seat in order to be able to move my legs out for space if necessary, but there was really no need for concern as the leg space afforded  on the flight was probably the most I have had without paying extra for an upgrade. I settled down with the 2 empty seats beside me, placed a few things within easy reach (sweets, blood testing kit, earphones, tablet) and settled in comfortably waiting for boarding to finish and the journey to get underway.

It was as boarding was nearly complete I was approached by a trio of Japanese girls, I would guess in their early twenties who asked, in a way that only the most sincere Japanese person could do, whether would be willing to swap my seat for one of theirs. I put up a little fight initially due to my in built apprehension about leg space, but seeing as that didn't really seem to be a problem here, I changed my mind and reasoned that it wouldn't be any hardship for me to make the switch, and would be a more enjoyable experience for them if all of them could sit together. My new seat was a few rows further down, seat "B" which meant centre seat but was still adequately comfortable. As the plane continued to fill a small tapping registered on my shoulder and I turned around to see one of the girls offering me a present for my "deed" with a big smile on her face. A really nice gesture but one I'm still not sure how to take. Are they saying thank you, or saying I just look knackered? Who knows? Who cares? And who'll remember anyway?*

 With the plane fully loaded, the door shut and the seat between me and the window still empty, I slipped my butt across and belted myself in as the plane took it's place on the runway ready for take off, minowed in stature behind the boeing 747 that was running just before it. An easy takeoff and I watched out the side as Hong Kong disappeared from view, replaced by the seas below and the blankets of cloud. I then drifted off to sleep for the duration of the trip until the announcement that we were soon to be making our decent into Da Nang Airport. In a flight lasting barely a couple of hours I had managed to sleep through most of it. To put this into perspective, during my 28 odd hour trip back to the UK from New Zealand 2 years before, I had managed about 30 seconds in total. That's the difference a little bit of leg room can make. I wish I could afford to get more leg room on the big flights as well, but it would probably be cheaper just to get an operation to make my legs shorter.

Even from altitude, the islands off the coast of Vietnam look stunning and I watched as Da Nang city and the hills around it came closer, with the evening sun just above the horizon reflecting occasionally in the rivers and pools below. It was now that dusked on me that I have only sat in a window seat once before, and that was for my flight from Da Nang to Ha Noi in November 2013, and with many flight in-between you start to wonder whether this is just a coincidence or something that is meant to be. The only Airport I have flown both into and out from in a seat that I can take in the view.

Welcome home? Not quite, but it still felt good to be back here.

* I will.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

So Long Hong Kong -> 29/2 - 7/3 2015

In the time between the date I arrived in Hong Kong and the date that I left, the temperature had risen from the mid-teens to the mid twenties. What had started off as a welcoming,  cool and fresh environment to be had become a little less so with each passing day, so I guess, as far as I'm concerned, I really had hit the city at the perfect time.

I had tried to explore Hong Kong island over the first few days hampered by the ever-present pain in the foot that would increase from an "acceptable" level early on in the day through to "FFFFFFFFFS" as the day progressed. Things that I would usually have got around to seeing in one day, were now likely take me 2 or 3 times that, so after losing so much productive time over the first days there, I extended the stay in my Inn for 2 more nights to enable me to still be able to see the things that I had travelled to see.

Hong Kong is divided into 2 parts divided by the gigantic harbour and loosely stitched together by a couple of road bridges and the MRT subway station. Hong Kong island gave off the impression of a more laid back, traditional environment,  as opposed to what lay across the water. There is no hassle here from anyone really, people keep themselves to themselves mostly and as a tourist, you are able to meander unhindered. This is not to say people are unfriendly though, as on several occasions as I sat in one of the many parks getting some rest, people would stop and make conversation with me, be that to enquire about the camera I was using (most people still seem to be carrying Canon cameras) or just say "hello" and "Bye Bye" with a waddling child that's just starting  to learn the basics of social interaction. It's just that people aren't in your face about anything, but will mostly respond in a friendly manner if the occasion arises to do so.

The otherside of the harbour however, things immediately changed as soon as I emerged from the iCentre shopping centre into Hong Kongs main shopping district for premium brands. "Watch Sir?", "Handbag", "Good Copies" would be bellowed every few steps, and as you clear the vocal trap of one, someone else approaches ready to fill the void, spouting the same lines, in the same tone, in the same manner. Evenly spaced along the roadside of the pavements, casting gaze back towards the shops to target the people passing in between, suit sellers wait to pounce on anyone who shoes weakness or catches a glance. Subtle hints such as wearing bright orange earphones with the volume up high to make those in your close vicinity diving for cover, just don't seem to work at all in this part of town

I soon dived out of the way into the smaller streets and alleys, away from big money shops and big money chasers & into the realms of comedy gold. Chiu Fat restaurant and Chun Kee Stationary being 2 of the less obscene translations to come into view, but in truth, every couple of shops there would be another name to make the inner schoolboy chortle away inside. It's the sort of distraction that makes wandering about on your own so enjoyable sometimes, free to just take in your surroundings not be in a hurry to get anywhere.

Kowloon park, which although nothing spectacular in itself contains a few nice areas to sit and relax, with water features and aviary gardens attracting the kind of wildlife that is rarely seen back home all the time being over looked, but not imposed by the towering offices nearby. At the top of the park what looked to be a few outdoor swimming pools were currently under construction amongst other landscaped gardens and just below here to the right was the "Avenue of comic book stars". Here were  sculptures of some of the better known creations from Hong Kong animators and artists, as well as a  host of information boards written in Chinese and English giving an overview of the Hong Kong comic book scene and details on how the exhibition came to be, what it aims to achieve and who has helped to fund it. I spent a good couple of hours here looking at the sculptures and reading the information on offer which might seem to be a little excessive, but in all the places I have visited I try to understand and get a feel for what makes a place tick, it's history and it's culture past and present. Who's to say that the art on display here is less valid than the art I had seen in Ubud or museums in Taiwan. All have cost me time, but all have also given perspective and insight into the places that I have been lucky enough to visit.

So a few other places I think are worth noting.
"The 10000 Buddha Monastery" and "The 10000 Buddha Pagoda are both easily reached, located in the "Sha Tin" district which is covered by interlinking MRT and train lines. The pagoda is maybe the less exciting prospect of the 2 as far as tourists go, containing a few eye catching statues and far too many steps, but there are escalators at hand to help you ascend if you don't fancy the walk, or are unable to do so and the views are nice enough from the higher levels. Next to the Pagoda entrance there is a smaller, less obvious path that leads up to a monastery above. The (occasionally steep) climb is lined on both sides by differently poised gold colour statues, with a level 2/3rds the way up housing larger and more impressive statues aswell as a pagoda and the top level further up providing comprehensive views of the town laying below, as well as yet more statues. It's worth the walk up without a doubt, and Sha Tan itself is easy to allow yourself to get a little lost in, with a good selection of smaller food outlets polluting the air with glorious aromas, and a shopping centre so vast I spent 15 minutes just trying to get one end to the other. What was becoming perfectly clear by this point, is that my previously almost perfectly honed sense of direction that had served me well for the  past 40 years, had suddenly decided to become a little less, reliable.

The National Heritage Museum is located a short walk from the nearest exit of this shopping centre, or the furthest if you completely lose your bearings. Either way the museum itself houses a collection of Bruce Lee memorabilia which I doubt can be surpassed anywhere else in the world, most of which seemed to be privately owned and on loan. The attention to detail is amazing and the booming baseline of Lilo Schiffrin's "Enter the Dragon" that propagates the air at regular intervals only adds to the sense of enjoyment to be gained. Here are such things as hand written notes by Bruce Lee on how the body will move and react to different points of impact, letters to his wife whilst on set in Thailand filming "The Big Boss", Choreographed Drawings for the fight scenes in "Enter the Dragon", film stills,  posters, movie clips, directors chairs and even payslips from Golden Harvest. Then there are the clothes which really put into perspective just how small he actually was in person. His sun glasses , his favourite shirt with "BL" embroiled on the pocket alongside a picture of him wearing them whilst holding Brandon Lee as a child make the association between item and icon stronger than maybe either item would be on their own. Other information such as Bruce Lee's myopathy and eyesight rating of -5 and seeing his thick classes in person, rather than striking you as someones weakness add credence to he was able to achieve in quite a short period of time. Amongst all this, there are the weapons, the training aides and then, centre stage and brightly lit, the almost infamous yellow jumpsuit designed by the man himself to enable and show the flow of movements for Game of Death. Just Awesome.

The whole exhibition here is simply amazing and is credit to not only the life and work of Bruce lee, but whoever has managed to get all the items and display them so intriguingly. If only all exhibitions were this interesting.

Admission to the the museum itself costs 100 $HK, (free on Wednesdays) and contains several floors with other guest exhibits contained in rooms alongside resident itemsfrom Hong Kongs long history, as well as cafe and small clothing shop (for small people) downstairs.

Back on the Harbourside is the famous view of Hong Kong island which, by the way that I noticed my mouth was still open shortly after I first saw it, can now accurately be described as "Jawdropping" even in the day. Every evening at 8pm, the buildings over the water give a light display, taking it in  turns to shoot lasers into the sky and pulse and glow in time to music. The display only lasts about 10 minutes or so, with the first 3 of those being introductions to the buildings that are taking part in the event. It's impressive to see for sure, but doesn't really add much more to what is already an impressive sight. It's a decent advertising board for Hong Kong's businesses though, and with what seems to be case in Hong Kong at least, is that it has found a way to give business and people both what they like, to the benefit of both.

Hong Kong island side again is Victoria Peak from which to take in another iconic view but unfortunately my visit wasn't on the best of days for photography, being a little more dull, grey and overcast than I would have liked and the moisture in the air seemed to make everything through the lens want to bloom. The tram ride to the top was a mini adventure though, going from the base station to the top via a couple of stops en-route. I joined at the first stop by pressing the button on the stop itself to notify the oncoming tram of my desire to board. This illuminated a flashing light to show my instruction had been sent to the tram operator, before seconds later the light became permanent to  confirm my notification had been received and the tram would stop on the way to pick me up. Easy.

The incline is exceptionally steep in places, as is the angle of the tram inside and out and as I clumsily clambered down through the tram to find a seat after boarding, it was apparent why I had been the only one who chose to not to join at the start of the journey where the carriage would have been at a more sensible angle. Still the view on the way up was quite amazing not just because of the natural scenery outside, but also because of the angle of the train to the angle of the edge of the vertical structures that were passing by outside, almost matching the view from the top of the hill.

Almost but not quite. It is a great view.

The last place of note was my final place to go. Kowloon Walled City park was somewhere that had caught my eye. The Park, built on the site of the city / slum that was often described as being "Lawless", a place that the Chinese or the British were seemingly unable or unwilling to control and which had a reputation for drugs, prostitution and gambling as well unlicensed dentistry and Triad gangs. In the end the best solution put forward by the British and endorsed by the Chinese was to pull the whole thing down and be done with it, so in 1993, and with the 40000 occupants all evicted, the place was razed to the ground to make way for a park to go in it's place, but before they did a Japanese team surveyed the area and took measurements of all the buildings and living quarters that it contained. At the entrance to the park there now stands a brass model, set to scale that tries to convey the look, feel and lack of space that existed in Kowloon Walled City at the time. The rest of the Garden, whilst now mostly just landscaped gardens representing different dynasty periods, still allows you to put into perspective exactly how big 6.4 acres is and how so many people actually managed to live in that space.

There's more than the big stuff to Hong Kong and I'm sure to explore the place in full would be a lifetimes work, especially given the pace of construction and change that is underway everywhere swell as all the side streets and shops hid inside the multitude of buildings that a person not local to the area would even know were there. Smaller, less well known areas and shopping centres often house little gems hidden away that you often just stumble across by mistake, and it's things like that make Hong Kong such a joy to get lost in. There's seemingly always something new to find.

Over the course of the week the pain in my foot continued to be problematic, but with slight improvements over several of the latter days I decided that I would push on whilst i still have the chance. Vietnam was a place that I was unfortunately forced to leave earlier than planned last time due to the approach of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. Although there are things there that I probably won't be able to do because of my current impairment, It would be good to be able to finish at least that part of the journey from 2 years ago.