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    Wednesday 16 September 2009

    Day fifteen – The journey home

    Getting up at 7am, we checked out and took a taxi to the Kowloon Airport Express Station. The Airport is only 24mins away by train, costing less then €9. You can even use your octopus card to make the trip. Very handy for us we had some credit left on our cards that needed to be used.

    We were actually able to check into our flight at the train station, which itself is situated inside the Elements Shopping mall, the same place we took the bus to Shenzhen Airport. It’s great to know we don’t need to drag our bags onto the train. The next time we’ll see them should be in Dublin!

    We we couldn’t get two seats together; we were offered one upgrade for the 13 hour flight home. We declined, as we really wanted to sit close to each other. Thankfully at the airport they were able to allocate use emergency exit seating with at least two free rows in front of us. Perfect to stretch out and rest on the way home.
    As the flight had been delayed, we were given breakfast vouchers to pick up some food at the airport. We opted for the Burger King croissant and pancakes. Not very tasty, but filled us up.

    It’s great, Hong Kong Airport has free WIFI throughout! It’s allowed us to catch up with twitter in-between trying to spend the last of our cash.
    The service on the flight was the reverse of the coming over. We started with breakfast, both Vinnie and I had the Chinese option, noodles with Dim Sum, might have well have our last Chinese meal of the trip!

    Arriving into Heathrow at 5:30pm local time, we connected to our AerLingus flight at 8:10pm and arrived into Dublin around 9:30pm.

    Packing to leave :(

    It's after 3am and we're packing to leave. It's been one amazing adventure. We've got many more updates to follow, going to use the 13 hour flight to London to get blogging, so watch out for those. Our flight was scheduled for 7:20am but due to the recent typhoon, it's been pushed back to 11:20am. This means we arrive into Dublin around 9pm local time, some 18 or so hours after taking off! We'll update via twitter/twitvid before then!

    Tuesday 15 September 2009

    Day fourteen – The affects from Koppu

    What a night, the apartment shuck, but at 10am the warning signal was dropped back to a T3 and was downgraded to a tropical storm. The Typhoon had a named too – Koppu! Sweet!

    It’s our last full day in the city, so trying to take things easy we opted to take the midlevel escalators over on Hong Kong Island. Rather then having to walk up the hills around the small streets, you can take it easy and ride the mid level escalators that will take you the easy way up through the streets. Getting towards the top, we took a bus back down to the ferry port and traveled via Star Ferry to Hung Hom were we visited The whompai mall. Taking the MTR subway, we headed north to the New City Plaza mall with its 300+ stores.

    We got back to the apartment around 6pm after making a stop a Beard Papas. I adore those cream puffs. In the London store there are only two varieties, but here we managed get 7 totally different kinds from white peach to fresh mango. Heaven. We settle into a Golden Girls Marathon (we brought season 1 with us) before packing out suitcases. We popped out for a quick drink before bed.

    Thankfully we’d checked our email. Our 7:20am flight to London had been delayed at first by 3 hours then 4. This affects our connecting flight to London. Thankfully as we’ve a through ticket, Quantas would take responsibility for booking our connecting flight. So the plan is to leave the apartment around 8am for our 11:20am flight to London. Arrive into London around 5:30pm to connect with our 8pm flight to Dublin. If we miss the 8pm flight there is only one last flight home, if we miss that, we could be stranded in London overnight!

    Monday 14 September 2009

    Day thirteen – Wash out at Disneyland

    We set aside today to visit Disneyland. It’s a rather new park in Hong Kong opening some 4 years ago. Currently it’s the smallest Disneyland in the world, with Paris being the biggest outside of the original in California. This will be Vinnie’s first time to visit a Disneyland, last year we opted to visit DisneySea in Tokyo instead of Disneyland.

    The MTR Subway easily connects you to the Disneyland line, a specially decorated subway train with Mickey Mouse ears etc. It only cost €1.40 to get our apartment straight into the park taking the MTR.

    Beforehand we’re read information relating to weather and visits to Disneyland. The park runs as normal on a T1 signal, but all outdoor rides and attractions shut down during a T3. Unfortunately by the time we arrived, a T3 signal had been hoisted. We still had to pay full price and were warned that a T8 could be raised within the next few hours. A T8 means the Tropical Typhoon is approaching the city and for all services to shut down with everyone staying at home in-doors.

    It rained almost non-stop. None of the outdoor rides were open. Most of the restaurants were closed. It really was a depressing atmosphere at the magic kingdom, not ideal for Vinnie’s’ first visit.

    We did manage to ride the Winnie the Pooh and the It’s a Small World rides. The only indoor rollercoaster, Space Mountain was closed for refitting for the upcoming Halloween season.

    After almost 2 hours in the park, we were told the T8 had been raised and the park was slowly shutting down. The staff jumped into action tying everything down with string in anticipation for the impending storm. We were ushered out of the park. It cost us €70/HK$700/$90 for less then two hours and two kids rides. Not even a main street parade or firework. Not fun at all. We did manage to get a few pics with the characters. Upon leaving the park we were told our tickets where valid for reentry up to 6 months from now. Fine if we lived close by. Anyone want free tickets?

    We headed back into the city for a stroll along the avenue of the stars, a promenade with stars/handprints of famous Chinese movie personalities. It’s located along Victoria Harbor – perfect with an impending typhoon. It rained and the winds picked up strength. By 6pm, the T8 flag has been hoisted and the city was on shut down.

    We headed back to the hotel to follow the news reports. We had no option but to stay in. This city is well prepared for occasions like this. They taped large windows, shut down all stores. Taxi demanded premium too!

    It was pretty frightening up on the 20th floor with an exposed west window. The wind howled and fittings outside banged. The rain poured very heavily outside. Thankfully according to the Hong Kong Observatory, the path of the typhoon was take it south of Hong Kong, but wind speeds would still be very strong with inches of rain dumped on the city. A T8 does however bring a party atmosphere for the locals; as for them it means no work or school. They tend to head to the cinema or local bars to otherwise make the most of the enforced time off work!

    Tropical Cyclone Bulletin from 1 hour ago!

    So a Tropical Cyclone is hitting the city, the below is the latest warnings we've to follow!!

    Bulletin issued at 18:45 HKT 14/Sep/2009

    At 7 p.m., Typhoon Koppu was centred about 180 kilometres south-southeast of Hong Kong (near 20.8 degrees north 114.7 degrees east) and is forecast to move northwest or west-northwest at about 16 kilometres per hour towards the coast of western Guangdong. Gale winds are blowing over offshore waters and high ground. Local winds are expected to strengthen further generally.

    (Precautionary Announcements with No. 8 Signal)
    • Complete all precautions in your home. Lock all windows and doors, fit bars into position and insert reinforced shutters and gates if they are available. Adhesive tape fixed to large window-panes in exposed positions will reduce damage by broken glass. Storm water drains should be cleared of leaves and rubbish.
    • Park your car where it is least likely to be damaged.
    • Do not stand near windows on the exposed side of your home. Move all furniture and valuables away from these areas. Make sure you have a safe place to shelter, should windows be broken.
    • Since seas are very rough and the current is strong with changing direction, you are advised to stay away from the shoreline and not to engage in water sports.
    • Owners of neon signs are reminded that they should now arrange for the electricity supply to their signs to be cut off.
    • Please listen to radio or watch TV for the latest weather information broadcast at the 15th, 30th, 45th and 58th minute of each hour. You can also browse the Hong Kong Observatory's web site for the information.

      Tropical Cyclone Warning!

      During summer, typhoons, or as their known in Hong Kong, tropical cyclones, regularly hit or skirt the city. Yesterday the city raised the city to alert level T1 and overnight it increased to T3. Next is T8 which means the city begins to close down awaiting the impact, fingers crossed we don't reach that. Until then, it's umbrella time as the hot rains hit the City.
      The latest warnings are available from

      UPDATE @7PM: Level T8 has been hoisted. The city is shutting down!!!

      Sunday 13 September 2009

      Day twelve – shopping

      We set aside today to visit some more of the malls in the area. We started off in City Mall, located by the Star Ferry port and conveniently some 10 minutes away from our apartment. After this we headed over to Wan Chai via the Star Ferry.

      Another very hot day, we were both soaked with sweat from both the heat and humidity. We wandered around the Wan Chai area before walking to Causeway bay and it’s many shopping plazas.
      Times Square is one of the main centres, boasting some 260 stores across some 16 floors! We noticed it had started to rain after we arrived, this was the first time we’d seen rain on the entire holiday. Not bad after 12 days considering it rains everyday back home.

      Returning back to the apartment we noticed that Typhoon Signal T1 had been hoisted. We’ve never heard of this before. Apparently this region is prone to typhoons or tropical cyclones from April to September each year. They have a flag system that is displayed at the entrance to all subway stations and on the top right hand corner of all local television channels. The rains continued into the night as the cyclone moved slowly inwards from its current 200km location offshore.

      Saturday 12 September 2009

      Day Eleven – Ocean Park

      There are a few theme parks located in and around Hong Kong, from Disneyland, a Buddhist “land” to a full-scale replica of Noah’s Ark. Today we visited Ocean Park, located on an island divided into two zones by a large mountain. Passage between both lands is via mountain cable car or underground train. The park claims to be the most visited in the entire region, shadowing Disney with his attendance figures last year. If Pandas, roller coasters combined with ocean attractions such as aquariums and dolphin shows are for you, this is the park to visit.

      Local city bus 629 takes you directly to park. Tickets (around €22) can be purchased before boarding the city bus. It takes around 20mins to get there.

      Thankfully it was a little overcast today, nevertheless the sun did break through, rising the temperatures back into the 30’s. Whilst I can’t stand heights I can’t resist the urge to try out every roller coaster. The first, a water based one, with a free fall certainly set us up. Vinnie even rode it. It started with a gentle cruise before entering a tunnel that suddenly ended, dropping us some 50 meters or so. We both got drenched.

      The second, and by all means the worst roller coaster I’ve ever been on in my life followed. The total length of the track was just shy of 1km, with sudden drops taking me out over the mountainside, with the South China Sea some 200 – 300 meters directly below. It was terrifying.

      As the rides and attractions in this zone of the park are located on and around a mountain, there are elevators of 100 – 200 meters taking between the levels. The park is very well organized and in fact not run for profit. There is a moral message behind here with green eco issues being promoted where possible. For example, they operate a no straw day once a week to save on plastic waste.

      Other highlights included the giant reef aquarium, which we entered at sea level and slowly walked down two levels underground to see the fish at different levels in their artificial habitat. The Jellyfish Spectacular shed light on the weird and mysterious world they live in.

      Taking a 1.5km cable car over the top of the mountain we connected to the second zone that is home two giant pandas. One a shy female who set with her back to the public, the second a male who appeared to love the attention as he set at the front of his enclosure letting everything hang out, chomping his way through a ton of bamboo. It was something else being this close to a panda. They are truly beautiful creatures.

      We left the park late and made it home for a quick change and a few drinks over on Hong Kong Island, this time taking in some different bars starting with an Irish one!

      Friday 11 September 2009

      Day ten – Back to Hong Kong

      So the 5 days in Beijing are up, today we headed back to Hong Kong. Beijing is one very LARGE city and a city in transition. We certainly grew to like it and will be planning a trip back at some stage in the future to see just how the city develops. Until then we can’t wait to get back to Hong Kong and it’s more compact New York City feel and it’s HEAT!!!

      Our flight was actually cancelled, so we’d to wait an additional 90 mins for the next. The 3hour flight back to Shenzhen was followed by the Chinalink coach across the border, back to Hong Kong.
      As part of the swine flu precautions, an official came onto the coach and filmed everyone.

      Gathering it’s to prove we travelled and where we sat incase anyone later developed the flu. We arrived into the Elements Shopping Centre terminal around 8pm, some 9 hours after checking out of our Beijing Hotel. Picking up quick grocery shopping, we taxied back to the comforts of our apartment.

      Granted, a day was semi “wasted” by travelling like this mid way through our holidays, but it was worth it to see the capital of China and The Great Wall itself.

      The evening was spent having drinks over on Hong Kong Island and a club.

      Back online!

      Now that we are back from Beijing, we can blog again. We had limited internet and when online, sites like blogger (where this is hosted), twitter and facebook were blocked! Lots of updates to follow!

      Thursday 10 September 2009

      Day nine – The Great Wall

      A work colleague of Vinnie’s has a friend, Fiona, who is based out here in Beijing. Through her, we orgaised a private tour guide and driver to take us to The Great Wall of China and The Summer Palace. After filling ourselves on the breakfast buffet, we were picked up around 8:30am and started the 90km drive to the Mutianyu part of The Great Wall.

      There are three main open stretches of the wall accessible from Beijing. The first, Badaling, is over crowded with tourists and market sellers and is in fact the closest being some 70km outside the city. The second is not really walk-able as it’s in ruins. The third, Mutianyu, is the one we visited. It’s a 3km stretch, restored by the Germans in the 80’s on top of the original foundations. You can’t walk outside the 3km boundaries, as it’s too dangerous.

      The weather was perfect, around mid 20’s, slightly overcast and very little fog. We walked around 2km up and down steps, some extremely steep. The views were breathtaking.

      After The Great Wall we drove for over an hour through the Chinese countryside, back into the suburbs of Beijing to visit the Summer Palace were we took a dragon boat ride on the lake. This Palace was the summer retreat for the Emperor and family.

      That evening we met up with Fiona, who worked close to the apple store we’d visited earlier that week. She brought us to a local Thai restaurant owned by an English/Thai couple. The food was amazing; it was the first chicken based meal in China to be made with white meat! We were both so stuffed from the massive portions.

      An early night for us tonight as tomorrow we’ve to get up early to pack and travel back to Hong Kong.