Hong Kong's harbour front at Central with The Peak looming.

So here we are in Hong Kong on our last leg.  We are also on our last legs!  Yes, we really are ready for home now, but we wouldn't have missed one minute of this fabulous trip.  Well, maybe we could have done without the vomiting bug in Sydney ...

When we visited Hong Kong in the 70s and 80s (last time was 1990), we found it vibrant, colourful and thrilling.  This time, the heat, humidity, bustle and clamour has been somewhat challenging!  Just walking down Nathan Road, with the constant demands of touts wanting to sell us bespoke suits or copy watches and handbags (do I look like a person who wants a fancy handbag?), was irritating, rather than amusing.  After just one outing on foot, we took to the MTR (subway) or the buses and avoided busy tourist thoroughfares.

Once again, our hotel is down a slightly seedy side street, but once again, modern and spotless inside.  We found, however, that we were in a tiny room, with barely space to edge round the bed.  We couldn't face that for five nights, so upgraded to a much bigger room where we have been much more relaxed.  Still looking forward to getting home to proper armchairs and sofas though! 

Despite being very tired, we have made the effort to get out and visit some of Hong Kong's sights.  After crossing the harbour on the Star Ferry we took the historic tram up to the Peak and found the facilities up there completely transformed since our last visit.  The viewing area is much improved and has an audio guide to enhance the experience.  At first, we thought we wouldn't bother with it, but there are so many new buildings, it actually proved informative and interesting.  We descended by bus and overshot our bus stop.  When we asked the bus driver where we could find the next bus we wanted, he beckoned us back aboard and took us there himself!  You don't get that level of service on Stagecoach or Plymouth Citybus!  The next route took us to Stanley, one of the earliest areas to be settled and supposedly quieter than the city. It was still pretty crowded though and not particularly picturesque, so we were glad to spot another bus that would bring us right back to Kowloon, close to our hotel, without having to get the MTR.

The next day, we chose to visit the Hong Kong Museum of History, which turned out to be virtually opposite the hotel.  It's a magnificent place, with one huge exhibition telling the story of Hong Kong since the world began.  Literally!  It was just a bit too detailed for us, at this stage. Martin skipped most of the prehistoric sections, and I gave up listening to the commentary somewhere in the middle of the Opium Wars, though I did look at the rest with interest.  We managed to get separated here and in the end I went back to the hotel without Martin, causing some consternation.  The amazing thing is that we haven't lost each other before!  The entrance hall of the museum was given over to a display commemorating the 25th anniversary of the "Promulgation of Basic Law", the publication of which started the process of handover from British to Chinese administration.  The Basic Law document is exceedingly dull, but the display was fascinating in the way it was used to emphasise what a wonderful, positive thing it is to be ruled by China.  There was a video of little schoolchildren getting up one by one to proclaim their aspirations for the future - each one cheered and clapped by their classmates.  There was also a life-size model of Mrs Thatcher having a meeting with Deng Xiaoping, which was a little disconcerting.  The model was alongside a photo of the meeting, with a lady interpreter in the background.  As we came up to it we were greeted by a very excited elderly Chinese gentleman, eager to tell us that the lady was his English teacher back in the day!  He was delightful and so proud of the connection.  Small encounters like that can really liven a day up.

Our last complete day in Hong Kong was a Sunday and we decided to go to Cheung Chau, a small outlying island with a reputation for good seafood and an "authentic" atmosphere.  Being Sunday, half of Hong Kong seemed to have the same idea, but soon after leaving the ferry, and the initial crowds, we found ourseleves walking along a very pleasant promenade area by the waterfront.  There were lots of benches and we sat for quite a while watching families, friends and dog-walkers strolling, cycling, sharing trishaws and just having a good time.  It was a charming way to end our visit.

And it really is the end.  I'm writing this in our hotel room, planning to eat in the room tonight.  We hope to post this section while waiting at the airport tomorrow - our flight is late in the evening and we really can't face another day of sight-seeing, so we'll go to the airport early and relax in the lounge. It's all over, bar BA26!

HK is a vibrant and exciting city with its focus on today and the future - and building everywhere. This is Kowloon. Most old structures have been swept away, but in the middle of glass and concrete is often a remnant of Empire. Look carefully - in the centre is the clock tower of the old Kowloon to Canton Railway - all other vestiges of the railway have been transferred further east along the shore. Some traditional aspects of HK life remain, such as ....

... the Star Ferry has linked Tsim Sha Tsui to Central since 1888. The "new" vessels were introduced in the mid-60s. The trip is essential for both residents and tourists with fares at HKD2.50 on the upper deck (first class) and HKD2.00 for the lower deck (second class). Other attractions ...

... are upgraded from time-to-time. This is the Peak Tram with the latest carriages introduced in 1989 for the 368m/1,207ft climb over 1,364m/4,475ft length of track.

View from the Peak Tram.

Other HK ways of life are also preserved, such as bamboo scaffolding. This was outside our 16th floor bedroom window. The structure stretched from the ground, right to the 19th storey.

Stanley Market. This was the second Stanley of our trip - the first was visited on the north-west coast of Tasmania.

The HK Museum of History is vast, with full-sized houses and explanations of life through the centuries ...

... including representations of HK customs such as this wedding procession with the bride in a sedan chair ...

... and a travelling theatre performing traditional Chinese opera. The soundtrack was shrill and grating to our sensitive western ears!

This is a reconstruction of the bun towers of Cheung Chau where young men race to grab as many as possible. Originally part of a religious festival to protect the island from pirates, it's now an annual free-for-all.

Hong Kong is tightening the laws covering antii-social behaviour in public. Here's one such initiative, warning of a fine is caught - or dobbed in. There are approximately HKD12 to the GBP and 6 to the AUD.

Cheung Chau's waterfront.

Cheung Chau is popular for family days out, many of whom opt for cycle-rickshaw transport. In these days of gender equality, I must hasten add that sometimes the wife, or even a small child, was the muscle power.

Cheung Chau is famous for its fishing fleet so, if you're on the island feel free to call your the fishmonger to order ....

... air dried fish or, across the street, ...

.... not just fish, but all manner of shellfish and squid-like sea dwellers - live and ready as a takeaway!