DAY 70 (Tuesday 25 January) – Around the World in 70 Days

Well, that’s it!

We arrived at 4.36 into Heathrow this morning, probably the first arrival of the day. Our flight had been delayed 30 minutes in departing from Hong Kong because of strong tailwinds, and we couldn’t get to Heathrow too early, as no flight is allowed to land there before 4.32am – so precise!

We have had an unbelievable time over the last 70 days, which will take time to reflect on and absorb once we’ve got over our jet-lag and exhaustion. We’ve done so much, hardly any day passing without some outing, exploration or discovery. We need a holiday!

We wrote this blog mainly so that we have a record to help our reflection & recall, but we’ve been delighted to share it with those interested in our journey – thank you all for your interest and feedback.

Our main goals (to combine the further tracing of Anna’s ancestors with David’s lifelong desire to see England play Australia for the Ashes in Australia) have been hugely fulfilled. To which we must add the amazing sights that we’ve witnessed of wonderful landscape and wildlife, and the human endeavour and achievement so evident in some of the world’s greatest towns and cities. And the welcome and genuine caring demonstrated by so many folk around the globe has been consistently positive and uplifting. 

For all of this, we thank God both for his creation, his care and his loving protection of us.

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DAY 69 (Monday 24 January) – Farewell to Hong Kong

On our last (again sadly smoggy) day in Hong Kong, we sought out a traditional market.

We were recommended the Lady Market in north east Kowloon as ideal for souvenirs. Sadly, we weren’t impressed with it. Situated on both sides of a narrow street (probably a quarter of a mile long), the products (mainly clothes and accessories) although colourful  were disappointingly uniform and basically tat. It looked as if some manufacturers had cornered the market, distributing the same products to many market traders so that the market stalls were remarkably similar.

We wandered back to our apartment via some highways and byways, including 1881 Heritage. According to one website ‘1881 Heritage was the Former Marine Police Headquarters Compound. It is now converted to a shopping arcade (as so much of Hong Kong is) and good place for shooting’!  Despite its police connections, we think the reference to shooting means for cameras & films, rather than guns.  Certainly the external area is large and photogenic, and we saw many people taking pictures and shooting videos. Our contributions were taken beside a display that we think was set up for the imminent Chinese New Year – the rabbits are the clue!

Anna and Rabbits at 1881 Heritage

David and Rabbits at 1881 Heritage


Our reflections on Hong Kong were generally positive with one major exception. Hong Kong has developed dramatically in the last 20 years, continuing to do so (perhaps at an accelerated rate?) under Chinese jurisdiction since 1997. The reclaiming of land, the huge (in number and height) building programme and the continued desire to make Hong Kong a point of commercial integration between East and West are all hugely impressive. The energy, enthusiasm and engaging nature of the people is very attractive.

The big ‘BUT’  is the effect of the poor & deteriorating air quality. There are some worrying statistics around, including the numbers of people whose health is badly affected – we saw/heard a lot of evidence for this, including the face masks previously referred to and also a number of phlegm-related incidents that we won’t describe here. We spoke to a guy in our hotel (the General Manager of a golf club manufacturer) who has lived in Hong Kong and worked in mainland China for many years. He confirmed that this was the big downside to Hong Kong and that it is getting worse – he suggested that the effect on every individual’s lungs is equivalent to smoking seven cigarettes a day!

We headed for the airport mid-evening to catch our late-night flight to Heathrow but just had time first to gorge on the buffet again at our hotel!  As before, the place was packed with local people eating with their families and we were the only Westerners.  They should try this place as the food and atmosphere is fantastic.

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DAY 68 (Sunday 23 January) – Not a Lot

Today was for chilling & preparing for our journey home tomorrow. So not much of a blog today.

Our chilling involved spending some time at a hotal spa in the centre of Kowloon.  It was recommended to us by the staff at our apartment block.  We took a taxi and were a bit concerned as it drove down lots of  back streets.  He was driving so fast we were unable to take photos.  He deposited us outside the hotel which didn’t look like it would have a Spa but we dutifully took the lift to the top – the 41st floor.  And wow!  What a place, so peaceful and above the smog and many of the tower blocks. The Spa had a large outdoor heated pool at the top of the building.  It was lovely to swim in the warm waters looking out over the island.

 The hotel entrance housed the amusing figures in the photograph. As the caption suggests, the artist compares the blind obeisance of Chairman Mao’s ‘little red book’ followers with capitalists, an interesting comparison!

Red Army or Capitalist Caricatures?

The Artist Explains

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DAY 67 (Saturday 22 January) – Stanley, I Presume?

Today we returned to Hong Kong island. This time, it was to explore the southern end of the island.  Our bus drove out of the busy high rise and clogged roads onto narrow winding roads backed by steep greenery covered rocks along the South China Sea coast.  What a marked difference from the busy north and centre of the island.  There was space to breathe!  There were still high rises here but not as high and there was more space between the blocks and the flats looked more spacious and some even had curtains not just bedraggled nets!

We drove by beautiful Repulse Bay which belies its name.  Unfortunately, we could not take pics because although the smog had cleared here, the driver was driving so fast, every shot was blurred as we struggled to stay in our seats! 

Our destination was the very picturesque little town of Stanley which faces out to the South China Sea.  Stanley’s retailing credentials are based on much more traditional lines – a classic market with local products available at relatively low cost (and lower cost if successful in haggling).

Stanley Bay

Stanley Sea Front

Stanley Bay through lush Trees


Stanley Pier


Having explored this, we ventured on and discovered Ma Hang Park, a beautiful cliff-hugging park that was only made accessible to the public via some wonderful (and expensive) work putting in paths and various platforms, completed only in August last year. We also discovered the recently refurbished and repainted Tai Wong temple. Not sure about what religion it represents but there was a shrine to a ginormous goddess figure about 20 feet high and there was a woman prostrating herself before it and she was clearly pleading in some distress.  We sat quietly and prayed that her distress would be relieved and that God reveals to her the true identity of the Goddess!

Tai Wong Temple Decor

Tai Wong Temple Paintings

Tai Wong Temple goddess figure

On return to Kowloon, we wandered round the
busy and neon-lit streets.

Kowloon by Night

Kowloon by Night


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DAY 66 (Friday 21 January) – Over the Sea to Hong Kong

We took one of the iconic Star Ferries (every one named ‘___ Star’) from Tsim Sha Tsui (our area of Kowloon) to Central, the nearest area on Hong Kong Island.

Star Ferry

Star Ferry Pier, Hong Kong Central


Everywhere public rest rooms are spotless with notices saying they are disinfected every 2 hours.  However, one little quirk – they do not have paper in the cubicles, this is on a massive communal roll and you take off what you need before entering your stall!

We noticed that a significant number of people, maybe 2% or 3%, wear face masks. As a visitor, this is a bit off-putting. The reason appears to be less to do with air quality and more about Hong Kong folks concerns about passing on infections in the light of their experiences with outbreaks of SARS and bird flu in such a populous area. However, the medical evidence for the benefit of face masks in preventing receiving or sharing germs is tenuous.

We took a tour bus to become more familiar with the island. The tour was a long one (time, not distance) due to the super-clogged traffic. The only form of transport that seemed to move occasionally (apart from the Star Ferries) were the tramcars, which reminded David so much of the late lamented Glasgow trams – doubledeckers, so rare in tramcar systems today.

Hong Kong Tram Cars

Amongst other landmarks, we saw the City Hall & adjacent War Memorial (almost a dead ringer for the Whitehall Cenotaph) and the site of the 1997 return of Hong Kong from UK rule to Chinese, marked by a monument beside the Conference Centre shaped as the indigenous blakeana orchid, the Hong Kong symbolic flower.

City Hall and War Memorial

Conference Centre

Gold Blakeana Celebrating Site of 1997 Handover


We eventually reached the station for the funicular rail link (aka ‘tram’ just to confuse) up to the top of the Victoria mountain (known as the ‘Peak’) that towers behind Hong Kong city. Although it maybe doesn’t tower quite as much as once it did, given the sprouting skywards of so many high rise blocks.

Peak Tram

Only last year the fourth tallest building in the world (the International Commerce Centre, 118 storeys, 1,588 feet high) was completed in Kowloon.

International Commerce Centre

There are 112 buildings over 590 feet (180 metres) high in the Hong Kong area, so the Peak is getting nearer every day.

The funicular trip is pretty hair-raising – the steepness of its climb seems at times to be almost vertical.

Peak Tram Angle

Interior of Peak Tram

Having got to the top, we continued to climb inside a very modern building via stairs and escalators until we emerged at what seemed the top of the world to magnificent views over Hong Kong City, Kowloon and the intervening Victoria Harbour, and southwards over the South China Sea – well, they would have been magnificent had there not been this ever present cloud of smog which has only partially cleared since our arrival.  According to a lady we spoke to, this smog is now pretty normal for Hong Kong and is causing health concerns.  We checked it out on the web and read that 20 years ago there were 6 smog days a year but now there are more than 130 and rising.

Peak View over Hong Kong

Peak View towards Kowloon

Peak View over Victoria Harbour


Peak View over Hong Kong towards Kowloon

Peak View towards South China Sea

South China Sea Circle of Light

Stopping on the return descent only for supper at the Forrest Gump-inspired Bubba Gump shrimp restaurant (menus attached to table tennis bats – you get the idea), we eventually returned to sea level and a return crossing to Kowloon.

Bubba Gump Restaurant

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DAY 65 (Thursday 20 January) – Hong Kong is Big on Retail Therapy

Hong Kong appears to be the ideal stopover en route back to the UK. It takes us three hours nearer UK time (we’re only eight hours ahead now) and steps us down gently in weather experience (in the mid teens centigrade, it’s about 10 degrees less than Sydney and about the same above London).

This is Anna’s first time but David was last here about 20 years ago.  And he found it very different.  A lot of the water frontage has been reclaimed and new roads and high rise buildings put in place.  It actually makes the place look more spacious and has been very well done.  To see some of the old Hong Kong, you have to wander further into the island and there are row upon row upon row of high, high buildings with shops and businesses and cafes on the lower levels and flats above.  You can tell they are flats as so many have these old net curtains only partially fixed at the windows and strings of washing strewn underneath the sills rather like parts of Naples.

Bustling Kowloon Street

High Rise Living - Air Con Units and Clothes Drying

Hong Kong Island Street


And everywhere these bright bright neon lights advertising everything in Chinese and English.

Skyline by Night

Skyline Neon Rainbow


We’re staying on the mainland in Kowloon, overlooking the ever-busy Victoria Harbour separating us from the island of Hong Kong.   Here and on Hong Kong Island at ground level and below, are shops by the hundred. From the top designer labels and brands to local fare, from the glitziest malls to the most basic market stalls, the HK retail world knows no bounds. Open early, closing late, this is either retail heaven or retail hell depending upon your attraction or aversion to shopping.

We gave up trying to take decent photos as everywhere is bathed in a horrible smog which prevented any good shots – such a pity especially at night as all the lights are spectacular.

Today we explored one of the Kowloon malls. We could have been in London, New York, Paris or Los Angeles – the brands and labels are global. One feature that was well done was a series of mall ‘furniture’ seemingly made from chocolate – quite original.

Mall Chocolate Furniture

But in the midst of all the bustle & hustle and high rise, we found a haven of some peace – Kowloon Park.

Kowloon Park

Its water features, greenery and wildlife (some actually wild, such as Large and Small Flamingoes, some captive in a reasonable aviary) provide a real space for peace and reflection. 


Rhinoceros Hornbill


Chinese Banyan Tree Roots

Chinese Banyan Tree Creepers


And the smog was less dense there!  There are lots of these small parks in Hong Kong as the people do not have their own gardens.  Not surprisingly, therefore, we saw very few dogs. The parks are beautifully laid out, very neat and with lots of water features and pools. 

Quiet Kowloon Park Reflection

We also discovered environmental awareness in Kowloon Park through the somewhat bizarre but point-making Sewer Drinking Straws.

Sewer Drinking Straws Sign

Sewer Drinking Straws

Sewer Drinking Straws Explanation


In the evening we tried the Chinese Buffet in the hotel as it is a popular eaterie for the locals and very reasonably priced.   It was fantastic, but not just for the food of which there was plenty and delicious but for the opportunity to see the locals congregate with their families and friends, lifting up the toddlers to choose what they want.  They were very friendly and helpful to us but surprised we were joining them and not eating western fare!

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DAY 64 (Wednesday 19 January) – Reflections on Australia

We flew today from Sydney to Hong Kong. Time enough for us to write about Hong Kong over the next few days. Today is the ideal day to reflect on our Australian adventures. So here goes.

We visited three states – Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

What a magnificent, beautiful country! We experienced it in the height of Australian summer when it was going through some real extremes of weather. Fortunately for us, we avoided the excesses of flooding and cyclones, although we saw the effects of spring flooding in upstate New South Wales and Victoria. But even across the wide ranges and rapid changes of heat & cold, humidity & dryness, sun & rain and wind & calm that we experienced, the splendour of Australia shone through. Rich arable land, barren bush, lush tropical rain-forest, beautiful sandy beaches and glistening sea harbours and inlets – the sights never let up. And the vastness of these open spaces is on a different dimension to anything back home. The Great Barrier Reef was astounding, both the living coral and the surrounding swimming sea life.  And the Australian wildlife is so different from anywhere else. From the moment we arrived in Melbourne to see parrots and budgies flying free, the variety and range of beautiful and bizarre creatures that we saw was amazing – cockatoos, ibis, flying foxes, large fruit bats, kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, sharks, jellyfish, sea turtles, lots of insects (REALLY big ones, impressed by the size of their cockroaches!) and so many different kinds of colourful reef fish. But we didn’t manage to see a kookaburra, a duck-billed platypus or (fortunately) a snake!

Perhaps in such a near paradise yet having to cope with the contrasting extremes of nature, it’s not surprising that the people are very friendly and engaging, really genuine. (Even after they lost the Ashes!) The Australians appear to have a real zest for life, probably fuelled by their love of the outdoors and associated pursuits and sport. (Indoors, we discovered that air conditioning is essential when our apartment for our second week in Sydney didn’t have any!) Australians know how to enjoy themselves, and have a strong community spirit and sense of family.  They love to socialise and have impromptu BBQs.  They love to picnic and barbeque and there are public BBQ sites at all the beaches.

The floods, especially in Queensland, highlighted another important side of their character. They are gritty & stoic ‘can do’ folk, getting up & dusting themselves down very quickly in the face of adversity to get on with living.  And they’re generally very informal and laid back. We found it quite amusing at how they’ve ‘relaxed’ the language eg ‘breakfast’ has become ‘brekkie’, ‘vegetables’ have become ‘veggies’ and these terms are common parlance even on formal TV news channels!

Whilst they of course have their darker side as all societies do – they have similar drug and violent crime problems and we were saddened by the reports of looting of abandoned homes in Queensland – the Australians do seem to be very ‘wholesome’. They have a well developed sense of what’s right combined with their strong work ethic.  But we were surprised and saddened to see such a disappointing attendance at a wide variety of churches, even around Christmas.

We noted that Australia appears to be in reasonable economic fettle, given the trials and tribulations elsewhere. At an individual level, ‘obvious’ poverty & homelessness, measured by the very imprecise method of noticing the number of people selling ‘Big Issue’ & begging, seems less than in the UK and the USA.

We read that the Australian economy is ‘recession-proof’, thanks mainly to the richness of its natural resources. But the country can’t rest on its laurels. For example, some businesses appear to be quite conservative & naive. One current example is that the traditional high-street retailers want (& seem to expect) government to charge sales tax on internet purchases from abroad. This is a kind of protectionism to help retailers retain their high street profitable presence. In stark contrast, retailers in countries such as the UK and the USA recognise that to maintain a vibrant retail industry, they need to constantly innovate and change. This includes adopting & encouraging a strong on-line retail presence. Nonetheless, Australia is a very expensive place to visit, more even than the USA which was expensive enough. This is due in part to the strong Australian dollar.

In considering regional & city differences, Melbourne seemed very relaxed & attractive and we loved the mix of old and new architecture. Sydney, despite its iconic and fantastically beautiful harbour and myriad bays, opera house, harbour bridge and ferries was in some ways disappointing. We found no real heart to the city or its sprawling suburbs, no clear identity despite its historic roots.  We understand that a lot of the original buildings have been demolished to make way for new ones.  What a mistake as much of its more recent architecture is a disappointment. Perhaps Sydney has sought to ape other major global cities rather than be confidently broadcasting in its own identity? It’s got plenty to be proud of. We are so in awe of the pioneers (and convicts) who came to this land of extremes and harsh conditions and toiled to build this city on the rocky shores without the benefit of power tools, suncream, mosquito protection, air conditioning or warnings of sharks or crocs other than the screams of the victims! By contrast, up-country regions and towns appear unspoiled, relatively unchanged and proud of their history (Sydney take note) and beautiful (eg Deniliquin, Echuca). Port Douglas in Tropical North Queensland is stunning, a paradise on earth – but humid, wet and mosquito-rich at this time of year.

Amongst other social observations, Anna noted that fashion designs are quirky & very different, much like London was quirky in 1960s – pity about the prices! Also, the quality of TV is very good, so much better than the USA, and up to the best UK standards.

The coffee we enjoyed in Australia was uniformly brilliant, really high quality and rich tasting – we are sooo going to miss that coffee and are already grieving! (This is the reverse of the coffee in California and Nevada which was surprisingly uniformly poor.)  The quality of the food was generally excellent. Fish was wonderful, and there is such a wide choice. Port Douglas was undoubtedly the very best of the best in terms of its restaurants and food quality, surprisingly given its relative remoteness. But as with most other things, the food was expensive. Supermarkets proudly proclaimed that “95% of our fresh produce is sourced within Australia”. This would no doubt be a very worthy claim when things are ‘normal’. But in the aftermath of the tragic flooding across Queensland, NSW, Victoria and Tasmania, we hope that there is a rapid Plan B available to source some produce from abroad. Both current crops and planting for the next season look as if they will be hard hit. We were impressed with the general level of Gluten-free awareness. The need for a GF diet is generally known, suggesting a significant number of coeliacs are around.

We both think that Australia is such a great place to live that if we were younger we’d seriously consider moving there, to Melbourne.  As it is, we both want to come back!

Significant? - David's Bread on Qantas Flight from Sydney seems to be Australia!

Leaving Sydney.....and Leaving Australia

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DAY 63 (Tuesday 18 January) – Last Full Day in Australia

We did a little more Sydney sightseeing as part of our last full day in Oz before flying to Hong Kong.

We walked along Macquarie Street, named after the noted autocratic (Scottish!) governor of New South Wales in the early 19th century.

Statue of Lachlan Macquarie

Plaque to Lachlan Macquarie


One of the most impressive complexes on the street is the State Library of New South Wales, which comprises a number of individual buildings including the Mitchell Library and various Research sections. We spent a couple of hours doing some more research into the arrival dates & ships carrying Anna’s great grandfather & his brother from the UK. We didn’t find anything more definitive than the information that Anna’s previous painstaking research had uncovered ie it looks as if they both arrived in Australia in 1854, probably on separate ships and probably as members of the crew on these ships.

As we left the Library, our attempt to cross Macquarie Street was delayed for a few minutes as a wailing police escort ensured that William Hague’s ministerial convoy was conveyed speedily northwards up the Street. With Liam Fox, he is paying a ministerial visit to Australian counterparts (the first UK Foreign Minister to visit Australia for 17 years!)

We then headed further into Sydney’s main shopping centre, where we took a trip on the monorail that circles this area.

Monorail departing

Monorail arriving

Monorail unloading


We also explored some of the older Victorian buildings in the area, including the magnificent Queen Victoria Buildings (QVB) (currently being refurbished).

QVB South

QVB North

QVB Cupola


Central Sydney, old and new

Sydney Tower, tallest structure in Sydney


After securing a few trinkets as mementoes of our stay, we enjoyed supper in The Rocks before returning to our apartment & packing.

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DAY 62 (Monday 17 January) – To Manly for Shopping

It was a really hot sunny day today.  Anna enjoyed sunbathing and swimming in the pool alongside the harbour (behind the umbrellas in the photograph).  We really love the position of our current apartment (top floor on the block in the photograph) in a fantastic position overlooking Sydney Harbour, the Bridge and the Opera House. It has its own wharf (pictured) and the public Sydney Ferries wharf is also nearby.

Harbourside Apartments

Given its position, it is perhaps not surprising that, to get anywhere on land, one has to walk up steep hills in any direction. So we decided that rather than do this, the ultimate in laziness was to catch a ferry to Manly (on the coast to the north east of Sydney central), have a coffee (our favourite is a “long black” aka a large expresso with a little extra water so stronger than an Americano), check out the surfing beach there, and get our provisions there without climbing above sea level once! (Lazy, huh!)

The Manly beach was busy, and the towering waves very impressive. So much so that the lifeguards were calling in all swimmers and surfers as the “conditions were too dangerous”. So Anna missed out on another swim/paddle, although didn’t fancy it given the foaming water.

Angry Water off Manly Beach

In the evening, we returned to the apartment and then went to the (very) local restaurant ‘Sails’ for supper, all of 100 yards away. Altogether we were very pleased at a day spent successfully at sea level! (OK, not quite true as we spent time in our 16th floor apartment!)

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DAY 61 (Sunday 16 January) – Chill Out by the Pool

Today was planned as a rest day – and broadly mission was accomplished.

The apartment poolside wasn’t as quiet & restful as we’d hoped (others preferred to use the pool to enjoy themselves in noisily, but then Sydney was never likely to be a quiet restful place – it’s too alive for that!)

Having seen another cruise liner depart from Sydney, we headed over to the Circular Quay to enjoy an evening supper overlooking the harbour and underlooking the bridge. 

Cruse Liner reversing out of Circular Quay

David and Anna underlook Sydney Harbour Bridge over supper


Then back by ferry to our apartment.

Sydney business district looking back from ferry


And we finished the day in the best possible way – Skyping with Neil & Kate on the occasion of Neil’s birthday! Skype has been a real boon on our trip – it’s a young technology and will get better, so there are many frustrating teething problems. But it’s so much better having it than not, and being able to talk (and intermittently see) others – it’s been great to connect with Neil & Sophie, Kate & Marc and Susan (David’s sister) over the last couple of months.

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