A Travellerspoint blog

The last day

... an end to the adventure!

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Well it's finally got to the last full day of our travels.

We had until around 4pm to fill in and then off to the airport for the flight home. Cathy would have liked to go to Lantau Island but we really didn't have the energy to be rushing from one means of transport to another (longish walk, ferry, ferry & bus) so instead we settled for more of a look around Kowloon and some shopping.

We set off to walk to the Bird Garden and discovered it was more of a market area selling birds and the various accessories needed to keep them. It seems that for some you take your finch for a walk with it in it's little gilded cage and then at the park you hang up the cage so the bird can socialise with other birds and you socialise with your friends.

We then trekked to the so-called 'Kowloon Wall City Park'. This was an area that originally consisted of a walled city that was the subject of dispute between Britain & China regarding it's sovereignty and ended up becoming a high rise slum. finally Britain & China agred in 1984 to pull it all down and create a city park, at the same ttime reproducing much of the original wall. It was completed in 1995 and is a beautiful park with a number of landmark features related to the history of the site.

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Then it was serious shopping time as we walked through the Ladies market and bargained away our remaining cash - it was fun, but then we had to find room in our luggage for the extra's we had bought.

Finally it was back to the hotel to pick up our luggage, onto the airport shuttle to Kowloon Airport Express station where we were able to book the cases through to Sydney (how civilised not to have to cart them all the way to the airport) and hopped on the airport express for a relaxed trip to the airport.

Security at the airport proved a challenge for Cathy as some of the glassware we had bought in Prague showed up as metallic on the X-ray machine and she had to have it unpacked and examined.

Now it is time to relax a little bit before our flight.

So as this is the last blog - you will have to excuse me while I go out back and put the Thomas Tours bus back up on it's chocks, drain the sump and then find somewhere to lie down and start dreaming about the next trip.

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Seriously though - we have had a wonderful time and have many great experiences to share with anyone who is game enough to ask us. And it has been good to be able to share some of them via this blog as we have traveled.

Posted by thomastour 01:14 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Fighting jetlag & trying to see the sights

... a full day in Hong Kong

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A fairly poor night's sleep - except for late in the night - meant that we didn't get up early, instead it was around 10am before we got going.

A walk down to the harbour ferry terminal and a trip on the Star Ferry across to Hong Kong Island was first thing on the agenda. By the time we did that it was virtually lunch time, so we got lunch at Subway at the Hong Kong Ferry terminal, discovering that Subway prices translate pretty evenly across countries - it actually cost almost as much a dinner the noght before.

Our first stop was the Peak Tram which is a cable tram to the top of The Peak giving magnificent 360 degree views of Hong Kong, but these were slightly negated by a hazy sky.
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Down from the Peak we finally worked out how to get a bus (you need the exact change to buy your ticket on the bus) and hopped a bus to Repulse Bay. This got us to a vey nice beach (but slightly coarse sand). A further bus trip took us to Stanley and a wander through the Stanley Markets. We had tea there before heading back on the bus to the ferry terminal.

A quick trip back across to Kowloon got us back in time to get a vantage point for the nightly sound & light show which uses lasers and coloured lights on the buildings on both sides of the harbour to create a display set to music. Well worth hanging around for.
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then it was a long walk back up toward the hotel and a vain search for something that we had aimed to buy here, only to find that they don't sell any that are compatible with Australian setup.

tomorrow is our last day away and we hop a plane at 8:20pm for home.

Posted by thomastour 13:25 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Warm weather, lots of people and lack of sleep

… we are in Hong Kong

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We arrived in Hong Kong just after 8am after a flight where we both got very little sleep. It was quite easy getting through immigration and customs and onto the airport Express train to Kowloon and then onto the hotel shuttle bus, so before 9.30am we were booked into our hotel. However (and not surprising) we couldn't get our room yet, so we went for a walk to fill in time.

Our first walk took us initially to Macca's for a coffee (to help keep awake) and then down Nathan Road toward the harbour. On the way we passed lot's of high end shops selling jewelery and watches – jade jewelery seems very popular and is also very expensive. We also detoured slightly to go into a very nice park just of Nathan Road – it was nice to hear the birds singing loudly in such a built up environment.

At the harbour we walked along the boardwalk of stars which is a tribute to the Chinese film industry – there were only a few names we recognised (Jackie Chan & Bruce Lee being the main ones). Then it was back to our hotel to get access to our room and a chance to freshen up (and try to avoid sleep).

In the afternoon we headed out again this time in the opposite direction and through some of the very commercial area of Kowloon. Sai Yeung Choi Street with it's shops selling electronic goods was packed – mainly with Chinese people, not tourists and the adjacent street with the so called 'Ladies Market' was also packed.

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Then it was on further to the Flower Market and the Goldfish Market.

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The Goldfish Market is actually standard shops, but the fish are bagged in plastic bags and hanging on racks outside each shop ready for buyers.

Our walk took us onto a restaurant for tea and then to the famous Temple Markets for a browse before we headed back to hotel ready for a well earned sleep.

Posted by thomastour 13:24 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

A day of just travel

… London to somewhere in the air on the way to Hong Kong

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It was a reasonably early start having toi be packed and onto the Airport Hopper bus at 8.15am. Our flight wasn't until 12.30pm but we had been advised byy Immigration yesterday to get to the airport 4 hours early because new security arrangements meant it took longer to get through security and there were potential delays.

Check in was quick and we got all the way through security before 9am – even including me being subject to a pat-down search and my backpack being searched and checked for explosives (had they heard about my visit to Geneva airport?). Which gave us plenty of time for breakfast and relaxing in the very crowded departure lounge.

And to borrow a phrase from Forest Gump - 'that's all I'm going to say about that'.

Posted by thomastour 13:22 Archived in England Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

Back to the UK

… it seems so long ago that we were here before!

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After a noisy night (it seems that in Vienna the letting off of fire crackers on new Years Eve goes well into the new year, we were still hearing them around 2am) we had a slow start to our morning and checked out of the hotel around 10am. With not enough time to go into town and look around some more we decided to just wander around the area where our hotel was. It really wasn't much of a tourist area, but was interesting all the same.

We found a sports complex that had 3 soccer fields, numerous tennis courts (a lot of them were enclosed in inflatable type domes, ten-pin bowling, handball courts and more. We also found several large churches that Cathy was able to photograph.

At 12 we left for the airport and while we had been told by the hotel reception that they would book us airport transfer that cost 32 euro it turns out the taxi they organised knew nothing of that rate and it cost us 48 euro instead, a bit more expensive, but still worth not having any hassle with bags on and off several different forms of public transport.

Our flight to London actually left right on time and got to London slightly early and then it was onto the Airport Hopper bus which took us to our hotel on the outskirts of the airport precinct.

We decided to head off into central London for tea and have a final very quick look around, this involved a bus from near the hotel to a nearby station and then the underground the rest of the way – getting us directly to Leicester Square and Chinatown.

Later back at the hotel we got our bags organised for the next leg of the trip.

Posted by thomastour 13:21 Archived in Austria Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

A night at the opera

... an operetta in 3 acts "Die Fledermaus"

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The first stop for the day was a trip out to the suburbs of Vienna and Schönbrunn Palace. This is a former imperial summer residence and considered one of the most important cultural monuments in the country, is one of the major tourist attractions in Vienna. It certainly was when we were there because it was crawling with people - which sort of ruined it because the tour through the palace was as part of a slowly moving queue the whole way and you really didn't get to take in the grandeur of the place.

The palace was a site for hunting by the imperial family for many years before Emperor Leopold I decided to build a palace there in 1696. since then (like most palaces) it has been added to and changed as subsequent emperors made their mark. The biggest influence on it was by Empress Maria Therese who made it her summer residence. through the tour we found out a bit more about Maria Therese who had 11 daughters - all called Maria - and who all (but one) were married off as part of political alliances.
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Also at the palace were extensive grounds/parks and as well as lots of sightseers there were lots of joggers running around - it seemed that they just ran around the various tracks and when I was sitting in the centre of the park for a little while you saw the same joggers pass you several times, but always from a different direction and on a different path.

From Schönbrunn we went back into the city to The Imperial Butterfly House (Schmetterlinghaus) which was very disappointing with very few butterflies and those that were there all seemed to be hugging the windows (wanting to get out?).

A walk around the city filled in the time before the opera. For New Year's eve, Vienna sets up stages in lots of the plaza's with each one seeming to be run by a different radio station. Also around each one were lots of booths selling refreshments. It seemed a very happy atmosphere, but was rather crowded. we spent a bit of time near one that seemed to be featuring Karaoke - we didn't hear many good singers in those who had a go.

A tradition over here is to give little pig ornaments (or small stuffed toy pigs) as presents as they are considered a sign of good luck for the new year. for the last few days there have been booths selling them all over the city.

Anyway - onto the opera. We had seats that supposedly had no real view of the stage and it turned out that they were the 2nd & 3rd rows in a small 'private' box right near the front of the theatre and on the 2nd. level. We could see a bit of what was happening by standing up so it wasn't just listening for us. We were fortunate in having a lovely lady sitting next to Cathy (who obviously goes to the opera regularly) explain a few things to us, including how to get a little screen which gave an English translation of all that was said and sung.

Die Fledermaus itself is a farce (name means 'The Bat') about revenge and has quite a few twists and turns as a very complicated revenge is carried out on the main character. I'll leave yuou to look up the details if you are interested (Wikipedia gives a good act by act summary).

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So happy new year to all our friends and family (and any other readers of this blog).

Posted by thomastour 23:13 Archived in Austria Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Vienna by Shanks' Pony, Fiaker's Pony & Tram

... we walked till we dropped!

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Today was a day of seriously looking around the main part of Vienna. It started by catching the #43 tram from near our hotel into the edge of the city and then it was on foot.

Vienna has a lot of important buildings around what they call the ring and our tram stop put us right on this ring, so we followed it around on foot for quite a way. I won't even try to recite the all the buildings we viewed - but some of the more significant ones were:

    Rathaus (council offices)
    Parliament
    Justiz Palast (courts)
    Museums Quarter


Then we proceeded to move inside the ring and walked through Maria Theresien Platz which is named after Empress Marie-Theresa of Austro-Hungaria who from 1740 - 1780 was the only female ruler of the Habsburg dominions and the last of the House of Habsburg. She was the sovereign of Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Bohemia, Mantua, Milan, Lodomeria and Galicia, the Austrian Netherlands, and Parma. By marriage, she was Grand Duchess of Tuscany, Duchess of Lorraine, German Queen and Holy Roman Empress. (one very powerful lady!) her statue also gives the impression that she was powerful. Either side of the Platz are the Natural History Museum and the Art History Museum which appear identical to each other and are very imposing.

From the platz we crossed the road into the Heldenplatz and the palace. It was here that we rested our feet for a while and took a ride on a Fiaker's Carriage (thanks very much to Dave & Alex who gave it to us as a Christmas present). this took us through the city and gave us a carriage seat view of many of the major sites - it was relaxing and a great way to see things.

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Back on foot again we walked for a while then had a break for a coffee before covering even more ground. We walked from one end of the main tourist area to the other taking in the views of magnificent buildings and ever increasing numbers of tourists.

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After a while we worked our way down to the StaatsOper (Opera House) where we booked a couple fo seats to see 'Die Fledermaus' on New Years Eve. Unfortunately we have got the cheap seats (good for my wallet!) and will be listening but not seeing much. We'll report on it later.

Time for more walking - this time going outside the Ring and working our way to Karlskirche and then to Schloss Belvedere. we hadn't originally planned to look at the Schloss (Palace) but saw it was near where we had walked to. It turned out to be a hidden gem consisting of two magnificent palaces in the middle of a splendid park. They were constructed for Prince Eugene of Savoy by J.L. von Hildebrandt, a famous Baroque architect. we didn't actually look in the places, but the grounds were truly magnificent.

Foot weary we hopped a tram - then hopped off after it got to the end of it's route and turned around, then hopped another and hopped off it when it started to head out of the city and hopped a third tram to take us to where we could have tea. The benefit of having an unlimited trip pass is that you don't need to plan each ride but rather just hop on and see!

Posted by thomastour 10:11 Archived in Austria Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

From Graz to Vienna & an accomodation stuff-up!

Geoff's Birthday!

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After a delicious breakfast at our hotel, I took some photos of the beautiful Maria Trost Basilica next door and the views from our position on the mount on the outskirts of Graz. Then we headed to Vienna, around a 2 hour journey.

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We had one last parcel to mail home so with a few misunderstandings of the GPS instructions we finally mailed our parcel only a few km from our hotel in Vienna. Then it was on to our booked accommodation......the only trouble was......Geoff had accidentally booked it (ages ago) for the 29th of January to 1st February instead of December to January! We are so blessed though, they had one room left for 3 nights! In fact they only just had one room left, someone had rung 10 minutes before and canceled their room for 3 nights!! Thankyou Lord!

After taking our luggage to our room it was time to return our hire car. We are going to use public transport to get round Vienna, it's easy and convenient and you don't have to find somewhere to park! After returning the car we caught the underground to central Vienna, we bought 2 x 3 day tickets that cover all transport. Vienna is divided into 23 districts; we spent the afternoon walking around District 1. Some of the points of interest we covered were the StadtPark, Stephansdom, Kirche Am Hof , St Peter's and The Kursalon (a spa pavilion). Vienna is a mixture of elegant old buildings and new modern structures. The main pedestrian strip in central Vienna was a hive of activity, lots of people, some street performers, market stalls, hanging Christmas lights and trams.

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After tea in the city we caught the No 43 tram to our hotel, although we were keeping an eye out for our hotel (as we hadn't caught the tram from there earlier) we managed to totally miss it and get off several stops past our hotel! So we got great exercise walking back through District 17 to our hotel! Never mind it's always easier the second time through!

Posted by thomastour 11:07 Archived in Austria Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Cast from 101 Turkish Cannonballs

... and now striking 101 times - 3 times a day

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We had snow overnight and St. Gilgen was starting to turn white again. Unfortunately was was fairly light snow, but it was getting back toward what we saw when we arrived a week ago. When we were saying goodbye to our landlady, she said that this Christmas was a disappointment with snow and that normally they have it knee deep. But we were far from disappointed with St. Gilgen and surrounds - we saw it covered in snow, we saw it at it's green best and every morning we woke up to magnificent views, who could ask form more?

Anyway it was on the road again and off to Graz - Austria's second largest city with a population of 270,000. To get there we had a 280km drive, mainly on autobahn and through some extraordinary country. we also went through tunnel after tunnel - why climb a mountain when you can go through it? The longest tunnel was over 8km long. We also drove through some fairly heavy snow falls, but finished the drive in bright sunshine and a temperature of around 4 degrees.

Graz has a history going back to the 12th century when first mentions of it as a small fortress (gradec) were made and 100 years later it was granted town status and a wall was built. By 1379 it was the capital of Inner Austria and by 1440 was the imperial residence of Freidrich III. In 1809 it was besieged by the French who after months of siege and with an army of over 3000 could not defeat the Austrian garrison of 896 who had the benefit of the imposing Schlossberg fortress. It was only because Napoleon threatened to destroy Vienna that the Austrian army surrendered and then the French set about destroying as much of the fortress as possible. Most of the fortress was destroyed with only the bell tower and clock tower allowed to remain. The bell tower contains a ~5 tonne bell called Leisl that was cast from 101 Turkish cannonballs and peals out 101 chimes at 7am, 12pm and 7pm. The fortress is now listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the strongest fortress of all time.

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Enough of the history lesson, and back to our visit. We set of to walk around the old town and had a very enjoyable afternoon. Graz has many beautiful and elegant buildings, many of them 3-5 stories and with central courtyards. In their day they would have been palaces for the nobility and well off citizens. Many of the buildings had ornate facades and showed evidence of Renaissance, Gothic and Baroque architecture. It has been declared a World cultural heritage site by UNESCO because of these buildings. There were quite a few people around, but the streets and laneways had a really laid back and relaxed feel about them.

Sitting above the town is are the remains of the fortress - it must have been an imposing sight before the French destroyed most of it.
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After an enjoyable afternoon looking around we headed to our hotel which was a little way out of the town & found tthat it was right next to another of the city's landmarks - the Mariatrost Basilica which is a double towered church that is the target of a great number of pilgrims coming to see a statue of the Virgin Mary that has been linked to numerous miracles. These pilgramages have been going on since the 17th Century and because of them a building was erected next to the church to provide lodging for pilgrims. A later version of that building (rebuilt after a fire in 1863) is now our hotel. In 1744 the hotel/inn was run by the Pauliner order of monks and could accomodate 50 guest - but some had to sleep in chairs. In 1772 it was leased to a lay person who was not allowed to have music or to accomodate evil or suspect persons of either gender! It has been owned by the same family since 1919 and has a very family feel about it as well as magnificent decor.

Posted by thomastour 11:17 Archived in Austria Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Climb every mountain

... ford every stream.

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With Dave and Alex catching a train from Salzburg to Munich, then a flight back to Edinburgh and me booked in for the `Sound of Music Tour' it was all systems go this morning. Geoff, our chronic early riser, had us all up and ready with time to spare.

So we all headed to Salzburg, arriving around 9am. God is so good, the way things worked out, I only had time for a brief goodbye before separating from the guys and then had to keep it altogether ready to hop on the bus for the tour. That kept my mind occupied so I couldn't dwell on how much I was going to miss Dave all over again. I find the actual leaving and goodbye the hardest........ Dave and Alex decided as they hadn't had a chance to see much of the actual city in Munich they'd get an early train and have a look around before their flights at 5.30pm. We had a ball having them here....two fine young men! So proud of the way they have handled their time away and supported one another.

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Although Geoff had offered to join the Sound of Music tour, I knew his heart was far from in it, so I went on my own. I was amazed that the tour was not only full but there were two other bus loads as well! It runs 365 days a year! I was blessed to have a lovely Irish lady sit beside me and it was just nice to have a friendly female conversation in English! We visited lots of places used in the filming of the musical, got some interesting history of Salzburg and the movie, traveled through beautiful country and listened to favourite songs from the show. Finishing in the beautiful little town of Mondsee that is home to the gorgeous church used for the Von Trapp wedding. It was just what I needed to keep my spirits up. God is so good!!

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Geoff meantime saw the boys all organised at the station, had a look around some different places in Salzburg and visited Maccas for internet access. When I returned at 1.30pm he suggested we drive to Zell Am See; a lovely drive, the town built around the lake with snow capped mountains surrounding it. So many beautiful places in Austria!

It was well and truly dark by the time we got home, we caught up with a bit of washing using the heaters in each room to get things dry and I made tea to finish off most of the groceries we had bought earlier in the week. Then we set to, to organise another box to send home and pack our suitcases ready to head to Graz tomorrow. With Dave going I'm really starting to feel the trips coming to an end and beginning to think more of getting home. I'm determined to enjoy and appreciate the last days of our trip though, still I'm so looking forward to seeing all the rest of the family( and friends) and giving them a great big hug!!

Posted by thomastour 08:29 Archived in Austria Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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