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December 17, 2007

HONG KONG – ITS MORE THAN SHOPPING

HONG KONG – ITS MORE THAN SHOPPING

david ovens

Flying into Hong Kong is not nearly as exciting as it used to be when
your flight took you through the frighteningly narrow corridor between
the steel and glass towers of the Kowloon Peninsula to Kai Tak
airport.

Nowadays, the flight path goes elsewhere into the excruciatingly
modern Chek Lap Kok airport on Lantau Island but as the Cathay Pacific
flight attendant Sue Li Kim said as my recent flight circled before
landing, " You get a less thrilling experience but a really pleasant
view over Hong Kong's harbour townships.

As we approached Chek Lap Lok, she added, "There you can still get a
close up view of Hong Kong. I can just see the block of apartments I
live in at Sai Kung".

The fishing village less than an hour from downtown Tsim Shat Sui, the
heart of Hong Kong's shopping district, Sai Kung is a popular
residential area for ex-patriates and Cathay Pacific crew.

It is also home to the unique Duke Hotel, formerly the Duke of York
Hotel, which is something of a home-away-from home for foreign
residents, particularly those from Australia and the United Kingdom.

Saturday afternoon at the Duke is very like Saturday afternoon at any
pub in Waterloo, Carlton or Fortitude Valley. With the Fosters flowing
and the noise level rising, punters huddled over a form guide and
drinkers arguing about football it was a far cry from the tranquil
fishing village outside.

It used to be called the Duke of York but as one quite well-indulged
patron, perhaps unkindly, noted "the old name might have been
reflecting poorly on the establishment."

On the other hand remnants of Anglicanism may have been discarded when
the territory was handed back to the mainland Chinese Government.

Against a background of fishing boats bobbing at the wharf, lines of
stalls selling everything from shrimp to shark and a host of Chinese
cafes the Duke is something of a surprise.

With Hong Kong's great transport system getting around is easy – and
cheap – even for non-Cantonese speaking Aussies.

Getting there is 20 minutes on the speedy, spotlessly-cleat MTR
underground rail way to Choi Hung will cost a couple of dollars and
then clearly-marked mini buses run down through the mountains to Sai
Kung.

Sai Kung is not alone as an escape hatch from the hustle and bustle on
downtown HK.

Only about 30 minutes by bus from Central you will find a beautiful
little beach called Sheko . Through the Island skyscrapers past the
Colonial mansions at Repulse Bay, Sheko's crystal clear water and
golden beach lined with stalls selling superb seafood and tasty dim
sum snacks is a world away from the swirling, brown waters of Hong
Kong Harbour.

Further out of town are a number of islands which retain much of the
lifestyle of China of old. Reaching them by chugging wooden-hulled
ferry from the Outlying Islands wharf, just along from the Star Ferry
bon the Hong Kong side, is a bit of an adventure in itself.

Have a vegetarian meal at the monastery on Lantau, explore the tiny
villages on Peng Chau and try some of the wonderful seafood
restaurants on Lamma.

Kowloon and Hong Kong Island remain the primary target for those who
like to shop there are plenty of options for those who don't.

GETTING THERE: Cathay Pacific has 28 flights a week from Sydney
(effective February 2008), three a day from Melbourne, daily from
Adelaide and Brisbane, plus six times a week from Cairns and five
times a week from Perth.

Return economy fares vary seasonally from about $923 plus taxes
Australia wide. There are special offers from time to time, so it is
worthwhile checking with your travel agent or direct with Cathay
Pacific - 131-747 or visit

www.cathaypacific.com.au

Wendy Wu Tours has a range of stopover packages in Hong Kong for
passengers travelling on to Europe or add-on deals for tourists
going to China. They range from about $296 for a two night stay with
transfers and sightseeing to about $1100 for a six night stay in
Hong Kong and Macau, with transfers, ferry trip and sightseeing.
Details from 1300-727-998 or visit www.wendywutours.com.au

………………

PHOTO CAPTIONS:

ON the waterfront: colourful fishing boats cram the Sai Kung piers by
day after busy nights meeting Hong Kong's insatiable appetite.

THE Duke Pub: a friendly haven of Aussie beer, punting and footie arguments.

Photos: David Ovens

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