Italy, Slovenia to Croatia

Blue Spot Marks Our Campsite At Draga

We left Italy and took the motorway north of Trieste and on through Slovenia following a winding road through the mountains.  The route in both directions was dominated by a land train of trucks travelling nose to tail bringing goods in and out of the eastern bloc countries.

In less than two hours we had crossed into Croatia, formerly part Yugoslavia, gaining independence in 1991 and now part of the EU.  We were heading for a camp site on the island of Krk on the Adriatic coast.  It was raining and the wind had increased as we followed the Tom-Tom route to our chosen destination.  Unfortunately the motorway was blocked by a landslide that closed the road completely and so we continued to re-route until we were finally defeated by the closure, due to high winds, of the viaduct bridge connecting the mainland to Krk.  We had no option but to turn around and find an alternative camp.  After another two hours of concentrated driving we eventually found a camp site at Draga, further up the coast.

Force 10 Winds Whipped Up A Spume

Finally We Found A Peaceful Campsite

Goodbye Hong Kong

We visited Hong Kong at the hottest time of year, the temperature was over 30° during the day day and even  hotter if the sun shone which, actually, was not very often.  Humidity was high, over 85° so the smallest exertion caused sweaty discomfort.  This meant that we didn’t get out and about as much as we should have done and the only time we were comfortable outside was when we were lounging by the pool and able to have a regular cooling dip.  Hotels and restaurants were fully air conditioned and, as soon as you left a building, you felt a terrific rush of heat that very soon had you puffing and panting.

Teppan Yaki Evening

We found the people of Hong Kong polite, almost deferential and even when you were walking along crowded pavements, no-one jostled you and no-one tried to barge in front of you.  Everywhere seemed relatively safe, even after dark although we did see call girls around the doorways of the sleazier bars.  I went to the loo in one of these bars, tried the door and found it locked so turned to go back to the bar when the toilet door opened and out came a man and a woman from the tiny cubicle.  They were very apologetic.

 

Our Hotel – Shiny Building Behind The Sampan

Lamma Island

We caught the ferry to Lamma Island, a twenty minute crossing.  It was the third largest island in Hong Kong but was far less developed than Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.  It had a large expatriate population and was a favourite with artists and musicians.  There were no private cars and tall buildings were not allowed but the developers were already beginning to move in.  The ferry landed us at Sok Kwu Wan where there was a large fish farm and the main street consisted of a row of seafood restaurants.  We enjoyed some of the freshest seafood we have ever tasted.  Each restaurant had its own series of small tanks where they kept a huge variety of fish to offer to customers – we were not brave and chose to dine on crab, prawns and fried squid, chased down with a few beers.

Ferry Landing At Sok Kwu Wan, Lamma Island

 

The Main Street, Sok Kwu Wan

Dining Out And Trip To Kowloon

We had an evening meal in one of the hotel restaurants and ordered a Tasting Menu so we had little idea of what we had ordered until the individual dishes arrived.  Fish Maw turned out to be the swim bladder of a special fish – it tasted chewy and gelatinous.  Goose web was the foot of a goose – although it was a bit boney it tasted delicious, just like goose!

 

  

Anyone Know What A Goose Web Is?

We took the Star Ferry to Kowloon on the opposite side of the harbour and wandered around a huge shopping mall containing hundreds of designer shops.  The mall stretched for over one kilometre and was on two levels.  I checked out the prices of a couple of items in case there was a bargain to be had but they were charging the same prices as you would pay in the UK or more – so no retail therapy for me.

Star Ferry To Kowloon

  
We found a food hall on the lower level with tables where people were having lunch.  There were lots of stalls selling different foods.   Everything was freshly prepared to order and it seemed very popular.

Lunch Options At Shopping Mall in Kowloon

  

Wong Way

We took a taxi and were amused to see from the driver’s  licence that his name was Wong Wai.  It turned out it was an accurate moniker as he took us to our destination by the most circuitous route possible.

Wong Wai, Our Taxi Driver

Rita had a dodgy hip and often had to use a walking stick.  She found it difficult to control her stick as well as her handbag, so Brian would regularly be given the task of carrying his wife’s handbag when out and about.  Now Brian guarded his masculinity with great vigour, his public persona was definitely more “macho man” – manbags and other effeminite accoutrements were not for Brian.  So the sight of our esteemed team leader mincing along carrying a lady’s handbag was always a source of great amusement!

Nevertheless we followed Brian’s lead faithfully because Brian was practically a local, a man about town who knew how to navigate the mean streets of Hong Kong.   Early one evening we were heading for a destination in the city and Brian thought it would be fun to use the MTR, Hong Kong’s underground train system.  Brian knew the way and sped down the stairs to the trains, we rushed to follow with Rita bringing up the rear.  Everywhere was jammed with workers heading for home.  We struggled across the concourse and went down two sets of stairs, crossed another concourse and up three flights, along a subway until we reached the platform.  Whoops, wrong one!  Back along subway, battling against the crowds, up three flights, down another two flights with Rita still limping along behind.  At last we reached the correct platform.

There was an attendant, wearing a face mask to prevent her catching germs, ushering us onto a grid pattern on the platform exactly adjacent to where the doors of the soon to arrive train would come to a stop.  Seconds later the train arrived and everyone quickly jumped on, totally ignoring those passengers trying to exit the train.  Two passengers on the crowded train immediately got up and offered Rita and me their seats, which we gratefully accepted.  By the time we had reached our destination we were exhausted and agreed that the trip back to the hotel would be taken by taxi.

Our Team Leader – With Handbag

The Peak

We needed good visibility when we visited the highest mountain in Hong Kong – Victoria Peak.  We took the Peak Train, a 100 year old funicular railway that ran from the city to the summit, 552 metres above the harbour.  The mountain was created by volcanic eruptions 143 million years ago.

Once at the summit we followed a level path that encircled the mountain, offering panoramic views of the harbour and surrounding seascape.  The circular walk took an hour to complete; we did not feel the urge to rush as it was extremely hot.  The visibility was probably as good as it gets in Hong Kong and the views were spectacular.  You can only imagine how wonderful the scene would have been on a clear day – if they ever have such a phenomenon in Hong Kong.  Visitors travel to the Peak just before sunset to admire the sight of the lights coming on all over the city below.    

Hong Kong

We arrived in a hot and humid Hong Kong early on Saturday morning after an eleven hour flight with Cathay Pacific.  We were travelling with Rita and Brian Shell who were visiting their son, Jonny and his wife Ayuko who lived in a spacious apartment amongst the green hills overlooking the city.  Hong Kong was a former British colony in southeastern China and was a major port and global financial center.

Our hotel room on the 24th floor overlooked the busy harbour and we spent many happy hours admiring the ever changing scenes far below us as the harbour ferries plied between the islands.  We watched barges chugging to and fro loaded with building materials, huge cruise ships sedately entering and leaving their luxury terminals and helicopters buzzing in and out from a helipad just below our window.

 The hotel had an outdoor swimming pool on the eleventh floor almost completely surrounded by high rise buildings; you had to crane your neck in order to see the sky.  Swimming was the only exercise possible in the open air without coming out in a sweat.  All the buildings were heavily air conditioned and it was always a shock when you stepped outside from the cool interior to a blast of hot, moist air.


On Sundays the public parks and gardens were filled with colourfully dressed, dark haired women mainly from the Phillipines and Malasia.  These were the amahs, the word means “little mothers” and they were employed by expatriate families to carry out domestic duties six days a week.  Sunday was their day off and thousands of them congregated in the public parks and gardens to spend the day together before returning to their employers to carry out domestic duties, cooking, cleaning, taking care of the children and running errands.  The amah would normally have a small room of her own, usually off the kitchen.

Jonny kept a Sunseeker power boat in Aberdeen, a local marina and he and Ayuko took us out on the boat to show us the coast along Hong Kong Island.  We went to Repulse Bay and along the coast before mooring up for lunch at a restaurant on Middle Island where you cooked your own food on charcoal barbecues.  The weather was extremely warm, more than 30° with high humidity and, although it was cloudy, we were very warm, even on the water.


The following day the four of us drove to the town of Stanley on Hong Kong Island’s south coast, originally a fishing village but now a popular tourist attraction.  What were traditionally fish stalls now sold inexpensive clothes, accessories, Oriental knick knacks, souvenirs and other touristy goods.  Rita and Brian had lived and worked in Hong Kong for many years so knew the area well and we were soon comfortably settled their favourite  bar enjoying  a refreshing beer or two.