Cruise Diary, Days 65-66, March 11-12:
It was an overcast and dreary morning when the Amsterdam made her way into Hong Kong Harbor. But the cold and foggy conditions could not detract from the magic of Hong Kong. Behind the veil of fog we could see breathtaking vistas of skyscrapers, mountains, and junks – the typical vessels with red sails – of this, one of the most spectacular natural harbors of the world. It is at once modern, traditional and exotic – a fabulous place where East decidedly meets West.
Humberto, Duffy (our bear that went around the world) and I started our two-day visit with a ride on the fabled Star Ferry that we took from the pier in Kowloon, steps away from where the Amsterdam was docked. These ferries have been taking passengers – both locals and visitors – from Kowloon across the bay to Hong Kong Island for more than a century. The views of Hong Kong’s skyline were marvelous, including the 118-story ICC Building (International Commerce Center Building, the tallest skyscraper in Hong Kong), the Convention & Exhibition Center (in a futuristic style similar to the Sydney Opera House) and such traditional attractions as the colonial-style Clock Tower.
After a walk in Hong Kong’s Financial District, we went up to Victoria Peak for views of the harbor, but due to the fog, visibility was poor – the ride on the tram to the peak was still fun, though. Then it was on to Hollywood Road and Cat Street with their jade shops, antiques, and ivory stores, and passing one of Hong Kong’s many markets, we headed for the Man Mo Temple. A Taoist Temple, it is very ornate, dating from the 19th century, with an altar dedicated to two deities: Man, a deity of the mind and literature, and Mo, a deity of the martial arts.
Upon entering the temple, visitors perceive powerful waves of incense and see the light of myriad candles and many worshippers, who are also preoccupied with seeking hidden knowledge about the future. This can be gained right at the temple by shaking a round container filled with fortune sticks – bamboo sticks inked with a numeral – until one bamboo stick works itself free and falls to the floor. The number on the stick corresponds to a fortune, called a chim. Those who would like an interpretation of the chim, or additional divination, can consult a soothsayer at the temple.
From the magic of divination at the temple, we continued on to the magic of Disney at Hong Kong Disneyland in Lantau, a magical spot in this area of the world since 2005. Accessible via two trains from Hong Kong Island – and one of the trains has Mickey shapes for windows! – we felt right at home at the park, it seemed we had entered the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando or Disneyland in Anaheim, California – our teddy bear Duffy, who is, after all, a Disney bear, seemed particularly at home. One thing, of course, signs and announcements are in Chinese and in English. Hong Kong Disneyland has a lovely Sleeping Beauty Castle at its heart and five lands: Main Street, U.S.A.; Fantasyland; Adventureland; Tomorrowland and Toy Story Land.
The latter land was new to us and a lot of fun including fair-style rides themed to the “Toy Story” series including the Toy Soldier Parachute Drop, the Slinky Dog Spin and the RC Racer, a gravity-defying race on a soaring U-shaped track. At the other lands we found some new attractions to us as well as many of our favorite rides and those our daughter and grandkids like: Among others, Autopia, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters and Space Mountain in Tomorrowland; the Jungle River Cruise and the Festival of the Lion King in Adventureland; Dumbo and Mickey’s PhilharMagic in Fantasyland.
After posing for photos with Pluto and Woody, we left Hong Kong Disneyland after a wonderful afternoon there, but there was no end to the magic – upon our return to the ship, on our evening in Hong Kong, we could watch the Symphony of Lights Show, a sound-and-light spectacle that lights up 40 of Hong Kong’s skyscrapers, either from the ship or from a terrace within walking distance of the pier. And the Amsterdam had a special treat for us: the Hong Kong Cultural Arts Show, presented onboard in the Queen’s Lounge. This excellent presentation included musicians playing traditional Chinese instruments, a Dragon Dance team, the Ribbon Dance interpreted by two dancers, and the Mask Dance – during which a dancer changed face masks in lightning fast fashion, so fast it was impossible to tell how he did it. It was a most magical way to enjoy the magic of Hong Kong.