Our three days spent in Hong Kong were lovely. I’m almost ashamed to say that Paul and I made a beeline for the first McDonald’s Restaurant we had seen since leaving Canada, but the idea of a coffee and a McMuffin with cheese (there is very little cheese in China folks) was overpowering.
Hong Kong is such an interesting city! The surrounding mountains and harbour limit horizontal construction. We took an outdoor escalator up the side of a mountain which was intersected with busy crowded streets that ran perpendicular to its path. Later we took the Star Ferry to the Hong Kong side of the harbour. We rode the Peak Tramway to Victoria Peak itself. One poor soul was so terrified of the angle of ascent that I was quite sure she was going to jump out before we reached our destination. Her partner managed to hang onto her shirttails until we stopped. Once at the Peak, we were able to look out over the harbour at the enormous skyscrapers with names on them like Sony and Samsung. Only the exceptionally wealthy people lived at the very top of the Peak.
Their household staff brought the owners’ perfectly groomed dogs down the narrow road past the shops and restaurants for an outing. We tourists were suitably impressed. Because we had no specific agenda, Paul and I had time to wander on our own, always using the waterfront as our reference. I made a few sketches on the pedestrian mall near our hotel and we spent time people watching. As Hong Kong is such a cosmopolitan city, we saw folks from many cultures. There were expensive shops in the downtown area and there was a wonderful gallery and museum. That evening we joined again with Sharon and Wen and explored more, behaving like goofy tourists. We even found a few folks who spoke English!
April 14 we left Kowloon and Hong Kong to fly to a city I never in my wildest dreams imagined I would visit. Ho Chi Minh City, previously known as Saigon, had such a weight of history for me. When I lived in Winnipeg, years ago, many suffering souls found refuge in the prairie city that had absolutely nothing in common with Saigon. I could hardly bear the anticipation.
We were met at the airport in Ho Chi Minh on that sultry evening by Maestro Simon, a close friend of Wen and Sharon. We would later attend a concert organized by him at an international school for children of Korean business people living and working in Vietnam. Simon had a taxi ready for us and we were whisked off to The Blue Diamond Hotel on Thu Khoa Huan Street in downtown Ho Chi Minh. Oh my! We were treated like visiting royalty and all the days we stayed there, we were greeted with the same enthusiasm.
The next morning Simon was waiting for us. Something was up. He knew that if we were going to survive in Ho Chi Minh we’d better learn how to cross a street because there are no crosswalks. He marched us right out to the main avenue. My mouth went dry. There are four million motorcycles licensed in Ho Chi Minh and all of them were on that avenue! I felt Simon was enjoying this a bit too much but here’s what he taught us.
Wait for a small gap and then make your move diagonally into the current. Do not hesitate! The drivers will go around you, judging by your speed and angle. Sharon grabbed me very firmly by the arm, I told myself this was a good day to die, and off we went. What a rush!
Everything after that was easy. We were set to explore Ho Chi Minh!