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5 interesting things about my recent trip to Hong Kong

I was fortunate enough to spend 5 nights in Hong Kong and 4 nights in Singapore in October 2014. I had an absolutely fabulous time and whilst in Hong Kong I jotted some notes down on things I found cool about my trip so here they are.

The Giant Buddha (Tian Tan Buddha)

Giant Buddha

Giant Buddha at Ngong Ping

I think this ranks as one of the most amazing things I have seen in terms of a place of interest. Perched on a hilltop on Lantau Island this was once the world’s largest seated outdoor bronze Buddha statue. It stands at 26 metres tall and is an awe inspiring sight.

I took a 25 minute cable car ride (Ngong Ping 360) from Tung Chung to the tourist village in Ngong Ping which includes souvenir shops and eateries.  I highly recommend this to anyone visiting Hong Kong although I would avoid this on a National holiday as my wife and I queued for 3 hours to get on the cable car in the heat (32C) but it was still worth it!

The Escalators

Yes I am being serious, they make noises to inform you that the end of the escalator is near and there are bright signs warning people to mind their toes! Sadly I did not get to go on the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world due to the pro-democracy protests happening on Hong Kong Island.

The Hyatt Regency at Tsim Sha Tsui

We chose the Hyatt due to it’s close proximity to shops and the MTR and we were not disappointed. Our room had a harbour view which was amazing especially at night time.

Harbour View from the Hyatt Regency TST

Harbour View from the Hyatt Regency TST

The hotel was of a very good standard and the buffet breakfast was excellent. One of the most convenient and differentiating features of the Hyatt was the smartphone you could use for free! I used it heavily throughout my stay and it included free national, international calls to the UK as well as free Internet.

The Pro-Democracy protests

The main demonstrations against the Chinese government affected my ability to visit some of the areas on Hong Kong Island specifically Central and Admiralty.

During my visit some protesters gathered near our hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui and we came across them peacefully sitting on the ground as this picture shows.

The stand off between police and protesters began to get more serious as we left Hong Kong for Singapore. The situation is still unresolved at the time of writing this blog post.

Pro Democracy Protesters in Tsim Sha Tsui

Pro Democracy Protesters in Tsim Sha Tsui

The MTR (Mass Transit Railway)

The MTR is Hong Kong’s equivalent of the Underground in London and it was really easy to use, clean and efficient. I was really impressed and I purchased an Octopus card which I loaded with credit to get around Hong Kong. We even used the underground stations and subways to walk around to keep cool and avoid people trying to sell us dodgy watches.

The stations are spotlessly clean, the trains are air conditioned, with plenty of space in the carriages. Signs and announcements were in English and you also get excellent mobile phone reception so you can receive calls, check your email and surf the web.

The London Underground could learn from the MTR in Hong Kong.

Visit Hong Kong!

I highly recommend a trip to Hong Kong!

London Paddington to Reading trains are the worst for overcrowding

I have grown up in Reading and whilst the close proximity to London and journey time of 30 mins is great I am well aware of the peak time chaos on the journeys to and from London. I remember how often I have been standing in the vestibule en route to Paddington but luckily I have so far not had to make this journey daily.
This peak time chaos has been the topic of an article in the Guardian and Daily Mirror which stated that London Paddington is the worst station for overcrowded trains in the London and South East.
Of the ten most crowded trains 3 involved the Reading to Paddington route and to make matters worse the trains are also holding double their load capacity.

Figures yesterday revealed the worst service for overcrowding is the 6.37am Reading to London Paddington where 610 standard class passengers squeeze into three carriages meant to hold 304.

And on the evening return trip at 6.45pm, 588 commuters cram into the train.

I do not yet see improvements to these services despite the risk to passengers’ safety and rising ticket prices.

How about:

  • more trains at peak times and longer platforms
  • the Reading to Waterloo line becoming “high speed”
  • there is no penalty for the train companies for overcrowding, how about free tickets if the train is full and you are standing?
  • In First Great Western’s case we have older trains too when is their rolling stock going to be changed- in the summer it is also very uncomfortable with no or poorly performing AC.

UPDATE: We also have the recent annoucement that train fares are going to rise by 8% too 😦

    Ten most crowded trains in London and the south-east

    06.37 Reading-Paddington

    18.45 Paddington-Reading

    18.15 Paddington-Oxford

    06.30 Bristol Temple Meads- Paddington

    07.40 Reading-Paddington

    06.07 Oxford-Paddington

    16.57 Paddington-Reading

    07.09 Oxford-Paddington

    07.28 Bourne End-Paddington

    17.18 Paddington-Oxford