Found the “Gray Line Deluxe Hong Kong Tour” via the concierge at the hotel. Cost $690HKG per adult and the tour includes:
Visit to Man Mo Temple
Victoria Peak (By Tram)
Entrance to The Sky Terrace
Aberdeen Fishing Village (optional Sampan boat ride for $60hkg)
Dim Sum lunch at Jumbo Floating Restaurant
Factory visit to a jewellery “workshop”
Pick up from our hotel was on time (10.55am) We had a small mini-van which seated about 20 people and there were 12 people on the tour (a Friday) They need min 5 people to run the tour. I think our hotel was the last pick up. Our guide spoke reasonable English but there were a few times when we struggled to understand the point she was making however she was very cheerful and enthusiastic. We also had a driver and a photographer on board “to help us get the best pictures” (more on him later)
First stop was the Taoist Man Mo temple. For sure it is very old but we had less than 10 minutes inside – it’s not very large and I really felt as though we were intruding on the locals whilst they were using their temple. Not a lot was learned about it – no dates of construction, general history or information was provided by anyone. We walked around in less than 5 mins as taking photos would have felt too intrusive. We then went outside and were asked to pose for a photo by the photographer which we did.
Then it was back on the bus and off to the Peak Tram. The major benefit of a tour is the ability to side step the queues for the tram which snake back a long way. Sadly there was no view from the tram as it was so crowded we were stood at the back of the carriage with tall people blocking the view. Luckily it only lasts about 8 mins before you arrive at the tackiest shopping mall imaginable. We had to wait until the group was together again and then we set off to the Sky Terrace – what a disappointment – shop after shop of rubbish. American themed restaurants (Bubba Gump’s) and the feeling you could be anywhere in the world. Luckily it was a clearish day and the views once outside were good. It was too windy to hear the audio information so we read the boards which have large photos of Hong Kong past – these were good and I felt they could have done so much more to promote the history of the place. After 20 mins on the Terrace it was time to meet the coach which had driven up to meet up – shame really as a trip down on the tram might have given us a better view.
Next we were off to Aberdeen (a short 15-20 min ride) to the Jumbo floating restaurant. You are “offered” (not really) the opportunity to have a ride on a sampan to “support the local fishermen” which we did. It was OK – a quick 10 minutes round the harbour which is a curious mixture of old and worn out boats and houseboats mixed with luxury yachts and motor boats. Once again the lady piloting the sampan didn’t speak any English (apart from “payment please”) so we learned nothing about any of them! If you don’t want to do this just tell the guide as there is a free motor launch over the to the restaurant anyway.
Our “fisherman” took us back to the restaurant where you are then invited to look around the tanks full of fish (don’t if you are a veggie/vegan and easily upset) and then it was off to lunch. We were seated on a table of 10. Green tea is provided but you can order other drinks at an extra cost. The Dim Sum was OK – 3-4 standard dishes plus rice and noodles –all quite tasty and hot but not remarkable in any way. The meal lasted about 1 hour and there was the opportunity to take pictures as the restaurant interior is quite impressive.
We caught the launch back to the coach and then headed to the lowlight of the whole tour – the jewellery hard sell. We were decanted into the back of what looked and smelled like a fish factory but was in fact a jewellery store. We walked upstairs to a much plusher area where were given a lightening 5 minute talk about gold, gemstones and design. Basically they were showing you what they hoped you would buy within the next 20 minutes. We were then asked to view the “craftsmen” at work – in reality this was 3 workmen behind glass who were comparing play lists on their iPods. Two minutes later we were all locked into the showroom – literally. There were around 15 sales people and they pounce on you and follow you around the room giving you the hard sell. Do NOT be intimidated into buying anything – just say “no thank you” and wait until you are let out again.
No one in our group purchased anything (they were mostly older and worldly wise) but I can imagine some people being too embarrassed to say “no” – it would be easy to be persuaded by the “only £3K sterling for this diamond” offers if you aren’t careful. The only good thing about this portion of the tour was that everyone was talking to each other by the end of it as they were unhappy about the hard sell. After the allotted time (and the annoyed stares from the unsuccessful sales people) we were released and it was back to the bus and off to Stanley Market.
“Market” is a grand term for what is essentially and row of tent shops selling pretty much the same thing – lots of leather bags (all “two for the price of one”) and no prices on much of what is on offer so be prepared to haggle. It only takes about 20 min to walk around so a better use of the 70 min we had here was to walk through the main market street and head to the beach along Stanley main street. There are lots of bars where you can simply sit outside and enjoy a drink looking over Stanley Bay and out towards the south china sea.
We re-grouped at the allotted place and time and then it was a 30 min drive back to HK central to be dropped off at our hotel. Our guide asked us to “remember” the driver as he was “young and single and worked 13 hours a day”
Oh yes, remember we had a photographer to help us with our picture taking? Well he disappeared after the Man Mo temple visit and popped up as we were finishing our meal at Jumbo. He had “skilfully” taken the pictures of us outside the temple and superimposed them onto a view of the Peak. He then plastered this into a tacky plate covered in rubbish cartoons of the “sights” we had seen. All for $200HKG. So of course, you have to buy it as a souvenir of your day… His English was very limited and he was hardly there so there was no way he was ever going to be able to help any of us with our photography skills. But we do have the world’s tackiest plate as a reminder of his abilities and what we missed.
Overall it was an OK-ish tour – we learned almost nothing about what we saw but at least we got to see more of the island than we would have done under our own efforts. For that alone, it wasn’t an entirely wasted day. The others on the tour were pretty interesting people so that went some way to making up for the lack of information from the guide.
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