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Mongkok - Not as dirty as it sounds!

Our journey from Mongkok, Hong Kong to Shanghai, China

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Hi all, we've attempted to write this blog together over our 2 day train trip to Shanghai and have a bit to catch up on. Hopefully it reads well!

Mon 02.01.2012

2100 hours

(Joel) Sooo as we sit here, collaborating our thoughts for the next blog entry we are currently in transit on our way to Shanghai, a short 18hr train ride. Which wouldn't be so bad if we were in the same room.
Unfortunately when we enquired about train tickets, we were told that it was not possible to book a in a particular cabin, nor could you book a top or bottom bunk. We were advised that the train operated in a first in best dressed fashion and, with this information, we decided not to buy tickets then and there. 2 days later we returned cash in hand ready for our lucky dip train tickets, only to be told that we should have booked earlier as the majority of cabins had been sold and it would not be possible to book two beds together in the same room unless we delayed our travel by another couple days… fail. Anyway, It could have been worse.
Renee is lucky to be in a room with an adorable 5 year old chinese girl who has befriended her and they are now BFF's playing games together; she copies Renee's every move. I however am stuck in a room with 3 early-twenties locals who feel that dried shrimp and fresh tobacco are appropriate cabin snacks. Needless to say the cabin has pungent odour.

(Both) We've spent the past 10 days living it up in the 4th most populated city in the world, Hong Kong! And what a city it is, we can both say we have loved every minute of it. With its crazy Gruen effect and shop til you drop atmosphere, the constant hustle and bustle of the streets and the delicious Dim Sum. Even the pushiness of everyone; always rushing to be first on, off, in or out became a bit of a game that, although we couldn't stand, we got quite good at. The city seems the perfect mix between Eastern and Western culture.


I don't think anything could have quite prepared us for just how populated this city was going to be. Ho Chi Minh City, home to about 15 million people, was a huge, congested sprawling mass of people and semi organised chaos… but was spread over a much larger area, with no real city centre. Hong Kong on the other has a smaller population of only 7 million, yet is crammed into a much smaller area with high rise apartment buildings everywhere you look, bustling streets, tofu stalls and what seemed like millions of 7/11 stores. The sheer number of people meant that just about every where you went you were almost guaranteed to wait in some sort of queue. You didn't enter a single lift, train or store the entire time that didn't already have a lot of people in it.


(Renee) The only thing I didn't love about this place was the stench that wafted from the tofu stands, which seem to be conveniently located on every 2nd street corner. By the end of our 10 days in HK I had become a master at holding my breath for long periods of time so to enable me to pass the stalls without my stomach turning. I only wish there were some sort of application which would allow me to sample the smell and share it with you all on here so you could truly understand its intensity.


(Joel) Our hostel was in a mediocre rise apartment building, spread out over multiple floors, making it near on impossible to meet other travellers. From our shoebox sized room we had a view of a busy intersection in the shopping district of Mongkok. There wasn't a single hour of the day or night that you could look out the window and see an empty intersection, there were always people lining the streets. Open the window and you were greeted with a dull hum, followed by traffic noise… and the smell of tofu. At first we didn't think too much of the hum, but after a day or 2 we realised that the hum was actually the constant murmur of people; this noise can be heard 24hrs a day.


That was our initial impression of Hong Kong. We arrived 2 days before christmas and it was ridiculously busy. It didn't take long for me to realise one of this city's biggest draw cards… Shopping. Ok so there are many places we have been to that have good shopping, but Hong Kong is a mecca for anything electronic/photographic related, and this stuff is right up my alley. Every camera body/lens I have ever lusted over is here to look at and to play with. Every laptop, latest phone, tablet, headphone and micro projector is just a short walk/train ride away. Now Renee knows what its like for a guy being dragged through countless clothing stores. Ahh sweet revenge.

(Both) For Christmas day we had originally planned to find a Dim Sum restaurant, but upon further deliberation we decided that a hotel lunch spread would be a better way to go. Due to Joel's obsession with looking in camera shops we left it to the last minute to book and most places were completely reserved, but we managed to find a business hotel that had some free spots on the "sharing table". The sharing table was high table with about 14 chairs at it. Not exactly who they thought we'd be sharing it with, as the entire 4 hours we were there only 3 other people sat at the table, and they were 5 chairs away. The lunch spread was fantastic. For $90 Aus each we had a full gourmet lunch, with a huge buffet serving seafood, antipasto and an array of tasty appetisers filled with many exotic ingredients including truffle. We also had the luxury of free flowing champagne in the form of Veuve Clicquot, which we were more than happy to down our fair share of.
We left the hotel two notches larger in our belts and waddled ourselves back to our apartment, where we had a token christmas tree and presents. After a Skype date with loved ones we ventured down to the harbour for the city's Christmas light show. A perfect Christmas away from home.

When we were finally able to move after our christmas day stuffing we made our way to Disneyland! Renee woke at 630am bouncing all over the bed like a 5 year old screaming Disneyland at the top of her lungs, while Joel's first reaction to all the excitement was met with apprehension, as he believed that it was more a theme park for children and babies rather than adults, (Oh how wrong he was).
Everything about Disneyland is as magical as all the cartoons back in the day. From the moment you board the train that chauffeurs you to the resort to the closing finale, the entire day is a well thought out adventure through all your favourite Disney memories.


The train chauffeuring you to the resort is fully decked out in Disney theme. The windows and grab handles are in the shape of Mickey's head, the seats are covered in Disney themed stars and there were small glass cabinets containing Mickey and all his friends. All throughout the park not a single inch of space is left un-themed. Every detail has been covered, even the usual "Staff Only" signage has been replaced with signs that say "Cast Members Only" as if the entire park is one big show.
Though many of the rides are intended for children, there were many attractions that we found super enjoyable. Two worthy mentions are the Lion King stage show and Mickey's 3D Phillarmagical Orchestra.
The Lion King stage show was set in a 360 degree auditorium complete with four 13 foot high Lion King characters and a cast of around 30 performers, fully dressed in jungle costumes. There were singers, dancers, ballet dancers suspend by cables, fire twirling, rotating stages, light shows and fight scenes. It was spectacular, if we had paid to see this show alone, we would have been impressed.
Mickey's 3D Phillarmagical orchestra was equally as fantastic. 3D glasses on we entered the cinema not sure exactly what we were going to see, but expecting it was probably just going to be another gimmicky 3D movie. The show started with Donald Duck attempting to conduct the magical orchestra before the instruments turned on him and sent him flying, passing through all the classic Disney movies we grew up with as kids. We were greeted by all our favourite Disney characters (from Aladdin to the Little Mermaid) and their signature songs, only this time in a 3D spectacular, with images coming so far out of the screen you could touch them, wind blown and water splashed over our seats and smells sprayed into the audience when 'Mr Candle' from Beauty and the Beast tells you to smell the apple pie in the tune of 'Be Our Guest'. It was really a fantastic 4D experience!
We enjoyed waffles in the shape of Mickey's head and a stroll down Main Street USA taking in the sights of the lavish Christmas decorations and dancing in the fake snow, before ending the day with a firework display over Sleeping Beauty's castle. The day truly was a magical experience.


Just incase one theme park wasn't enough we also paid a visit to the adrenaline inducing Ocean Park. The amount of effort that has gone into this park is nothing short of amazing. Complete with its own aquarium, rainforrest, dolphin shows, a cable car lift, underground train and thrill rides... the park has it all. We are really struggling how to describe this theme park without using all the same words that we used to describe Disneyland, so again it was spectacular, thrilling etc etc.
I think the thing about this park that was the most amazing was how it was set out; rather than planning the park over a flat area, the mountain has been used to their advantage. With the park split into 2 sections, (thrill rides and zoo/aquarium attractions) the only way between each part was by the underground express train (a submarine themed train that travels to the thrill ride summit through a 1000m long tunnel through the mountain) or the cable cars (a scenic 1500m long journey giving clear views of Hong Kong island).


New Years Eve was a bit of a fail. We had planned to venture down to the harbour, find a club and get down with a mix of expats and locals to bring in the new year. Instead, we found ourselves walking around the streets aimlessly, unable to find any such club and counting down into the new year out in the street, in a massive crowd of people, away from all the fireworks and fun. The evening was topped off once we arrived back to our hostel by a certain intoxicated young lady hovering over a toilet bowl while her boyfriend kindly held her hair and rubbed her back… Fail haha.
Waking up in 2012 we both had agreed that was not the way to bring in the new year properly and so, being the free lancers we have become, we figured it was easy to lose track of our days and heck, for all we knew 'today' was NYE!
We had a really lovely New New Years Eve (NNYE). We enjoyed a picnic in the Botanical Gardens with champagne, cake and cherries, before returning to our room and re-counting down our new new years, complete with you tube fire works!

Tues 03.01.2012

0900 hours

(Renee) I was woken at 7am this morning by my little 5 year old BFF turning on the light, wanting to play games with me! We played 'throw the stuffed animal' for a while and she was getting so excited and talking to me a million miles an hour in Mandarin… I have no idea what she was saying! haha. Nevertheless, it was very cute.
After saying goodnight to Joel last night and both of us going into our separate cabins for bed time I was happy to know that at least in my cabin everyone would be sleeping and I would be in for a peaceful nights rest. I was wrong. The little girl, cute as she may be, was WAITING UP FOR ME and lost it with excitement as soon as I climbed into bed. It was play time! Trying to be polite, and having no idea how to say 'goodnight' or 'go to sleep' in Mandarin I shot her a couple smiles and did the action of 'sleep time now' before shutting my eyes to sleep. Being on the opposite top bunk to me it was easy for her to ensure sleep was not going to happen by hitting me with her stuffed animal and giggling or turning on her extremely bright lamp… agh! Eventually I just had to ignore and force myself to sleep.

Poor Joel had an unpleasant night's sleep. One of the guys in his cabin was an absolute pig, hocking up balls of flem all night and spitting them into the bin! Not to mention he also spent the entire evening playing games and watching movies on his iPad… with the thought of using headphones obviously too considerate for his liking. Needing an escape from 'throw the teddy' I went into Joel's cabin this morning to wake him and was greeted by the guys disgusting behaviour, ugh, give me the kid over his cabin any day!
We're on the home stretch now though. We'll be off the train, through customs and in Shanghai within a couple hours!

1800 hours

(Joel) We have arrived in Shanghai! It wasn't long before we were greeted by the sting of the cold air on our faces; when we disembarked the train it was a modest 4 eye watering degrees. We quickly pushed and shuffled with the crowd to cram through to customs where it was a little warmer, got our passports stamped and made our way into Shanghai. There is almost no English to be found anywhere here, even the entire McDonalds menu is in Mandarin. After a quick bite we set out to find a taxi to our hostel, which again proved a little more difficult than anticipated . Most drivers know very little English, and as we didn't have any Chinese directions it was near on impossible to get a driver. Finally after flagging around 4-5 taxis, a driver gave me his phone and put me onto a translator who was able to explain to him where we wanted to go. Time to start brushing up on our Mandarin!
Anyway thats about the whole of it for now, in summary its cold and hard to order food haha, but it's still awesome!

Joel & Renee

Posted by Joel-Renee 08:12 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged shanghai hong_kong disneyland ocean_park

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Glad to see you are both still have the time of your lives.. Disneyland sounded amazing, but not sure id enjoy the train ride.. and as much as i love kids i would have prob taken all her toys and hid them till i got off haha.... As for poor Joel, man i would have got skitso and chucked the ear phone at him so he got the hint....(Bloke prob new kungfu, better to suffer)lol

by Jo

Wow! I refreshed the site hoping for some new stuff and got this amazing entry. What a train experience and can't even imagine what it must be like for you in Shanghai. Am soooooooo jealous right now :)

by Mum

I agree Jo! I could not have slept in the cabin Joel was stuck in... I got so frustrated just going in there to visit Joel. The little girl drove me crazy but she was cute! I couldn't sit in my cabin and peacefully read a book if I wanted to though.. I had to keep trying to find somewhere on the train to escape so I could have a minute to myself haha.

We're very excited to be in Shanghai Mum, it's proving to be a bit of a challenge again with hardly anything written in english; we're relying heavily on pictures and trying to learn some Mandarin so we can order etc. But I think we're ready for the challenge :)

Née x

by Joel-Renee

Great Blog guys! Its like reading an adventure novel and I cant wait to read the next exciting chapter! Happy Travels and stay safe.


by Dad

OMG i'm sooo jealous of your Disneyland Adventures! sounds absolutley amazing, i had goodbumps reading it haha
your train ride sounds a little hectic but glad you managed to make a friend Renée :P

All sounds fabulous guys, its been greating skyping you over the holiday, making me miss you more and more though i have to say.

Keep in touch
love you both x x

by Kails

Wow, what a sensational update! The blog is both inspiring as we 'experience' a little bit of your trip with you, and utterly jealousy inducing at the same time :-) When Toni and I were in Vietnam we kept an 'Any Which Way' log (aka. Charlie Boorman) and counted all the different types of transport we used on the trip - planes, trains, tuk-tuks, boats... You guys are certainly clocking up a few by now! Many pieces of love, D :-) xx

by Dad

Loving the blog, photos and your story telling! Glad you enjoyed Hong Kong !! So sorry to hear about your NYE!!... but glad you guys made up for it! Love you guys lots and miss you more xxx

by Sarah

Such an entertaining blog guys!! Making my first day back at work just a little more bearable :)

by Amy

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