Friday, March 10, 2017

Off peak at Costa del Sol

Costa del Sol is Spanish for the Sunshine Coast and it is a region near Malaga. Similar to our Gold and Sunshine coasts in Queensland, Australia, it's a high density region consisting of thousands of apartment buildings and hotels to accommodate a massive influx of tourists.

It doesn't have the high rise buildings we do in Queensland which tends to retain the Mediterranean architecture uninterrupted.

As it's only three hours flight from Gatwick in the UK, there are obviously scores of Brits who make this their holiday destination. There are numerous Canadians, Americans and other Europeans here too, but so far I haven't found another Australian accent.

Unlike Christina and I who purposely have avoided wearing anything that stands out as Australian, a Canadian couple we met wear Canadian labelled clothing and small flag pins because they don't want anyone to think they are Americans. Aren't we people complicated?

The Sunset Beach Club where we stayed is huge, quite a few years old and showing its age, but is very comfortable, well equipped and all anyone needs. It has a large in-house supermarket, a medical centre, dentist, and the usual play grounds, pools, restaurants, and even a child minding centre.

While I expect the summer months would attract thousands and many with children, at present most people were Baby Boomers like us; greying, many a bit heavier than perfect, balding, probably cashed up, and determined to get out and about before they take that final journey from which none of us returns.

You see them en masse at the Happy Hour all getting their Scotch and sodas, sangrias and beer all on a two for one tab. At the end of the hour most stagger off to their rooms or dinner venues and the once noisy venue dulls a little. We visited a few times but only managed the one round of drinks.

There are hundreds of food outlets here and even a Burger King. Food and alcohol is significantly cheaper than in Australia which is good for us because we already lost on the exchange rate between AUD and €.

The area, Benalmadena, and other areas we have visited within the region are immaculate - not a toothpick of rubbish anywhere. How do they manage it? Either the locals are so proud of their towns that they dont spill a thing or, every night after we are all in bed, a thousand workers come out to keep things spotless. I think the former.

The locals are friendly, helpful people obviously accustomed to tourists who dont speak Spanish. When you enter a shop or bar, it's customary to say, "Hola!" to everyone already there.

From the Club where we stayed, you can book numerous tours and activities. We took a 4WD tour of the small villages, olive, cork and almond plantations in the region, had lunch included at a quaint restaurant and attended a flamenco dancers and combined Andalucia horse show. Both were very enjoyable.

Its a lovely part of Spain and time permitting we could have stayed longer.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Hong Kong Stay

Typical street
Our flight from Perth was late getting us in at 8:30 am and landing in a small fog with limited visability.

Cathay City, as the airport region is called, is huge as the air traffic coming in and out of Hong Kong makes it one of the busiest airports there is. It's a remarkably well organised arrival process with almost split second precision. Signage in English and Chinese is plentiful and a seemingly oversupply of helpful employees directyou this way and that.

There is a train that takes you from the outer extreme of the airport to the inner immigration, baggage collection and exit buildings. Very slick!

I was surprised that there was no visa charge. It's perhaps one of a small number of countries that don't have entry fees. It was simply a matter of presenting one's passport and having it stamped by a curt individual apparently impressed by his important office and unwilling to smile, say "welcome" or engage in chatter.

At least when one official noticed my wife using a walking stick to help with a bout of bursitis, he moved us to front of queue. I wondered whether I should get a walking stick too - feigned disability could be helpful.

There are numerous things I like about Asians. Apart from my penchant for shapely, lovely brown-skinned women, the industriousness and ability to create employment from nothing has always impressed. We Australians, who have become too reliant on government as a panacea could learn from their example.

We stayed in an inexpensive hotel with the appropriate title, Minimal Hotel Culture. The hotel is minimal indeed and in the middle of the city's traditional area, Sham Shui Po.

We got to our hotel by bus after a one hour trip that cost $14 HKD, a pittance by $AUD calculations. We initially had some trouble finding it but after consulting a map and two helpful locals arrived at the front door. It's the newest, flashest building in the street. When I first saw the other buildings I was concerned I had probably booked a hotel from hell just to save a few bucks. Once I walked into the minimal foyer, my spirits lifted.
The hotel is new, modern, clean and nicely outfitted with tiny rooms. Thank goodness it had a lift, we stayed on the 17th floor. Each floor has only two rooms.

After settling in we went for a walk through the local markets where you can buy literally anything. The markets are grouped by product eg, electronics, fashion, accessories like bags, belts, and a variety of interesting odds and ends. Most of the small kiosk shops are very well stocked with heaps of inventory.

We neaded to the food area and bought some lovely nasi goreng and what we thought were tofu squares that had been fried but, in fact were egg omlettes.

Our stay was only one night as we headed out to the airport to continue our journey and will stay longer on our return.

If you want exposure to the old Hong Kong and culture, I recommend a visit.