Wednesday, May 25, 1955
I was up at 9 a.m. this morning (that’s better). Frank Ballachey was leaving for Vientiane and Gene was going to drive him out to the airport. I met Frank in the restaurant of the International Hotel and we had breakfast. We said good-bye and then I went back to my room where I loafed (I seem to be doing a lot of that, don’t I?) and read until around 1 p.m.
I took my camera with me and had another hamburger at the Dairy Farm, followed by a walk and some more shopping. It was a lovely day so I took the ferry across to Victoria to see what I could see. I did some banking first of all, for some Phnom Penh cronies, then walked about for hours with no particular destination in mind. My walk took me up some very lovely palm-lined lanes until I found myself at the Hong Kong Botanic Gardens. I wandered about the lush gardens for a while, took some pictures and then began wandering down some more lovely palm-lined lanes back towards the centre of town. It was then that I discovered the PEAK TRAM!!
The Peak Tram is a unique electric-powered contrivance that takes people to the top of Victoria Peak for the nominal sum of about 10 cents U.S. Being a daring individual, I decided to try it. Well! I surely got my 10 cents’ worth! The Peak Tram ride starts off rather sanely, then suddenly it begins to ascend at a 45 degree angle!! The tram is pulled by a cable, incidentally, a fact which rather reassured me during the ascent. On the way up you get the most fascinating glimpses of Victoria, the harbour and Kowloon. The only thing is, everything appears to be on such a weird angle!! Oh well, I arrived safely at the top and proceeded to a little observation post which presented one of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen! The city of Victoria was at my feet, then the green harbour full of ships of all sizes and descriptions. Beyond the harbour was Kowloon and beyond Kowloon rose the mountains on the Chinese mainland. I’m sure I took at least 5 colour slides of this scene, just in case some of them didn’t turn out, you know. There was a quaint little thatched-roof English-type tea shop near the observation post, and from the garden of this tea shop you could see the South China Sea on the other side of the island. More pictures. Not that it matters much, but there was a scales in the tram station at the top of the peak, so I weighed myself and found the results to be 146 pounds.
The trip down was quite an experience. I boarded the tram, took a seat and down we went – BACKWARDS!!! Needless to say, I was just slightly alarmed at the direction in which the tram was travelling. I felt sure it must be broken, but I soon did some clever deductions and came up with the following solution as to why we were travelling backwards: because of the steep angle, should one be sitting facing the direction in which the tram was travelling, one would fall flat on one’s nose!!
From the lower tram station I walked (rather shakily, I must admit) back to the ferry landing and went back to Kowloon. On the ferry, I met Mr. and Mrs. R.M. McClintock from Phnom Penh. Mr. McClintock is the American Ambassador to Cambodia, and its at the McClintock’s home that we see movies every Monday night.
Back in the hotel I discovered that my shoes had arrived along with some more clothes from Gene, to say nothing of a few other odds and ends. At 5:30 Gene took me out for tea in the lovely lounge at the Hotel Miramar. It was the type of place with a string quartet, you know, and such a wonderful sight after Indochina.
That evening I risked dinner at the International Hotel and it really was quite good, although not as good as the Palm Court Hotel. I saw something that evening that struck me as being rather humorous. In the dining room there was a party of 15 Chinese people. Two old people seemed to be the guests of honour and I imagine it was their anniversary or something, because everyone was dressed in his Sunday best and wore flowers. Now the funny thing about all this was the fact that this party of 15 Chinese ordered Western food and were eating with FORKS!! Well, more fun! They giggled and struggled and fussed about with their eating utensils and I couldn’t help but think of all the times when I had giggled and struggled and fussed with chopsticks! I guess everybody gets a kick out of “going foreign” for an evening.
From the hotel I took a taxi and went to see “East of Eden” in WARNERSCOPE (my goodness!). It was an excellent film, rather sad but beautifully acted and directed.
After the show I didn’t know whether I would walk or take a taxi back to the hotel. It really wasn’t too far so I decided to hoof it. About a block from the theatre I passed a bus stop. So I decided to try something different that night, namely ride in the upstairs part of one of those double-decker buses. Soon, a bus arrived and I got on, climbed up the narrow spiral staircase at the back of the bus, got seated (in the front seat) and away we went. The conductor came around and relieved me of ten cents H.K. ( about 1 1/2 cents U.S.) and handed me a ticket marked “Second Class”. ?? I couldn’t figure out why such a thrill as riding in the front seat upstairs in a double-decker bus should be classified as “Second Class” until I saw my stop approaching and tried to get down those spiral stairs while the bus was swaying along!! Oh dear, what a struggle. When the bus stopped people surged out of it and more people surged onto it. When the bus left my stop I was still poised stupidly only half-way down the spiral staircase!! Two stops later I reached the door and jumped out quickly, lest I should be trapped for another two or three stops! Never again will I ride “Second Class” in a double-decker bus in Hong Kong (even though it was a heck of a lot of fun!). The distance I had to walk back to my stop was not much shorter than the distance I would have had to walk had I never taken the bus in the first place!
Oh well, I got back to the hotel without further adventure and before going to bed I packed my suitcase for tomorrow…..