I spent six nights in Hong Kong from the 9th- 14th December 2015, and let me tell you, that was not enough! Unfortunately, we were meant to spend an extra night there, but our first flight from Perth to Singapore was delayed over 12 hours, which meant that our connecting flight from Singapore to Hong Kong had to change from the 8th to the 9th. I strongly thought this was going to be a bad omen for the trip, but we got a free night in Singapore out of it, so who’s complaining. (To be fair, it was raining non-stop in Singapore and we had to get the shuttle to the airport at 6.00am the next day, so it’s not like we had a chance to enjoy the night anyway).
BUT, when we finally arrived in Hong Kong, our holiday could really begin! I had absolutely no expectations going into HK, and so I was completely blown away when we got there. So many buildings and so many people! We didn’t do much on our first day there; catching a bus from the airport to our hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui, changing clothes for the first time in over 12 hours, and going out for food. We got pleasantly drenched in the torrential rain, but at least it wasn’t cold! We did have a chance to check out Kowloon Park in the darkness, and made the decision to return during the daylight.
The next day involved exploring all around the bay and harbour area; the Grand Theatre, the view to Hong Kong Island, the former Kowloon-Canton Railway Clock Tower, and the piers. We got horribly lost in the massive Harbour City (shopping centre), found ourselves in a Christmas display at the 1881 Heritage Building, and finally worked our way back to Kowloon Park. What a beautiful park; so many pretty trees, sculptures, gardens, and even an aviary! That night we explored the Temple Street Markets, and ate at a dessert house. It’s only our second night here, but we’re already gaining confidence in crossing the street Hong Kong style.
Our sleep that night was interrupted by the fire-alarm (and flashing lights!) in our room wailing at some horrendous hour. I’m told by my friends that I sleepily asked if everything was okay before promptly falling back asleep- lucky it was a false alarm anyway. This day was a busy day with a day trip to Macau, a special administration area of China. The hour ferry ride was quick and easy, and a shuttle-bus from the piers got us to the Grand Lisbao Casino. The lobby of the casino was mind-blowing; a grand chandelier and jade, gold and ivory sculptures! When we got outside, we got to see just how huge the building actually was! Our main interest in visiting Macau, however, was not the casinos, but rather the historical Portuguese buildings. Starting in the famous Senado Square, we worked our way around Cathedral Square and Lou Kau Mansion, and finally to the beautiful façade of the 16th century Ruins of St. Paul’s. Nearly everything was decked out with Christmas decorations, and there were people everywhere, but it felt relatively uncrowded. From here, we explored Mount Fortress, which allowed us to directly compare the clustered buildings of Macau to the clustered buildings of Hong Kong. Considering Australia has relatively larger block sizes and more houses than apartment buildings, it completely blows my mind to imagine living in these buildings. After exploring a little more, we returned to the ruins for the first show of Macau’s Light Festival, which involves an impressive display of lights and images projected directly onto the façade. It’s the first light show we see of the night, and as we explore further in the area, we also see shows at St. Dominic’s Church and A-Ma Temple. To get back to the piers and eventually back to Hong Kong, we caught a wild local bus, where I’m pretty sure the locals enjoyed laughing at three foreigners struggling to keep on their feet as the bus whipped around corners and the driver slammed on the brakes unexpectedly. The end of the night finds us eating McDonalds in our hotel room at 1.30 am.
The next day involved exploring Hong Kong Island. After catching the ferry across the harbour, we admired the views along the water’s edge before finding ourselves in Hong Kong Park. There’s enough in this park to take up a day, and we took our time enjoying the plants and sunshine (knowing full well we’re fast approaching much colder climates). We then decided to travel up to Victoria Peak, but make the mistake of joining the queue for the tram… one and a half hours later (!), we’re finally on the tram and at the peak. Battering the wind and cold, since it’s now dark, we enjoyed the view of Hong Kong from the roof of the Peak Tower. It’s amazing to see all of the buildings lit up. I have issues getting down from the roof (I’m downright terrified of heights, and each set of escalators I need a moment to prepare myself), but we’re soon catching a local bus back down (hello motion sickness). The brightly-lit central area of Hong Kong Island is amazing close up, with the sides of most of the buildings decked out in Christmas decorations. We eventually catch the ferry back to Kowloon where we watch the Hong Kong Pulse Light Show projected on the side of the Theatre. It’s surprisingly in English, but we’d get the plot of it even if we couldn’t speak the language. We have fun hanging out in the Tsim Sha Tsui cultural area until late.
And, finally, the last day in Hong Kong. We saved one of our favourite dining experiences for last, and went to a dim sum restaurant on this day. The food was delicious, although it wasn’t the usual trolley service we were used too. We explored around the restaurant a little more, visiting the jade markets and a local market where there was everything on sale from gold-painted coconuts to dried lizards on sticks. We then found our way back to our old favourite, Kowloon Park, for a Lion Dance and Kung Fu demonstration. It was really noisy and colourful! The performers ranged in age from 8 to 80+, all from the same club. They also demonstrated with weapons such as swords and spears, which was really cool to watch. Afterwards, the three of us split up; the other two to go shopping, and me to go back to the room to sleep (hey, I was tired). We finished up our last night in Hong Kong by cruising on the harbour in a Chinese Junk and watching the Symphony of Lights display!
What an adventure Hong Kong was! I was blown away by the number of people, buildings, and trees everywhere, and I definitely can’t wait to go back! However, it was only the first stop on our two month holiday, so stay tuned for my account of China in two weeks!
WANT TO VISIT HONG KONG?
Here’s some tips from my experience if you’re interested in visiting these exciting little islands;
Firstly, Hong Kong is the place to eat and shop. With everything from street food to fancy restaurants, street markets to expansive shopping centres, whatever you want or need will be covered. Because it was our first stop in our holiday, we couldn’t exactly go crazy and buy every little novel thingamajig we saw, but boy did we want to. The food, however, was a different story, and we splurged there instead.
If you’re looking for specific places to visit, there are four experiences that I would consider a must. The first is, of course, Victoria Peak. We visited it quite late in the day, but I’m sure you could spend a good half-day up there. Apart from the Peak Tower and its views over Hong Kong, there’s a trail through the actual park, a Madame Tussauds, shopping, and restaurants. Secondly, walking around the harbour edge, on either the Kowloon or Hong Kong Island side, is a must. Not only do you get great views of the skyline, but the Kowloon side has a cultural district and the piers to explore, while the Hong Kong Island has a number of parks to just chill in. Thirdly, although we only spent a few hours in Hong Kong Park, I would strongly recommend visiting it. It’s pretty amazing to see such a huge park in the middle of all the towering skyscrapers, the gardens are pretty, and there’s an aviary, a conservatory, and a few historical buildings as well. Finally, although there is plenty more to see in Hong Kong itself, I think a visit to Macau is well worth the hour ferry trip there and back. We chose to visit historic Macau on the Macau Peninsula, which in itself is worth seeing, but there’s also plenty more shopping, lots of casinos, hiking trails on Coloane, and plenty of awesome food to eat.
Hong Kong is notorious for expensive hotels and small rooms. The more expensive hotels are located on Hong Kong Island, so it is generally recommended to stay in Kowloon. We stayed in Tsim Sha Tsui, along Nathan Road, the main stretch, which, in my humble opinion, is the best place to stay. There’s easy access to Hong Kong Island (see below), plenty of places to eat and shop around, and I felt quite safe staying there. Our hotel choice was Yotel Cha Cha, a very tiny and very basic room, but the location was fantastic, the building was very secure, and the rooms were cleaned beautifully everyday. Although not suitable for a family, it would suit a group of 1-3 (young-ish) adults really well.
Hong Kong is incredibly easy to get around with buses, ferries, and the metro connecting practically all areas. Almost all of the information is provided in English, so there’s no problems using ticketing machines or communicating with staff.
I found Hong Kong to be quite safe (even when staying out of the hotel past midnight), but there’s still a couple of warnings to heed. If you’ve travelled before, you’d already know not to buy off people offering various services in the street, and I would recommend the same for Hong Kong. We only really experienced this in Tsim Sha Tsui, but since our hotel was located there, we faced it every time we stepped out. Be prepared for people offering you business cards or services as you walk past them, but don’t be afraid to ignore them.