Tuesday, December 15, 2015

你好 Hong Kong!

My wife and I recently did a 3 day stopover trip to Hong Kong on our way back to the US from India. A democratic special administrative region within communist China, Hong Kong is very different from the mainland. A former British colony, which is reflected in the fact that almost all signs in the city are tri or at least bilingual, the main language spoken here is Cantonese, unlike mainland China, where the primary spoken language is Mandarin Chinese.
Hong Kong from the Victoria harbor

Day 1: We landed at around 7 am local time at the Hong Kong airport, after completing the immigration at the airport and exchanging a few USD for
HKD, we met a relative of mine, who lives there and he took us to his place, as our hotel check-in was not until 2 pm and we needed a place to freshen up and store our luggage until check-in.
We left our temporary abode and we were guided by my uncle to nearest station (i.e Kowloon) for our train to Tian Tan Buddha, commonly
The barely visible Buddha
known as Big Buddha. It took us about an hour by train and then 20 minutes by the NP 360 cable car to get to the Ngong Ping village where the Buddha is located, however, unfortunately, due to the rainy and foggy weather, we could barely see the Buddha or the monastery in the small village. We returned back to our hotel late afternoon, a little disappointed.
Evening, although it continued to rain steady, we decided to go ahead with our Hong Kong after dark tour, with our guide Danny. He showed us how the city landscape, including the markets, parks, intersection etc. look during night time. We felt it
was a nice introduction to city. We ended the tour with a view of the skyline form a secret vantage point near the Victoria harbor. By that time, it had stopped raining and we were able to take some good photos of the views on offer.

The SoHo escalator 
Man Mo Tao temple
Day 2: Next morning was a refreshing change from the dull and drab rainy day we had seen the day before. It was bright, albeit a little cloudy; but no rain, which was a welcome relief. We had booked the 10 a.m Old Vs New Hong tour with Danny through Urban adventures, and he promptly met us at the designated spot on the South Hong Kong island. Danny walked us through Hong Kong’s journey from traditional fishing harbor to international financial powerhouse, exploring the pathways of Hong Kong’s historical transformation through its multicultural neighborhoods. We first went through the Hollywood neighborhood (the name actually comes from the fact that the area had a lot of Holly trees when it was discovered first by
Clock Tower
the British), home to many of Hong Kong's elitists.

Next stop was a  a former black market turned open-air curio market, called Cat street. This is because, apparently in Cantonese, the thieves are called "rats", and those who buy from them are called "cats". Our next stop was the PMQ, which used to be the Queen’s College and Police Married Quarters before, and now is a hub for design and creative industries. Its buildings have been retained, reinforced, refurbished and upgraded for new uses. Residential units have been converted into design studios and shops, offices for creative enterprises and lodging for visiting designers.

Our last stop was the SoHo district of Hong Kong, which has the world’s longest outdoor escalator. We round off the morning by a visit to the IFC 2 tower, in the central district, where there is a viewing gallery on the 56th floor, free for visitors.

Evening, we met up with my uncle, who took us to watch the light show at the Victoria harbor. We ended the night by having a Hong Kong special sea food curry dinner at one of the restaurants he took us to.

Skyline from the peak
Cable car to the Buddha
Day 3: Our last day in Hong Kong, was by far the brightest and sunniest. We took this opportunity to ride to the Victoria Peak to catch a full view of the skyline. The journey involved changed a train and a bus ride to get to the bottom of the hill. And then a tram to get to the peak. However, the view from the peak is one of the most amazing things I've seen yet. The photos don't do justice to the sight from the top. On one side you have the world's tallest and widest skyline spread across two islands and on the other side, you have the pacific ocean with green hilltops, which make you forget what's on the other side of the viewing gallery.
The monastery as seen from the Buddha
The Big Buddha

Next, because of our disappointing visit first time and the amazing weather that day, we decided to give the Big Buddha a second visit. And indeed it was worth it! This time we caught a glimpse of the giant Buddha from the cable car itself as we approached the hill top village of Ngong Ping. We spent about a couple of hours exploring the Buddha, the monastery and the surrounding areas of the village. We wrapped up our visit with some bean curd, which is made from soya and mountain water.

10000 Buddhas Monastery 
This brought to an end our exciting three day trip to Hong Kong. If we had more time, we would've done the day trip to Macau and may be a trip to Ocean park, but we'll reserve that for the next time.

Tips: 1) Use the MTR octopus 3 day/ 5 day pass for unlimited travel on the train or the bus.
2) Exchange the Hong Kong dollars at the local dealers in Kowloon. Not all of them have good rates, so look around for the best rate. Else, the ATM card has the best rate, but you end paying a surcharge to the bank, it would make more sense of a large one time withdrawal.
3) Eat local/street side; we really enjoyed the taste and it's relatively cheaper. Make sure you know how to use chopsticks though, as forks/spoons are tough to get in these establishments.

What businesses did we use?
Flight: Air India (BOM-DEL-HKG)
Tours: Hong Kong after dark and Old vs New Hong Kong
HotelKowloon Mongkok 1812 Guest House

2 comments:

  1. Hey... gr8 description (as usual).. bt i think u shud include 'what to shop' in ur blogs so v know wat best v can bring back for our loved ones from d trip (its jus a suggestion)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They mostly had cheap electronics and some showpieces here for shopping in the markets. It's not that famous for shopping like Dubai, for example.

      Delete

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