China 1: Hong Kong

After two 7 hour flights where I got to sample Congee for the first time (an Asian savoury porridge often served with seafood for breakfast, which I really enjoyed but later realised wasn’t quite like the kind they served in China – basically cooked rice still in the water ) we finally landed in Hong Kong, the first stop on our travels. We took the Airbus to Tsim Sha Tsui for 33 HKD each (approximately 3 quid) so we didn’t have to change on a metro with our heavy bags and it was a great way to see the whole place as we came in, but it probably took a lot longer than the MTR would!

We were immediately hit by the intense humidity and the clear language barriers, although warmed by how many passers-by helped us out; the first a man whom pointed us the right way to our bus and the second a young woman whom walked us to our hostel as it was extremely difficult to find. We stayed in Ashoka hostel, which you get to by going inside the entrance of an indoor market (Chung King Mansion) and then travelling up to the 16th floor, with only one lift operating the even number floors. Our double “en suite” room was the size of my wardrobes put together and the “shower” was a hand held device over the bathroom sink and floor. Not the best after almost an entire day of travelling but we quickly freshened up and went back out to explore.
Kowloon island is intense. It’s hot and busy and you cannot walk 10 metres without being approached by a Chinese man asking you to buy watches and food; if you show interest in anything they will immediately rush to your side. However it is cheap and it has character; we wandered round Kowloon park where groups of people were playing music, dancing and singing (with a mic, almost karaoke style) and went to the night market on Temple Street on our first evening. I’d recommended doing this and sampling some of the cheap dishes on offer. My thoughts on the delicacies of Hong Kong? Pig and goose intestine is as revolting as it sounds, chicken feet ultimately taste like chicken, and curry fish balls have a texture quite like no other fish I have ever eaten.


The highlight of Kowloon for me, however, is for once not food-related; walking to the south of the island late evening for views across the water of Hong Kong island’s financial district at night is spectacular and peaceful all at once, plus there are many areas to take a pew and take it all in.

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On our second day in HK we headed to the south of Hong Kong Island via MTR and bus to do Dragon’s Back walk, a popular hike over one of the mountains (presumably called Dragon’s Back!) which has some stunning views of the beaches and mountains that cover the south. It took us approximately 3 hours to complete (my research said between 3 and 4) due to the heat and humidity as well as the uphill climb for the first hour.

It’s totally worth doing for such a polar Hong Kong experience to the hustle and bustle and intense side to the city, plus getting to dip your tired feet in the sea at Big Wave Bay Beach at the end makes it so worthwhile.

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Big Wave Beach

Afterwards we got the bus and metro back but jumped off at Central on Hong Kong island instead. We wandered round the financial district before hopping on the ground level escalators that take you from Queen’s Road Central in the financial district to the peak tram for Victoria’s Peak. Built to aid commuters with the steep incline to and from the financial district for work, the escalators go downhill from 6am until 10am and then uphill from 10:30am to 11pm. We rode it up at 7pm and then walked back down alongside it afterwards before going to a Lonely Planet (and trip advisor) recommended restaurant Ser Wong Fun in Soho for some noodles.

We then walked down to the pier to cross back over to Kowloon island; it’s easy and quick to get between the two islands via the MTR (prices vary depending on the distance but from Tsim Sha Tsui to Causeway Bay was 9 HKD, roughly 90p) but you can also go across the water on the Sta ferry for 2.5 HKD (25p) each way if you have the time and I would highly recommend; it’s such a cheap and quick way to cross but more importantly it’s lovely to be so close to the lit up buildings at night.

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I personally preferred HK island to Kowloon as it felt slightly less intense and perhaps more familiar in terms of city life in London (although still vastly different!)
On the morning of our first day on our China tour with The Dragon Trip (as detailed below) we took the tram to the top of Victoria peak (the highest point in Hong Kong) with the rest of our group (total of about 18) for views across the city. It is a tourist highlight and a great view but it wasn’t my favourite view, perhaps because it is a better view at night (as was recommended).

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We then departed Hong Kong to head for Yangshuo (view blog post here) but we returned to Hong Kong at the end of our tour and spent another day here. We decided to head to Lantau Island to see the Big Buddha but things didn’t quite go to plan; we left Causeway Bay station at 11am in the direction of Tung Chung station (25 HKD, or £2.50) and it took about 45 minutes to get there, so we were then hit by the midday queue for the cable cars over and ended up waiting for a whole hour to eventually get to Lantau Island and the fig to be so intense we could barely see the Buddah. However the cable car experience – across the mountains for  185 HKD each with clear views of the sea – were worth it, I’d just recommend heading over early morning or late afternoon to avoid the queues. You can’t really do anything about the fog – that’s Hong Kong’s changing weather for you – but if you have time and flexibility then try to go when it isn’t cloudy or foggy!

 

LS.

[View next post of Yangshou]

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