I first visited Hong Kong in 2004 for a short 3 day stop over on the way to Vietnam. I had very fond memories of the place. More lively and less sanitised than Singapore I felt. So when it came to deciding on a stopover on my first trip to New Zealand I decided to return.
I arrived late afternoon into the huge airport, just as the sun was setting, and took the Airport Express rail line into Hong Kong Central. A clean and efficient line and we were into the city in about 30mins.
A taxi to the Garden View International, that resides in between the HK Park and Zoological and Botanical Gardens, and just a short walk outside the central district and we were rewarded with a room on the 20th (top) floor and a fabulous view of downtown HK and some of the amazing skyscrapers. One distinct new skyscraper that has appeared since the last visit is the ICC2 building which has a light show up its vast structure each night depicting rabbits, hearts and advertising slogans among other things.
Up to Victoria Peak on the tram on a Friday night seemed a popular excursion as the place was packed. A fabulous view though as you found a spare bit of space along the railing to take your shots of the famous city view – alongside not just the other tourists but the photo teams getting you the perfect picture souvenir of countless subjects displaying their ‘V’ for victory signs. A bizarre habit for us in the west but the Chinese youth seem obsessed by it.
Our first full day in town was to walk down to the Central district and wander amongst the street markets selling everything you can think of. Stopping for Dim Sum at the Luk Yu TeaHouse was a fabulously atmospheric way to have our lunch in a distinctly Chinese style tea house with waiters from the older generation topping up our teapot of jasmin tea every time they passed. We also visited the Man Mo Temple, just off Hollywood Road, a small temple full of burning incense and the faithful coming to pay their respects.
In the afternoon it was over the harbour on the iconic Star Ferry to Kowloon. the Avenue of the Stars crammed with tourists – who was Pasty Karling Ho??? – and a wander to the amazing History Museum and across to the Temple Street night market. Amazing what was on sale there including street stalls stocking a variety of vibrators in all manner of colours – no doubt all fake. The mind boggles.
On the way back from the ferry terminal in HK, along the elevated walking avenues we were greeted by multiple groups, mainly women, who had made their own car park picnic areas and were laughing, chatting, playing scrabble, taking selfies and generally having a fine Sunday afternoon. Not sure 100% what they were doing although we were told they just congregate there as its free and undercover and just somewhere to go. Another theory is they are waiting for men but I don’t think that’s the case somehow as they seemed to not notice anybody passing by as they were too busy chatting.
We managed to include a visit to the free zoological gardens – some amazing acrobatic monkeys and nice gardens to relax with the locals doing their tai chi and power walks around the fountain for lap after lap. The final morning before our flight to New Zealand was spent in the beautiful HK Park. Some lovely landscaping, lakes, waterfalls and an aviary right in the middle of the city. A real oasis and a must for any visit to allow the hustle and bustle to be left behind for a short while.
So no sooner had we arrived that our visit was over. Hong Kong still has that magic about it. Never knowing what’s around the next corner and a delightful mix of east meeting west with all the culture and cuisines that that entails. A seemingly safe and engaging place which is incredible for a city with such a massive population crammed into a very small island. It’s fabulous and I hope to be back again one day. I love Hong Kong!