Néih Hóu Hong Kong!May 29 in Hong Kong
Getting the train to Hong Kong from mainland China was quite like getting a flight. You had to go through security and passport control and get your official exit stamp from China before you board the train. This is because Hong Kong is one of China’s “Special Administrative Regions” as it used to be a British territory, so it has different visa regulations (at least for the next 40 years). The train itself was then just like any other train I got in China and took just two hours to reach Hong Kong. As you exit the train you again have to go through passport control before you officially enter Hong Kong. Sadly they don’t stamp your passport here, you are just given a small receipt for your stay.
Hong Kong is made up 261 islands and the Kowloon peninsula which is attached to mainland China. As my main purpose for visiting HK is to be reunited with Candy I chose to stay in the Kowloon side nearer to her. Our reunion would have to wait til the evening as she was working during the day. I made my way from the train station to my hostel, walking most of the 20 minute journey under covered walkways between buildings (found all over HK to help people avoid the blazing sun). My hostel was right in the centre of the main tourist hub of Tsim Sha Tsui, next to the metro, which I would become very familiar with. My hostel in HK is the most expensive one I’ve stayed in (standard for HK) but it did come with Netflix in the common area. It’s the small things. After I checked in I joined some fellow travellers who were going for lunch in a cheap Michelin starred restaurant and then on a free walking tour. The food at the restaurant was all dim sum (small dishes) and was quite good, but it took us so long to find the restaurant, having to navigate all the malls and walkways, that we ended up getting to the walking tour 5 minutes late and missing it. We spent the next hour just walking around the market streets before I headed back to the hostel to meet Candy.
Candy and Sunny (Candy’s now fiancé) met me at the nearest metro station and then took me to a nearby Italian restaurant for dinner (we went through so many buildings to get there I couldn’t tell you where it was). Over dinner we caught up on the last year and a half of each other’s lives that we missed since she moved back to HK. It’s lovely to be able to meet new people while travelling, but it’s also so nice to be able to talk to your friends that you already know what their name, age, where they’re from/travelling to (standard travel chat). After dinner we walked around the harbour and took pictures of the night skyline. They then walked me back to my hostel and we arranged to meet the next morning to go sightseeing.
We met on the platform of the Admiral metro station in the morning and then took the metro to Lantau island home of the Tian Tan bronze Buddha statue (as seen on Travel Man with Richard Ayoade and Jon Hamm). To get to the Buddha we took a thirty minute cable car ride over the island which in itself was pretty cool (though queuing for an hour to get it not so much). Before we climbed the final stairs to reach the Buddha we stopped at the neighbouring monastery for a vegan feast for lunch. We then had a quick look around the monestary before climbing the 268 steps up to the main event. From the Buddha’s perch you have a pretty great view of the island, definitely worth the trip. After visiting the Buddha we took the local bus to Tai O village, home to the Tanka people whoa houses are built on stilts above the tidal flats. Walking around this quiet fishing village was probably one of my favourite things I have done so far. Such a unique and peaceful place. After the village we got the bus back to the metro station and headed back to Kowloon for dinner in a hipster vegan restaurant (great bean burger) and then for a wonder around the night street markets where you can buy anything and everything and also witness some questionable street karaoke.
Today it was just me and Candy as Sunny had to work. As yesterday was so jam packed we decided to meet later in the morning so we could have a lie in. We met at the metro station again and took the train to Hong Kong Island (the main business hub of the city). Our first stop of the day was to ride the Central-Mid-Levels Escalator which is the longest covered escalator system in the world (and was also featured in Travel Man). The system covers 800 meters from the central to the mid level area of Hong Kong island and is 135 meters high from bottom to top. I’m not even going to lie this was one of my favourite things in the city. Such a random experience. When we reached the top we turned around and walked back down to the central area (there’s nothing to see in the mid levels area) through the fruit and vegetable stalls. We then got the local bus up to The Peak (aka Victoria Peak, though not the highest peak on HK island) to see the view of the city. For $5 you can go up to the viewing platform, or you can walk round the side of the building and see pretty much the same view for free. We chose the free option. Obviously. After taking in the view we them took the funicular railway (aka the steepest funicular railway I’ve ever been on - 48% incline!) back down to the central area. We then had dinner in a 1950s American themed vegan diner (hidden in a high rise building as with ever shop and restaurant in HK) where I had the best vegan burger and ice cream shake ever! After dinner we got the ferry back to the Kowloon Side and walked along the river side again where we had to say our final goodbyes as Candy would be working the next day. Even though we were only reunited for a short time it was so nice to be able to see her again, especially on her home turf.
Day 4 - Macau
Macau, the other SAR of China, and former Portuguese colony, is only a short ferry ride from Hong Kong, so I decided to take a day trip to visit the Vegas of Asia. When you get off the ferry (after going through passport control again) you are greeted by dozens of dolled up ladies holding signs offering free shuttle busses for the various hotels on the island. As most of the hotels have their own casinos and malls you don’t have to have a reservation to use them, you simple pick the hotel you want to go to and get on. I picked the Venetian as I wanted to see the indoor canal network weaving through the hotel. I’m sure the original hotel in Vegas is more impressive, but seeing a canal on the middle of a hotel (on the second floor!) is still pretty cool. No match for the real Venice though, but a sight nonetheless. After wondering around the hotels mall and canal system for an hour, trying not to get lost (its seriously huge) I then popped over to the adjoining Parisian hotel to see their replica of the Eiffel tower. Again, no match for the real thing? But still pretty cool. I had a quick lunch in the food court (seriously you’d never have to leave the hotel if you didn’t want to) and then made my way back to the bus, through the main casino floor (definitely a sight in itself watching people betting thousands of dollars). I got the shuttle bus back to the port and then hopped on another free shuttle to the Grand Lisboa which was conveniently located near the old Portuguese area of Macau. Although the casinos are the main draw to Macau, walking through the old Portuguese street up to ruins of St Paul’s and to the neighbouring Fortaleza de Monte is definitely more enjoyable and picturesque. You honestly feel like you’re in Portugal. After sampling China’s Portuguese heritage I headed back to the port and caught the ferry back to Hong Kong where I made a last visit to the American diner (seriously the food was amazing!) before calling an end to my Hong Kong visit.
So there you have my few days in Hong Kong and Macau. My holiday with friends, a nice break from the travelling pace I’ve been on up til now.
Next stop Taiwan.