Monday, 15 October 2012

Hong Kong Highlights

I've already tried to describe my infectious attraction to Hong Kong, like nerds to Cosplay. It's unnatural and cannot be rationalized. It's also clearly not conducive to writing a sane blog piece (which is already a challenge since my sanity is debatable and can only be stretched so thin). My attempt turned into a mushy love declaration to my sweet husband. Yuk! (Not the husband, the goowy-ness of my public affection.) After all that writing I'm still a little confused as to the origin of my love for Hong Kong, which made me realize that other people (those who read this blog for instance) must be A LOT confused! (So basically, one person then.)

So without all the touchy-feely nonsense here's some concrete "To Do's" if you ever get to Hong Kong. And when you get there, Hong Kong will work it's magic on you and you'll return a smitten, stammering, poop flinging buffoon like me.

Victoria Peak

For the best view of Hong Kong you should make your way up Victoria Peak on Hong Kong Island. You can do this by car or - like the attention seeking idiot we encountered - run! (I'm sure he's an idiot for various reasons, but he ran up the PEAK. WITHOUT A SHIRT!) But by far the best and most popular means of transportation is to have yourself hauled up a mountain in a funicular that was built in the 1880's. The Peak Tramway takes about five minutes from Central District all the way to the top of Victoria peak and it runs from 7am to 12pm. Sit on the right hand side of the car for the best views of the harbour and skyline.

Don't be alarmed, it only feels like you're going to backslide and plummet to your death.

While you're in the queue it's worth spending the extra money to get a "Sky Pass" ticket that gives you access to the "Sky Terrace". That's kind of the VIP section of the peak where all the cool kids hang out. From here you can enjoy the unforgettable 360 degree view of Hong Kong and compare it to the historical photographs on display. You may also pay absurd amounts of money for a warm coke, while watching a helicopter commute a millionaire from one side of town to the other.

If you're really lucky you get to enjoy the scenery before mist rolls over the peak and spills out into the city bowl, engulfing the skyline. Make sure to time it right and hang around till sundown to enjoy the city lights at night. There's a mall if you really must shop, but we opted to enjoy a more reasonably priced beverage in the outdoor square, and laugh at the jogger who finally arrived at the top. Still shirtless and huffing and puffing the glorious 80% humidity that is Hong Kong air. There's also a Madame Tussaud's which I insisted on seeing since I've never been, and was fairly surprised at just how peewee sized Madonna and Lady Gaga is!

There's a look out platform a little ways down the road from where you can take in the city lights. It's quite surreal to see the glaring city that is vibrating with energy while you are floating in a cloud enjoying the slight breeze and the serenade of crickets.


When it comes to shopping, HK is no Bankok (if you've been to Bankok you would know exactly why), but like any other Asian city I've been it's built for the consumer. With shops lining every street and every metro station walk through. Not to mention the massive malls containing every luxury designer brand known to man. Shops are easily accessible with walkways, metro station stops inside a mall, and closing time is around midnight everyday. For a designer hungry South African shoe connoisseur it's a dangerous place, 'cause it's not exactly cheap and it's almost impossible not to get lost in a building like the ifc or icc or any other c's you may come across. Kowloon seem to be a bit cheaper than HK Island and unlike Bangkok where an electronic store on the street is probably selling a knock-off, the stores in Kowloon sell the real-deal for a very good price. In fact it's illegal to sell counterfeit products on the street, so when you get swarmed by an army of pirates with pictures of handbags and watches they store out of sight; do the right thing and just say no!

Temple Street Night Market

 I was a little underwhelmed with the Temple Street Night Market in Kowloon, probably because I was spoiled with the amazing Bankok street markets, or maybe we got there a little early. But if you're looking for some cheap Chinese trash and trinkets to fill the display cases, drawers and trash cans of relatives back home, this is a good place to start. Make sure to haggle on price because it's almost certain that the same junk will be offered at a lower price a few stalls down the road. Upon investigation, I found a number of wonderful markets and shopping streets that is conveniently organised by topic, that is on my list of things to do next time I visit.

The umbrella was originally bought as a gift to my little sister, but it sure came in handy! She also loved the fact that it was still wet with Hong Kong rain when she opened it.

Sushi in Causeway Bay

This vibrant area on HK Island is filled with designer stores, corner takeaways of the Chinese variety (in other words, a hunk of deep fried "I don't know, but it seems to be popular") and an array of sit-down cuisine options. So if raw fish isn't your thing, don't panic, you won't have to go hungry or eat the mystery takeaway. There's also an absurd amount of young people and business men and women, all suited up and lining the side walk outside restaurants waiting for a table at around midnight. MIDNIGHT! I can't wait that long for dinner, I get notoriously cranky when I'm hungry and might just spear someone with my heel!

It may appear that the guy on the left is checking me out, but in reality he can't turn away from the pure look of evil on my face. I might have been growling out of hunger too.
Because it's an Island all food tend to be a little on the expensive side, except the Sushi! Not only is it cheap, it's also the most delicious and utterly fresh, like they just pulled that sucker from the ocean an hour ago. And they probably did, along with some endangered sharks or dolphins. When locals queue outside a restaurant you know the food is good, so after an hour of waiting we finally got a table at... uhm... ehr... a place that sell sushi. (I know right, my standard of "journalistic" travel writing is... lacking, entirely! But to be fair, this was before I had a blog to consider and my brain is pretty much runny honey. And at the time I was severely ill with Hong Kong Fever and was focused on keeping the starving zombie bitch contained.)

If it helps, the place had a poster outside with a pretty Asian girl that looks remarkably a lot like my cousin, which is weird since my cousin is a lot Caucasian.

We had the best sushi of our lives and I'll probably never be able to find the place again, but at least I have the picture as proof. See how much happier (and much less demonic) I look with food in my belly? Crisis averted.

Notice the relief on my hubby's face.

Take a Walk

Yes, it's damn hot and the humidity literally killed my hair, but take to the streets and soak up the unique Hong Kong vibe! It's worth every sticky, frizzy, overheating, crowd-pressing second of it!

Kowloon is a vibrant "more authentic" Chinese experience with over crowded streets, bright neon signs and traditional medicine shops ever so often. IT. IS. AMAZING! And clean, which is equally remarkable.

Don't miss Kowloon Park, a green haven offering children (and adults) swimming pools to escape the heat , groups practising Tai Chi, running trails for the eager jogger, a traditional Chinese garden, wild orchids and an aviary where a water tortoise is sunbathing along with the ducks and swans.

Kowloon Park Aviary
A short subway ride away you find you've stumbled into a western, business driven city, mostly occupied by foreigners. Yes, pregnant women with little blond children in abundance crawling the air-conditioned mega malls. Over-caffeinated business men (and women) rushing past in a suit and tie. (A suit and tie! In that stuffy heat!) Restaurants and bars overflowing with citizens of the world! But regardless, HK Island still has an Asian flavour, almost zen-like quality!

If you can find your way outside a mall, there are walkways connecting buildings throughout Central District. Take a break in one of the many gardens and parks between the skyscrapers, and admire the architecture of some of the most famous buildings in Hong Kong.

The Bank of China

Walk of Stars

On the waterfront of the Tsim Sha Tsui area of Kowloon is the "Walk of Stars", where you will find the names and hand prints of famous Asian stars. I'm a fan of Cantonese films with over-the-top fightings scenes, artistic cinematography and tragic heroes, and consider myself fairly knowledgeable in the genre; but I'm embarrassed to say I only recognised the names of two or three actors. At the end there's a statue of Bruce Lee which I managed to miss altogether, maybe because I was distracted by the recycling bin sign that mistakenly had profanity printed on it. Translation FAIL. I'm so sad that I didn't think to snap a picture of it! (Again, the runny honey and Hong Kong Fever to blame!) It's just too dirty to write in words...

Hey! Now, stop trying to imagine the perverted possibilities written on the recycling bin sign and FOCUS because the next bit is important!

Most importantly, you cannot miss the view of the skyline of HK Island from here. It takes your breath away...every time. Every night at 20:00 there is the "Symphony of Lights", a spectacular show that involves all the buildings on the Island skyline.

If none of these highlights tickle you fancy, well then there's always Hong Kong Disneyland, or Wednesdays there are horse races at the track in Happy Valley. Or take the ride of your life on the longest outdoor escalator system in the world! I'd have to go back just for that! Any excuse, right?

So now I've cronicled an entire itinerary of first hand experiences to enjoy in Hong Kong, and then some. Any other "must do's" you can add? I'm already mapping out my plan of attack for my next visit! Hopefully this could be helpful to someone in some way, or at the least be entertaining. I maintain that no one is immune to the charm of Hong Kong, and it's impossible not to have a grand time. But I'm sorry to say my itinerary features something wonderful and enviable, no-one elses could... This guy!

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant!!!!! I enjoyed every moment of the journey!!