A Travellerspoint blog

Hong Kong

Hong Kong in not long

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View Just a big holiday on ClareAndTom's travel map.

We always knew China was going to be one of the more challenging countries that we were visiting on this trip. We were hoping Hong Kong would break us in gently.

Our flight from Bangkok was relaxing and we arrived ready for whatever lay ahead. Luckily the signs at the airport were in English as well as Chinese script, so we easily found our way to the bus into Kowloon. On the way to the city centre we passed massive skyscrapers towering above us, with huge neon signs hanging precariously from the sides of the buildings. The bus dropped us near Mirador Mansions, a mammoth building in which our hostel, and many others, was located. All the buildings in Hong Kong are huge, but the rooms inside are small – our room for two nights was bigger than we’d been led to believe from the pictures online. We even had a window!

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Trains to Shanghai, our next destination, only run every other day. This left us with just two nights in Hong Kong but we managed some highly efficient sightseeing in the little time we had.

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Our first evening warmed up with a wander along Victoria Harbour to admire the view across to Hong Kong Island. We caught most of the Symphony of Lights – an amusing show in which waterfront buildings put on a light display and introduce themselves to music. Afterwards we visited the Temple Street Night Market, browsing the stalls selling antiques and tacky souvenirs, and ate a late dinner at one of the outdoor restaurants.

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Saturday morning in Hong Kong felt more like a sleepy Sunday, and we struggled to find anywhere for breakfast that was both open and had a menu that we could decipher. We found a café that only sold one dish – wonton noodle soup – so this made ordering easy, and it fuelled us for our day ahead.

We joined a handful of other people on a 150-year-old junk for a tour of the harbour, marvelling at the sheer size and number of skyscrapers, as well as all the other boats using the waterway. After a leisurely hour, we were dropped on Hong Kong Island.

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Following a tip from the very helpful Windy (great name) at the tourist information centre, we visited the International Finance Centre. Here we were allowed up to the 55th floor for great views over the city, and a quick wander round the surprisingly interesting museum of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (the real reason visitors are allowed up).

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Back on ground level, we weaved our way through gardens and between tall buildings to the Peak Tram. After a while queuing (i.e. pushing – this is China after all), we were whisked up to the top of the Peak and into the centre of a shopping mall. It took us quite a while and several escalators before we managed to escape the shops and get to the viewpoint. Despite the haze, it was still an impressive view.

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After lunch on the Peak we returned on the tram and found the (free!) Zoological and Botanic Gardens. We grabbed an ice cream and wandered around the animals – we particularly liked the Buff Faced Gibbons and Orangutans. Seeing the Orangutans so close made us realise what huge creatures they are and what an amazing, and potentially scary, experience it could be if we get to see them in the wild in Borneo next year.

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Our informal walking tour continued through the bar district of Soho, up a couple of stops on the central levels escalator, and on to the atmospheric Man Mo Temple. Unfortunately, this was covered in bamboo scaffolding, but inside the air was filled with incense and chanting.

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We used one of Hong Kong’s ancient and unique wooden double-decker trams to take us along to Hong Kong Park. After a quick stroll around the water features we headed to the harbour and caught the Star Ferry back to Kowloon. This time we managed to see the whole of the Symphony of Lights, with a Cantonese commentary providing additional entertainment, if not information.

On Sunday we headed further out of town, first to the bird market. Here we saw lots of old men doting on caged song birds, and parading them about in ornate cages. We’re not sure if they were trading the birds or just showing them off, but it was fun to watch.

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Our final sightseeing stop in Hong Kong was the Chi Lin Nunnery and attached Nan Lian Gardens. Without wishing to sound clichéd, this was an oasis of calm. The nunnery is apparently the largest collection of handmade wooden buildings in the world, but more interesting were the beautiful gardens. We got caught in a heavy downpour and were kindly lent an umbrella by the staff.

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It was then time for our first experience of Chinese train travel. Stocked up with pot noodles (hot water is provided on the train, so these are the locals’ snack of choice), we boarded our sleeper carriage and settled down for the 19-hour journey. There was a lively atmosphere with people sitting along the corridors, chatting loudly, eating and drinking. There was also lots of throat clearing and burping – perfectly acceptable in public in China. At 10pm the lights abruptly went out, everyone was quiet and we had a good night’s sleep.

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Posted by ClareAndTom 19:24 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (2)

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