After a very painful 13 hour plus flight from Vancouver we landed at Hong Kong airport around 6pm. The airport is actually about 30km outside the heart of Hong Kong, but fortunately it has a great public transport system to get around. For about $10 Canadian the ride on the Airport express to town takes 24 minutes.
We chose not to stay on Hong Kong island itself as it is a little more upscale, so we ended up staying at a hotel called the Butterfly on Prat in Kowloon, which is just across the bay. Not quite into the Southeast Asian prices yet it cost about $90 a night for the room, but it was a nice room in a good location, once you get past the see-through bathroom windows and doors. I'm not really sure what the Chinese are into, but with Melissa and I there were very strict instructions on what area of the room we were allowed to be in when someone was in the bathroom. By the time we got ourselves settled we were pretty well beat from the flight so went straight to bed.
Feb. 1 - First true day of holidays, always a
Coming into Hong Kong
good feeling. I started the day watching a riveting team video game show, definitely lets you know you're in Asia. The goal for the morning was to experience a true Chinese breakfeast/lunch of dim sum. First thing we set off on a little walk around the area. The cultural shock isn't too bad, probably due to the fact that most cities have a China town area, so its not completely new. We made our way over to Kowloon park, still fairly early in the morning, so we caught some of the morning Tai Chi, and what appeared to be just a bunch of locals singing and playing instruments... We didn't spend long in the park, but it gave us a similar feel to Central Park with the skyscrapers surrounding the greenery. One thing we didn't anticipate was the humidity in Hong Kong. Average temperatures for the time of year rarely top 20C, so we didn't expect it to be so hot. We ended up heading back to the hotel to change out of the jeans we so unnecessarily packed.
We asked the guy at the front desk to point us to a good place for dim sum. He gave
Butterfly On Prat
Notice the see through sliding door, plus window. There was another window on the other side you could see through if you were laying in bed. Very strange design...
us some directions, and we set off. We got in the general area, and could not find the name of the place he wrote, so we picked another one. Once we got in and seated, I figured we had a good place as it was really busy, and we were the only white people in there so it probably wasn't a tourist spot. After sitting around for a bit not having a clue how to order or what to do, and our waitress couldn't really speak english, we managed to order some food. First thing we received was our tea, seems pretty straighforward... Not when you look around and see people pouring tea in their dishes, washing the cups, chopsticks, bowls, anything on the table with the tea. Now we weren't sure whether we were even supposed to drink the stuff. Some people hate this situation, but I think a huge part of going somewhere new is looking and feeling like a fool while you try to figure out what the hell is going on. Once we got our food, it was a bit hit and miss. Melissa enjoyed the shrimp dumplings, while I was a big fan of the
BBQ pork puffs. We also had chicken spring rolls which were fine, but neither of us were big fans of the rice with cabbage and spicy pork. For 56 HKD ($7.50 CDN), we thought it was pretty good value.
As we only had a day, the only other plan was to head up to Victoria Peak, which is basically a big hill on Hong Kong island with some great views of the skyline, providing the smog isn't too bad. Fortunately we had a great day, as it was warm, and pretty clear.
We walked along the Avenue of Stars (Hong Kong's version of the Hollywood one) to Victoria Harbour to catch the iconic Star Ferry. Originating in 1888, for about 20 cents the ferry runs across the harbour to a few different points on both islands. We took the Tsim Sha Tsui (area of Kowloon we stayed in) to Central route to catch a bus to the peak tram station.
There's a few different ways to get up to the viewpoint at Victoria peak, but we chose to take the tram as its also a bit of an attraction. Over about 1 km, you go up in
elevation about 1300 feet, with a maximum grade reached of 27 degrees, it is definitely an experience in itself.
Once at the top, we paid the extra to go to the main viewpoint, did some shopping, and blew the budget to have a drink at the Bubba Gump Shrimp company (also a very iconic and authentic Chinese restaurant)... but it did have great views. After cooling off we exited the viewpoint and took a walking path that goes about 3 km around the north part of the island, we highly recommend it as it had some even better views than the top.
We went back to the hotel to have a bit of a rest, then went out for some supper before heading to the Avenue of Stars to watch the Symphony of Lights show at 8pm. Basically the buildings on both the Hong Kong and Kowloon sides light up at night, then they have some music and lasers, flashing lights, etc. Not a great show, but seeing the skyline at night is a must do.
We had a pretty early flight into Phnom Penh (5am wakeup), so we headed back to the hotel. In the morning we
Avenue of Stars
Looking across the harbour to Hong Kong Island
took a taxi to the Kowloon airport express station, where you actually check your bag and print your boarding pass before you get onto the train to the airport.
Overall, Hong Kong was a neat city for a stopover, but you probably don't need to spend more that 2 or 3 days to see the rest of the city. It definitely has the big city, overly crowded and busy feel to it, so I was more of a fan than Melissa was.
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