Hong Kong: More than just a city!! (pt.1)

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June 11th 2015
Published: July 22nd 2015
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Hong Kong by nightHong Kong by nightHong Kong by night

Taken from the 360 view point on Victoria peak
Stepping outside into the streets of Hong Kong, huge smiles formed across our faces. We were hit by the bright neon signs and tried to take in the tall buildings that surrounded us. The many pedestrian shoppers, cars and the brightly coloured cabs that created a functioning but chaotic scene on the wide streets. Everything moved; people, traffic, shop sellers, shoppers, people going to and from work. Everything. Everything had a purpose, a direction and we stood there completely out of place trying to take in our surrounds. Wow! We liked the feel of it. The city was alive and it only grew as the day drew into night...

...Before that moment however we arrived in Hong Kong at stupid o'clock in the morning (due to our cheaply booked 2am flight) we quickly exited the huge airport and made our way to the bus station. To travel to the harbour front on Kowloon island we caught the A21 bus which took an hour and dropped us off at a stop practically on the doorstep to where we were staying.

Like many other people on the bus, P could not stay awake for the journey and so Chris put his headphones in to help him stay alert so we would not to miss our stop. The views however was all that was needed to keep him awake as he was stunned by the combination of soaring mountains, skyscrapers and an incredibly long suspension bridge that we crossed. The bus even provided a short pre-recorded narration for each landmark it passed.

After we got off the bus we we went straight to our budget accommodation; Asia Inn, where we were greeted by the most rude and ignorant man. He opened the door looking annoyed and asked us sharply what we wanted. We explained we had booked a room to which he quickly replied "not at this time". It was around 6am, we were tired and explained we had caught an overnight flight and had included this information on the booking form with a fairly accurate arrival time. We therefore asked if we could wait somewhere until check in. He became more annoyed saying he had been sleeping and did not know if he had a room available. We explained we had a room booked but this obnoxious guy turned around saying that a booking doesn't mean anything. Quite annoyed ourselves now, we replied that he should not advertise rooms if there was no availability and agreed we would find another place elsewhere. Worried he may lose our custom he quickly became slightly more reasonable and told us to wait, that is before shutting the door in our faces. Our patience was being tested we had a good mind to leave until he told us we were "lucky" - he had found us a room. Like he had done us a favour. Lucky!!? If we had not paid a booking fee deposit there was no way we would have stayed here. But we had so we did. For the rest of our stay, we avoided this man although whenever he was in the presence of the hotel owner (his manager) he was a different person; ever so polite. A real idiot he was.

We had heard about the limited space you get inside the rooms in Hong Kong and so we were not too surprised when we opened the door to our double room to find we were nearly touching the opposite wall. To say these rooms are small is an understatement...they are TINY. It had a double bed in it but not enough space for 2 people move about freely. God knows how other people staying here with large suitcases managed. Many people had left their suitcases in the corridor clearly unable to fit it in their room.

Another annoying quality about our room was the lack of windows and so most mornings we often slept in later than planned due to it being pitch-black no matter what time of day. Of course this was when the lights were off. If only we had one of those sunrise lamps we had in our capsules back in Japan that brightens up the room up at the set time, we would have been saved. Of we could have listened to our alarms. All this for $200 hkd a night (£20), we could have treated ourselves to pure luxury for that price Indonesia.

After having a little rest we forced ourselves to get up so we could arrange our Chinese visas. We went to several places, all of which were quoting really high prices of well over 1000 HKD each (£100+pp). All to process our visas in 2 working days but due to it being Thursday this in turn meant 5 days. In the end we went to another guesthouse that a fellow travelblogger had used 'Pearl Guesthouse' in Mirador Mansions (down the street) and paid a cheaper but still fairly expensive $830 hkd each for 30 days. The visas were due on the following Monday so we had 4.5 days to kill in total. Hong Kong is not a place for the frugal.

When talking to someone else during our stay, they were of the understanding that Chinese visas are more expensive for the English to obtain as England charges an extortionate amount for the Chinese to enter. Why not reciprocate the gesture? Although this was annoying for us at this time, we actually liked the idea. How true or not we don't really know.

The day of our arrival was pretty much going back and forth trying to find a place to get our visas arranged and so there is nothing much else to say for this day. We heard that going to the embassy directly is hard work as you need proof of where you are staying for the duration (with it all booked) and your exit out of the country also booked. We opted for the easy option albeit one that came with a premium. A visa agency.

On our first full day we set out to see one of Hong Kong's less visited but worthwhile islands: Lamma Island, that came recommended to us by bloggers RENanDREW

To get here we had to catch a ferry from Central Pier taking around an hour. This journey was really scenic as we were able to enjoy the river front views of all the sky scrapers on both Kowloon Peninsular and Hong Kong Island.

We both agreed that even though Hong Kong is very built up, it is built up in such a sophisticated way that it was nothing less than beautiful. We watched as we passed the city's big sky scrapers all reflecting in the sun due to their glass cladded exterior. As we kept moving these huge skyscrapers made way to smaller ones for local businesses. This was reflected in the size (some very narrow builds), design and grandeur as we got further away from central. Nestled among them were many high rise apartment blocks for the locals. Many built in bold white square blocks.

As the ferry sailed further away (jerking abruptly on occasion) we were taken aback by the fact that even though mountains appeared on Hong Kong peninsular this did not stop the appearance of sky scrapers on the slopes and even the top of mountains. The sky was clearly the limit.

Lamma Island was a lot less built up. More green and peaceful compared to the concrete jungles of Kowloon. We docked at Yung Shue Wan which is a quaint little fishing village. Walking through we passed many restaurants with huge fishtanks swirling with fish, lobsters, crabs and all other sorts of catches for you to choose fresh seafood from. Alongside them were stores that sold dried fish on display, either all hung out or in baskets outside their stores.

These stores were clearly targeted at Hong Kong or Chinese tourists and offered a different perspective on the tourism we usually experience and so as we strolled through we took our time to enjoy it all as after-all we were not their target customer.

As we walked further inland, the small stone building structures disappeared and we were surrounded by more beautiful greenery. The trail was well paved so even though it often sloped up and down we could enjoy the relaxing nature of the walk without it being too physically tiring. Saying this, it didn't stop us sweating immensely under the summer heat.

As we walked across the island trail we stopped by at the many different attractions. First a wind turbine perched at the top of a sweat inducing hill. This served as a nice break as we read the information on renewable energy. Next was the Hung Shing Yeh beach which was a nice golden sandy beach with many tourists taking a dip in the sea. We didn't bother hopping in ourselves though. Despite the hot weather it still looked cold. Other stops included peaceful hilltop pavilions to admire the islands hilly landscape and fishing villages within but also provided a chance for a breather. We also passed a cave (that we only peeked into from the outside) and a tree that was covered by a strangling tree - we had never seen anything like that before.

We took our time as we enjoyed the slow pace of the island, its lush beauty and the remoteness of it all. We finished the trail at Sok Kwu Wan fishing village where we caught a ferry back to the mainland.

P's stomach had been playing up so although the plan was to eat at the fishing village, then visit the promenade and the Avenue of the Stars, we went straight back to our place for some rest.

Later that evening we went back out to Temple street in Kowloon - popular with foreign and domestic tourists alike. Temple street is a very long and narrow street covered from top to bottom in tourist goods ranging from mobile phone accessories, clothes, paintings and other strange gadgets to food eateries. Food here was pretty cheap for Hong Kong standards although still not too friendly on our backpacker pocket :/

Our next blog continues with our time spent in Hong Kong as we delve a little deeper into its history and get a glimpse of its future..

Additional photos below
Photos: 24, Displayed: 24


The beginnings of HKThe beginnings of HK
The beginnings of HK

In the HK history museum

23rd July 2015
Iconic HK

I love that skyline...
Glad you had the time to go to Lamma Island - I love it when super-built up cities have pockets of nature that can be accessed so easily.
23rd July 2015
Iconic HK

Beautiful skyline
Us too. We particularly loved that about Hong kong. It was not your usual green space but a beautiful island that wasn't too built up at all. Like Singapore the balance between nature and construction was exceptional.
23rd July 2015

Glad you saw more than the city
I'm glad you got to go out to the islands - many people just see the city centre and the shops, not knowing that there is a lot of green with hiking and boats going everywhere!
25th July 2015

Glad you saw more than the city
Doubt we would have enjoyed our stay as much otherwise. That's a shame for those people as it really was very accessible too. The cost, the time it took. Plus when we got to the islands especially Lamma island it was just so serene and tranquil.

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