Hong Kong

A weekend in Hong Kong

Hong Kong had been on my wish list for quite some time, and finally I had the opportunity to get there.  It was only a short visit, however like a metaphor for Hong Kong itself, it may have been a small window into the city but it was action-packed and filled with variety.

I arrived early on Friday evening, and what else to do but go out for drinks?  I ditched my bags and headed straight to one of the rooftop bars near my hotel in Causeway Bay to meet some friends for drinks.  The views were gorgeous, the weather was clear and the wine hit the spot.  I was finally starting to relax after a frenetic week at work and the race from the airport.  We finished the evening at a nearby Vietnamese restaurant.  I soon discovered that you could find food from literally any country in the world, and it was almost always delicious.

Hong Kong

Views from the rooftop bar

Despite quite a late night and being absolutely exhausted I woke up quite early on Saturday morning.  The weather forecast for the whole weekend was not very good, so when I looked out the window and saw clear skies I decided to make the most of it and went straight towards the peak.  Victoria Peak is just over 500 metres high and promises fabulous views over the city.  I took the tram, which was a bit of an adventure on its own.  It is an old and rather rickety cable car which goes literally straight up the hill, it’s a very steep ride which gives a taster for the views to come. I was very heartened to read that the tram has never had an accident!

It was a very misty day with clouds rolling in and out, so the views were not as good as they could have been, however just the same it was beautiful.  Looking down towards the city with hundred of high-rise towers reaching for the clouds was incredible.  It’s hard to imagine millions of people living in the tiny space in front of me.

There are also some beautiful walking trails so I took the loop around Victoria Peak itself.  It’s about an hour’s walk, and despite the starting and finishing points being right next to the Peak Tower and Peak Galleria – both packed with shops and people – it was very peaceful.  I passed a number of joggers or locals walking their dogs (just as an aside, they were surprisingly big dogs given everyone lives in a high-rise apartment!) but mostly I had the stunning views to myself.  I was glad to have gotten there early as by the time I took the tram down the peak, there were queues of people waiting to get to the top.  Going early was definitely the right thing to do – my tram on the way up was pretty much empty.

I jumped into a cab and headed to Hollywood Road, also known as “Antique Street” as it’s lined with gorgeous antique shops.  There were beautiful paintings, carpets, ceramics, furniture, textiles, china, jewellery…..it could be an expensive street! However it’s also home to the Man Mo temple, one of the oldest in Hong Kong.  Built around 1842 and nestled at the bottom of multiple high-rise buildings the temple is a reminder of days gone by. It is gorgeous inside, dark and atmospheric as incense, candles and joss-sticks burn, filling the temples with smokiness.

From there it was time to experience yet another side of Hong Kong, and I met up with a friend and headed to Stanley.  He was supporting his work colleagues as they trained for an upcoming Dragon Boating festival.  The beach itself is really pretty, golden sand and a lovely outlook.  There is a market nearby which was an easy place to pass some time.  However along the waterfront there are also many pubs and restaurants and this was a very pleasant place to pass some time as well!

Hong Kong

Stanley

However my day wasn’t over by a long shot – from there I went back to Central and was soon at the Star Ferry terminal ready for my evening’s adventures.  It was time to see Kowloon.  The ferry journey offers the most stunning views back to Central and it’s cheap as chips.  Definitely do not miss this when you are in Hong Kong!

Getting off the ferry I took a little detour through the Peninsula, a stunning hotel built in 1928.  It’s a beautiful space, and I had a little sigh of regret when I had to the leave the plush, elegant foyer and rejoin the chaos in the Kowloon streets.

Kowloon however was fantastic.  It was heaving with people, flashing neon lights, shops, markets….so I dived right in.  I headed to the Temple St night markets and lost myself in the noise and the chaos.  I found densely packed rows of seafood restaurants with tables spilling out onto the pavement, and all overflowing with crowds of people. Feeling peckish I found a tiny little street vendor selling some mysterious food on sticks.  I like to think of myself as an adventurous eater so I pointed to a couple of the sticks and that was my order.  Everything got thrown into a hot brown soupy dish and cooked in front of me before being transferred into a small disposal bowl and thrust into my hands.  They were absolutely delicious and I still have no idea what I ate!

I spent a bit of time wandering through the crowded markets, with stalls mainly selling the same selection of tourist tat.  I was wondering who bought this stuff until I found some lovely pashminas….turns out I do!  Not far from the night markets I stumble across a row of fortune tellers.  They used a variety of methods – cards, palm reading face reading, horoscopes – to tell you your future.  I picked a lady with a friendly face and sat down.  I’m not pinning my hopes on what she had to say, but she did mention great riches and happiness were coming my way.  I have a sneaking suspicion that everyone gets a similar happy fortune.  However it wasn’t a bad way to end my first full day in Hong Kong.

It was raining when I got up the next morning so after a little consideration of what to do, I settled on some shopping.  It is one of the things that Hong Kong is famous for after all so all part of the experience.  I wandered around Causeway Bay lost in the malls before heading to Central. There really is everything imaginable and then some.  All the luxury brands have a big presence, but there’s also plenty of smaller designers and lots of cute little quirky stores with one-off designs.  I meandered my way around a cute little area and found lots of fantastic street art as well small local art galleries and homewares stores.  I eventually found my way to the PMQ.  Once upon a time it was the Police Married Quarters, but it has been renovated and refreshed and is now a creative and designer hub.  It was perfect for me to wile away some time before meeting a friend for lunch at the Aberdeen Street Social, a great little restaurant and clearly very popular with locals and expats.

I still had a bit of room after lunch and I had been told I couldn’t leave Hong Kong without trying a Portuguese egg tart from the Tai Cheong bakery.  I joined the queue and was not disappointed.  Still warm as it was fresh from the oven, it was light and delicious and disappeared in a flash.  I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the various markets in Central – the wet markets in Graham Street, then down to Sheung Wan, the wholesale district to see what was on offer on “Dried Seafood Street” and “Tonic Street”.  It was fascinating.  Then soon enough it was time for dinner, and I met up with friends to explore the area around the Mid-Levels near the escalator.  We wandered around the Soho area trying to decide on what cuisine we felt like before settling on a Colombian restaurant.  There really was a world of opportunity!

You could be mistaken for thinking that every inch of space is taken up as one of the most densely populated places on earth, however it turns out that around 70% of Hong Kong is undeveloped, which means there is some fantastic hiking.  So the next morning I was up early and heading to a hike that had come highly recommended, the Dragon’s Back.

Easily accessible from the city, the walk itself connects two peaks, Wan Cham Shan and Shek O Peak.  The walk is called the “Dragon’s Back” as the undulating trail is reminiscent of the humps of a dragon’s back.  It was a gorgeous walk.  I walked towards Shek O village, starting in a dense, lush jungle.  The air was thick with the sound of birds and cicadas, and I wished I had my proper hiking boots instead of the sneakers I had brought with me.  The path is well maintained, however there were lots of roots which were easy to trip on, and lots of wet leaves making the path quite slippery.  Yet the scenery makes everything worthwhile, offering spectacular coastal views over villages and the islands.

It was a good way to work up an appetite, and by the time I met my friend for a dim sum lunch I was definitely very peckish.  We met at her work, the impressive and iconic HSBC building, before heading to her favourite dim sum restaurant nearby.  It was a fantastic experience, as not only was the food sensational, but I loved the opportunity to experience the culture of the working lunch in Hong Kong.  Not one bottle of wine or beer in sight, it was only jasmine tea!

I only had a few hours until I needed to be at the airport so for my final few hours I found my way to Hong Kong Park, a green respite in the middle of the city, surrounded by high-rises.  It was an incredible space, a beautiful 8-hectare quiet and peaceful antidote to the city buzz around it.  The unlikely Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware was in a beautiful old colonial building and surprisingly interesting.  However my favourite place was easily the Aviary.  It’s designed to resemble a rainforest and the thunderous heavy rainstorm which poured down as I was there was perfectly timed!  You walk through on an elevated wooden walkway so that you are eye level with the trees and the birds – it’s very clever.

It was a short trip but I loved every minute of it.  It was filled with contrasts.  One the one hand there were crowded streets, neon lights, giant shopping malls, enormous towering buildings crowding the streets that seemed to never sleep.  Yet there were temples, beautiful green spaces, incredible hiking and beautiful beaches.  It is a buzzing, vibrant city which seemed filled with opportunity.  Hopefully I will be back there soon, I loved it.

“You can leave Hong Kong, but it will never leave you.”

Nury Vittachi, Hong Kong: The City of Dreams

Hong Kong

Star Ferry

Comments
2 Responses to “A weekend in Hong Kong”
  1. Richard says:

    Rachael, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this account of your fascinating time in Hong Kong.
    Loved looking at the various photos and am amazed at how much you manage to pack in
    on your trips.
    Hope you are well my dear.

    • Hi Richard, I’m glad you enjoyed it! I had a wonderful weekend, it’s a fabulous city. I must confess I was pretty exhausted at the end of the weekend though! I’d love to get back there if I can. I hope all is good with you xx

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