Well, I had better write something about my trip to Hong Kong before I forget…….
It had been on my must visit list for years so I finally got around to getting the air ticket and ticking it off. Surprisingly, Thai International had cheaper fares than Air Asia or any of the other budget airlines. The flight to Hong Kong was full, but on the return trip the plane was almost empty and they offered myself and a few other frequent flyer members an upgrade to the business class …bonus !
I am unashamedly a “cheap charlie” when it comes to accommodation, all I need is a comfortable bed and a secure place to leave my bag, I’ve no need for infinity pools, spas and 101 cable tv channels so I booked in to the Jas guesthouse through Agoda, and was pleasantly surprised. The room was small, but then it is Hong Kong where all hotel rooms are small, but the bed was comfortable, room was secure and came with aircon, free wifi, and cable tv …not bad for a backpacker place. It is also right next to the Tsim Sha Tsui railway station and an airport bus stop which made it very convenient to get to.
I have to say that Hong Kong’s public transport has to be experienced to believe just how good it is. One stored value “Octopus “ card to use on all forms of transport, which are clean, fast, frequent and airconditioned (well, apart from the Star Ferry ) and connect seamlessly.
Hong Kong is of course known as a shopper’s paradise and although I was there mainly for sight-seeing I could n’t help looking through the camera stores. Camera gear here in Bangkok is not particularly cheap, but Hong Kong did n’t seem to offer any bargains and the range on show was pretty limited too. The shops had most of the manufacturers’ range, but very little after-market stuff. I was hoping to find a particular GPS logger for my camera which is made by a Hong Kong company but nobody had even heard of it.
There is a huge Apple store in one of the glitziest malls, 2 floors of i-stuff which was packed whenever I went past it. And all the fancy luxury brand names were there of course, the city reeks of money.
Here in Bangkok the street markets are actually on the footpaths and block pedestrian traffic, but in Hong Kong they have the wisdom to close off a few streets and have the markets there, such as the famous “Temple Street’ and Ladies markets.
On every tourists to do list is a trip on the Peak tram …be warned that there may be 200 other people trying to get up there at the same time, and hundreds more at the top already, so don’t expect a quiet time. And as one of the locals standing next to me in the queue said (derisively) “Mainlanders have no manners” as he blocked a group of mainlanders from ducking under the rope to jump the queue in front of him.
If you are lucky and get a fine clear day then the views might be worth it but when I went up it was rather dull and dreary, so I had to do quite a bit of processing on this photo:
In fact the weather for the whole week was not the best for photography, overcast and hazy nearly all the time. The only decent spell of blue skies and sunshine was for a few hours on my last full day when I went out to Lantau island.
Although Hong Kong, and especially Hong Kong Island, is known for it’s urban jungle of skyscrapers there are many small parks and “sitting out” places around the town. One of these is the “Bird Garden” where people take their caged songbirds for some fresh air. Nearby is a flower market and a “fish keepers market” well worth a look.
On the island there is a small zoo, and nearby Hong Kong Park has a walk through aviary, pleasant gardens to relax in, and with free wifi !
Another spot that many tourists go to is the Man Mo Temple. Perhaps I am just blasé about temples from living in Thailand, but I found this place a bit underwhelming….
On the other hand, I thoroughly recommend a trip to the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island. I did it as a round trip starting with a ferry from Central to Mui Wo, then a bus along the coast and up to the monastery with it’s huge Buddha on top of the hill… said to be the world’s biggest bronze outdoor sitting Buddha ( a few caveats there !)
Then by cable-car back down to sea level terminating near the airport, on the way you can see the mammoth bridge they are building all the way to Macau via an island off the Chinese mainland. And back to TST by train, all modes of transport paid for with that one octopus card ! Getting one of those really is the first thing you should do after arriving at HK airport.
Next ….part 2, the urban landscape. Warning, arty(?) photos ahead.