This is a sort of joint post of my two trips to Hong Kong. I first visited for a couple of days at the end of my trip across China and then returned for 10 days when my brother and his wife Isi moved to Hong Kong. I first arrived in Hong Kong by train. As soon as I walked out the station it felt totally different to the rest of China. Obviously it is different, but after three weeks in China the first thing I noticed was a huge sign on a building saying ‘Jesus is Lord’, and people with funky hairstyles and outfits. Hong Kong is by far one of the most fascinating cities I have been to. It is huge, the skyscrapers are incredible. There are excellent markets, street food and cafe’s and then the extreme opposite with rooftop bars and world class restaurants. There are also amazing hills to hike, beaches and islands to visit. It is diverse, and feels alive and exciting compared to some other Asian cities I have visited. Most people will visit as part of a stop over or for a week max, so we managed to fit in quite a lot in our 10 days. Obviously we were lucky to have local tour guides and also some old school friends who have moved there too!
A morning of market shopping at the famous Jade market, Yau Ma Tei Fruit Market and Wet Market. Lunch at a local place. I had fried noodles and beef brisket. We visited Tin Hau Temple (Shanghai Street) which was heady with incense. We walked through Mong Kok along Flower Street and Fish Street, which as the names suggest had flower shops and fish and pet shops. Our first evening meal was a sushi picnic at West Kowloon promenade with full view of Hong Kong island. It was all lit up and we watched the Symphony of Lights, a permanent nightly light show across 42 buildings. We walked back through a shopping centre with an ice rink and Haagen Dazs ice cream shop and got the bus home.
We caught the metro and bus to Stanley beach. Visited Stanley market and had the biggest slice of pizza I’ve ever seen at Paisano’s. We spent the day swimming and chilling at beach. Evening cocktails and incredible city view at Eyebar. Dinner at Din Tai Fung, an affordable Michelin Star Chinese restaurant. Zane and Isi ordered for us: Hai Gao (Shrimp Dumplings), Xi Long Bao (Soup Dumplings), Char Siu Bao (Sweet roasted pork bun), Spinach and Garlic, Cold Fish, Rice, Noodles and Red Bean Bun. The food was incredible. There is no way we would have known what to order without them! We ended the night with drinks and live jazz at Ned Kelly’s Last Stand.
We caught the ferry to Macau. Hopped on the free shuttle to Grand Lisboa Casino and walked through the Old Town. Macau was a Portuguese territory until 1999 so the architecture, churches and beautiful tiles are all Portuguese. The streets were rammed with people. We walked along very slowly in the crowd and tried the street food on offer: Portuguese custard tart, roasted cured pork, sausage and little almond biscuits that dry out your mouth. We briefly visited the Macao museum before catching a taxi to Fernandos by the beach for Portuguese chicken, chips and white Sangria.
We had pre-booked tickets to see the House of Dancing Water at the Hard Rock cafe. The House of Dancing Water is a huge water production written and directed by Franco Dragone. It features over 80 gymnasts, circus artists, dancers, divers, actors, and motorcyclists. The purpose built stage can apparently hold 3.7 million gallons of water, the same as 5 Olympic swimming pools. It has moving stage lifts which change the depth of the water from nothing to deep enough for divers jumping from a 24 metre high platform. The story was difficult to follow. Something to do with a King, Queen and princess in need of saving. Set in imperial China, but with African men, a very bendy man, pirates, Mother Earth, a zebra, giraffe, prisoners, divers, acrobatics and bikers. Regardless of the story it is a very impressive show. Well worth watching!
After the show we walk through the huge shopping centres and casinos. Stopped at a food court for dinner. I had Udon Noodles with Roast Pork. And then we dragged our four tired selves back to the shuttle and caught the ferry back to Hong Kong.
We caught a bus to Sai Kung and a taxi to the country park and hiked down to Sai Wan beach where we spent the day. At the end of the day we caught a boat back to Sai Kung, where some of our friends live. Sai Kung is lovely, there are fisherman selling freshly caught fish from their boats, people wandering around with their dogs in prams and lots of seafood restaurants. We had a seafood dinner and bought a selection of puddings from Honeymoon Dessert to take around to our friends. We had a lovely evening on their rooftop catching up over coffee and pudding.
We had a slightly quieter day. Breakfast at Mido Cafe - French toast and condensed milk. We wandered around the markets and had coffee at Kubrick Cafe and Art Deco book shop. We chilled at Zane and Isi’s apartment and made the most of the facilities - we played table tennis and swam in the pool. We went to the Olympic Shopping Centre to Tim Ho Wan Dim Sum Restaurant for another excellent Chinese dinner. Zane and Isi ordered again: Chicken feet, Baked pork bun, Sai Mai Lo (Glutinous rice and meat in a banana leaf), shrimp dumplings, pork and shrimp Siu Mai, Congee with meat and 1000 year old egg, Turnip cake, Meatballs, Pork and chicken foot rice, vermicelli pork rolls and egg sponge cake. It was good. Even the chicken feet.
Breakfast at Nathans Congee and Noodle Shop. We caught the MTR to Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Gardens. We walked along the Avenue of stars and the sculptures outside the art galleries. We caught the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island for HKD 2.80 (about 20p). We walked through Hong Kong Park and caught the tram up to Victoria peak for dusk and some incredible views of the city. Dinner was at Bubba Gump on the Peak. I had the shrimp and shared some enormous puddings: key lime pie, cinnamon ice-cream sponge and a trio of puddings. We finished the evening at The Mira for mojitos.
After a morning swim, jacuzzi and sauna at the apartment we went out for some street food in ladies market. Isi created a mini tour for us. We tried Char siu bao, pineapple bun, banana sweet, wife cake, stinky tofu, sweet pastries and bubble tea. We started the evening at Brickhouse for cocktails before the Happy Valley races. Happy Valley racecourse is an excellent night out. The entry fee is about £1 - we just scanned our Octopus cards (like Oyster). It is on every Wednesday night from September to July. It is packed with people all out for a good night. After the races we went to Wan Chai for ladies night and danced the night away to live bands.
Tired and slightly worse for wear on an overcast day we caught the MTR to Tung Chung. We caught the Ngong Ping 360 gondola cable car. The cable car is a nerve wracking 3.5 mile bi-cable gondola lift system travelling between Tung Chung and Lantau Island. During the 25 minute journey you can see the Lantau Country Park, South China Sea, International Airport, valleys, hills, waterways and the Tian Tan Buddha (Big Buddha), where we were heading. If your nerves can take it you have the option of a cable car with a glass floor so you can see everything below you. We went for the standard option. Tian Tan Buddha is in Ngong Ping and near Po Lin Monastery, the centre of Buddhism in Hong Kong. The bronze buddha is 34 metres high. It is impressive and definitely worth climbing up and walking around. After the buddha we visited Tai O fishing village, a short bus ride from the buddha. Tai O is a picturesque quaint Hong Kong fishing village with stilt houses and a traditional fresh and dried seafood market. In the evening we caught the MTR to Tai Po (North Hong Kong) to meet Isi’s granny and uncle Bac Bac at his local pub for a drink and dinner. He bought us some takeaway roast duck and goose which we ate in the pub.
We caught the ferry to Lamma Island. Lamma has a free-spirited laid back vibe. It is known as the hippy island. Just a 20 minute ferry from Hong Kong, there are hiking trails, beaches, indie boutiques, cafes and craft shops. We explored, looked at the shops, got lost, visited beach and had seafood rolls for lunch and condensed milk peanut butter waffles. We had Mexican for dinner and went to Ozone for a cocktail. It is the highest bar in Hong Kong (the second highest in the world). It is so high, the view of the buildings is way below you. It is a very cool impressive bar but quite pricey, hence the one cocktail. After Ozone we went out for a bar crawl in Lang Kwai Fong (LKF). The whole area was packed with people drinking in the streets. We alternated between beers from the 7-11 (they have a bottle opener at the end of the counter) and the different bars cocktails and live music. We ended the night in a very chilled little bar with a guy playing guitar. Two extreme contrasts in one night… from £20 cocktails to £1 beers.
After a late start we had lunch at the Olympian city food court. Eating out in Hong Kong is cheap, often cheaper than eating at home and so much choice on offer. In the afternoon we walked through Temple street market and had our last dinner was at Spicy crab. We shared chicken noodles, oyster pancake, duck and garlic pak choi.
Apologies for the long post. If you made it this far I applaud you. I hope I have given you some good ideas of things to do and convinced you that Hong Kong is more than just the sky scrapers and craziness…
Last Stop: Yangshuo
Next Stop: Hanoi