Okay, it’s official- we have now traveled halfway around the world! Hong Kong was very much how I imagine NYC to be: skyscrapers, people, nightlife, yummy food and tons of shopping opportunities!
As a first-timer to Asia, I think Hong Kong is a great first stop on a China or Southeast Asia tour mainly because we found the city very easy to navigate, and it was easy to communicate with people. Although Cantonese and English are the official languages, nearly everywhere we went most of the people spoke English, so we felt comfortable exploring the city on our own. Everyone seemed welcoming and considerate.
“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”
There are tons of things to see and do, including Victoria Harbor, beaches, and the biggest sitting Buddha in the world- all accessible by public transportation. And if you don’t want to catch one of the double-decker buses or metro trains, taxis are cheap and plentiful.
A ‘ding-ding’ tram on Hong Kong Island.
Our adventure begins with a quick layover in Houston to catch our flight to Tokyo’s Narita airport on ANA Airlines. The service of the staff was amazing! The inflight services included wifi, beer and wine, a self-serve snack bar with fresh fruit, Japanese snacks and soup on request in addition to meal service with a smile. As we were departing the crew lined up to send us off with waves and a bow. This will not be our last flight on this airline.
On approach to Tokyo’s Narita airport for a quick layover.
We asked our son what was the first order of business when you land in Japan, his answer..Sushi!
Great Sushi! On to Hong Kong.
After a brief stop at the ATM to pull some Hong Kong dollars from our account, we queued up in the taxi line. Our taxi shuttled 3 very tired, but excited travelers to our apartment.
We rented an apartment via AirBnb in Ocean Shores which is in Tiu Keng Leng on the east side of Hong Kong. Our host Sven was wonderful, helping us every step of the way. After getting settled in, it is a must to purchase your Octopus Card. It is a reloadable card that you can use to purchase metro and bus fares, and even some fast food joints.
Travel Tip: Take a cell phone photo of important signs such as ATM, your train station, route map, hotel, etc. in the local language. It’s much easier to show the photo on your phone to ask someone for help.
Our 2nd day there, we were off and running on the metro, exploring Hong Kong island which is the equivalent of Manhattan in NYC. The HK financial hub is located there along with quirky little antique shops, boutique hotels and a few historical surprises. We saw a long line so we jumped in! The Tai Cheong Bakery is famous with locals and tourist for their amazing egg tarts, they have locations all over Hong Kong. We were fortunate to get ours warm from the oven. Yummmm!
One moment it’s all skyscrapers, high end shopping and trendy restaurants- then you turn a corner and bam! there’s Man Mo Temple built in 1847. In my mind, this was classic Chinese architecture with curved roofs, and curlicued stone dogs guarding the entrance. This temple was patronized by scholars and students seeking good fortune on their civil exams.
The Temple Street Night Market is like a county fair, farmers market and flea market all rolled into one. Here you can purchase everything from souvenirs, to household goods to fresh produce. Starting around 8 at night, the streets are transformed into a huge outdoor restaurant where many vendors set up tables for hungry locals and tourists. The seafood is so fresh, it’s still swimming in aerated kiddie pools! There are also fortune tellers, karaoke bars and massage parlors which are very tempting after touring the city on foot all day.
Nearly every where we went on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, there were street vendors selling fresh fruit, souvenirs and household items.
Bamboo is used all over Hong Kong as scaffolding, as Jackie Chan said “Bamboo is stronger than steel”.
Wong Tai Sin Temple This Taoist temple is famous for prayers answered: “What you request is what you get”. We requested a return trip to this wonderful city.Feeling a bit of the ‘star treatment’ when this visitor wanted to take a photo with me instead of the bronze lions guarding the temple’s entrance!
Ok, funny story. We took the train into Central Station to see the nightly laser light show. The IFC mall is attached to the train station, so we got some basic directions and started walking and walking and walking. The mall was huge and we could not find our way out! Here we are lost in a huge mall enjoying the kids play area and asking for help!
After asking a couple of employees, who for some reason did not know the way out to the pier, we found a person who directed us out to the street to a taxi stand. On to the laser show!
For dinner we decided on Dim Sum… Yum!! Most Hong Kongers have dim sum for breakfast, but considering our bodies were still on Eastern time at night, it worked out well for us!
No visit to HK is complete without a tour of Victoria Harbor. There’s no better way to see it than Star Ferry which has been shuttling passengers between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon since 1888. Victoria Harbour is amongst the world’s busiest with an average of 220,000 ships, both oceangoing vessels and river vessels, visiting the harbour each year. The new Kai Tak cruise terminal sits on the Kowloon side of the harbor.
Some of the best noodles we’ve ever had gave us a boost of energy to continue our evening’s exploration!
Hong Kong is home to the longest escalator in the world! The Hong Kong Central – Mid-Levels Escalator system runs a length of 800 meters (about half a mile) and climbs 135 meters in elevation. In the morning the stairs run down for commuters on their way to work, and in the afternoon, they go uphill to take them home.
Tian Tan Buddha, also known as the Big Buddha, is a large bronze statue of Buddha Shakyamuni, completed in 1993, and located at Ngong Ping, Lantau Island, in Hong Kong. To get there you can either take a bus up the mountain or take the Amazing Ngong Ping 360 cable car ride. The views are breathtaking!
After the cable car ride into the clouds, now 268 steps to see the Buddha!
As amazing as the Buddha was, the detail of the bronze statues of the Seven Divas making their offerings to the Buddha, was even more so.
Back to the metro station and yes another mall. Dev warned us about venturing in to far, he did want us to get lost again :-).
Rise and shine! It is time to catch our plane back to Narita, Japan.
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