It was a sunny day as we approached the island in a ferry at around 2 in the noon. It humid with a taste of sea moss in the air as we landed. We carried our packed bags and headed towards the immigration. As we presented our passports at the counter, a lady in uniform with a straight face asked us to follow her. A short walk later, we entered a sitting area where she hands us over to another officer. This officer breaks the ice by greeting us but disappears with our passports for a while. As we look at each other with blank expressions, he shows up and asks us a few questions. Hesitantly, in front of other travelers in the room, we share our personal details so that, yes, he could disappear again. This repeats for few times until at last he returns our passports with a smile and says - “Welcome to Hong Kong!” Upon completing the formalities, with a sigh of relief we rushed towards the exit to start our much awaited Hong Kong journey!
Hong Kong, officially known as Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, is an autonomous territory on the southern coast of China at the Pearl River Estuary and the South China Sea. Hong Kong is known for its skyline and deep natural harbor.
After the 3 days stay in Macau and gotten used to the Chinese food, we reached Hong Kong to get awestruck by the mile high skyscrapers everywhere. The sky is the limit! In Hong Kong though, the surrounding hills are! Apparently, a local law restricts the buildings to get any higher than the surrounding hills, so they had to be "restricted" to these heights! Phew! Our coach gently drove past the buildings and through a long tunnel to reach Kowloon where we had booked our hotel.
Hong Kong consists of 3 main regions - the main Hong Kong Island, Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories. Hong Kong Island is the main business district with many of the skyscrapers concentrated here, with other attractions like "The Peak" and "Ocean Park". Kowloon is a commercial hub and is one of the most densely populated places on the planet, with matching array of places to shop, eat and sleep.
After we checked in, I was preparing to get fresh and throw myself on the comfy bed staring at me. But my nephew Gnan had other things in mind. He had one information about Hong Kong that he cared the most – electronics. He had already convinced his dad and kept aside a few hundred dollars for an X-Box One and was waiting patiently till we reached the hotel. Now that we are technically in Hong Kong, he wanted the console, immediately. Without wanting to mess with a 12 year old, we obliged and agreed to step out for shopping. A few minutes of walk brought us to Nathan Road which is a huge boulevard that reminded me of NYC in the movies. This street in Tsim Sha Tsui was a wide, arrow straight avenue, with colorfully lit fascia and ad-boards on either sides. Connecting to this avenue were more shopping streets. The noisy roads were dominated by the Toyotas of the red cabs of Hong Kong.
More than a mere district, Tsim Sha Tsui is a giant world bazaar, where Hong Kong’s glittering harbor is met by an alternate sea of stalls, shops, markets and malls. The shopping extends beyond Nathan Road to clothing, accessories and souvenirs bargain - the Ladies Market; to trinkets, tea ware, antiques in Temple Street.
Soon we found an electronic shop and walked straight to the gaming section and bought x-box with no second thought. We roamed further and did some more shopping – this time for the grown-ups.
On the quiet morning of the next day at 8, our coach arrived to take us to our first destination - the Victoria peak.
Victoria Peak is a mountain in the western half of Hong Kong Island. This is a famous vantage point to get a panoramic view the harbor and the Hong Kong skyline.
After a quick drive in the rush hour traffic, we reached the tram station, which I heard was the ride to be taken to the peak. We got inside the old red tram which looked Victorian era and secured a seat on one of the wooden benches. The ride was near vertical and on the move it gives a sense of elevation. Unsurprisingly all cameras come out as the tram slowly climbed revealing the city’s skyline. And yes, there were those unavoidable selfies too...
Upon reaching the peak, we were able to finally “look down” on the buildings on the Island. All the famous buildings were in sight like – the International Commerce Center towards your left which is the tallest building in Hong Kong, followed by the Finance Center and the triangular Bank of China amidst the lesser known buildings.
After our sightseeing, we were dropped off at the Kowloon water front in the evening. It was around 6 and a cool breeze from the sea was greeting us. We took a stroll on the Avenue of the Stars which is Hong Kong's version of Hollywood's walk of fame, where so many local film stars have pawed the wet concrete. We settled on a bench facing the skyscrapers with ice-creams in hand. As the night fell, the wind became chilly and our ice creams were tasting better. Cold notwithstanding, the night view of the skyline was even more breathtaking! More and more people started gathering around the region for some event perhaps. Bang at 8pm, the lights on the buildings started to flicker and voila, a light show! The show in itself is nothing to write home about but connecting all the buildings and orchestrating the show is a feat and earns respect!
The next day, we took a metro to the main island to get a view of the skyscrapers up-close. We took a walk around the concrete jungle and went inside the finance tower for a quick visit. On return, we took a ferry to Kowloon whose frequency is every few mins. By the time we reached, it was already lunch time and if there was one dish which I wanted to try out, it was Peking duck. We dropped in to a small restaurant near our hotel which had an open kitchen at the entrance towards the left and tables on the right. The smell of soy sauce and other flavors were overwhelming as we stepped in. We took a table near the window and ordered the duck with roast pork and rice. In no time, the hot food arrived and it looked great on the plate. So far, it was keeping up with my expectations but does it taste good? Well, a quick bite confirmed that and it tasted equally nice with sweet and crispy skin on the outside and delicious moist meat inside. Though, I’m not very sure if it was the authentic Peking duck, it was tasty and very much local, which was good enough for me. After the filling meal, we took a walk to the walled city park, which contains some relics of the former slum called walled city.
The coming days, we visited Ocean Park and Disney land. I will not write about them but leave you to experience Ocean Park for yourself - which is a highly recommended visit. The Disney land though can be missed and you won’t regret unless it’s in your bucket list.
--Signing off VBR