The time had come after 3 months in Vietnam to renew my visa and do the boarder run enabling me to re-enter the country and apply for another 3 month extension.
Luckily for me it was the same scenario for my friend Dahlia, so we started putting some thoughts together in our minds of where we would like to visit, somewhere that wasn’t too far as were only going to be able to make a 3 day trip due to the time we were being granted off work and somewhere we weren’t going to spend a fortune. Looking at flights available for the suitable times around our time tables we decided upon Hong Kong. The flights were booked a month early and at a good price through Jetstar, short air mileage and though Hong Kong is not as cheap as other places near us, this was the most convenient with out having to travel too much in such a short space of time! it meant in total we were going to have an afternoon, full day and a morning before flying back to Hanoi.
And though we were leaving one city to re-enter another, the two places were far from familiar…
The city was vast with buildings that towered so high it made Hanoi feel small, here I could relate to my time in New York, more so than any Asian city I had visited. Under the principle of “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong maintains a separate political and economic system from China. Except in military defence and foreign affairs, Hong Kong maintains its independent executive, legislative and judiciary powers. Hong Kong is one of the world’s most significant financial centres, with the highest Financial Development Index score and consistently ranks as the world’s most competitive and freest economic entity. As the world’s 8th largest trading entity, its legal tender, the Hong Kong dollar, is the world’s 13th most traded currency.
Hong Kong is frequently described as a place where “East meets West”, reflecting the culture’s mix of the territory’s Chinese roots with influences from its time as a British colony between 1842 – 1941. There are many worldwide expats living here, running their own businesses and schooling their children, I suddenly didn’t feel as ‘rare’ as I would in Hanoi. The fusion of east and west also characterises Hong Kong’s cuisine, where dim sum, hot pot, and fast food restaurants coexist with haute cuisine, in other words its a great place to visit if your a ‘foodie’ and want to try the best dishes from all over the world with a variety of restaurants scattered all around the city.
After a smooth enjoyable flight that was over in no time – especially when its two girls who can talk for England seated together! We landed into Hong Kong’s international airport. We only had hand luggage with us which meant we only had to pass passport control with our arrival cards find our way to the bus station. Once finding out what bus we needed to take to reach Nathan Road Kowloon, where we would be staying we bought the tickets and went straight to the top deck of the double decker – something you never grow out of! The journey took around an hour and we were able to start to see some of the stereotypical architecture and scenery you expect from Hong Kong which was really nice. I noticed here that the towering skyscrapers that pierced the skies and the rest of the city were very much emerge with the rocky mountain terrain and steep hills flourished with countryside, the combination was quite stunning! During the journey we also crossed the Tsing Ma Bridge which is the worlds 11 – longest span suspension bridge in the world. As we entered the city it was clear to see how colourful this place was going to be, though nothing in those situations is ever truly revealed until night falls.
When the bus reached our stop it wasn’t hard the find King Chung’s Mansion which was a huge tower block with what felt like its own world with in it! It felt like id gone back to India again, being that there were so many Indian people working here and lots of great smelling Indian food! The place was by no smaller meaning – crazy! The only down fall to being a tourist here was the pesting, people approaching you every couple of seconds, one after the other asking if we needed somewhere cheap to stay, offering best prices or if we wished to look at their merchandise. We stayed at a place called Safari Guesthouse which found with in one of the many blocks inside king Chung’s Mansion, it took a while to looking around before we found the correct elevator which took us upstairs to the reception where we were greeted by a lovely lady who showed us to our room! Well… if I’d of travelled here with any one I wasn’t as close to as my friend Dahlia, you might find the situation a little awkward but for us we found the situation interesting and quite funny! Our room was the size of a sardine tin with a very narrow double bed filling 80% of the rooms space and a small bathroom at the end of the room which was just big enough to fit the toilet in! We had read about the accommodation situations before arriving and though it was still a shock, it wasn’t unexpected, but we made the most of it and besides the staff were very accommodating and friendly! For two nights stay it would do us just fine, especially as it was one of the cheapest rooms in Hong Kong.
It seemed as if this country was built up of all these tiny spaces, even peoples homes and small stores were condensed as if they were always leaving from for further development, though the cities merchandise and high market retail brand stores were vast and glamorous found with in tall stone buildings, even heavy pure gold jewellery was being fronted in the windows on nearly every street – a very materialistic feel contradicted the realistic lifestyle here.
By the time we had settled into our room it was early evening and were ready to head out and see what Hong Kong had to offer us. We decided to watch the famous light show that starts every night from the promenade at 8pm and last for approximately 15 minutes. The show was stunning and exciting to see! looking across the river at Hong Kong Island, we could clearly see the cities landscape along the waters edge where massive beams were firing up into the sky, appearing from behind all the towers and skyscrapers, lighting the sky with many different colours. It fit the scene as the Island we were glancing over was already a sight for the eyes with all the colours wrapped around buildings and defining the uneven terrain of the place, the island is sat upon the base of a mountain and one we were later going to get to know a bit better.
After the light show we decided to walk through the city passing many different street names until we reached the night market where we could do a ‘spot’ of shopping! The city at this time was blinding with luminous colours and neon signs hanging, standing and peeping out of every shop, corner and building – it was typically what you expect from Hong Kong when seeing the postcards but even more incredible right in front of your eyes. The night market was like any other Asian night market, there was more street food variety here than what you could find in the city centre where everything was served from inside a restaurant. The stools sell mostly the same products as you walk from stool to stool though who you buy your purchases from just depends on who is whiling to do the best price! barter, barter, barter! you get better the more you practise. After a long day travelling, embracing new experiences and handfuls of shopping bags we decided to call it a night and head back to our room for a very snug nights sleep in preparation for the following day…
Up and out, we headed to the promenade again where there was a ferry port commuting between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, for only 2 HKD you can easily catch the ferry over on a short and enjoyable 10 minute journey. When we got off the boat we grabbed a map and set off hoping to orienteer our way around the place, though soon realised that the island was not very ‘pedestrian practical’ for people wanting to get around by foot. All the roads had barriers running alongside them making them nearly impossible to cross with out having to find the nearest over head subway to pass over the motorways. The tram system was very efficient and seemed to be a cheap way for most the locals to get around with one pulling up every couple of minutes and there was also the option to take the underground. we embraced the day with the decision to get lost and see what we could find, this method had lead me to many great discoveries in the past that not all tourists come across, unfortunately this time it was not as exciting but we certainly had fun and got to see what was going on over on this part of Hong Kong. The architecture was so unique, huge buildings stood in many different shapes one even coated in a reflective bronze colour it was like entering an advanced universe, I could imagine waiting to see flying vehicles appear from inside.
The island was genuinely very expensive with high market branches, flash cars and well kept grounds I didn’t get the impression that the people walking in and out these buildings with there suits and briefcases were ‘hard up’. As a tourist I recommend staying in Kowloon as it is more adapted for tourism and easier to make your way around, though Hong Kong island is only a short, cheap trip away and so convenient to reach, it is defiantly worth a visit for two great reasons we got to experience…
Number 1; Hong Kong Park
A stunning part of the island were nature takes you away from the city for a breather. The gardens are beautiful filled with water features and rockery slopes and steps to climb walking you through small waterfalls and many different plants and wildlife. The lake is home to Koi Carp and dozens of terrapin turtles, the picture opportunities here are great! You can walk through enclosures where they have created an environment for different types of plants, trees and flowers to grow where displays using props have been created to set an atmosphere of the place they are representing. There is a children’s park painted in all the colours of the rainbow and even a mini Olympic stadium replicate was in the progress of being built which id imagine when completed will be a cool factor about the park. We also had view point opportunities with spiral stairways leading up to a great look out spot of the park, the city and the mountains.
We left the park just in time to head towards our one and only planed ‘Must do!’ of the day…
Number 2: The Peak
We headed to the ticket station where we had to queue for what felt like a lifetime, people flooded the area being formed into lines that weaved around and around until finally reaching the tram which felt more like a funicular. We were about to take the very steep incline up to the highest point of Hong Kong, the top of the mountain to look over the city from above. Sure, the tram was nearly vertical as it climbed to the top, it felt as though we were on a roller coaster ready to curl over and drop other side. However it didn’t, and when we reached the top we made our way out the station which lead us into a multi story shopping mall with a number of shops and restaurants. On one of the floors there was an illusions art gallery where you could have your picture taken with many of the 3D background effects, for a free entry it was fun to stop and mess around for a while making silly impressions against the paintings.
After we made our way outside where the panoramic view was breath taking! Between the green mountains was Hong Kong city below us looking smaller than ever and even then the towering buildings still made an impression. As it began to dusk the sky merged into beautiful pastel colours and the buildings started to form in to silhouettes, unfortunately the pictures didn’t do the real deal any justice, but the vision will stay in my mind forever. To avoid the dreaded queue that snaked around the entrance to the tram service we decided to make an adventure of the situation and walk down the mountain all the at to the bottom and then onwards to the ferry port to make our way home for the last night. Walking downhill for an hour surely cant be difficult right?! We were wrong… our shins were on fire by the time we finally reached the bottom but I certainly didn’t envy the people who passed us huffing and puffing whilst sweating out their body weight in water making their way to the top. I was happy in our decision to tram it up and hike it down! Plus I would recommend walking down besides the workout the views were incredible and the fresh air whilst walking and talking with a friend made it very enjoyable, rather than being crammed in a small space up against a dozen other people.
It was the perfect way to spend the last evening in this city, looking over it and knowing that another place has been seen and experienced, somewhere that had more to offer us than I knew was coming. The trip felt complete I think we did everything we possibly could have in such a short space of time whilst enjoying ourselves, for a short get away it was a great experience and a lot of fun!
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