I just returned from an amazing ten days in Hong Kong. I’ve wanted to go to Hong Kong for years. Hong Kong has always fascinated me. I’m not certain if it is something mysterious about a mystical place half way around the world in Asia, or that when I was young I saw the question of the handover debated in Parliament, or, perhaps, I’ve read too much Clavell.
I stayed at the Four Seasons in a beautiful room overlooking Victoria Harbour.
Anticipating that I would be exhausted after hours (and I do mean hours) of flying, I made arrangements for the hotel to pick me up at the airport. I am now spoiled forever. When they say they will send a car they mean they meet you at the jet bridge of the plane, put you in a golf cart, whisk you through immigration and baggage claim to a beautiful waiting car with wifi, bottled water, and warm hand towels for the thirty minute ride to Central. At the hotel, I was greeted with my room key, did not pass go or the check in desk, and collapsed in my room where my bags were delivered shortly. I understand that the Peninsula Hotel also has a version of this with a Rolls-Royce. Perhaps, this is customary for Hong Kong? I’ve not done a survey but given that I’d been up for well over twenty-four hours, the service was most appreciated and a wonderful welcome to Hong Kong.
I’d planned this trip for several months, reading travel guides, Fodor’s is one of my go to sources for trip planning, and stalking Trip Advisor for information and reviews on tours and places to see. The Four Seasons concierge was also helpful with suggestions and comments to the questions I emailed prior to leaving home. For several weeks, I debated flexibility over booking ahead and, after eying the weather, I opted for flexibility. I would be there during the rainy season and decided it was in my best interests to be able to adjust based on the weather. This worked to my advantage. I ended up creating a “must visit” list which I was fortunate to almost exhaust while there. Being flexible also allowed me to substitute based on local recommendations that led to some of my favorite moments of the trip.
My “must” list –
Take a ride on the Star Ferry. Since the 1920’s this ferry has transported people across Victoria Harbour. For HK $2.5 or $0.32 (yes, 32 cents US) you can enjoy the beautiful five minute ride from Central Pier 7 to Kowloon.
Ride the Ferris Wheel for the view. Access is across from Central Pier 9 and the gondolas are air conditioned. The views from on high are wonderful and a must see.
Symphony of Lights is a light show featuring the buildings along Victoria Harbour. Every night at 7 and 9 the buildings put on their show.
Tea at the Peninsula Hotel (see Hong Kong part 2)
Stanley Market – Stanley, once a fishing market and then a British military base, is now a beautiful seaside town with a famous market where you can find a bit of everything for a bargain. The linen shops were amazing.
Victoria Peak also known as “the Peak” is the highest point on Hong Kong island. Best reached either by taxi or the Peak Funicular the views are spectacular. Generally a residential area the Peak Trail, a two hour circular hike of the Peak, provides breath-taking views of the area, weather pending. Make certain you visit the Lion’s Temple!
Happy Valley Racecourse located in Happy Valley is a popular social venue on Wednesdays for the races. This one I missed because of my travel schedule.
The China Club (also missed and an introduction is required).
Visit the UNSECO site in Macau. You will need your passport as Macau is a different SAR. Take the hydrofoil from the Macau ferry terminal on Central to Macau. Another Las Vegas if you wish to gamble or shop (I did neither), the Portuguese old town is a must see. Grab a map of the old town from the ferry terminal and explore the temples, churches and historical buildings. I saw some of the most beautiful churches outside of Italy.
Aberdeen is another fishing village that is the traditional home to those making their homes on the water. It is also home to the famous floating restaurant. I enjoyed a tour of the harbor in a traditional sampan.
Repulse Bay is the site of a beautiful white sandy beach and is historically significant in the Opium Wars.
Go sailing on a traditional Chinese Junk. There are multiple options from Aqua Luna. I enjoyed a lazy Sunday afternoon sail to Stanley. By Sunday I was ready to relax and what better way to do so than with a glass of Proseco and a sail.
Stroll down Hollywood Road. I think of this as the antique district. Lined with art galleries and antique shops it is perfect for a lazy stroll.
Hike the Dragon’s Back trail. This is a strenuous three hour hike. I’m thrilled I did it but if I’d known the difficulty, I’m not certain I’d have chanced it. Take water and wear appropriate clothes and shoes. Do not try this in the rain or immediately after. In places you are climbing up and down rocks and I’m not certain where the trail was. The views are amazing and you can see forever but this is not for the faint hearted.
Visit the Jade Market on Kowloon. This was a trip. Be prepared to bargain. You can find anything jade you want here and of varying quality. I’m not certain all of it is real jade and I’m no expert but, well, the experience was fun.
Go shopping! Hong Kong has every designer boutique I’ve ever heard of and some I’d not. If you can imagine it, you can find it and they will package it to carry home.
I made a huge dent in my list of musts. I did not make it to Happy Valley or the China Club but being flexible let me add a visit to Cheung Chau (not to be missed), a visit to the Temple Market, and a wonderful tour with Jason Wordie through Sham Shui Po along with time to explore Kowloon’s multiple opportunities for shopping, the flower market and food stalls.
The trip to Cheung Chau, a fishing village that is on one of the outer islands was an absolute joy.
Accessed by a local ferry from Central Pier, the island has no cars and all the fresh seafood you can want.
Jason Wordie’s tour was another not to be missed event. His knowledge of the history of Hong Kong is unparalleled as is his ability to provide you insights into Hong Kong like no other. If you have the chance to join him you will not be disappointed.