Contrast. That was the first thought when we arrived. Somewhere that is still in China yet incredibly different. After crossing the border from Shenzhen we went from the middle of a typically vast Chinese city to wild countryside. Our overground underground train deposited us a short walk from our hostel where we very much enjoyed a shower after rather a long time on trains without washing facilities.
All nice and fresh we headed over to Kowloon to the park with some fountains and sculpture. The sculptors creativity seemed to end with naming their artwork, as the majority of them were called either Yin-yang or figure. From there we wandered up Temple Street through the market which was mostly selling the usual Chinese made stuff but at slightly higher prices and stuck our heads down Shangai Street that the guide book recommended. I’m not sure why it recommended it as we couldn’t see anything that singled it out as being any different to any other street but hey ho it was on the way back anyway and a variety of routes is always good.
Our next plan was to watch the famous light show that is a daily occurrence at 8 p.m. The book suggested a point on Kowloon looking across to Hong Kong island where the lights are. However the particular section of the promenade was closed for renovations so we had to pick a bit at the side. Unfortunately we picked the wrong side and were rather disappointed seeing the sum total of not very much at all apart from one laser and a slightly lonely spotlight. We consoled ourselves with a reasonably good dinner before heading off to bed.
Day 2 in HK started with a very welcome non Chinese breakfast of a variety of baked goods. Pain au chocolate, ham and cheese croissant and thin apple pie. As a general rule, China doesn’t really do proper bread and pastry. The maritime museum was first on the days agenda and was definitely worthwhile, with a good section on Chinese maritime history that consisted of more than just how impressive it was and that China was the definitely the first and most important county to have made use of the islands in the south China Sea (like the museum in Haikou had been). There were also displays of model ships, both past and present as well as an exhibit condoning shark fishing. “Fish are friends, not food” Points for knowing the quote.
Stop two was another museum after crossing the star ferry back to Kowloon. We had planned on going to the Hong Kong museum of history, but after discovering that the science museum was free on the day we were there we decided to give that a go instead. I’m definitely glad it was free. It wasn’t quite what we’d expected. Nothing like the science museum in London, it was more like a children’s education centre on basic science. It was also packed with its apparent target audience who as far as I could tell weren’t exactly paying attention to what the museum was trying to teach them about. We left after watching what was in effect a giant marble run, where the marbles were about the size of bowling balls.
Our next stop was the ICC building. The tallest skyscraper in Hong Kong. There is a viewing platform on the 100th for that charges about £20 to go up. However, what the guide book doesn’t tell you is that attached to the Ritz-Carlton hotel is an bar on the roof at the 118th floor. There’s no entry fee and the cheapest drink was less than the price of the viewing deck. We didn’t quite have the cheapest drink however, but even so the very nice gin and tonic was well worth it and still cheaper than the viewing deck.
After this we had placed on going to a local horse race. However time had sped by and we decided we would be pretty hard pressed to get there in time. As turned out we later discovered that we would have been somewhat disappointed if we had turned up at the race course as apparently it was out of season and would have been a bit on the quiet side. Fortunately we hadn’t gone and instead got a very orange sunset from the tallest building in the before going back down to the waterfront to actually see the light show from the right place this time. We were also treated to an unexpected additional light show, that was a little bit odd, projected onto the side of the cultural centre. All in all not a bad day
For our last full day in HK we stayed on the island. The wander through the main park was rather nice with a cool fountain you could stand inside (staying mostly dry) and a tour of the tea museum. The park has a good little arboretum and an aviary too. The zoological park was a little sad with quite a lot of very bored looking monkeys. We also made a brief stop at a small temple on our wanderings as well.
We were planning on heading up to Victoria peak to see the sunset and getting there by using the funicular railway. When we arrived the bottom station however it seemed like quite a few other people were planning on doing the same. The queue was across the road and winding back and forth a fair few times. We weren’t sure quite how long we’d be waiting and didn’t want to miss the sunset so, not being a fan of queueing at the best of times, a taxi was flagged down and up we went. The top of the funicular wasn’t quite the top of the hill however and this had the result of leaving the actual summit relatively empty. The views over the bay and the city were amazing as the sun slid down the horizon although the sunset itself was obscured by a rather cloudy sky but was still beautiful and definitely worth the last slog up the hill.
Our last morning before heading to the airport was spent entirely by riding a tram to the end of the line and back. The trams in Hong Kong are wonderful old double decked things that run along the island with little smiley faces on the front. We cut it a bit close getting to the airport as the tram did take a bit longer to get back than we had planned for. But in the end all worked out well and we were on our way to the land of the rising sun. Japan.
As we have since discovered we were probably fortunate to leave when we did given the typhoon that hit Hong Kong 3 days after leaving and claimed several lives.