Once known as the Pearl of the orient (until China opened up and Shanghai reclaimed it), this is a bustling city with wild contrasts between third world and first world. Because one can live like near royalty and get back to near squatter territory within an earshot. Ok, so we exaggerate. But that is the contrast or juxtapose that one gets in the city.
Now we are not going to bore you with a history lesson, since we assume most are aware how Hong Kong came to be in British colonial rule for a little over 150 years. Not that there were much in way of democracy in those times either contrary to what some may dream about, we might add.
So this story will be about the contrasts. No. Not about the wealthy versus the poverty, not about then and now. You might have read one of our post (here) where we compared how places looked many years apart? Unfortunately we cannot find photos to make that comparison in Hong Kong. So the easiest thing to do is to focus on three of what most tourists see.
The mountain they call Peak
And on to the Peak is where we go. It does not cost a lot – HK$40pp was all it takes (good as of 2013). Timing is probably quite important these days. Getting on after nearly 1.5 hours of lining up to buy the tickets, the funicular ride up was just over five minutes. Every single funicular trip was full. So come prepared for the crowds especially when another bus drops off a million people. Perhaps you might get lucky that you come ahead of them.
You need not be told that the panorama from the peak is dazzling. Photos of bloggers and on instagram attest to that. Imagine the evening and night lights that we have not shared here.
One thing about the peak is to enjoy it while walking along its numerous footpaths which not many do. Most folks coming here simply gawk at the views, head to the souvenir shops and leave. What a pity. For these paths are shrouded with greenery and very refreshing especially on a hot summer day. It would be less crowded too. On weekends we saw many people walking their dogs or simply strolling, some jogging along the pathways. It’s like Bukit Timah nature reserve (without the year round humidity) if one seeks an equivalent in our little red dot.
However if you do not have sufficient time, then take a trip up the elevator to the Sky terrace. For a small additional fee (HK$35, again good as of 2013), you can view the panorama in the comfort of a air conditioned gallery. To be honest this has changed so much. We can still recall that 20+ years ago it was just the funicular that cost money. Today almost everything does… however there is still
A ferry that still costs less than US$1
Another icon to explore is the ferry service between Hong Kong island and Kowloon. Started in the 1870s, it was the only mode of transport between the island and the mainland until 1972! Today it is said to still carry around 70,000 passengers per day (or 26 million per year), even though there is the MTR and a number of undersea tunnels connecting the two sides of Victoria harbor. Take a trip for just HK2.50…
Buy a token at booths at the ferry terminals and slot them into the gantry to enter the boarding area. There are two levels to the ferry, the higher one costing more (obviously?). Free seating, with backs that can be positioned recline both ways. Neat huh? If you get there first you can choose the direction you sit and face… Imagine how the other passengers would give you dirty looks…
The trip itself takes only 7-8 minutes but the view of the harbor and two sides (island vs Kowloon side) is always fascinating even after so many trips and so many years. We only hope that the cost of the ferry stays this low. And talking about the views, one of the remaining free things to do here would most likely be the view of
The Hong Kong island Skyline
Taking a stroll along the waterfront on Kowloon affords a view of the bay. Fortunately for us, the times we were there the air quality was good and there were no smog or haze. The best times of the year to visit probably is in the autumn time according some travel experts. It is also probably the months with better air quality. Any earlier and the typhoons are a menace, while anything before July could be hot and humid. You might note this is slightly different from the article we published in Q1-2018’s newsletter…
Every day in the evening, the skyscrapers on both sides of the harbor collaborate with the tourism authority to conjure up a show using the lights on the buildings. Called the “Symphony of lights”, it takes place each day at 8pm and is said to involve more than 40 buildings. We did not get to view the show from the Hong Kong side, but enjoyed it from the Kowloon side – well they said it was a better choice, so we’ll believe them and feel wiser.
One can also charter or join in a group cruise along the harbor viewing the lights while sipping on some champagne. It is actually a good thing to stroll along the harbor front in the evening after a hearty Cantonese dinner – which can be heavy since you don’t count the dishes. Got to work off the calories from all those little dainty dim sum while enjoying some sightseeing.
Now that’s just three places. And we haven’t started on Lantau island / big Buddha, Ocean Park, Stanley, Aberdeen, Ladies’ market and many more. How about off the beaten track ones? Someday, we might tell more. Watch out for those.
And we do have quite some stories to tell. Did you know there was a Sung Dynasty village where you find costumed actors play out the lives of people almost a thousand years ago? That’s gone bust years back… And have you ever flown into Hong Kong via Kat Tak airport? Do you even know about it or where it was? What about getting scammed in Macau? Marooned for a few days in Hong Kong during a typhoon? So much experience we had been to the pearl of the orient that it might fill too many pages.
Where we will revisit when we return to:
|Ride Hong Kong island tram all the way to both ends||Revisit Aberdeen bay and search for seafood?||Take a bus to Repulse bay & Stanley and enjoy the views|
|Browse for old stuff at Cat Street / Hollywood road||Walk up the Lantau Great Buddha again||Visit Cheung Chau island or Lamma island?|
|Find out what that Ngong Ping 360° is all about||Cross over to Shenzhen to see how they’ve copied HK|
Just like the little red dot, while it appears small and compact there is so much to see and do in Hong Kong. Which we believe residents of the SAR will agree.
And as in any major city, most sights we get to experience will be urban. If we come back yet again, we will certainly extend our reach to the outer islands – where it is quieter, charming and where quaint villages can still be found, literally miles from the bustling city!
Since the 1990s we’ve been to Hong Kong on and off!