0. Getting There
After a few days of rest back in Singapore, I am off to my next trip, Hong Kong - the Pearl of the East. I spent a day preparing for this trip. Not that I am confident of it, but I am accompanied by another travel expert - Master Cheng. After reading through the travel guides and online sites, Hong Kong is best experienced via 2 activities: Food or Shopping.
As this trip is largely subsidized by our company's travel vouchers, I spent a total of S$630 in all (which includes accommodations, airlines, personal expenses). Master Cheng booked the Cathay Airlines flight which depart from Singapore's Changi airport at 8.05am. As my house is fairly close to the airport, I am able to catch the first bus departing from my place and still arrive there in time for breakfast at their staff canteen.
I have to admit that Cathay Pacific flight services are very much better than Singapore Airlines. They have the same inflight entertainment as SIA but the plane crew definitely appears more patient and more approachable at passengers requests.
We arrived at Hong Kong international airport 10 minutes ahead of schedule. We cleared through customs and got our luggage promptly. Just past the baggage inspection is a Tourist Information Centre. We spent around 35 minutes inquiring with the centre staff on places to visit and recommended eateries. They were equally patient and friendly, and were very professional in providing information to us. While we were inquiring, a taiwan pop group, SHE, just walked past behind us. There were a great number of fans waiting at the entrance welcoming them. Next we went on to the Macau Tourist Information Centre at the A6 booth of the Hong Kong airport where the centre staff too provided us with lots of information in travelling to Macau.
With all these information at hand, we are ready to begin our travel around Hong Kong and Macau proper. We took bus A23 from the airport to Mongkok which takes 30mins at a cost of 33HKD. Hong Kong buildings are generally characterised by its great heights with residential areas reaching an average of 50 storey high. I am quite impressed by their heights throughout the journey. The bus also passes by the Tsing Ma suspension bridge which is quite an amazing sight. Heard from the net that there is some Feng Shui design considerations behind it.
We have no problem finding our accommodation, the Dragon Hostel. It cost 270HKD(S$50) for 2 people per night. It is very cheap considering its prime location. I shall not share any photos of the room as it is very small. We are actually living in a typical Hong Kong residential house!! Here is a contemporary photo of the Hong Kong narrow street and towering residential areas. It is really very chinese-like as protray from the Western films. Guess the western perspective of the Chinese only came through Hong Kong. The many cities around China are more modern looking and spacious.
Master Cheng's mission to Hong Kong is to visit a Feng Shui master and to get lots of Feng Shui books and equipments. Just 5 minutes walk away from where we stay is the office of Master Lam(林国雄). Heard he is quite famous in Hong Kong and amongst the Feng Shui community. The master is not around so an attendent share with us on the activities in the centre.
1. Flower Market
Departing from the centre up north is our first stop for the day - the Flower Market. Along the way we had our lunch at one of the food-shop while passing through the many shopping streets. Here is the flower market, with all the shops along the streets selling flowers.
2. Bird Market
Past the flower market is the bird market. It is another street with many shops selling birds. There is also a small park adjacent to it where bird enthusiasts proudly display their birds. Multi-colored birds in cages below.
Parrots being out in the open.
3. Fish Market
We walked southward after the bird market and arrived at the Fish Market. The street has many shops selling aquarium accessories to live fishes.
4. Shopping Streets
There are many shopping streets in the area around Mongkok. It ranges from clothings to chinese new year goodies to technology gadgets.
Some shops sell a number of particularly amusing garments.
5. Temple Street
This is one of the more famous night market in the area. The shops only open after 7pm. Besides the usual shopping stuff, there are also stalls that offer fortune telling services. Some stalls are really popular, esp. amongst the girls.
We had our dinner at a restaurant in the Tsim Sha Tsui area. When the meal arrived, we were puzzled why eating utensils weren't given to us. A local diner noticed our puzzled look and hinted to us that it is found beneath the table. There is a drawer there!!
6. Star Ferry - Recommended Experience
The plan for the second day is to visit Hong Kong island. One of the highly recommended experience in Hong Kong is to ride the Star Ferry from Kowloon to Hong Kong island. So first thing after breakfast is the ferry ride to Hong Kong island. The journey there takes around 5 minutes at a cost of 1.7HKD. The return journey cost 2.2HKD in all. We eventually took the ferry 4 times today.
Yea. Here I am admiring the morning Hong Kong city line from the ferry.
7. Hong Kong Central
Hong Kong's financial centre is large, much larger than Singapore's. There are towering skyscrapers all around and the windows glitter in the morning sun with some mirroring the images around.
There is a bridge linking the ferry terminal to the west side of the financial centre just off the Macau ferry terminal.
8. Dry Goods Market
The West Market as it is commonly called. It is a series of streets that sell lots of dry goods. This is part of the walking tour recommended by the walking guide. Up till now, you should have realised that the shops in Hong Kong are mostly grouped by the streets - Flower Street, Bird Street, Fish Street and now the Dry Goods Street.
9. Man Mo Temple
The Man Mo Temple(文武庙) is in the west of the financial district up the hill. This part of Hong Kong is mostly hilly with some roads have steep inclinations up. This temple is really amazing and very smoky. I love the smell of incense but there are just too many of them. It is very popular with many locals making offerings.
10. Central to Mid-Level Escalators
Along the way, we came upon escalators named the Central to Mid-Level Escalators. It is actually a series of escalators connecting from the central area of the financial district to the upper level of Hong Kong residential areas. It is quite tiring to climb all the way uphill and these escalators really help make the walk easier.
11. Former Central District Police Station
The police station was opened as some exhibition was going on there. So we pop in for a rest. Here we see the older-designed police station against a backdrop of modern towering skyscrapers.
12. Gas Lamps on Duddell Street
Here are some gas lamps on Duddell street. Nothing much, just places where you can get good photoshot.
We visited our last walking sight at St Paul Cathedral before visiting the HSBC building where Master Cheng is very interested in its architecture. Next we went for our lunch where the Tourist Information Centre strongly recommended - the restaurants along Wellington Street. It does have some good and affordable eateries there. We came to this restaurant - Tsui Wah restaurant twice for our lunch and dinner.
13. Tram Ride - Recommended Experience
Thereafter we hop on the tram for a quick journey to the eastern part of the island and back. It cost only 2HKD per ride and it is really convenient.
13. Avenue of Stars
As we still have sometime till the evening, we decided to catch a photo shot of the Hong Kong city skyline from the avenue of the stars.
Here is a statue of Bruce Lee.
And here we are - Me and Master Cheng.
14. Victoria Peak
We got back to Hong Kong island and there is a Peak Bus which cost 3.2HKD for a ride from the ferry to the tram terminal. Since we use the Octopus card, a single deduction of 22HKD is made when we went up and 11HKD is deducted when we came down.
The tram will automatically stop visitors in a shopping mall with escalators going up to a Sky Terrace. It cost 20HKD to get to the sky terrace. This is a tourist trap! We decided to exit the building instead of paying for it and made our way along the sides. We got this beautiful sunset view at one of the mountain edge.
And this classic view of Hong Kong city line.
15. Lan Kwai Fong
This place is famous amongst the foreigners for the many pubs and drinking areas. Note: It is only popular amongst foreigners.
Here is a view of Hong Kong city line from Tsim Sha Tsui. Thankfully, today is a clear day and I am able to capture non-fog photos of the city line. There is some light display every day at 8pm and this area is the best place to watch them. I have attached a short video below.
16. Big Buddha of Lantau Island
On the last day before my flight departure, I took the MTR from Mongkok to Tung Chung. While there, I came upon this promotional ticket going for 73HKD which includes unlimited rides on buses and a single trip on the cable car. As this is my plan, I just went for it. If you were to buy separately, it will cost 16HKD for the bus and 58HKD for the cable car. The bus ride is just amazing. The after-effects from the previous day ferry ride to Macau has not worn off and now I'm in a drift and turn bus ride along mountain tracks. But the bus ride will bring visitors along some spectacular sights.
Here is the Big Buddha.
A picturesque view of the surrounding monastery and mountain parks.
Mist enveloping one of the mountain valleys.
Offerings by Bodhisattvas/Deities to the Big Buddha. There is a small museum at the base building of the Big Buddha.
Down the stairs and straight down is the main hall of the monastery.
The entrance ticket to the Big Buddha cost 60HKD and it includes a free vegetarian lunch. Here is how it is like. It has an enormous portion.
In all I spent around an hour and a half exploring the monastery and spending my lunch-time there. Thereafter I took the cable back down to Tung Chung.
Here I am.
From Tung Chung, there is a bus which goes straight to the airport, the S1 bus at a cost of 3.5HKD. The ride takes only 15minutes.
While on the plane, it again encounter lots of turbulence. The queasy feeling from the boat ride and bus ride just came back. But it stopped an hour into flight. Before reaching Singapore, this is the beautiful sunset from the sky.