General: Hong Kong
40 reviews from the community
Review of "General: Hong Kong"
When I decided on Hong Kong as a holiday destination the main reason was that it was kind of in the middle between Australia, (where I am) and good old Blighty (where my friend and travelling companion is). Well I say in the middle, it's a 9 hour flight from Sydney and a total of 15 hours for my friend who would be travelling down from Manchester, going through Heathrow and then a short stop in Dubai. I don't really know how we settled on Hong Kong, I think it must have been her idea as although I was keen enough to go it wasn't on the top of my places to go list. As the trip got closer, I bought the guide books and searched the Web and began to realise we'd made a dam good choice!Getting There
Easy peasy for me. Direct from Sydney to Hong Kong with Virgin Atlantic cost me $1080 AUD which is about £415 at the current rate of exchange. I wasn't very impressed with the Virgin plane, for such a long flight they used an Airbus A320 which is all very good for four or five hours but for just on 9 hours and with every seat taken a 747 would have been much more like it, it was uncomfortable and cramped. My friend flew from Manchester with Singapore Airlines and at Heathrow boarded a Jumbo and all reports were good. She paid just a tad under £500 for her flight, which is a bit pricy I think but as we booked it quite late on was all she could get.First Impressions
We landed within an hour of each other and after much hugging and general delight at the opportunity of a girly week away we took the Airport Express train from the airport to Kowloon station, which was the nearest to our hotel. The train cost $90HK or about £7.50 which I thought was excellent value for money for a 35 minute trip, although I found later that a bus would have been cheaper. On arrival at Kowloon station there is a free buss that runs every 12 minutes and drops off at all the major hotels and it was from this vantage point that we got our first real taste of Hong Kong. It was about 11pm when we arrived but as we drove down Jordan Road and Austin Road in the Tsim Sha Tsui district it was bustling, not with the night clubbing crowd you get in many major cities at that time on a Saturday night but with shoppers coming from Temple Street night market, and older people and people just seemingly going about their business, but I guess that's what you get when you go to one of the most densely populated cities on earth. It was hot and humid and as we got to our hotel with its stunning views over Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong island it was clear we'd come to a city quite like no other.Must Do Sightseeing
There are a number of things that no self respecting visitor to HK can leave without having seen.Stanley Market - Jump on the number 6 bus at the Star Ferry Warf and for $10HK (83p) and a half hour bus ride later you will find yourself in Stanley, a village on the south side of Hong Kong island. A pleasant place with a museum and a maximum security prison (its still charming, honest!) the main draw has to be the market. There are long alley ways of stalls selling anything from cheap clothes to electronics to paintings and bric a brac. I was my first shopping trip on the island and I loved it. The journey out there by bus was pleasant too, passing through Repulse Bay, one of the best beaches in Hong Kong by all accounts.
Star Ferry - These 1930's ferries are indeed iconic and the experience was a bit like a step back in time. I boarded in Tsim Sha Tsui and as we headed towards to skyscrapers on Hong Kong island you're very aware despite the modernity of the view, that the boat is cramped full of people, mainly locals off to the central district and you can imagine it wasn't so different 50 years ago.Temple Street Night Market - Located in Tsim Sha Tsui, Temple street comes alive between 4pm and midnight. The goods are along the same lines as those found at Stanley Market but there is a much bigger selection, I'd guess there would be hundreds of stalls and browsing from one end to the other without any real long stops took me about 40mins. You don't necessarily have to come for the shopping though, it's worth the trip just to soak up the vibrant atmosphere. The assault on your senses is immediate, from the cooking and the endless neon to the general hubalub of a busy Asian market.
Ngong Ping - I have to say I think this was my favourite daytrip. This is the home of the largest seated bronze Buda in the world. (There are larger Buda's but evidently not seated or bronze). I took the train out to the island of Lantau which was about a ½ train ride from Hong Kong island. On arrival at Tung Chung station I manoeuvred my way around the busy buss station and got on a bus headed out to Ngong Ping. The 35min ride was a treat in itself and felt a bit hairy at times due to the winding mountain roads and the oncoming traffic but the views were lush, green and stunning with more than half of it (according to my guide book) designated as national parkland. On arrival we went up the 260 or so steps to take a closer look and the views were fantastic. The is a museum at the base which was interesting and you could opt to pay extra, another $8HK and see more but I didn't bother, it was the Buda himself I came for.There was a nice walking path called the 'Wisdom Path' that took about 20-30mins which was lovely, not too energetic, I also took time to light some incense at the Po Lin or 'Precious Lotus' monastery which I really enjoyed though I would say it's more of a tourist attraction than anything else, so I perhaps wouldn't expect to find any religious enlightenment, but certainly worth a visit. There is a new Cable car that runs almost 6km from Tung Chung to Ngong Ping which looks stunning; it goes direct over the mountains. Unfortunately it was closed the day I was there and I'm not sure it is actually open yet but it looks finished so should be open soon.
Mid Level Escalator - Who on earth would want to go sightseeing an escalator I though to myself. I'd read about it in the guide book and thought it sounded boring and made my mind up not to waste time on it. One afternoon I was wondering around Central on Hong Kong island, looking for Marks & Spencer actually (There are 8 in HK) when I spotted a sign for Mid level escalator. I was intrigued despite myself and low and behold it was actually rather good! It was a flat escalator that slops up slightly and takes you all the way to another district of the city. There are shops, bars and restaurants along the way, almost going through backstreets. You can get off every so often and either join the next one or explore where you are. Like me you might think it sounds fairly dull but actually it was quite charming.I took two organised day trips booked through the hotel. The first, to Shenzen in southern mainland China was fantastic, good value at $600 HK and worthy of a review of it's own. Groups don't need individual visas, although they are fairly cheap and easy to get if you do want to go it alone. (not as cheap or as quick for American passport holders though) We went on the ferry and came back by train and it took about an hour each way so perfect for a day trip.
The second trip was to Macau, an hour by ferry from Hong Kong and I will definitely be doing a whole review of Macau, it's like a little piece of the Mediterranean in Asia. The island was only handed back to China from Portugal in 1999 and all the signs are in Cantonese and Portuguese so it feels very different from Honk Kong. You can also very much see and feel the influence of the Catholic church in the buildings and place names, which is not the case in Hong Kong. English is widely used and you can use Hong Kong dollars to pay for things, as you can in Shenzen, which I forgot to mention is a SEZ - or special economic zone of China or capitalist in other words. Macau is the Casino capital of Asia with Las Vegas style themed Casino's popping up all over town and to be honest I enjoyed looking at the outside more than I enjoyed loosing my money on the inside.For both trips we technically left Hong Kong and had to go through the whole immigration chaos leaving and arriving. Que's are long and tedious. There has to be an easier way.
Conclusions - There is far more here than just a city break which quite surprised me in all honesty. The climate is hot and very humid, up to 99% at times which makes it tiring to do too much all in one day. Public transport is cheap, clean, safe and reliable as are the other public facilities I came across. On the whole Hong Kong is not a budget destination. I found it more expensive coming from Australia as my dollar won't go as far as the pound. Eating and drinking could be quite pricy, one night I paid about £6 for a pint of larger. If you look around, like most countries you will find the reasonably priced places, they are out there.A week was a good length of stay although if you want to fit in everything we did plus the new Disneyland then 10 days might be a more realistic duration. We saw a lot and didn't have much down time which has left me coming back feeling like I need a holiday!
Product Information : General: Hong Kong
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Listed on Ciao since: 25/06/2000