Tag Archives: Hong Kong

Honk Honk Hong Kong: Day 8 – Disneyland Hong Kong

It is the day before the people of Hong Kong are due to vote in the district council elections. In the lead up to this holiday, where we tried to extrapolate the increase in protests and police violence, we figured that this would not be the best day to be spent in the city itself. This is why we opted to spend this particular day in Disneyland, as it is both outside the city and not too far from the airport.

Like all theme park lovers, we wanted to ensure that we were there for opening so, since we had packed the night before, the alarm was going at 8 and we were out the door within the hour. Similar to Seoul’s main rail station, there is a service in Hong Kong where you can pre-check in your bags for your flight and then swan off to do other things as long as you buy the airport express ticket. In Hong Kong, however, the number of airlines is far more expansive, which is how were able to jettison our check-in luggage and not bring it all the way to Disney. Our hand luggage could always be sorted by one of the lockers in Disneyland itself.

In order to get to Disneyland using public transport, one of the easiest ways is to use the MTR system. If you look on the map, there is a special Disneyland Resort line coloured in bubblegum pink which connects to the same yellow line that you use to visit the Big Buddha. The trains themselves have Mickey Mouse head shaped windows and handles. There are also some themed statuettes inside the coaches, which makes the whole thing feel exceedingly special.

Of course, we arrived a bit before the park opened, but that just gave us time to eat the breakfast we purchased from some MTR bakeries. It’s a good thing we have some great Chinese bakeries in London, else I really would miss these. Mine was the pork floss and cheese bun, which filled me so much that my husband got the whole pineapple bun to himself.

List Item: Visit 25 Amusement Parks
Progress: 17/25

Then it arrived, the park was open, we were walking in and (somewhat predictably) I was crying. There was so much tension going into this holiday because of all the goings on and the violence that the choice was risk it or say goodbye to the money. At that moment, standing at the gates of Disneyland, I knew we’d made the right choice as it’s been a great holiday and now I was going to be closing out Disneyland for the final day.

This is the fourth Disney location that I have been to (after Orlando, Paris and Tokyo) and, as primary Disney parks go, I believe that this is the smallest in size and, possibly, in terms of the volume of rides. However, this in no way impeded our day here at Hong Kong Disneyland which was comparatively empty for a Disney park and so we pretty much walked onto every ride that we wanted to get on.

The idea of going to a Disneyland without queues, or minimal queues, feels like the dream of an eight-year-old, but that’s what we lived today. Thanks to this, we pretty much rode everything in the park that we wanted in under four hours, including some rides that we’d never have gotten around to otherwise.

We started in Fantasyland and immediately made for the Winnie the Pooh ride because of the bad memories of the massive queues back in Tokyo. This isn’t the same sort of semi-independent honey pot ride as in Tokyo, instead it’s one of the more traditional dark rides that takes you through some of the events of the 1970s Winnie the Pooh film.

After this was a ride upon the Flying Dumbos, mainly because of an article I read the night before talking about 50 minute queues for this ride, so thought it a good idea to get this in just in case there was a late influx of patrons. It was nice to be able to share this ride that I loved as a young kid with my husband, before today the queue length was never quite worth the pay off.

Next it was time for a classic – It’s A Small World. This opens a bit after the rest of the park, which is how we ended up being in the front row of the first boat going through the ride. It’s pretty similar to the other iterations of the ride from around the world, but I think this is the first time where I have seen Disney characters mixed in with the regular dolls.

With Fantasyland done for now, we turned our attention to the practically deserted Toy Story Land. This is becoming a fairly common land around different parks, but this is the first time I’ve actually seen it done. I love these movies and I love how bringing them to life as a world gives a more colourful and cheery take on Honey I Shrunk the Kids. We rode two of the three rides here (Slinky Dog Spin and Toy Soldier Parachute Drop) with us avoiding the third as its a take on the banana boat ride and those make me feel nauseated.

Skipping through an area, lead us to the Grizzly Gulch which is based on old prospecting times and also contains my favourite ride of the park – Big Grizzly Mountain. This is the closest that the park has to a runaway train and is one of the rare Disney rides that managed to surprise me on the first ride. We ended up riding this four times over the course of the day, the best ride being the final one that we did after the sun had set and a lot of the track was in darkness.

There’s a mini area between Grizzly Gulch and Toy Story Land which houses the Mystic Manor. Since, culturally, the concept of a Haunted Mansion doesn’t quite translate for the local Hong Kong/mainland Chinese audience, this ride was dreamt up instead. The concept is a tour of an eccentric explorer’s collection of curios that have come to life after his monkey friend has unleashed the magic housed in a music box.

My description sounds a bit odd, but the Disney Imagineers built an engrossing world here. Also, this ride uses the trackless cart technology from Tokyo’s Winnie the Pooh ride, which means the four carts from the same group experience the same ride rather differently. This is how we ended up riding this three times over the course of the day, just so we could see it from all perspectives.

Now, it wouldn’t be Christmas in Disney without some sort of a Christmas show. There’s a few throughout the day, but we caught an early afternoon one which featured swing and rock and roll covers of Christmas classics. Of course this featured the main Disney characters, Donald Duck stealing the spotlight as always, as well as characters that are more specific to the Asian parks. The sun was so hot that it felt like we were cooking, which is an odd sensation as you watch Chip and Dale dancing to ‘Rockin Around the Christmas Tree’.

The penultimate land we visited was Adventureland. This is one of those lands that doesn’t change too much depending on the park you’re visiting, but with some names changed here and there. For example, the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse has been branded into a Tarzan treehouse because that makes sense for an audience mainly composed of Gen Xs and younger.

You also have the Jungle Cruise, which is cute enough but really depends on how engaging your cast member guide is and how much the kids in the group go with it. The guide we got was excellent, she was armed with a long list of one-liners that just flew off the cuff like nobody’s business. The ride itself is fine, but it’s sometimes nice to just get a chance to sit down and do something a bit more chill.

Time for lunch, and I heard that the best place to go was The Explorer’s Club near the Mystic Manor. Well, we were not steered wrong with it’s beautifully varied decor (each room is decked out with a few replicas of different culture’s artefacts) and food from four different Asian cuisines. In the end I went for the nasi goreng which, as the picture shows was ginormous, looked stunning and tasted really good. This did not feel like the sort of food you would get in a theme park.

This leads us to the final land: Tomorrowland. This land is traditionally the one that myself and the hub finish the day on, but we still had five hours left in the park so ended up here a bit ahead of schedule. This is the only land in the park where you can see the encroaching of Disney’s recent franchise takeovers with Marvel getting two rides and Star Wars having one.

The Star Wars ride is Space Mountain – now branded as Hyperspace Mountain. I’m not exactly a Star Wars fan, but the theming makes sense and actually lends a story to the Space Mountain ride. This ride will always hold a special place in my heart as I had to have my leg length checked in Tokyo Disneyland as they were unsure whether I’d be able to adequately fold up. It is also traditionally the final ride of the day that my husband and I do at a Disney park. Which is what we did, on our fourth ride of the day where we also rode in the front of the train.

The other rides we did in Tomorrowland were the Iron Man Experience, which was an okay take on a simulation ride, and the Ant-Man and the Wasp Nano Battle. The latter ride is a re-skinning of the wider Buzz Lightyear blaster ride to something a bit less cartoony, but this one comes with videos of Paul Rudd which is an improvement to any ride out there. Ended up riding this twice because I love blaster rides and, in the end we had half a day to fill up with repeat rides.

Like I said, the park was emptyish which meant we ended up with a lot of time to re-ride everything we liked. Amongst these repeats, we also had time to take in both of the Disney parades.

The first was the Flights of Fantasy parade which was meant to have an ‘up in the air’ theme, but that only really applied to the minority of floats after the initial Mickey and Winnie the Pooh ones. Still a lot of fun though and it was cool to see Lilo and Stitch represented here.

Our Disney day finished on the second and better of the parades: Disney Paint the Night. Watching a parade like this with all the costuming and the different mechanisms at play really make me wish that someone would do a documentary taking you from the initial conception to the eventual running of one of these parades.

The fact that you have, one after the other, these beautiful candelabra-based ballroom outfits followed by a massive light-up Slinky Dog with moving eyes and spinning glow discs for springs just shows the variation of thought on display here. It just helps to cap off what was just a perfect day at Disney and a wonderful set of memories to end this trip to Hong Kong on.

And with this final dinner of assorted roasted meats at the airport, that’s this holiday over with. Next comes the 13 hour flight and the further trip home which will need to be navigated at 5am British time. As I write this, with the passenger next to me dressed in a full Parker and trying to nap on their tray table, I am not relishing the rest of this upcoming journey. Just hope that tomorrow’s me can forgive me for staying up so late to write this.

Honk Honk Hong Kong: Day 7 – Dragon’s Back

So this is it, the last full day in the city of Hong Kong and, barring any mishaps tomorrow morning, we will have successfully navigated away from any possible violence between the police and the protesters. Also, with the exception of my voice that currently sounds like I downed a quart of whiskey last night, I am pretty much to functioning. Just in time for the finale.

Today started in a way that is pretty unusual for one of our holidays, we actually went out with the expressed intent to do some shopping. Specifically, for a Christmas decoration to bring home with us from Hong Kong. Despite so many lovely displays in stores across the city (and some in Macau) we have yet to find a single place that sold something to take home. So, some googling later and we found ourselves at the Times Square shopping centre where…

…we somehow stumbled across a Pokémon themed Christmas village! There were themed little huts with model Pokémon inside to take pictures with. Like, we could not believe our luck it was so damned cute. There was a further display inside with a bunch of Pokémon on a camping trip, again super cute. This coincided with a small pop-up on the 12th floor where I bought myself a Grookey plush and we both got free Pokémon themed tote bags.

With all the Pokémon excitement done we settled in with a hot drink, mine being a delicious baked sweet potato latte before heading into the basement levels to achieve our mission of finding suitable Christmas ornaments. Thanks to the huge amount of choice offered in Log On, we managed to find a rather lovely gingerbread man tree ornament. We also got a lovely Santa music box made by Wooderful Life as this company has been there at so many of our Asian holidays and I finally found something in the perfect price range.

We skipped breakfast for a reason today. In order to make it up to my husband for just how ill I’ve been this holiday (and to say thank you for his vigilance on the Telegram app which prevented us from being tear gassed twice) I bought us a fancy buffet lunch at Renaissance Hong Kong hotel. So many videos of what to do in Hong Kong mention doing a fancy buffet, they weren’t lying.

This one wasn’t the most expensive or the most expansive of those on offer, but this still boasts four chef stations, salad bar, sushi bar, carvery, fresh seafood, curry and a large range of desserts including a freezer full of mini Häagen-Dazs pots. It was plenty enough food and everything was of high quality. I also got to see the interesting site of a woman waltz up to the crab legs grab them by the handful onto her plate and shuffle off again.

In total, we both ended up going for about 5 rounds of buffet. Me, I ended up going with the following order: Sushi and crab leg, random hot food (including some gorgeous pork noodles), dessert, burger and salad, greatest sushi hits. I can only wonder what the more expensive lunches would have been like, but I never got to try things from two of the chef stations, so it’s not like I would have needed more choice.

Now we were both very full, we walked back to the hotel to drop off our Christmas things and made our way to Shek O in order to do the Dragon’s Back trail hike. There are a few variations out there on the specific route to take, but as we didn’t want to be on an unlit trail stumbling around in the dark, we went for one of the shorter variations that took us about two hours.

After an initial half hour of mostly climbing, everything just gave way to stunning views of southern Hong Kong Island and the surrounding islands. The main sounds up there being the wind, the waves and the screeching of black kites (at least, I think that’s just what they were) overhead.

I know that after Hallasan I said never again, but I think that knowing I can do that means that I am far more at ease about doing hikes when on holiday. Even when I’m having to scramble across rock piles that suddenly appear. I mean, I wish the views from Hallasan had been as good as these. Then again the Dragon’s Back trail is famous for this, and I will be part of the many who would recommend this during a visit to Hong Kong.

We caught a minibus for the trip back into the city and then did something that only recently became safe again, crossed the bay to go to Kowloon. Whilst there, you could see where some of the fighting had taken place and where the police had removed the anti-police graffiti. Mainly because huge sections of pavement were missing and replaced by sand. At the moment, however, things have calmed in preparation for the district elections, so we able to walk around Tsim Sha Tsui without worry.

As the sun hadn’t finished setting yet, we made for the west end of the peninsula so we could watch as the sky glowed dark orange in the last gasp of daylight. Amazingly, despite being in a huge city, you could actually see Venus, Jupiter and some stars. These disappeared once the sun finished setting and all the lights got switched in, but it was really great to see.

After taking some pictures of the Kowloon clock tower, we walked over to 1881 Heritage as I’d heard it was a really interesting looking place. Interesting was the wrong word, it was beautiful. This is a former headquarters for the Hong Kong Marine Police that has now been converted into a luxury shopping area that deals mostly in watches and jewellery. It is also possibly the best decorated shopping area that I have ever seen. Truly stunning.

Since we had some time before the nightly light and music show at Victoria Harbour, we took a leisurely stroll down the Avenue of Stars where I enjoyed finding the handprints of Hong Kong actors and directors (especially cool when I found Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung) as we discussed, of all things, the alphabet song and enjoyed the skyline of Hong Kong Island at night.

Once 8pm hit, the light show began. This would be the third time that we’ve inadvertently seen it, but the first time that we actually heard the accompanying music. It helps give some context to the flashing lights that we’ve been seeing, but it’s not hugely choreographed like the Singapore free water show. Still, I’m in awe at how many different buildings are involved in this nightly event, many in their own unique ways. It was a nice way to say goodbye to this city. Neither of us have been in the best shape this week, but we’ve definitely made sure to give each other a good time.

As Hong Kong is home to many cuisines, we decided our final meal would be something a bit different – which is how we ended up going Vietnamese. My husband’s is the pork banh mi (which I was jealous enough of that I’ve found a recipe to make my own version for when I do Vietnam for the world cooking challenge) and mine was the pho. I couldn’t finish my bowl, but made sure to make light work of the chicken wings.

All that’s left now is packing and some mental preparation for what will be a long day tomorrow given that it ends in a 23:45 flight home. I can hear my brain sobbing now.

Honk Honk Hong Kong: Day 6 – Ocean Park

Despite its size, Hong Kong boasts two substantial theme parks. There’s Hong Kong Disneyland, which I’ll be visiting on my final day, and then there’s today’s destination; Hong Kong’s very own Ocean Park. Thanks to the South Island line stopping directly outside, there was only 18 minutes between my hotel room and some theme park fun and frolics – with a stop for breakfast of course.

Now, with these two buns I think I have now crossed off everything major from my “what to eat in Hong Kong” list. First there’s the pork bun, a classic and always a pleasure when the meat-to-bun ratio is in your favour. Then there is the Pineapple bun, a local specialty with a hard cracked sugar topping that tastes nothing of pineapple, but just looks the part. Perfect way to start the day really.

List Item: Visit 25 Amusement Parks
Progress: 16/25

Like with Everland, Ocean Park is part zoo and part theme park (which, given the size of Hong Kong, makes sense). It is also split into two sections because of topography, which means you have the Waterfront and the Summit areas, which are connected by a scenic cable car and an underground funicular. These different factors make Ocean Park a pretty unique visit and a varied one at that. Also, they were playing Christmas songs all day, which felt very weird given the differently themed areas.

Since it’s the closest to the entrance, our first visit was to the Grand Aquarium. It’s one of many aquaria in the theme park, but this is the one without any certain theme other than “here’s some fish”. Lots of different sea life here including spider crabs, a tower of milk fish, octopus and all matter of tropical fish. You also had a whole room with different types of seahorse and the overarching educational message that these should not be used for medicine when other things work better and are sustainable.

Next was a building referred to as the Hong Kong Jockey Club Sichuan Treasures. This large building contains two types of animal. Firstly there’s the oldest panda currently in captivity who, at time of writing, was 33. It was nice to see a panda just wandering around and being bear-like, especially an old gent like himself. Next to him were the Golden snub-nosed monkeys – including a baby who was born this year. I first saw some of these in Everland and, like now, find them so strange to look at. However, I did fall for Little Peanut (the baby) who was swinging everywhere and annoying their parents.

In the next park area, titled Amazing Asian Animals, you get even more animals to enjoy – including the two current breeding pandas at the zoo who were both asleep leaning on boxes. There are also exhibits featuring red pandas, Chinese alligators, otters and a strangely interesting room continuing many different breeds of goldfish. I’m ignorant in the way of the goldfish, but I had no idea there were so many variations.

Since the Emerald Trail was closed, we made a visit to the Adventures in Australia exhibit – containing wallabies, kookaburras and a rather obese koala before getting in the only queue that we were going to experience today – the one for the cable car.

When you come to Ocean Park, the one attraction that you absolutely have to do is the cable car. Not just because it’s one of the two ways to visit the other park (because the funicular is more efficient), but because the views you get en route are spectacular. Like, the type of beautiful where I was compelled to tell the seascape to “shut up” because it was being so beautiful. We ended up doing this trip twice, because when you are at Ocean Park when everything has next-to-no lines you ride the cable car twice.

The Summit level of Ocean Park is where you find the vast majority of the rides, a bunch of them were shut for upgrades (the perils of off-season) but we got in a bunch of the available ones. First was the rapids ride in the rainforest area, as those tend to be my favourite kind of rides. We strolled straight onto a tube and both got summarily soaked since, as my husband put it, “this ride cheated” when it comes to getting you wet as there are jets spraying directly at the riders. Still a lot of fun though.

We finished off the rainforest zone by looking at the animals in the Expedition Trail area – including electric eels, frogs and the most satisfied looking iguana that I have ever laid my eyes on. They also had a few arapaima, which are the largest freshwater fish in the world and look like something out of Jurassic Park.

Since we’d both dried off a bit, it was time to scratch the roller coaster itch by riding the two that were not currently under maintenance (sadly the other two were closed). First was the gentler of the two, the Arctic Blast. We managed to stroll on and get underway almost straight away. It’s one of those coasters that is a good in between to make sure you don’t accidentally bring your kid on a particularly rough one (the uncontrollable crying of the girl in Everland still makes me laugh).

Then there was the Hair Raiser, whose Luna Park inspired facade gives off a ‘can’t sleep, clowns will eat me’ kind of a vibe. As with the other coaster, we got on straight away and the experience was so extremely joyful and full of g-force that it left us both with smiles and headaches. Time to take a rest from the rides and head for the highlight of the day.

List Item: See a walrusStatus: Completed

I love walruses. You very rarely see them in captivity and the closest I’d ever seen one was in a Seaworld show when I was 10. So, to say that my reaction to seeing two of these beautiful animals swimming an arms reach away was a bit extreme is… well I cried. I managed to keep myself together to not go completely ridiculous, but I was very obviously overwhelmed and so stood there staring and snapping pictures for an inordinate amount of time. Towards the end of the day, there was a walrus feeding demonstration so we returned and I videoed the whole thing.

We finished up in this section by seeing the other polar animals on display – spotted seals, arctic foxes and three types of penguin. The Gentoo Penguins were especially interesting as it looked like they were in the process of nesting, so the male Gentoos were gaily running around gathering pebbles and bringing them back to their partner. So very very cute.

Two more rides (on the Rev Booster and the Whirly Bird) and then we went back to the lower level via cable car in order to get lunch. Since we had a two for one code, we grabbed a rather delicious sausage before settling down with some dumplings and dan dan noodles. Apparently, this vendor in the park is mentioned in the Michelin guide, which is really cool for an affordable food stand in a theme park.

We went back to the summit via the Jules Verne inspired Ocean Express tram and took in some more of the aquaria. First was the small one dedicated to Chinese sturgeon, then there was the better shark-themed one. So many things are better with rays and sharks, and this aquarium had quite a few of them. I ended up becoming especially fixated on the guitarfish and the sawfish. Sometimes it’s just amazing to see these oddities swim.

By this point it was nearly an hour to closing, so we watched the walruses being fed, had a second go on both roller coasters and bought some souvenirs before heading out. Our eight hours really flew by, but that wasn’t it for the day.

We’d always intended to go back up The Peak at night during our final full day, but geographically this just worked perfectly – so that’s just what we did. Only this time, we paid the extra 50HKD to go to the main viewing platform and made sure to get as much use out of it as our increasingly colder selfs could.

The uniqueness of Hong Kong’s geography and building density really makes for some incredible views from high vantage points. Also, at this point of view, everything is this futuristic metropolis – which is a stark contrast to the view I got from Sky 100 which showed some of the less attractive buildings in Kowloon. This particular platform also gave me the weird association between this night view and a photographer repeatedly ravaging a rubber chicken in order to get a smile from a child. I don’t know what to do with that.

Dinner ended up being a bit odd thanks to a curiosity of mine to try food from Filipino fast food chain Jollibee. I’ve seen them mentioned online before, and I heard the episode of Doughboys where it received low scores. Still though I was curious enough to get a combo meal of the Aloha burger and their spaghetti and was pleasantly surprised. Especially by the spaghetti which, at first, looked really suspect but ended up tasting really good. Even if we did have to eat it with spoons.

Tomorrow is the last technical full day (the day after, we fly out at just before midnight) and it’s going to be a bit of a weird round up day. There’s things we never got around to because of the protests and police brutalities requiring rescheduling, but tomorrow should make for an interesting one.

Honk Honk Hong Kong: Day 5 – Lantau

With the exception of some chronic sneezing and my back aching to the point that over the counter pills aren’t touching it tonight, today has been my first full day on vacation where my body hasn’t tried to completely shut me down. Oh how low the bar has been lowered.
Since things aren’t improving, more staying the same than improving, we swapped some things around today so that our trip out to Lantau got moved up. At least then, if things descend further before Sunday’s election, we’ve seen the main things on the list and we can skip town early with full insurance backing.

Skipping through some public transport stuff, including the pretty damaged Tung Chung station, and the fact that neither of us set an alarm so it was all hands on deck at 9:45 this morning, we started our day by riding the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car. This appears to have been the first operational day for a while, so we lucked out there.

The trip is surprisingly long for a cable car, then again it’s taking you a distance of over 5.5 kilometres and you get to see just how green this stunning island is. Also, you get the chance to see Hong Kong International Airport from the air – which is cool and unique. Regrettably we didn’t have the carriage to ourselves, but we were all just crossing over each other to take pictures anyway.

At the end of the ride is Ngong Ping Village – a purpose built area with shops and restaurants that has been done in a traditional Chinese architectural style. It’s a bit cheesy, but I really love stuff like this – especially at the end where they piped music in. Just revs up the magic a little bit.

Breakfast (well, lunch at that point) was finally a chance to have some Chinese style roasted meats. I went for the roasted goose, as you never see that in the UK, whilst my husband went for the more traditional pork. Since we were going to be climbing up the Buddha’s steps soon, a good meal made sense unless my body tried to have me faint again.

We walked past the signs warning us of feral cattle, as well as a feral cow peacefully snoozing, to reach Po Lin Monastery – one of the three things that we wanted to do whilst at altitude. This is the kind of structure I was hoping for with the Chi Lin Nunnery, but I’m glad that I got it here.

The main altar building with the three golden statues and the beautiful ceiling paintings were beautiful, equalled by the impressive carved stone columns and reliefs on the outside.

Next door to this was the larger Grand Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas, which was only completed a few years ago. I love these types of rooms just to see how they go about reaching the number of Buddhas in one space. Here they did something really cool by having the room tiled, where each tile was like a little ceramic statue of Buddha. It’s a far more efficient approach than the first room of this type that I saw back in Singapore, where it was individual miniature statues.

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 93/100Sight: Tian Tan Buddha
Location: Hong Kong
Position: #331

Big ticket item time. The Tian Tan Buddha, also known locally as the Big Buddha, with his 268 steps of thigh burn that I managed to do in one go because I was filled with the power of roast goose. It’s a lot of steps, but this stunning work of bronze really is something that you want to get close to. The level of detail and the serenity of the expression are something else when you get near the top. Also, this is the first time I’ve really seen one of these gigantic religious statues and that’ll always make the Tian Tin visit a special one.

A slower walk down, to try and take photos that showed off his awesomeness whilst fighting the extremely bright November sun, led us off to the final thing we wanted to do whilst up here – the Wisdom Path.

Reading online, I think we both thought this was some medium length hike with some large wooden planks with Chinese characters carved in. Well, we were half right. The walk itself is a small figure of eight path on an incline. It’s nice enough to do, but the walk there was probably more what we were looking for – especially as it gave us time with the mountain’s many butterflies.

Some slightly overpriced ice cream and a bus ride later and we got to the village of Tai O. There’s two real reasons to come here: one is see the traditional pole supported houses of the fishermen, the other is to try and see some pink dolphins. Both of these can be done for the low price of 30HKD as part of a half hour speedboat ride. We didn’t luck out with the dolphins, but the ride was really cool.

I didn’t really feel the need to buy anything fish-related, although I was close to considering some hanging little pufferfish before I quickly realised that these were real dried pufferfish with googly eyes in rather than something strictly man made. We did buy some gorgeously crispy chocolate flavoured egg waffle balls before boarding a wonderfully scenic bus down to the village of Mui Wo.

Seriously, for some of the views, this bus was worth doing just for the sake of doing it.
At Mui Wo our mission was simple, head for Silvermine Bay Beach and watch the world go by for a bit before boarding the ferry back to Central. So that’s what we did. Made a canine friend and enjoyed some peaceful time in lovely off-tourist season surroundings. Would have been nice to stay for a while longer, but it was already getting on a bit and by the time we boarded the ferry it had already gone completely dark.

Back on Hong Kong Island, I found a local restaurant on OpenRice that had good word of mouth and would give us the chance to have some Chinese cuisine in a more upmarket setting. There was so much on the menu that we ended up going with things on their ‘specialities’ section just to help narrow down the choice. As much as I enjoyed our soup, Beggar’s chicken and the lovely ribs – part of me does wonder what might have been. Excellent meal though so shan’t complain too much.

So that’s the end of another day and tomorrow will be the first of two theme park days. Have to say that, my aching back aside, I am so looking forward to some levity and some walruses. Should be a great one.

Honk Honk Hong Kong: Day 3 – The Peak and Hong Kong Island

After last night’s fever broke I woke up feeling heaps better than the night before, but still tired to the point of not wanting to get up. Still got the headache and a bit of fever, but nothing some ibuprofen couldn’t fix.

Anyway, we started with a trip on the double decker tram, which I think I love so much because of the absurdity (I mean look at them, it’s like they could tip over at any time) and the breeze you get on the top deck. Then it was time for a trip on another tram – the famous Peak Tram which is actually more of a funicular with a tram winched on. So cool to go up and then down on, especially when it hits the maximum incline of 48%, which feels a lot steeper than it sounds. Also some great views as you head up.

Since I hadn’t eaten anything since lunch yesterday I was famished. Nothing that a pre-brunch snack of a Hong Kong egg waffle with strawberry ice cream wouldn’t be able to satisfy. I know it looks absurd, but this was exactly what I needed, so brought it with me as we went to the free Lion lookout.

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 92/100Sight: The Peak
Location: Hong Kong
Position: #117

I don’t think any view in Hong Kong City can beat the views you get from up here. It is beyond spectacular, even if an American tourist next to me was less than impressed. I mean, come on this view is free (if you climbed) and it’s utterly breathtaking. Idiot.

We mooched around here for a while taking in all the free views we could. There is a 360 platform higher up the Peak Tower, but we’ve planned to return at some point in the evening to get some night views so the city looks like one of those light up Christmas villages.

For a proper brunch we went inside the tram terminus building and had something that made my dieting voice scream with despair. This is Hong Kong style French toast – which is like a fried peanut butter sandwich. To be honest, I couldn’t finish it because it was a bit much but wow if this isn’t a decadent little thing that can set you up for a day of walking I don’t know what is.

After getting some souvenirs in the cheap market area, we went back down the tram, this time on the right-hand side so I can get some pictures and enjoy the view as we went down. Going down this incline is a bit strange as its like you are falling slowly in a controlled fashion. This thing really is a mechanical marvel.

Next stop Hong Kong Park, which is free and brilliant. Started with the aviary which, sadly had maintenance works so you couldn’t walk on the ground level, just the elevated walkway. Made friends with a myna bird and so some beautiful emerald doves and a sleepy silver pheasant. My hub, who is afraid of birds, was an absolute star.

Nearby were the caged birds, which were mostly endangered – probably why in cages rather than in the main aviary where people could be dicks and potentially harm them. It’s probably reasons like this that we don’t have free aviaries in the UK. I mean, we are a country that have warning signs about feeding squirrels aspirin – so we can’t be trusted with free birds.

After climbing the lookout tower we went to the section where all the office workers appear to gather. This is where the artificial lake, fountain plaza and waterfalls can be found. I mean, if you work in Central this is a perfect place to bring you lunch and find some calm.

Then we went to the conservatory, which I learned was a fancy word for inside garden, rather than just a place the upper class in Cluedo take tea before being beaten to death with a lead pipe. It’s sweet in here with the little statues and arrangements. Reminds me of the latter ones that we came across in Taipei.

A short walk from Hong Kong Park are the, again free, Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens. Aside from the exhibits here, there were masses of butterflies. I don’t think I have ever seen such a dense population of butterflies outside of an enclosed butterfly garden. It was one of those things where you just wanted to keep watching as these little delicate insects flitted about and ate their nectar.

We didn’t spend a huge amount of time here, again improvement works, but the main things to see here are the monkeys and the monkey adjacent animals (like lemurs and tamarins). They also have orang-utans which, whilst not in as huge an enclosure as in Singapore, still had decent space. Especially for a free urban zoo. There were also some meerkats… but only two. Makes you wonder what happened to the other ones.

After exiting the park we walked around to find an entrance on the Central-Mid-Levels Escalator system. These, essentially, are a long system of escalators that connect the higher elevated mid-levels of Hong Kong Island to Central at sea level. It’s primarily a commuting route (which is why the escalators reverse direction after morning rush hour). It’s one of those things that’s weirdly fun to explore, even if we did have to walk down the stairs most of the way to get to the next stop.

That stop would be the Man Mo temple. Before coming to Hong Kong I hadn’t been to too many Taoist temples, and now I’m really wracking up the numbers. This is one of the oldest temples of any denomination within Hong Kong. It’s small but, with three rooms, it’s actually cosy and has an inclusive feeling. Like the Taoist temple yesterday, there was a thick cloud of incense smoke, which I am beginning to assume is part of the ritual.

Next was lunch in the Michelin Guide recommended restaurant Tsim Chai Kee Noodle Shop. I saw a tip for this on a TripAdvisor thread about how safe it was to be a tourist in Hong Kong considering the police violence and was not disappointed. We went for the triple toppings noodles which was wontons, beef strips and a massive fish ball. This is the best food I have had in Hong Kong so far and I really wish I’d paid for an additional bowl.

Since we were in the broad area, we then walked over to the Western Market. This is an Edwardian building which houses cloth and other stores inside. It’s one of those stops where you admire the architecture rather than to buy anything. Definitely worth just stopping by for a bit when in the area.

To avoid some possible trouble indicated on Telegraph, as there was potential issues in Central, we rode on the MTR underneath the troubles and made it to Victoria Park. Again some improvement works blocked bits off, but it was nice enough park, some topiaires and a small pool for floating model boats. I guess that, after Hong Kong Park, I was honestly expecting more from it but it was perfect to have a can of Coca Cola Plus (drink of the holiday) and just chill in the late afternoon.

A nice thing to do near here, is to cross one of the bridges over to Causeway Bay. It’s a good place to get some photos across the bay from a more easterly point of view and be near some of the docked boats that you see floating out there.

Then something happened that was super embarrassing. En route to our final stop of the day I basically fainted coming out of the subway carriage. As in I nearly fainted in a rush hour MTR train, but found enough strength to leave and fold like a deck chair. My poor husband, we’d hoped that last night was the end of me feeling ill.

I gathered myself and pressed on as we only had one more place to visit: the Hong Kong Observation Wheel. I mean, it nearly happened again in the queue, so kept sitting on the poles in order to stop myself from fainting… this was not a good hour for me. We managed to get free tickets onto the wheel as part of a promotion and, as it wasn’t too busy, we got to go around four times and enjoy the nighttime views.

After nearly fainting twice, time to listen to my body and get dinner. I needed the calories and thought the best thing would be a burger place that had been making my mouth water when we walked past it on our first night. They were not kidding with a name like Burger Joys. This double cheeseburger and garlic fries was exactly what the fake doctor ordered.

Tomorrow, it’s time for our trip across the border to Macau. I’m super excited to see how this turns out and have no real idea what to expect. A bit of an early start though, but I can always sleep on the boat if needed.

Honk Honk Hong Kong: Day 2 – Temple Day on Kowloon

So here we are on our first day and, as is tradition with these long haul flights to Asia, I started the day with a headache which stayed with me all day. Remember guys, stay hydrated and get plenty of rest – I don’t listen to that advice but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

Anyway, it was a bit of a slow getting ready to leave process, but eventually we dragged ourselves out and onto a double decker tram into the Central district. Our destination was the IFC mall as we heard there was a nice rooftop garden with decent views and it sounded like the perfect place to have a light breakfast.

On the way, we saw the first real signs of the aftermath of the protests in daylight that I am guessing will be fairly common for the rest of the week. Graffiti, both readable and covered up. Various posters and the signs of posters that had been hastily torn down by the police. Also, the occasional broken brick which I guess is from the road barricades that were set up last week during the week of protests here in Central.

Being a Sunday, we also saw something that we felt the need to look up later. Hundreds of woman sitting on cardboard in the streets with food and large bags stuffed with various things. At first, we thought these were people collecting for the protests; turns out that these are maids and other domestic workers on their day off. The sheer number here is astounding and kinda gives a weird insight into the how many people here in this area are rich enough to afford this – which is a massive contrast compared to some of the places I saw later today.

Then came breakfast, our first of what I am hoping is a number of visits to a Chinese bakery. We ended up with a chestnut Danish, a big bacon and cheese bun and a bun with peanut butter custard. The views themselves were nice, but the real attraction of this is having a nice breeze in a quiet place surrounded by nice urban greenery. We needed this bit of a further recharge as it was a long journey to our first destination.

Even though we got super lucky with both of our connections on the way to Sha Tin, it was still nearly an hour long journey to get there. I shouldn’t complain though, as not long after we left the police rolled in and the station got closed. The reason we were here was to visit the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. It’s a short walk from the station and past a banner warning you against the feral hogs – but it’s obvious that you’ve arrived because of the first golden Buddha statues.

First of hundreds. The monastery itself is up a hill, but to get there you walk up and through a procession of hundred of Buddha sculptures. The great thing about them is the sheer amount of variation in the poses and the quality of the sculptures. Some are perfectly normal and serene, others are pretty wacky and then there’s those which are just plain bizarre. It’s one of those things where it is hard to know where to point the camera and which ones to take pictures of.

Once you are at the top this temple provided you with a number of rewards. First, there are the views you get from the top as the ultimate reward for climbing so high. I am a real sucker for a high elevation view, but these were particularly lovely.

You also have a lot of other sculptures up here, a large pagoda and, of course, the main temple itself. No photos allowed of the inside itself, sadly, but you had wall covered in small Buddha statues (ergo the Ten Thousand in the name) as well as the lacquered body of the temple founder in the middle. Thankfully this is not one of the instances of self-mummification that monks used to do, more the preservation of his dead body.

Even further up, you have golden statues of female Buddhist deities and other statues, there are also some other smaller places of worship and sadly a whole section that has been blocked off for restoration works after it was gotten by a landslide. We bid goodbye to this temple and took with us a can of sugarcane juice for the road as we got back on the MTR and headed for the next temple.

Next was the Sik Sik Yuen Tong Wai Sun Temple. The surroundings of the MTR station and the temple were covered in plenty of leftovers from past protests, which I felt a bit odd taking pictures of. Since there was more restoration works going on, the whole temple complex was split in half. In the larger half of the complex you have both Taoist and Confucian shrines, but also the reason we came here: the gardens.

The Good Wish garden is the sort of Chinese garden that I was really hoping to see whilst I was here. With its serene pool filled with fish, the bridges and the many pagodas it’s one of those places that I just could spend so long just sitting in and taking in the peace. I can imagine that if I were a Hong Konger, this would be somewhere I would just come to every now and then to find peace, despite being surrounded but high rises. Absolutely gorgeous.

By stepping out and going via the alleys full of fortune tellers, you get to the main hall of the temple with zodiac sculptures and water misting apparatus to help keep people cool when worshipping on hot days. The smell of incense was pretty intense with some people clutching burning bundles at least 10 thick.

Final religious stop of the day: the Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery. These two are connected, which we didn’t realise until later when we went out in search of the nunnery only to realise we’d already walked through it. What probably did not help was that so many areas of the garden were walled off for improvement works (which appears to be a common theme of this holiday so far) so we were done with this area a lot sooner than we expected.

It was nice enough with a lovely gold pavillon, interesting buildings and a bonsai collection – but given how high this place appeared on different travel lists, I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed. I guess it was either expectations set too high or the garden wasn’t exactly representative of everyone else’s experience. Anyway, we left to go to the Prince Edward area in search of lunch.

When looking up a good quality (but not pricey) place to find dim sum, the name that comes up everywhere is Tim Ho Wan. There’s a number of these around the city, one of them being Michelin starred and the others being in the Michelin Guide. The one we were at was not the star one, but the food was still gorgeous. We also managed to get in right away, which I was so thrilled with as that had been a bit of a worry.

Originally we were meant to head south to the Ladies Market, but reports on the Telegraph app told us that the protests and the police were heading towards it and then further north to our current location, so we and plenty of others were making for the MTR station to get out of there. Good thing to, turns out we missed out on a potential tear gassing by 30-45 minutes as did the mass of people on the carriage who were escaping Mong Kok.

We therefore moved straight to the ICC building – the tallest building in Hong Kong and the 10th tallest in the world – so we could visit the Sky 100 observation deck. One of the cool things about getting there earlier was that we ended up getting a 25% discount as part of the observation deck was closed for a private event… which was ending in ten minutes. Brilliant stroke of luck!

Standing up here, you really come to realise two things about the city of Hong Kong. Firstly, just how green the mountains surrounding Hong Kong are. Also, just how homogeneous the buildings on Kowloon get once you leave the harbour side. I guess you can see how it happens when you have a burgeoning population and you need places to put them, but it doesn’t make for the best looking city areas. Probably why I set up camp on the side of the observation deck facing towards Hong Kong Island.

From here we walked through the fancy Elements mall and made for the Temple Street night market via some lovely elevated park walkways. This isn’t a night market with street food like those we frequented in Taipei, more a place with lot of goods and knock off clothes. It’s was pretty gratifying to see how much life just continues on despite the fact that protests and gassings are happening not too far away.

Another, but final, long walk now to the Harbor City Mall. It’s our third luxury mall of the day and, as such, was the third time seeing some of these brands. I guess there’s a point to be made about globalism here because how many Louis Vuittons does a city really need to have.

We were here for the Ocean Observation Deck which gives a 270 degree view to the west where you can see out to the sea and you can see most of the tall buildings on Hong Kong Island. By this point my body was giving way a bit, so we took our time to take in the nighttime sea views. Really worth a look if you want somewhere not too crowded for a nighttime view.

To get back to our hotel we took the famous Star Ferry across the bay. It’s one of those ferry journeys that every tourist needs to make at least once whilst here. Like the rest of the public transport, as this ferry is one of the quicker routes across the bay, this trip is dirt cheap compared to London and is just such a relaxing journey with a chance for some great views of both sides of the bay.

By the time we reached the hotel, I was in full blown sick mode. Fever and sweating and shivering. My poor husband went to get some food for himself and ate it in the hotel whilst typing up notes for the day so I could make a post when I was feeling better. Looking back, I was so concerned that this would be one of those bugs that would linger, but luckily it passed with some sleep and we decided to postpone our trip to Macau for a day so that we could remain in Hong Kong just in case I had another shivering spell.

Honk Honk Hong Kong: Day 1 – Arrival

These posts I make about Hong Kong are going to be a very strange time capsule when they go up six months later. Who knows how much of the situation will have changed compared to the third week of November 2019. I mean, when we booked this trip 8-9 months ago, there were no protests let alone the violence that you’ve been seeing on the news.

I’m hoping that by May 2020 things will have come to a positive resolution for the people of Hong Kong, but as things now we are in a position where it looks like we’re going to need to be flexible with plans and keep up to date with where the flash points are. Needless to say, I’ve barely slept for the week before coming here because of everything going on and that none of this was considered serious enough to allow us to get a refund on our flights and hotel.

The day we flew out, however, the excitement began to hit me. Not only does this mean that I have visited the final Asian economic tiger (the others being Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan), but also crossed off the final big place I wanted to visit as a kid. As I’ve not been able to really look forward to this too much, this all hit me at once and I just started crying in the office from excitement. It’s been a journey.

Our flight was fine, but flying with British Airways really cemented just how good our flights were with Asiana on the way to Seoul. The only thing BA has over the are better free headphones and a better selection of in-flight entertainment (I mean, I was able to watch Parasite months before it’s released in the UK). However, the seats and the food is just so much better on Asiana.

Anyway, 12 hours later and about 5 hours of broken sleep later and we were in Hong Kong. Despite our earlier fears based on previous weeks, the Airport Express was operational and so we had a painless trip to our hotel in Wan Chai – which gave us a room upgrade since the number of tourists coming to Hong Kong has plummeted.

We figured that we would try our luck and see how bad things were by going on a short stroll towards the harbour – which I am so glad I did because it has helped to allay a number of remaining fears about how this trip might end up. It also really hammered home just how the level of tourism has collapsed as we had so many of these beautiful views of Kowloon across the water to ourselves.

I’m always a bit of a sucker for a city skyline at night, but Hong Kong’s is something truly special – and I haven’t even seen the view from the mainland yet! We strolled along Victoria Harbour towards Central Harbour, gazing at the buildings on both sides of the bay (not thinking to go on the Ferris wheel, hopefully we’ll get around to it at some point before we leave) and it was just one of those lovely serene moments when you are just taking in the magic of the city.

We actually walked so far into Central that we were able to visit Yum Cha for a late dinner. This is a place I had on my list for two reasons – good dim sum and cute dim sum. I am fully prepared to have a ridiculous amount of dim sum whilst in Hong Kong, but I really wanted to make sure that we got to a place that did something cute. The char siu pigs and the orange guys filled with molten custard were the best.

Then it was just a quick ride home on one of Hong Kong’s iconic and visually unstable double decker trams. From the window on the top deck, you get some great views of this upmarket shopping area – alongside the remnants of protest graffiti and the occasional beaten up structure. Truly though, similar areas in London are in far worse condition than here in Hong Kong and we haven’t had the bust-ups and brutality that they’ve had here.

Tomorrow will see our first full day in Hong Kong proper, which is going to be interesting to see how it goes. We’ve got possibly adjustments in place should certain areas flare up, but hopefully we won’t need to use them all up. For now, it’s time to sleep off this time zone adjustment headache and get to tomorrow with gusto.