Day 18 (September 25, 2012)   Hong Kong


Before   

Map of Hong Kong
   
   We will arrive to Hong Kong around 7:30 AM, so we have the whole day for exploring this fascinating city.

   We will use basically their underground for that, which reaches the airport too, so we can use it to go to our hotel, in a tall skyscraper of Kowloon West, where keeping our baggage at least, considering it’s going to be so soon for getting the room.

   From there, we will move around for visiting the highlights, but we probably will want some time too to enjoy hotel facilities.

   Spots to be visited, marked at map, are:

 0- Hotel Nina et Convention
 1- Hong Kong Park: a sort of Central Park, in the way it is a nature oasis surrounded by skyscrapers.
 2- Victoria Peak: A steeper funicular railway can take us to the top of this mountain, where the views of the city are magnificent.
 3- Wong Tai Sin Temple: A bit of the classic China in the middle of modern buildings in city center.
 4- Mong Kok: Market neighborhood and the most populated in the world. Fish, flower and ladies markets are here, among others.
 5- Tsim Sha Tsui: The harbor, where leaves and arrives the ferry to Hong Kong island, which we want to take. It is here too the Avenue of stars, where the Asian movie stars are honored. We must be here around 8 PM, where we will be able to enjoy the skyline and the Symphony of Lights, a show unique in the world.

After

At Hong Kong airport   Our flight lands in Hong Kong just when the night, which has been with us the whole 10 hours trip, has finally gone. It’s been quick this time for us as there was empty rows in the plane, allowing us to laying for sleep.

   After immigration control we take our baggage and exchange some money: I get 300 HKD by my 50 NZD bill, which is around 30€. The currency calculation is very easy this time as, being the Hong Kong dollar at 10 per euro approximately, we just have to remove the final zero from the prices.

   Then I ask in an Information desk for the best way of getting to our hotel, which I thought it was by train but they tell me that, being 8, the best is taking a couple of taxis as the ride is going to be 200$ each. We’re explained too, we must go for the red taxis and that’s what we do. All of them are the same car model, which I don’t identify, but is looking quite old. We can see too their trunks are so small for four big bags and four small ones, but they’re used to that and everything is located without thinking about closing the door, as the usual is the use of ropes to secure the baggage part. Before taking them, I’ve been delivered in a desk just here a note with my destination written in Chinese and a card with advices about how to deal with taxi drivers.

   We seat as we can in two red taxis split in two groups of four persons and go along the highway with a long bridge over the sea, looking the incredibly tall buildings at our left, as cement beehives, looking as having hundreds of cheap flats on them, and the fancy glass sky scrapers in front, drawing the skyline of the part of the coast we’re going to. I identify the shape of the tallest one as our destination and the driver just confirms: “the tallest is your hotel”.

Hong Kong taxi to the city

   When we arrive we check in despite of the early time it is now, 9 AM, but our rooms will be delivered later, since 11 AM on. If all inside this incredibly tall sky scraper are rooms, is not strange the hall is this full of people and movement as a lot of people must be allocated here. The thing is we must leave our baggage to the concierge as we go outside for a first exploration of this city.

   We cannot find easily the MT station although the map we’ve been given is marking it is just here and we need some indications to get into it. This is Tsuen Wan West station belonging to West (purple) line. Downstairs we find a hugeHong Kong MTR "Tsuen Wan West" station and clean hall with an endless transit of people. We cannot see ticket boxes, but machines in the wall. They’re very easy to use if you want a single ticket to somewhere: you only have to touch your destination station in the map at the screen, but I cannot work out how to use it for a multipass ticket. Then we find out first problem: we need to talk with a human been, but there is no staff around. We can see a couple of bank offices, but they are compounded by machines, no humans here either. We end asking to someone who addresses us to customer service, on the other side of this hall: after a 300 meters long pass way. How easy are things when you can interact with humans!

   We can purchase our 24 hours “Tourist Day Pass” by 55HK$ each and go in. With the map at hand and because all the signs are in “our” characters too, we can change lines twice with no problem to reach our target station, “Causeway Bay”, in Hong Kong island.

Hong Kong MTR lines mapHong Kong MTR














 

   When we came out to the street we’re stunned for a while, looked around and, overall, up. We’re in a cross of streets with a lot of people and cars passing through the sky scrapers. It is not like in New York for me as the feeling of being insignificant is stronger here.

Hong Kong buildingsBamboo scaffolding in streets of Hong Kong




























   We walk with no orientation as it is not easy locate our position in the map. We’re here for going to our first spot to visit: Victoria Peak, but we reach Victoria Park, which is flat and no hints of a peak around here. So I ask to the doorman of a hotel nearby and he explains that, obviously, peak and park are different things, so we should go to Central station instead. Victoria Peak is not in my map, but he has pointed to me the cable car station.

   Now, knowing the way, we come back to the MTR just for three stops and we go out on an area even more impressive than the one we’re coming from, with taller and more concentrated sky scrapers. We can see double decked buses and, as I never saw before, double decked trams too We can see the notice of an Ikea store but, as here these stores takes a big flat building as warehouse, here it is taking a few floors of a sky scrapper. It’s like switching our horizontal concept by a vertical one.

Double decked tram in Hong KongBuildings in Central Hong Kong
















   Being a pedestrian seems complicated on these streets as they cannot be crossed easily. They have a platform system over the roads as pedestrian ways and we must realize how it works. Peak Tram is close to where we are, but reaching it is another story and takes us a while.

   When we’re finally at the station, we join the tourists row for purchasing the 65$HK ticket for return tram trip and admission to the peak. Then we can see how the next tram gets full, but we get a position to be in the next one. When it arrives, people leave by the left side and, once it is empty, right doors open for us to come in.

   Reaching the top is a short tram ride; it is becoming steeper and nicer as we’re going up. The verticality is kind of mitigated by the tram design, which makes us see the buildings outside crooked. This ride is entirely recorded in this video:
Peak Tram


 At the top of the mountain there is… a shopping mall! To reach the lookout terrace you must pass by several floors full of stores up. Then, at the top of the building, we can finally enjoy the views for which we’ve came here: Hong Kong buildings from the hill they have behind. At the bottom, if your eyes manage to go through the mist which some of us are betting it is pollution, the continent can be seen, with Kowloon area, where the most of the city are, including our hotel.

At Vistoria Peak lookoutVictoria Peak lookout















Hong Kong view from Victoria Peak

   This is a 365 view point but, actually, only one of the four sides of this rectangular terrace is interesting.

   When we’re done of being amazed by the city views and tired of the wind, although it was still hot, we go inside to go down all the floors back to the tram.

Shopping Mall floors in Victoria PeakPeak Tram
















   Our plan is going to ferries terminal with an eye on the chance of visiting Wong Tai Sin temple and I’ve chosen a ride on one of those double decked trams for doing that, but when leaving the Peak Tram station, just at the door, is parked a bus marking ferry terminal as end of route, so we get into it to makes thing easier. It’s route 15C and there is a box to put the 4.20 HK$ per person as trip rate. Driver is looking after everybody pays, but he don’t give any change, which is clear after I put a 5$ bill in it. This bus has a really short route as we’ve started at the beginning and leaving at the end of it in no more than 10 minutes.

   In ferry terminal we’re following the signs pointing to “Tsim Sha Tsui”, which is our destination, until reaching a machine which delivers a sort of metal chips called “token” by 2 HK$. It must be used immediately by inserting it in the slot in the turnstile and we’re ready for boarding. This way, the “cruise” from Hong Kong island to the continent is 0.20€ per person!.

   The trip is quick, though, but is time enough as per enjoying views from both shores and their skylines.

Sailing through Victoria HarbourSailing through Victoria Harbour
















   We don’t want to spend too much time in Tsim Sha Tsui because we’re coming back this evening and we’re crazy about getting our rooms, but it’s lunch time and we do a short stop in McDonald’s in order of the part of the group don’t liking Chinese food can eat. The rest of us, wanting to taste local food, wait for end of the Mcmenus – which price is less than 3€, by the way – before taking the MTR in “Tsim Sha Tsui” station and changing line in “Mei Foo”.Tsim Sha Tsui harbour

   In the hotel is not everything ready as they can give us one room now and the rest in 10 minutes. Fortunately there are four free internet computers in the lobby to use while waiting.

   Our four rooms are in 68th floor!. Reaching it requires an elevator change: there are some quick ones until floor 40th, where we can change to the ones reaching the highest floors.

   Our reward comes when checking the rooms: they’re splendid. A glass wall is the only between us and the views of the sky scrapers which are lower than us. Some rooms have views to the harbor. Apart from the views room is big and nice with a big shower and bathtub. They must like coupes as the rooms with one king bed are even better, taking a corner of the tower, than the ones with twin beds. We’re so amazed – and tired – that we decide to spend some hours in the hotel.

Floors of Hotel Nina et ConventionRoom of Hotel Nina et Convention
















   There are still some of us for lunching and we go to the connected shopping mall in the building besides the hotel one, taking advantage we’ve found a brochure with coupons for the places there in our rooms. The first restaurant we find is in the coupon list and meet our expectations.

   We lunch at Dimsum bar and eat by less than 8€ each, including beers – which is the most expensive by far –and seafood. Delicious!

   At last I can finally rest a little bit. I go down to floor 9 where the swimming pool is and enjoy it with great views of the city, then I go to the indoor pool as I want to try everything. After that I still can lay at bed until the time to leave. The accumulated tiredness makes the bed tempting against the Hong Kong outside.

Dimsum BarHotel Nina et Convention's swimming pool
















   Anyway, we’re back in the MTR after 6 PM and it’s close to be dark. We go out for a while from Mong Kok station. The city by night is even more spectacular with all its lights. This is a neighborhood with a lot of live and we’re here to take a look at the famous markets and passing by a temple I’ve chosen at map as substitution of the one we’ve missed this morning. When we arrive it is not what we expected: it is closed and an entrance between large buildings instead of a building by itself. So we walk looking shops by the area marked at map as “Sports market”. Next street is marked as “Tech market”, where we can check prices are cheaper than ours, but not that much as per compensating having no warranty. Finally, we take a look at Lady’s market and take the way back to the MTR station. We don’t want to be late to where we want to be at 8 PM.

Mong KokMong Kok
















   It’s just three stations until being in Tsim Sha Tsui again. We’re following the signs – and the people - pointing to “Avenue of stars” and when we reach it we find a sort of traditional Chinese music being song in a stage and the most wonderful views of a skyline in lights from Hong Kong Island.

   We still must wait 15 minutes for Symphony of Lights to start, but we can spend that time just by looking what we have in front of us. I just cannot explain it by words, just hoping photos and video can make any justice to such amazing panorama.

To the Symphony of Lights
 
 



   And, as can be seen in the video, Symphony of Lights starts. I’m a little disappointed because it feels “small” between so much sky scrapers not taking part of it, but this is unique in the world: a perfect end for this amazing travel.

Avenue of stars

   And this is how it is: this is ending and we’re realizing that, and our legs too, which don’t want to be abused more. This is the reason we just take a walk along the Avenue of stars, where I can only reckon the names of Jackie Chan and Jet Li, and end in front of the Bruce Lee statue, where we decide not going to Night market or any other place but bed.

Pirate boat while Symphony of LightsJet Li star in Avenue of Stars
















   The return MTR trip is the most tedious moment in two weeks but has the reward of a wonderful rooms and even more wonderful views for tonight.