Hong Kong has been my stop-over on the way to Hanoi, as well as being a place I’d heard a lot about (good and bad), so I arranged a two night stay in Kowloon.
First impressions are always tinged by the fact that they’re had at an airport. I knew that the old days of landing in Kowloon between skyscrapers were over, but I was hoping for some near-misses with buildings. I did, however, get a lovely flyover of the bay area, teeming with fishing boats.
When you arrive at the airport, a fairly cheap train whisks you into town in 20 minutes. At Kowloon station, you have a choice of turning left for the taxi rank or turning right for the shuttle buses. For some reason, I took the right corridor and found out to my surprise that the hotel lays on free transfers to and from the station, as well as downtown.
The humidity was intense – I was told about 90% humidity. In fact, my camera fogged up completely when I took it out.
My first night was spent in Tsim Sha Tsui. This is certainly the place to go if you’re into shopping and labels. I’m not, so I found the place crowded and consumerist.
But the waterfront was another matter entirely. Looking south towards the island, I was rewarded with this view:
The next day, I had a bit of a lie-in and headed across to the Island on the Star Ferry. Cheap at $2.50 (19p) one-way, and frequent, it took about 10 minutes to cross to Central on Hong Kong Island. I figured it would make sense to tackle the rest of the day on a full stomach, so I grabbed some dim sum at City Hall Maxim’s Palace. There were queues, and I had to take a ticket and wait, so that was a good sign. The queues moved pretty fast. It was a fun experience – to get your meal you could either ask a waiter to fetch it from the kitchen for you or you could stop one of the old ladies pushing a cart around the room:
I waddled out of there into the sticky heat of Hong Kong Island and walked across to the Bank of China Tower. Tourists are allowed to take an express elevator to the 43rd floor, where the views across Victoria Harbour were impressive. The wind howled around the building and I’m pretty sure the floor was wobbling under me (either that or I have undiagnosed vertigo). The reason I’m not sharing the view from this tower is because I my next stop was for a far greater view.
The Peak Tram is probably the slowest rollercoaster I’ve ever been on. If you go up it, be sure to get the all-inclusive Sky Terrace ticket for about HK$20 more. The ride up took me through jungle at a near vertical angle – it was very strange looking out of the window and realising that you’re almost parallel with a tower block. The Sky Terrace (assuming you make it past the tourist tat stalls) gives you this view over Hong Kong:
It was on the Sky Terrace that I met Alicia and Michelle, who offered to take my photo for me. We ended up hanging out on Hong Kong Island for most of the rest of the day, just enjoying meandering around the streets of the island and soaking up the atmosphere.
We headed for Cat Street Market (and must have missed it because it was pretty empty) but I did buy a little red book of quotations from Mao at a small antique shop and Met Chairman Miaow himself!
We cruised back on the Star Ferry – my aim was to get to Temple Street Night Market, so I headed there and left the others to soak up the view of Victoria harbour.
Lots of cheap stuff was on sale at Temple Street Night Market: cheap clothes, cheap electronics, cheap fake watches, cheap seafood and cheap love. Yes, I was offered cheap love several times at Temple Street Night Market.
Among the brightly lit stalls were restaurants where locals and tourists alike tucked into seafood. Living seafood waited its turn for the plate just feet away.
Before my flight to Hanoi, I had a couple of hours to kill, so I made my way to the Bird Market. Here were all kinds of birds on sale, cheek-by-beak. Some people rave about this sort of place, but to be honest, I found it a little bit sad: birds are meant to fly and flock. No matter how gilded the cages, they’re still cages.
One parrot stayed perched between two telephones. Between cawing “Hello”, he’d make ringing sounds.
A quick rush back to the hotel and that’s Hong Kong in 48 hours! Next stop: Hanoi.