We stopped over in Hong Kong for two or three nights in January 2006. The airport being on an island and the runway almost reaching the sea makes for very interesting take-offs and landings, but that is all I’m going to say about the airport. We will leave shopping to later.
Despite having read guide books Hong Kong was a surprise to me. It was my first visit to the East so the sights and smells seemed fascinatingly foreign. Something I was completely unprepared for was the frosty 10 degree C temperature! I had packed for hot and humid weather, so my first shivering foray beyond the hotel was with the sole purpose of purchasing some warm jeans and jackets. We stayed at the Nathan Hotel on the Kowloon Peninsula, which is mid-range, but still quite decent and within walking distance of the waterfront area, shops, restaurants and underground. The lights at night, the immense high-rise apartment buildings, the smell of Chinese food on the side-walks the window displays, everything is very different to Cape Town. Things like these roasted ducks hanging in many shop windows both horrified and intrigued me. I think it it because they still had their beaks attached, but I’m not sure what I found the most disturbing. The menu in the hotel restaurant included bull’s testicles.
So what do I recommend you do while you’re there? Well, I was in Hong Kong before Louis Vuitton opened its store in Cape Town, so visiting handbag heaven was high on my priority list. Shopping wise, there are great night markets for bargains and knick knacks as well as a plethora of designer shops. An absolute must is a trip on the Star Ferry across to Hong Kong island where you can catch quaint colonial trams through the CBD. You can’t miss the tram up to Victoria Peak, which runs from 7am to midnight. The views are spectacular. And in case that isn’t enough to lure you, there is a Haagen Dasz up there.
We hired a guide for a day which was well worth it. They know the roads and can drive you anywhere by the most direct route. Ours took us to Aberdeen fishing village, a tranquil town close to the buzz of Hong Kong city but with a completely different vibe. The main attraction is the Jumbo Floating Restaurant which serves Cantonese food. We didn’t go, but we took a ride on a sampan. Being in the know, our guide also took us to a jewellery factory where we watched the sparkles being made as well as had an opportunity to buy direct from the factory shop. I got some pearl earrings and a ring for a good price.
On the way back to the airport we stopped off on Lantau Island and took a bus on a very winding and never-ending road into the hills to visit the Po Lin monastery, home of the world’s largest seated Buddha. There is also a cable car that takes visitors up there. By this point the weather had inexplicably turned to mid-summer, so I had to purchase a silly looking hat and sweat up about a million steps to reach the Buddha. Great views from up there though! At the monastery itself we had some vegetarian lunch and visited the temple. It is a nice way to end off your trip and conveniently en route to the airport, if I remember correctly.
Would I attempt to travel to Hong Kong now, with my three year old in tow? Not on your life. Maybe when they hit the teen years is a better time to consider a family visit to this hustling and bustling cultural extravaganza.