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Hong Kong – A City of Lights

I have visited Hong Kong a number of times but not in the last 10 years, my husband had not been before so we were both very much looking forward to spending three nights in one of my favourite cities.

 

After a rather turbulent but comfortable flight with Cathay Pacific we landed in a very wet Hong Kong. I’ve never seen rain like it! We had booked seats on the transfer bus from the airport to our hotel. The bus drops people at other hotels and normally takes around an hour but with the weather and traffic it took nearly two hours. It was a very welcome surprise when we finally arrived at the Marco Polo to find we had been upgraded to the Continental Club.

The Continental Club is a hotel within a hotel and is located on the 17th and 18th floors. Benefits include personalised check-in and butler service, daily breakfast, afternoon tea, evening cocktails and hors d'oeuvres as well as complimentary coffee and tea served throughout the day in the Club Lounge. After settling into our very pleasant room and freshening up, we explored the facilities of the lounge and the hors d’oeuvres selection. The Marco Polo is in a fantastic location overlooking Victoria Harbour, a few minutes’ walk from the Star Ferry and the cruise terminal. It is part of Harbour City, Hong Kong’s largest shopping complex.

Big-BuddhaAfter a leisurely late breakfast we made our way down to the lobby where we were collected for our half day tour to Lantau Island with Grayline. The tour took us to Tung Chung from where we took the cable car up to Ngong Ping Village. The brochure says the 5.7km journey offers spectacular panoramic views of the Giant Buddha, South China Sea and Hong Kong International airport. We had a great view of the airport but half way up the cloud set in and at one point we couldn’t even see the cable car infront! Infact we couldn’t even see the Buddha properly until we had climbed the 222 steps to the top of the hill where he resides.

After leaving the cable car we explored the shops of Ngong Ping village before making the short walk to the Po Lin Monastery and the Big Buddha. The Monastery was beautiful and a tranquil spot to recover from climbing the steps in 32 degree heat and 80% humidity! The tour then took us down the mountains and out of the cloud to Tai O fishing village. After a short walking tour of the village to view the dried fish stalls we boarded a small boat for a trip out to try and spot some white dolphins. Unfortunately we didn’t see any but we did get a great view of the huge bridge being constructed between Hong Kong and Macau. An amazing feat of engineering, the 38km bridge will reduce the journey time from one hour by ferry to half an hour. It was due to be completed by end of 2017 but is now thought unlikely to be completed until 2020.The boat then took us on a short cruise around the waterways of Tai O and we had a great view of the village’s stilt houses before boarding the tour bus back to the city and the hotelTai-O-fishing-village.

There are many ways to travel around Hong Kong - MTR, bus, on foot but we decided on a 48 hour ticket for the Big Bus Hop-on Hop-off sightseeing tour. There are three routes, Blue on Kowloon, Red and Green on Hong Kong Island, as well as a night tour. The buses are every 30 minutes during the day. The cost included a 48 hour pass, return Star Ferry crossing, 1 hour day time harbour cruise, admission to the Hong Kong Maritime Museum, Sampan Ride and either a Peak Tram pass or entrance to the Sky100 HK Observation deck. We were also given a booklet with money off vouchers for a number of restaurants including Jamie’s Italian.

Star-Ferry--JunkOn the first day of our pass we took the Star Ferry across the harbour and boarded the Green bus which took us out past Ocean Park and Repulse Bay to Stanley Market. There are boxes of free earbuds which you take when boarding and plug into the socket on the back of the seat to listen to the recorded commentary. The stalls in Stanley Market are more expensive than those in the famous markets on Kowloon but the goods are general better quality. We spent an hour wondering the alleyways before making our way back to the bus stop.

Sampan

We then continued onto Aberdeen and boarded a Sampan for a ride around the harbour. The trip is one of contrasts, between the millionaire’s yachts moored in one part of the harbour and the fishing boats which were obviously people’s homes and the multi-stored apartment blocks that towered over it. Our guide took us past the Jumbo Floating Restaurant and back to the bus stop. My husband said he was glad he didn’t pay extra for the Sampan Ride but it is one of the things that you ‘do’ when you come to Hong Kong. We both agreed the previous day’s visit to the stilt village had been more interesting and scenic.

View-from-PeakBack on the bus our next stop was the Peak Tram. The Big Bus staff escort you through so you don’t have to queue for tickets which was great. We admired the stunning view over the Harbour to Kowloon before having lunch in a Forrest Gump themed restaurant at the top of the Peak Tower.

From there we took the bus round part of the red route to the Star Ferry Terminal and the ferry back across to Kowloon. We caught the last bus at 1805 from the rear of the iconic Peninsula Hotel to the stop for the Temple Street Night Market.

You need a good map to find your way around or alternatively many of the four and five star hotels supply a complimentary smartphone with your room. Ours also allowed us to call the UK for free. We did eventually find the Night Market but my husband is not very good at shopping especially when it is hot and humid. So after a whistle stop tour of the Market we walked down the famous Nathan Road back to our hotel.

Ladies-MarketAnother day, another market! We used our pass to catch the bus up to Mong Kok, the stop for the Ladies Market. We arrived about 11am when many of the stalls were still setting up so I would recommend visiting after midday. It was extremely hot so after another very quick walk through this market we headed for the air conditioning of the Langham Place shopping centre before getting back on the bus for the tour around Kowloon. The bus stops at the International Commerce Centre and I really wish we had paid to visit the Sky100 HK Observation Deck on the 100th floor to see the amazing view of the whole of Hong Kong.

Then it was back to the hotel for afternoon tea before checking out of our room. We passed some time looking around the shops of Harbour City before heading to the waterfront to get a good spot to watch the ‘Symphony of Lights’. This is a sound and light show which starts at 8pm every night and lasts for about 15 minutes. It was a great ending to our trip!

HKG-at-nightThe 25 minute taxi ride back to the airport was actually cheaper than the arrival transfer bus but I suppose it depends whereabouts you are staying. After dropping off our bags we relaxed and enjoyed the facilities of The Wing, one of Cathay Pacific’s lounges at the airport before boarding our flight home. The captain delayed leaving as he said we could not land at Heathrow before 6.02am and the tailwind meant we would be early. After another comfortable flight we landed at precisely 6.02am and were in the transfer bus on the way to collect our car by 6.40am!

Like us most people only spend a few nights in Hong Kong normally as a stopover on the way to somewhere else. There is so much to see you could easily fill five days and I wish we could have stayed longer. My husband would have liked to spend more time on Hong Kong Island to experience the nightlife as well as the beaches of Repulse Bay and Stanley. Ideally I would suggest three nights in Kowloon and two nights on Hong Kong Island. I would have liked to have included a day trip to Macau and a tour into the New Territories but will have to save that for a return visit!

 

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