Hi! Below I tried to summarize my 3 day stopover in Hong Kong end of July. I’m late with the post and I failed in summing up just the highlights. The details are important to me though, and hope that by sharing I can make you keen on visiting new places, with a friend, with your partner, on your own, and also important: even on a budget! In the mean time a lot is happening Down Under. I’ll keep you posted! x Elien
PS: posts in English: sorry for my lovelies back home, but it upgrades my English written skills x
Tuesday 28 July 2015 – Arrival – 1st ½ DAY
NEIH hóu! from The Peak
Although both Chinese and English are acknowledged as Hong Kong’s official languages, day 1 I learn a basic word in Cantonese, spoken by almost 90 % of the “Hongkongers”: Neih Hou meaning Hello! Knowing only European languages, I must admit it’s difficult to get it right. I would recommend a lovely local, a Tsingtao beer plus “write it down phonetically and repeat, repeat, repeat” and MAYBE you will master 1 word :).
Photo from in Metro going from Airport to Cental
As a solo traveler, it is always nice to know at least 1 local person. It’s also the best way to experience the “real life”.. During my Red Centre trip with Groovy Grape July 2014, I’ve met 4 lovely ‘Chinese’, as at that stage, I was culturally unaware, that there is a big difference between someone from China and someone from Hong Kong. Hong Kong as it is known today, was born when China’s Qing dynasty government was defeated by the Brits in 1842. Having this British influence, becoming a capitalist economy where China stayed (partially) socialist, having better wages, better life-style, more freedom then China in general, it kind of irritates the Hongkongers being called Chinese. It makes sense to menow. I guess it’s a cultural thing like with the Belgians: me from the North, I’m more proud to be called Flemish rather then Belgian ;).
In 1997 however, Hong Kong became Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. Mavis explains to me that since then she feels that Hong Kong becomes more and more restraint. For example the Chinese are not allowed to have Facebook, whereas the Hongkongers still have that luck, but until when…
Mavis Cheng is my best local guide ever. After arriving in Hong Kong’s very welcoming airport (I get this enveloppe with vouchers and a Hong Kong duck, magnets and other goodies – promoting their ‘Summer fun’), I take the metro from Chek Lap Kok Island to Central, the business district on Hong Kong Island. That’s where I booked 3 nights in “Minihotel Central
” – Ice House st, combining my Qantas-points and some dollars, which made it a good deal. If you pay full price, you have to count 700 HKD (80 euro or 125 AUD), which is cheap in that area.. It’s a very compact room, with all the nice, clean commodities, even a phone which you can use during your stay, having data and credit to call locally. Handy for a sole traveller, if you get lost and you happen to not see anyone around to ask for help (cause they will all help you!), you always have Google Maps only a click away.
After a refresh in my mini room, I have 4 hours before I catch up with Mavis, feeling like some fresh light food. Just a doorstep away, I found the perfect spot: Fringe Club, on the second floor on 2 Albert road: enjoying their salads and soup buffet plus a coffee for 98 HKD (11 euro or 17.50 AUD) sitting outside in the alfresco area, looking out over Hong Kongs skyscrapers but also over some lush green trees. I decide to follow that green path until after 10 minutes I realize I must have arrived at a famous tourist attraction. Rows and rows of people, just to get a ticket to go up Hong Kong’s hills with the old Peak Tram. I observe and ask how long it would take me to get a ticket: “Aprox 1.5 hours…” Right.. I come closer to a German or Swiss family awaiting a taxi. They decide to take the taxi up and then book a single ticket to get back with the tram. Unfortunately their cap is full. I notice another fellow, observing and wandering around.
Then I just speak up, suggesting to share a cap, and “voila”, off we go : a German that just arrived about a week ago to do a 1 year Finance Master degree and a Belgian, saving a dollar on sharing a cap, and having a companion to wander around up Victoria Peak, a 552 m Mountain also know as the Peak, a stunning spot that offers spectacular views of the city and its harbors. FYI: a taxi to go up is about 45 HKD which is about the same price (if you share one) as a one way Tram fare without the wait to get to the top (Tram Fare is 25 HKD per person).
Victoria Peak Garden
Time flies as I realize I have to get back to the Minihotel (due to this time lack, taxi back instead of the Tram Fare) as Mavis picks me up from my lobby at 18:00 PM to go eat traditional food and go sightseeing.
Since the Hongkongers from the Red Centre trip were still Down Under, they brought me in contact with this beautiful energetic Barista, who happens to have an Australian boyfriend and hopes to go over there again at some stage. Ideally Mavis wants to take me out for traditional lunch, to have dim sum or also known as going to “drink tea” (yum cha), as dim sum is typically served with tea. Instead it’s dinner and 162 Wellington street is our destination, where I’m the only Western person: PERFECT! We indulge lots of yammies such as duck, and I have my first Tsingtao beer, a Hong Kong delight. “O how baaauw” – I’m full from all the yammies :). To digest the meal, we go for a walk through the highest building of Hong Kong, to then go to the harbour, taking the Star Farry, one of National Geographic’s 50 “Places of a Lifetime”. A fun and cheap way to travel between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, a ride – existing since 1898 – where you can enjoy an up-close look at the world-famous Victoria Harbour.
In Kowloon we are lucky to watch Hong Kong’s free Pulse 3d Light Show with exciting audiovisual effects at the iconic buildings of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre and the Clock Tower at Tsim Sha Tsui. After enjoying the light show, we stroll along the Avenue of Stars, located along the Victoria Harbour waterfront, honoring celebrities of the Hong Kong film industry.
Even though it’s a Tuesday night, the city seems to not go to sleep. And although I would have loved to stay longer, my mind, as well as Mavis having to work the day after, brings me back to my hotel bed for a peaceful sleep.
Wednesday 29 July 2015 – full DAY 1
I suppose it is the adrenaline that gives you the energy, and with that energy today’s plan is to go hike the Dragons Back, voted the “Best Urban Hiking Trial in Asia”. With a short metro ride from Central to Sai Wan Ho (10 HKD) you then take bus 9 to Dragons Back (7 HKD). Going on that bus, you realize you’re in more “remote” Hong Kong, when you sense that the bus driver can’t really understand you if you ask him: “Is this the right bus to go to Dragon’s Back?”. Luckily I spot 2 friendly-looking men in hiking shoes, and a hello and double check with them, makes it a relaxed trip, since they know exactly where to get off the bus. When we arrive, it’s the 2 men, a Spanish couple and me that are about to start the hike. I start latest, considering spreading out a bit, so we don’t walk on each others heels. I’m surprised that I don’t cross more people, imagining that a lot of city people would like to come here for an outdoors activity.. The trial, connecting 2 mountain tops shaping it a dragon’s backbone, becomes a mix of me-time and socialising with the 2 “friendly-looking men”. James came over from the UK to Hong Kong as an expat, and has lived in HK for 10 years now, shortly moving to a new life in Canada with his wife and 2 children. The other man is his father Dave, an unbelievably fit 70-something man that travels the world visiting his children and grand-children. The 8.5 km trial ends after 2 hours (Discover Hong Kong says its approx 6 hours) at
Big Wave Bay
Big Wave Bay, a stunning beach including changing rooms with showers, lifeguards and shark nets. James tells me (after our swim) that although sharks are now rare thanks to over-exploitation, there were several attacks during the 1990’s, some fatal.
After a short taxi drive from Big Wave Bay, we have lunch in Shek O, a slightly bigger coastal town, enjoying fresh coconut-water and a Thai seafood dish.
I’ve been really lucky meeting these 2 lovely people, sharing our stories, jokes and travels. But then time comes to say good bye to James and Dave, when I head off to Central, and while they guys hurry up to be on time for Dave’s tennis game (YES! After a hike, that’s his plan! Really inspiring to stay so fit:)!)
I’m back to Minihotel and ready for a little shopping experiment, since my budget doesn’t really allow me to do “shop till you drop”. Hong Kong, known as one of worlds best shopping places, is not only good for electrical appliances, but definitely a must for the fashionistas like my mum and my sister, and ok, myself.. While I try to stick with window shopping, I suddenly remember that I ripped open my only long jeans while I was having a nap at Singapore stop-over. So I MUST go inside a store, just to do a good bargain, to not be cold in the air plane with a dress or short pants;). Topshop (UK multinational fashion retailer) is perfect for that, and since I have a pretty big shoe-size for HK-standards, I find lots of nice things in my size, ending up with buying 3 pieces on sale (including the needed pants, pink sneakers and a high waste short) for just 550 HKD (65 AUD or about 50 euros). To finish up being the girly girl, I cannot resist to go into COS. The brand under the H & M Group launched in 2007 has stores world-wide that are known for applying an architectural design concept that preserves buildings’ original features whilst creating a modern, welcoming space. So I go in, to “enjoy the store layout”, but soon I find myself trying on some clothes. Ending up with buying a basic T-shirt, considering that it will last me very long as COS always creates pieces that are made to last beyond the season. Ok, that’s what their brand stands for, and for me more an excuse to buy the T-shirt, cause I usually don’t shop much just for the brand, more just for what I like. And I haven’t shopped much at all the last 2 years, so “voila”. Enough about this little shopping fever. Maybe a boring bit for some of you, but an important side of HK. Plus (Whitney Houston): “I like being a woman, even in a mans world. After all, men can’t wear dresses, but we can wear the pants.”.
On the way out of the shopping area, I pass by many bars, all full of vibes and ambiance, something that I do miss now and then being in a quiet coastal town in Australia. So it’s decided: since I read about the famous bars and cocktails in HK, I have to experience it! Plus it’s been ages that I danced, probably since my knee-cap dislocation on the grassy dance floor in Ozone street..
I get changed into my new clothes with the pink sneakers, most comfy for some serious dancing moves ;)! When I pass by the bars again, I get a bit nervous where to go in, cause everyone is in their social group and it suddenly is very clear that it’s just me. I keep walking trying to find “my” bar and suddenly I realize that I’m bit lost. Since I left my free smart phone in the hotel, I can’t Google-map my way back, plus it happens to suddenly be a dead quiet road with no people to ask the way back to the night-life district. I grab a taxi and a bit disappointed I have to admit that I might have to skip my night out plan, pretty tired now from all the walking today. But then, in the taxi, I drive past this place that I saw before, and I change my mind. I ask the taxi driver to drop me off in front of the bar, but he friendly offers me to drive me to my hotel “Just so you know the way back from the bar to your hotel cause you’re nearly there.” That’s nice! And indeed: I am 5 minutes walking distance of Solas, where I suddenly feel confident enough to get a Bombay Gin (94 HKD) and blend in smoothly on the dance floor.
An hour and an “impressive-‘Don’t believe me just watch’-demanding-the-whole-dance-floor-for-us”-dance later, I’m asked by an other lovely Brit Steven, to go next doors together with 4 more Brits. Yep, Brits still LOVE “their” Hong Kong. Next doors, in Dragon-I, the music was probably even more commercial, but still made it a perfect night out, ending at a reasonable 2 AM. As a goodbye, I take a “risky” pose on 1 of the 20 fancy motorbikes opposite the club: as you can see on the pic, I had a ball.. Thanks guys, for the boogies! For your information: they are not just Brits, they are from London: explaining me that’s why they know how to party :).
Thursday 30 July – DAY 3
The Big Buddha is a large bronze statue completed in 1993 (cost 60 million HKD !!)
8 AM I finish a big McDonalds breakfast, ready for a day trip on another Hong Kong Island. James gave me some touristy advice, and his idea was to take the whole day to go visit Tian Tan Buddha, also known as the Big Budha. With several options to get there, I chose to take the ferry from Central Pier (nr 6) to Mui Wo on Lantau Island. The ferry is 30 HKD single journey (about 40 mins) after which I take the bus (17 HKD) to Ngong Ping. Most tourists choose to go there with the Cable car (Ngong Ping 360). My intention was to take the Cable car on the way back, but that didn’t work out cause of a storm.
The statue is part of the Po Lin Monastry.
The Buddha symbolizes the harmonious relationship between man and nature, people and faith.
2 hours is enough time to have a look around, whereas for the Buddhists, drawn here from all over Asia, much more time is spend with prayers and burning rituals.
After the Buddha visit, most people combine their trip with a visit to Tai O, a community of fisher folk who’ve build their houses on stilts. The storm makes me decide to get the bus back to Mui Wo. I just miss the ferry, so to kill time wisely I have a walk followed by a Thai Massage : a 1 hour one for 220 HKD, loosing up those stiff muscles from hiking and dancing the day before, so I would be comfortable on another 2 flights heading to Belgium the day after.
Back in the city by 6ish, I enjoy the last sunset in Hong Kong on one of the iconic old trams (2.30 HKD). The destination is Time Square, so you have to take either North Point or Happy Valley direction. Time Square is pretty impressive, but on the other hand just another big shopping mall, with the addition of the big shiny billboards outside, similar to the look of some NY streets. For me, the tram ride itself was pretty nice. A specially on the way back, sitting in the front on the top of the double deck, as if I was steering the wheels through a city that is always busy busy busy.
Friday 31 July – last ½ DAY
Hong Kong Park
Today I have to leave Hong Kong, taking off for Brussels at 19:45 PM (Jet Airways via Mumbai). Since the last days were full-on, I do some research on where to go for breakfast with a view. It’s harder to find then I thought, but I finally read a review and google the address of Cafe Gray Deluxe
: 49/F, Upper House, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway Admiralty. I see it is nearby Hong Kong Park, so I add that on the way up, which is definitely worth the extra steps. The park opened in 1991 covers 8 hectares and features amongst others: an aviary, fountains, lily ponds, but for me mainly a great vantage point to take some snaps of the surrounding skyscrapers.
For the foodies among us: I had the best breakfast ever.. Including the best view (the pictures don’t justify the reality) and best service (and how nice is it, when they come offer you a magazine or paper being in there on your own )!
Most people at Cafe Gray are hotel guests of the Upper House, but if you don’t have a room number and there’s tables available, you can order breakfast until 10:30 AM. Since I don’t often go out for breakfast on my own so “fancy”, I have to add the details on what I eat.
Quinoa yoghurt porridge
Breakfast course 1: Quinoa-yoghurt porridge, pears and raspberries with almond milk agave syrup (95 HKD). Breakfast course
2: Blueberry Dutch pancake with amber maple syrup and Devonshire cream (145 HKD). On top of that a Latte coffee offcourse and I felt like a queen, staying in there for over 2 hours. After leaving I think I spent another hour in one of the outside lobbies, going through my pictures and feeling truly lucky :).
I realize Asia, the worlds largest and most populous continent, has so many different cultures and experiences to offer. My visit in 2012 to the Unit Arab Emirates was the first one, a total difference if I compare it to my second Asian holiday which was in Bali, Indonesia..
Had some fans being tall and European 🙂
You can’t see the whole world, but what I know is that a stopover is definitely a nice way to see just a bit more. Places like Singapore, Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) or even Dehli or Mumbai flying with Jet Airways. Not only I believe a stopover trip gives you a grasp of the culture, it is also good to settle down in the next time zone, preparing your body for more flying and different sleep and eat routines.
The world is for sure your oyster. With this post I did not just want to share a story, but also encourage to do a solo travel trip! If you are a happy, open person, you’re never alone and you’ll meet so many new faces which you might not meet if you travel in group or with your partner or friend. I must admit: I like a bit of both: me-time exploring I love, but give me a friend or person I love, I will be even more adventurous with probably even less money needed to spend cause you have each other. To end this chapter: MHgoi to Mavis, James, Dave, Steven and all the other characters that shaped this little Asian travel trip:) ! x
PS: I’ll post more pictures on Flickr