2012 Sept – Hong Kong

Day 1 – Giant Buddha on Lantau Island

The night before we had taken a short 2 hr flight from Manila (I was there on business), and reached Hong Kong. The one thing that immediately impressed all of us (I was with 2 of my colleagues) was the awesome transportation system. Hong Kong is SO WELL CONNECTED via high speed trains, buses, ferries – you name it! One of the coolest things we discovered about the trains was that it shows the actual kilometers covered (and remaining) between any two stops in pretty blue lighted dots on an electronic monitor – so at any point of time, you know exactly where you were. We reached our hotel and after a little bit if walking around here and there, pretty much took it easy that night.

My first impression of Hong Kong was that it looked so much like New York, specifically like 5th Avenue – giant buildings, city brimming with life, people briskly walking around, high-end stores all over, and humongous malls that seemed to go on forever, even connecting our hotel to the train stations kilometers away, without the need to step out in the sun or rain.

The real sightseeing began for us the next morning. We took the train to Lantau Island from where we walked a short distance to the Cable Car that would eventually take us to the Giant Buddha. It being a weekend, the lines were painfully long but that didn’t deter our spirits. The cable car ride (we chose the glass bottom ones) was absolutely worth it!! In 25 minutes, it took us 5.7 kilometers up – over the bay, crossing the island, over a forest, over the airport and into the very Chinese looking village. The other highlight of the trip was walking through the village for about a kilometer to get to the base of the Buddha Statue. For the first time since being in Hong Kong, I got the feeling we were in ancient China – with the houses with the curved roofs, the cherry blossom trees and all sings in Mandarin. The Giant Buddha statue is just about 20 yrs old and provides a very serene environment for sightseeing, checking out the Buddha museum, learning about the ancient Chinese history and getting some great pictures from up there. Highly recommended!

I could have easily spent a whole day there but we came back to the Kowloon Island for the afternoon. Right by the train station is the beautiful Ritz Carlton hotel with an open-bar on the 118th floor. The elevator – what can I say – it took us all of 30-40 seconds to from 0 to 118 floors and we didn’t feel a thing. Awesome views from there of the whole city!!
Bulk of the evening was spent at the “Night Market” on Temple Street where you can find anything from home décor to fake DVDs to souvenirs to clothing/jewelry. It seemed like a madhouse there with all the bargaining that goes on but some of the stuff available there is really unique and …er…. Chinese!

Day 2 – Victoria Peak on Hong Kong Island

Since our hotel was on the Kowloon Island, this time we decided to try the ferry for island hopping to the next island over – the Hong Kong Island. The ferry fare was something like 10 cents – dirt cheap! After a short 10 minutes ride, while enjoying the view of the complete city from water, we landed at the Central Station on the other side. The impression given to us by the Hotel Concierge was that the tram to Victoria Peak was right there at the Central Station – but that wasn’t the case. After a few mis-turns, walking round and round in circles in the heat and humidity, we decided to take a taxi to the base of the peak so we could then take the incline up to the peak. However, another mis-step later, we ended up at the top of the peak (I may have not been clear with the taxi driver) and had to forego our tram ride. Anyway, the drive was pretty pleasant and Victoria Peak offers absolutely the best views of the city/all its islands. We spent a good amount of time there, enjoying the views, the scenery, chugging beers and then lunch at a rather fancy restaurant, enjoying the island from every angle possible.

In the evening, we took our flight back to Manila.

3 Favorite things about the trip:

  1. The Transportation System
  2. Giant Buddha
  3. Victoria Peak

Some Don’ts or recommendations:

  1. Walk around the city and try every means of transport available. It is very well connected and you can’t get lost
  2. Walk around in the malls and just soak in the glitter and glamour of the high-end stores and the technology innovations prevalent everywhere
  3. We tried authentic Chinese food – it’s a matter of personal preference, but I didn’t dig the chicken feet soup or pig intestines on the menu so much! 🙁

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