Friday 7 February 2014

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a wonderful city, so densely crowded yet despite this somehow functions smoothly with great public transport and comparable congestion to a typical day in Auckland. The biggest issue with Hong Kong is the significant smog factor, most of it is blown down from China but they do make quite a bit of their own.
Travelling in from the airport the cheapest way into town is to find the appropriate bus (depending where you are heading to). The routes generally all go by one of the cool sites of HK: The port. HK was one of the worlds busiest and largest ports. The constant movement is like a dance of the cranes unloading and reloading massive container ships taking goods around the world. Once downtown, navigating around the city isn’t too difficult. We were lucky enough to stay almost right down town with a local couchsurfer which enabled us to get around easily by walking (near Albert metro station).

Skyscrapers downtown HK
The most obvious thing to do in HK if time is limited is to head to Victoria Peak. From here you can view HK central and all the amazing skyscrapers. To get there it is highly recommended to get a green minibus up and to take the cable car down, thus avoiding significant cues for the cable car up (we had a 2 min wait during peak time for the way down). The mall at the top also has a good selection of food places to enjoy and you can see also see the other islands out the other side of the mall (if the smog isn’t too thick).
We were lucky enough to see the central HK district on a Sunday which provides a unique view of HK (ie all the suits are gone). On Sunday all the local maids/nannies etc… get kicked out of their homes and thousands of them line the covered areas all throughout the town. Its quite fascinating subculture of HK, although sadly they don’t seem interested in talking to the tourists.

Star ferry with central HK in background

The Star Ferry crossing of the harbour is a great way to see both famous sides of the downtown area at once, so great for photo taking. There are numerous awesome food places scattered around the place downtown. Thankfully we had local contacts so knew a few good ones to try out but everything smelt pretty good.

We did a day trip out of the main island to see the Giant Buddha. Fastest and easiest way out there is by metro, followed by buying an island day bus pass. The Giant Buddha is a fantastic site. A lot of people choose to do the gondola way of getting there but the bus provides a more local perspective as you drive through the small towns (and its 10x cheaper). The gondola is quite fun, however, it mainly crosses over 2nd growth forests. The climb up to the Giant Buddha can feel like eternity when you are pregnant but is well worth the walk up there and the views are quite nice. Make sure you walk the whole way around to get blessed! The surrounding temples were under renovation and some were under construction whilst we were there, so we were a little disappointed with the lack of other things to see. This turned out to be a blessing though as we had time to head over to Tai O, another must do day trip.

Giant Buddha

Tai O is a relatively old unchanged fishing village. It is actually very hard in HK to find older buildings as they are all being torn down to make way for new places (even the relatively new places are classed as old!), so the old houses in Tai O were very interesting. We had the worst food here however, as most places were closed so there was extremely limited choice.

Tai O fishing village viewed from the water

The highlight of the village is actually the boat trip. You can get the boats from the main bridge…one side charges 30 HKD the other 25 HKD…for the same thing. You can imagine which one we choose. The short stroll into the fishing village gave quite an interesting view of the area and you got to see a bit more of the traditional fishing lifestyle which is disappearing in the modern HK. Out at sea, we were extremely lucky and got to actually see one of the elusive rare white dolphins. There are less than 75 in the area and they only come out every so often so its quite special to see. The ocean jaunt also provides further perspective on how busy the port is with all the container ships lounging about.

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