Hong Kong – What to See & Do

Following on from my previous Hong Kong and Macau blogs, this one is to let you know what there is to see & do whilst visiting Hong Kong.Starting on the Tsim Sha Tsui side of Hong Kong, my first surprise was to find the Avenue of Comic Stars.   Easy to find with these delightful statutes and coloured stairways marking the entrance to the Avenue and park above.

Plenty to see up here with all types of Comic star statues as well as garden areas, dwarfed by the massive high rises in the area. Best of all there is no charge to stroll around or take selfies with Comic star heros.There is so much to see and do in Hong Kong.  The harbour is a wonderful place for a stroll, day or night.  Photo opportunities abound here.Hong Kong harbour at night is breathtaking.  Even in bad weather, fabulous pops of colour make for eyecatching scenery.  Here one of the Duk lings brightens the night with its impressive shade of red.

At the time of my visit, the construction around the harbour area was huge.   Avenue of movie stars was closed for renovations, as was a large amount of the harbour frontage.   Garden and art displays were still dotted around walkways.   The one above, depicting the vanishing polar bear, tore at the heartstrings.

Remember the Big Red Bus I referred to in the Hong Kong – “What to Expect Blog” , well it really is a great way to see the islands and tourist spots.  Stop at the tram to head up The Peak.   An impressive structure, atop the Peak awaits you.  The tram ride is steep, with plenty to see along the way.  It will look like a crowd of people but don’t worry too much, you don’t seem to have wait much more that about 10-30 minutes with tram arriving about every ten minutes.  Definitely worth doing, especially if you choose a Big Red Bus ticket which includes the tram ride.

View from the tram as you head up to the PeakIf you enjoy riding escalators you are in for a treat in Hong Kong.   They love their escalators here!  This impressive display of escalators gives you an idea of how many levels are contained within the big space boat design of the Peak.

Wth a huge variety of shopping and restaurants, including Bubba Gump Restaurant, Madame Tussaud’s, even a Hard Rock Cafe shop, and market stalls, you won’t be short of things to do.   Dining next a window overlooking Hong Kong harbour, is nothing short of exhilarating.   Oh and if you settle on Bubba Gump Restaurant, all themed in the Forrest Gump movie, highly suggest the clam soup.  I actually went back for another meal just to have this dish again.  By far the best seafood chowder ever!  Oh and choose a cocktail or drink where you keep the glass.  A nice new one will be delivered to your table before you leave.Shopping abounds in Hong Kong, this culture is built around shopping and mass consumerism.   Even you dont wish to shop, just going through the shopping centres is an experience on its own.   Many brand labels but who knows what types of shops you will see.Ride the ferries and other boats around the harbour, explore the streets, visit the Golden Buddha on Kowloon, or the markets.  Plenty of tour options are available too.  The one I chose for the first night through Buffalo tours, included a harbour night light cruise – unlimited drinks included, plus a trip by private transport up to the Peak for dinner at Bubba Gump Restaurant and a few minutes soaking up the view from the outside viewing platform.   Our final part of the tour was to stop at the night markets.  For me this guided tour was enough to give me an overview of how this city was laid out.  After that I did not need any tours as it was so very easy to navigate around by myself.

This photo above was taken around 10pm a night, to give you an idea of how busy the streets remain.   Certainly one of those cities which never sleep.   The clock and fountains, also in the harbour area are beautiful and make a great photographic background.   Good luck though finding a time to photograph where there is no-one else in the shot!   One comment I heard here, was “everyone is a model”.   Certainly seemed like it with the many photo shoots I came acros whilst exploring.

Overall it does depend on what you want to do with your time.  If like me, you are happy to wander and see what comes along, well, you are most certainly going to enjoy this city!   Don’t forget to leave your postcard to Hong Kong at the harbour.   Loved this piece of art too!

Hong Kong – What to expect.

Hong Kong, a bustling metropolis only 1 100 sq kilometres yet home to over 7.5 million souls., 4th on the world listing for most densely populated.   But never, in my entire life have I felt so safe in a city, walking anywhere, anytime.   Timely to note too, this population have the longest life expectancy in the world.Every night is like a party in Hong Kong.   365 days of the year, the light display runs from 8pm for about 15-20 minutes.   Take a harbour cruise and view it from there as dusk falls, or make your way to the top of the Peak for a fabulous overview.   One night I simply walked to the harbour edge and viewed from there.   A camera cannot capture the breathtaking  experience the stunning light show gives.   Neon, spotlights, vivid colours piercing the night sky, this really is an experience not to be missed.  Best of all, its free, every single night.

Less than a nine hour flight from Brisbane, Hong Kong is within reasonable reach.  The airport itself is an experience, disembark your plane, make your way to the lift down to the train level. Every few minutes a free train pulls up, on you hop, then at the next station, disembark to head through immigration and collect your baggage.   Interesting introduction to Hong Kong plus surprisingly easy when you work out what to do!

Now I hear you asking what if you get lost?  I only speak English what would I do?   Absolutely no problem at all.   Everywhere around the airport, in shopping malls, there are people to help guide you.   English is widely spoken, signs have English transalation (as you can see below).  Any accommodation you stay at is most likely to have English speaking employees, with a level of service possibly beyond what you are used to.

One of the deepest harbours in the world, Hong Kong harbour and the Port are incredibly busy.  Containers and cranes were massed together, dominating what seemed a massive landscape. Scattered across the harbour you will see an array of ships & boats, ranging in size from huge container or cruise ships to the more intimate Dukling.  Below you can see a red sailed Dukling next to a cruise ship, with the back drop of Hong Kong Central about to light up.

Keep in mind too, Hong is split into two main islands, Hong Kong Central & Kowloon Peninsula. Plus another 260 or so smaller islands.   I stayed on Kowloon at Tsim Sha Tsui for work purposes.  However it doesn’t really matter, depending on what your requirements are.   The ferry is a short few minutes between the main islands.   Grab an Octopus card, (newsagents, 7-Elevens sell these amongst other places),  load a few HK dollars on and you are off.  Train systems are split into coloured line tracks.   Easy to navigate, plus there’s a big red bus system, not on the octopus card but you will find the ticket sellers around the city, usually near the harbour.  A good system to get your bearings and see the city.  If you prefer to walk, there are huge subway tunnels under the city, good if you are in a rush to get somewhere or dont wish to negotiate the hustle & bustle of the crowds on the street.  Personally I preferred the street, more to see up there.

Construction is everywhere.   Hong Kong harbour is reducing in size as the land, a very precious commodity here, is ‘reclaimed’.   Reclaiming involves moving soil onto the harbour edge and compacting it into land so more buildings can arise.   For those in the construction industry, the scaffolding here had me in complete awe.   Bamboo rising as high as the eye could see, strapped together, even with ladders.  No safety harnesses here, simply skim up through the scaffolding, these workers have no fear.If you are not accustomed to double decker buses, you are about to be.   Taxis (which seemed to all be the same older style Toyota) and double decker buses, are the main modes of transport on the streets.  90% of Hong Kong residents, travel by public transport, which includes the easy to navigate train system and ferries.   Taxis are often a bit beaten around the edges, and apparently, no issue if you have too much luggage, drivers seemed to carry bungy straps!  I shall also note here, I didn’t just see this once..it was on many occasions!  Side note, did you see the number of taxis and double decker buses just in this shot.Cars appear to be a status symbol here.  Yes they drive on left hand side in Hong Kong, but road rules I’m still trying to work out.  Cars take precedence over pedestrians, keep that one in mind!  Everyone swaps lanes, distance between vehicles appears to be mere centimetres , or possibly millimetres, and yet, when you see private cars, over 95% of what I saw, where polished, clean, no dents.  Type?  Well here a Bugatti, there a Ferrari, BMW’s, Mercedes, oh look a Bentley.  I would have to say the BMW’s and Mercedes became common place cars amongst some of the others I saw.  And then I saw a Ford Festiva…

As a lone female in Hong Kong, I did initially hold concerns as to safety.  However I would have to say the only people who stand out on these streets are blonde, curly hair or tall.  Well I took out the first two and part of the third, so I was a target for the tailors and those selling knock off handbags & watches.  These are the the only hawkers who will approach you.   I tried to be polite and talk at first, but that didnt work.  By the end of the first day I worked out my approach, walk determinedly like you know where you are going, dont make eye contact (honestly these guys stand out like beacons in their suits, flicking their business card out), as they approach hold up your hand and say no thank you, but keep moving.   Worked a trick!  Only one persisted.   I stopped turned toward him, and stated” I said no thank you.”  He walked away.  Problem solved.  No apologies here, it was rude of you to persist.

Are you a shopper? Well you are about to be satisfied by acres upon acres of imacculate high end shopping centres.  Mass consumerism is definitely a huge part of this society.  I never knew there where so many high end brands in the world.   There are shops where security will ask you if you are there to purchase, if not you may have to leave.  Oh and word to the wise, happily snapping shop fronts and inside shops could well get you in trouble with security.   My bad, I did wonder why they looked at me funny!  Price wise, unless you go to the Spring or other sales, you will pay the same, if not more than Australia.   However, the experience will far outweigh those purchases!

Oh and some of these dont open until 10 or 11 am, but they don’t close for 12 hours each day either – and that is probably seven days a week!

There’s more to come, as I tell you about what to see, in this jam packed interesting part of the globe.  Will I go back YES, and if I have to will this be alone, well big yes because again, here I can walk anywhere 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and feel safe.  Sadly it may because of a highly self absorbed society, but for me, a massive feeling of unreal freedom.  

Pictured below is the entrance to shopping centre, 1881 Heritage.  If you ever have the opportunity to experience this unique part of the world, I would highly recommend you do.  I’ve barely scratched the surface, and still dont feel like I know Hong Kong, yet, I’m safe.  Another side note, try a Hong Kong Dim Sum Restaurant, wonderful!  Would love to know your thoughts!

Oh and if you come across a small door or stairway as you flow with the sea of bodies on the street , you cant check them all out, but sometimes, you might find an interesting place!

Macau

For such a tiny area, Macau packs a hefty punch.   30 kilometres square, packed with around 660 000 people, standing alone and running its own security, legal, customs, monetary & immigration systems with China maintaining Macaus Foreign Affairs and defence.  

Stand on top of the Old Fort at Macau to have a clear view across to the city of Zhuhai, China.   This large bridge spans the Pearl River Delta.   An hour on the turbo ferry from Hong Kong in the East, access to this intriguing part of the world is relatively easy and certainly fits into a good day trip.

Around ten years ago, Macau rose to the top of the worlds gambling meccas.    Continuing to maintain its position at the top, Macau remains heavily reliant on gambling and tourism as their main source of income, making this one of the richest areas in the world.  Here you will find the worlds largest casino,  Venetian Macao, also the fifth largest building in the world.  

Amongst the density & highrises, two buildings dominate the skyline.  Firstly the glittering gold Grand Lisboa Casino, secondly the Macau Sky Tower replica of the Auckland Sky Tower.Four huge floors of gambling facilities reside in the glittering dazzle of the Grand Lisboa.   Chandeliers are the norm inside the opulent building.   No photos allowed in the casino unfortunately and with a minimum bet of Macau $2000 (around $200 Australian), you would need a deep pocket to enjoy a flutter.   Macau has its own currency but also accepts Hong Kong dollar, with the two nearly equal in value, around 1.003 at the time of this visit.   If you are visiting from Hong Kong, there is no need to change currency, just be sure vendors give you change in Hong Kong currency and not Macau, as you wont be able to use Macau currency anywhere else in the world.

Portuguese influence from the centuries of Portuguese rule, remains prominent throughout Macau.   Located under the old fort, this fabulous display of intricate arches, stands proudly.   Soaked in history everywhere you go, Macau has to be one of the most interesting places on earth.  

Amongst the grand displays of money and opulence, are the crowded housing areas and government apartments for the less fortunate.  Residents do not pay any tax, only casinos pay tax on the gambling $$ rolling through their buildings.   Each year the government pays every single resident $9000 Macau, around $1800 Australian.  No matter how rich or poor, each resident will receive their government payment every year.

The ruins of the old St Paul’s Church are maintained for historic and tourism use.   Fabulously entwined with engraved artworks, columns and statues, this imposing piece of history is quite breathtaking.  One can only imagine what this church looked like centuries ago when it was complete in the 1600’s until destroyed by fire in the 1800’s.   Interestingly, the carvings were by Japanese Christians, adding to the intriguing mix of cultures packed into Macau.   

Delightful surprises appear when you least expect them.  Pops of colour with potted flowers everywhere.Cobblestone streets, line the city, with traffic negotiating the narrow backstreets, I would like to say with care, however it appeared to be more of a free for all!  Tourist buses, juggle amongst the throngs of taxis and the most expensive cars in the world, for their place on the road.

I have been fortunate to visit an intimate area of the world which boasts so many top rung placings, yet I’m left feeling Ive barely scraped the surface on experiencing this historically fascinating area.    Many people are unaware of the existence of Macau, however this is one my ‘list to revisit’ places.   

The turbo ferry from Hong Kong is an awesome experience.   On this wet, windy day, chopping up the waves, there was barely a bump as we sped across the wavetips to Macau and back.   Sit back in your large comfortable seat with seatbelt on for the hour duration of the trip.   Be sure to take your passport as you head through immigration on your way out of Hong Kong, then on entry into Macau, vice versa on your return.   Even grab some duty free on the way if you like.In the words of the famous Arnie, “I’ll be back”, Macau.   In the meantime, my mission will be to see if I can find another 30 kilometres square area on this earth which packs an equal or more of punch than you do.   Somehow, I feel this may be unobtainable, however I look forward to the interesting adventures which may result.   For those of you who are unable to visit this area, I certainly hope this brief narration has given you an insight into another place in the world, one which you may or may not have heard of before.   Now I will leave you with a couple more photos taken in this memorable place on earth, and another interesting fact.

Only the Chinese require a visa to visit Macau.  Why you ask?  A couple of reasons which result from the sheer population of Mainland China.   Firstly, numbers are monitored as there are too many Chinese who have immediate access which this tiny area  which could not cope, should many decide to visit at the same time.   Secondly, the Chinese love to gamble, some using this Mecca for laundering.  Lastly, the one I found quite amusing, the Chinese love to shop high end labels.  Now they do not trust the labels in their own country, which may be copies, so they come to Macau to shop genuine high end!

Look out for more of my uploads on Hong Kong and the surrounding area.

Cathay Pacific 

First time traveller on Cathay Pacific and to be fair, those I asked about their experiences with Cathay Pacific, all had only good things to say.   Well, now was the time to find out, with a business trip to Hong Kong.

Economy Class certainly could not have had any complaints about the service.  If we were getting this superb service then the other classes must be faring well.

Leg room is limited and unfortunately with a window seat , I was then boxed in with someone who slept through the entire trip.   One did feel a little guilty waking this passenger so I could visit the bathroom, but a nine hour trip is long time to stay seated!

A good sized little pillow is provided as well as a blanket in enconomy class.   I chose not to use the blanket and never felt cold, but the pillow in addition to the travellers pillow I had was handy.

Menus were delivered, with the food choices being good as far as I could see.

Choosing the hickory pork for supper and the eggs and chipolata mix for breakfast, it was time to sit back and see what the quality was like.

I would have to say, the taste was fine for airline food.  Meals was hot too which certainly helped.


Breakfast in the morning was a pleasant experience as well.  Certainly no complaints with the airline food.

As far as rating the experience on Cathay Pacific, I would have no qualms  traveling with the airline again.  Keep them in mind!

Thank you @cathaypacific for the experience!