Hong Kong is a smorgasbord of sound, smells, sights and everything else that stimulates the senses. It is a unique blend of Chinese and British influences. Here, Cantonese is spoken, which made our basic Mandarin useless. Having travelled China for a month, it seemed odd to be paying for food in the local market with dollars. Hong Kong Dollars, that is. At times it seemed like China wasn’t far away at all, but everywhere we looked, there was something different about Hong Kong.
People are everywhere.
The population squeezes into every available plot of land to the point where everything is built skywards. High density residential blocks tower above wide streets and show many levels of decay and dirtiness. On street level, Kowloon (on the north side of Victoria Harbour) is a commercial paradise. Practically every second shop along Kowloon’s main drag, Nathan Road, is a jewellery store. Notably Chow Tai Fook and Lukfook. Clothes, electronics, DVDs…there are plentiful options on every block. That’s why hundreds of Chinese cross the border to spend their money where taxes are low and prices are dirt cheap. Hidden in alleys are local food markets where every possible fruit, vegetable and fish is available.
Andrew also notes that at the south end of Nathan Road is the fantastic Hong Kong Space Museum and Theatre. Filled with detailed and fun displays of space history and astronomy and physics facts. Did you know that the compass was invented by the Chinese?
When night falls, Hong Kong comes out to play. The cityscape transforms into a competing light extravaganza. In fact, every night at 8pm on the waterfront along Victoria Harbour, there is a sound and light show, the Symphony of the Stars. We stood beside the Hong Kong Cultural Centre and peered across the harbour at the laser and spot lights dance across the sky for twenty engaging minutes.
A stroll along Tsim Sha Tsui East Promenade passes over the Avenue of the Stars, essentially the Hong Kong film industry’s Walk of Fame.
In contrast to the scruffier neighbourhood of Kowloon, Hong Kong Island’s Central district gazes across Victoria Harbour in glass-reflecting, light refracting might. Squeezed between the harbour and the impeding Victoria Peak, Central is a steep, wide expanse of glass skyscrapers and residential apartment monoliths. There isn’t a skyline in the world that could top it. Especially by night.
By day, it is a bustling business centre with British trams, fine international cuisine and modern architecture. We visited on a Friday evening and had dinner at a fine looking bar/restaurant, filled with workers downing beers after a long week. Entrée was an anchovy bruschetta with pesto oil and cream cheese, along with a cheese platter with nuts and dried fruit. Sipping delicious red wine, we couldn’t resist the awesome taste that we ordered both entrees, a second bottle of wine and skipped main and dessert altogether! Best dinner ever!
Victoria Peak is the highest point of the island and a popular and famous spot to view all Hong Kong has to show. The Peak is also the place to live, where the rich build mansions along the hillside commanding extraordinary views. The famous Peak Tram rides the ridiculously steep 370m ascent to the attractive Peak Tower.
A 3.5km loop walking path takes you around the peak with some nice views along the way. It’s also a popular jogging spot for casual locals and the rich and famous.
A trip to Hong Kong wouldn’t be complete without a ferry ride across Victoria Harbour on the famous Star Ferry. Also the best way to compare each skyline (Central wins hands down!).
Visited 7th to 12th January 2014.