Last Thursday, I took a long-weekend trip to Hong Kong with a couple of friends. Here’s what happened:
At about 4:30am, I left my apartment and took the airport limousine bus to Incheon International to catch an early morning flight to China. We were supposed to be in Hong Kong by 4:00pm, but due to Chinese “weather conditions” — read toxic smog* that completely obscures sight-lines and destroys your internal organs — we didn’t touch down in HK until around 11:00pm. Countless disasters at JFK International** prepared me to think of the China airport fiasco as nothing out of the ordinary; though, it was a bummer to lose an entire night of our already short trip.
Soon after we finally landed in HK, we checked into our hostel in the Mong Kok area and called it a night.
The next morning, we woke up early and grabbed a quick breakfast, wonton and noodles. We wandered for a bit in the delightful 75º until we hit a Paris Baguette type bakery with some China specific treats. I picked up a taro danish, while my friends opted for pineapple buns. Yum.
Our main attraction for the day was a trip to The Peak, a cable car that carries visitors up a mountainside for a bird’s-eye view of the Hong Kong skyline. We arrived at the cable car ticket booth in the late afternoon only to find a three-hour queue. Not wanting to spend our entire morning in line, we adjusted our itinerary and decided to check-out one of the markets instead.
We left Hong Kong Island and headed back to Mong Kok where the Ladies Market is located. The market was four or so short city blocks heavily stocked with t-shirts, electronics, handbags, and souvenirs. I told myself I wouldn’t buy anything except maybe a few gifts to take home, but with some coaxing from my friends and their successful haggling with the sales people on my behalf, I ended up buying two purses. Peer pressure.
Once we were done at the market, we walked down to the Tsim Sha Tsui area to explore the Victoria Harbor. It was packed with spectators waiting to watch the Chinese New Year night parade, but was still navigable.
After admiring the skyline against the water and trying to catch the Symphony of Lights, we stopped at one of Hong Kong’s many luxury malls ** for drinks and desert on the water at BLT Steak, a chain that has a few restaurants in the States as well. I had the bitter chocolate tart with praline ice cream. Delicious. Next door was an Italian restaurant with poached pears and ricotta gelato, which sounded equally as delightful. Next time…
We woke up early to make it back to The Peak before 10:00am, at the suggestion of one of the security guards working the attraction. We showed up at about 9:50am, right before a crowd swarmed the queue. About thirty minutes later, we were in a cable car, pulling us up the mountain at what felt like an 80º angle.
What a view. We opted to pay a little more for access to the Sky Terrace viewing platform. Definitely recommended. The scene from the top was phenomenal, really showcasing the beautiful architecture below.
After The Peak, we went to a college town near The University of Hong Kong for dim sum. The restaurant we were originally trying to go to was closed for the holidays. Luckily, our cab driver pointed out another famous spot some 100 yards away, so we went there.
There was a bit of a wait, and it took a while for us to figure out how to order since the only Chinese phrases we knew were “hello” and “thank you,” but once we got food on the table, everyone was happy, very happy. Steamed bbq pork buns, Shanghai and pumpkin dumplings, and shrimp spring rolls. All very good. Plus, the seafood was super fresh; we saw a fisherman drag in a bucket of live shrimp right before we took our seats.
After dim sum, we relaxed for a bit in Mong Kok, then headed back to TST to find a spot where we could watch the fireworks. At dessert the night before, we stumbled upon a mall’s rooftop parking deck — a great fireworks-viewing location, so we went back there but learned that we needed to have purchased advanced tickets to access the roof that night. Fortunately, the guard working the gate let us in anyway.
We lined up behind a row of photographers, who’d probably camped on the roof all day (gotta get the shot…), and promptly at 8:00pm, the show began, explosion after explosion of color reflected in the harbor below. It was pretty awesome, but I mean, as I was reminded, the Chinese did invent fireworks.
Afterwards, we met up with a college friend of mine who lives in HK. Good company, good conversation, good chips and guac. It was a great way to end a great trip.
We didn’t make it to the Jade Market, Tin Tan Buddha, Avenue of the Stars, or Soho nightlife area, but all the more reason to make a return trip. I really liked Hong Kong and definitely wouldn’t mind going back someday. It was pretty easy getting around; the people were kind; the weather was excellent; and city itself was gorgeous. Next time though, I’ll be sure to avoid layovers anywhere in mainland China…
If you told me this time last year that I’d be spending Chinese New Year in China, I wouldn’t believe you. Funny how things work out. Bon voyage.