Hong Kong is an intoxicating, exotic, exciting, fun place with plenty to see and do, it is really easy to get around this city of sky risers which never seems to sleep.
This was a holiday from a few years back in 1990 with my Mum and our friends who we met in Egypt – Barbara, Jo, Terry and Peter, my memories of this trip are still there after many years as this was one of the original trips that really got me into travelling.
I had a very basic camera back then and these photos are not great, so please forgive the blurs.
We got to experience the crazy airstrip runway landing of Kai Tak Hong Kong International Airport which stretches out across Victoria Harbour waters, as you land you are so close to the buildings that you can see through peoples wndows. It was considered to be the 6th most dangerous landing strip in the World, 1998 was the last year that this runway could be exerienced, I think all of us on that plane held our breath as it landed.
Hong Kong makes an instant impact on the traveller, the city is striking with its tall buildings all slotted in and rising up like huge jagged teeth with the glistening waters of the bay as a backdrop.
Getting around is fun as you have a choice of bicycles, trams, taxis, star ferry’s and junk sail boats, I enjoyed walking around the city as the maps were easy to read and the people were all very friendly, it felt like a safe place and easy to navigate around.
The trams are really easy to hop on and off, I loved these, they came in all colours white, pink, red, green, blue, yellow and glided about the city effortlessly.
The Star Ferry is a brilliant way to get across the bay and is really cheap to ride on, just a couple of dollars, or it was when we went, I have been told it is still reasonable and they leave every few minutes so you do not need to worry about getting tickets in advance.
Junk Sail boats can be seen crossing the bay, these are like looking into the past, they are romantic looking vessels with their huge impressive sails, they sail gracefully like ghost ships and remain an iconic image of Hong Kong.
We were so close to the equator that in the midday sun you could barely see your own shadow, it was eerie seeing it so faint in comparison with the dark strong shadows we get in the UK.
The Revolving 66 Restaurant – this had to be done, an evening meal in this high rise restaurant on the 62nd floor which revolves slowly in 66 minutes as you eat your meal so that you get a panoramic view of all the Victoria Harbour and the sky scrapers. The elevator up to the restaurant is an experience in itself as the floor is made of glass, so if you look down you get a hair raising view as it whizzes up to the 62nd floor, for those with a fear of heights it might not be good to look down.
The food was superb, spiced fish, stew and dumplings, rice parcels and seaweed, you can feel the room moving, although it is slow, it is an odd sensation and can make you feel dizzy if you are prone to it, however it is a unique experience and one to go and try.
The Original Tiger Balm Garden – this was a pretty area of a landscaped garden full of painted statues of Tigers, Dragons and other figures, I really enjoyed looking around this little area. Sadly the garden has since been demolished in 2004 as the site was taken over by the residential development of The Legend of the Jardins Lookout.
Victoria Park to the Peak by cable car – this is a must for anyone visiting Hong Kong, the six of us were all excited about doing this t get ‘that view’ of Causeway Bay, Victoria Harbour and the city. Formally a typhoon shelter for fishing boats and yachts, the shelter was moved in the 1950s and this charming park was formed instead
The park itself was named after our very own Queen Victoria with a statue of her at the entrance, this park is set in the Wan Chai District, it is picturesque with small lakes and large areas of green, people come here to do Tai Chi most days and it was lovely to see people practicing this art outside under the trees.
Nan Lian Gardens – right in the heart of the city is some beautiful gardens with some sculptures, walls, mounds and ponds, this is a wonderful place to come to and has a peaceful feel to it despite its urban location.
There are chances to see open air martial arts and cultural dances, some if these are truly spectacular and well worth seeing, usually set against beautiful backdrops.
In Hong Kong the number 8 is seen as being a lucky digit, a sign of wealth is having the number 8 on the number plate of your car, if you see a car with 3x 8’s on it then it means the owner is exceptionally wealthy, I saw many of these cars in the downtown area of Causeway Bay.
Causeway Bay is the expensive part of the city with the posher exclusive shops, there was nothing there that I could afford, but it was still worth looking around to see this area.
Repulse Bay was an area I enjoyed, it was developed into a man-made beach back in 1910 and many people come here to relax, the sand is coarse and the beach fringed with palms, it has a boutique shopping area and the apartments located here are very high end bought by the wealthy.
We walked around many markets in Hong Kong, they were everywhere and fascinating to walk around, though I found some of the live animal stalls really upsetting and in the end had t avoid any of these areas as the cruel sights haunted me. There is little you can do when it is their culture, but it is something I continue t struggle with on any travels where I see this.
There are, however plenty of other markets to see and we made the most of exploring these unique areas.
Temple Street Night Market – This was my favorite market and an amazing experience, it instantly reminded me of the film Bladerunner, full of neon lights, interesting characters and strange wares, the sights and smells.
The market opens at 2pm but livens up from dusk to dark, it is often referred to as the men’s market, as it sells a lot of men’s clothes, watches, lighters, mobile phones, etc. But I would say there is enough there to cater for everyone. The women’s market is across the water over in Kowloon, I would have liked to have seen that as well, but there was enough here to see, it was an impressive place full of life.
It was a heady experience that made the imagination race at every turn of what might be around the next corner, there were some really unusual carvings and items to be found here as well as many many noodle stalls which gave off exotic aromas.
Haggle on everything, the market traders will expect it and enjoy it, the best places to see are in fact the little side streets shooting off from the market, these are full of interesting items, including the Jade market.
The Jade Market – a small cluster of stalls selling jade trinkets, carvings and jewelry, some of the stalls had some fantastic jade pieces on, make sure you look carefully, there are a few fakes in with the real stuff, most of it is genuine though.
The Chinese deem Jade as a sacred gemstone which symbolizes purity, it is as precious to them as diamonds are to Westerners and is to be respected, although the stall holders will expect you to haggle for Jade too, do not offer ridiculously low prices for Jade as it will be seen as an insult.
Ap Liu Street Electronics Market -this market was great, a really cool place to see, just packed with electronic devices wall to wall and people walking around trying to sell watches, all palmed off as ‘genuine imitation’ Rolexes. Near to this area was a tailors and I had a smart jacket made and bought a kimono, which was so comfortable to wear.
Bird Market – A little disturbing seeing all these birds in tiny confined spaces of their cages, wanted to let them all out, over here though people love to have caged birds in their homes, it is a popular cultural thing that many people do.
There is an amazing restaurant boat called Jumbo, if you eat anywhere go here, the food is amazing, they specialise in dumplings, the food is great quality and well worth a visit.
Hong Kong was a bustling, friendly and interesting experience, on one hand I would be interested to return to see how much it has changed since 1998, on the other hand I wonder if I should leave it and stay with the golden memories I have of this unique Country as it was.