Like Fiji, we hadn’t initially planned on stopping in Hong Kong but it was a good way to break up the long flight back west. We had 4 days in Hong Kong which wasn’t nearly enough time in the end! Here’s what we got up to in the short time we had there…
Admiring the Skyline
Hong Kong has the highest population density on earth, and correspondingly the highest number of skyscrapers – even more so than New York or Shanghai. This makes for a pretty spectacular skyline both during the day and night.
We headed up to the famous Victoria Peak to take in the view; if you can get there just before sunset you get the best of both views! The journey up is a lot of fun, as you take a steep tram up the hill peak to the summit. You can pay for this journey using your Octopus card (more about them later), so it isn’t too expensive. The 360° view shows off not only the city buzzing below, but the harbour and the exclusive residences nestled in the hills above – some of Hong Kong’s most expensive real estate.
After enjoying the city from above, we wanted to see it from ground level. Victoria Harbour is the world’s deepest natural harbour and the catalyst for Hong Kong’s launch as a successful trading city, and it has ferries running across it as a bonus! We headed to Tsim Sha Tsui ferry terminal and caught a ferry back to Central station, which gave us fantastic views of the city as we headed towards it.
The area near to the ferry port is also a nice place for a short stroll; we also visited the so-elegant-I-cried-a-bit Peninsula Hotel, which is a popular spot for afternoon tea if you aren’t a broke backpacker. If you are a broke backpacker, it is a nice spot to stare longingly at people in nicer clothes than you eating cake. A few minutes walk away, on the waterfront itself, is the statue of Hong Kong legend Bruce Lee.
As you can see… Bruce is pretty popular and doesn’t get a moments peace!
We were based on Hong Kong island, and you don’t have to walk for long near the Financial District before you somehow find yourself in a mall. I rather liked the malls; they were great to duck into when the weather got a bit chilly, and they are immaculate, spacious and even smell nice – a sort of clean expensive smell.
Hong Kong hasn’t always been clean smelling malls and skyscrapers of course. To get a sense of the history of Hong Kong, we paid a visit to the Hong Kong museum, which goes into detail about the history of Hong Kong since prehistoric times. It was an enlightening visit, and helped to paint a picture of Hong Kong’s past and the events that have helped to shape it today.
One thing that makes Hong Kong special is its blend of east meets west, and Hong Kong is currently fighting to preserve that through pro-democracy protests, which were ongoing in the city during our stay and were in the headlines as we touched down. When we first arrived at our apartment, we heard an odd rumbling outside. “Oh my god” I whispered to Craig “the protests are outside – do you think we’re in danger of getting swept up in riots or beaten by the police?!”.
On closer inspection, the rumbling turned out to be a pigeon sitting on the next windowsill. Drama over, we walked into town and did stumble into the protest camp, which was enormous and – at the time of visiting – very peaceful.
The camp, which when full housed several thousand people in thin 2-man tents, has been set up in response to perceived interference from China over upcoming elections. From what I understand, China want a system that will effectively pre-screen the candidates for election, and can’t understand why Hong Kong – supposedly an autonomous territory – thinks selecting from a pre-approved candidate makes a bit of a mockery of the whole democracy concept. Walking around the camp, I was struck by how passionate the protesters were, but also how brave. Polite signs asking visitors not to photograph the faces of protestors only served to remind me that the stakes are high for individuals who participate in civil disobedience in China. Good luck guys.
A week after we visited, the Hong Kong police forcibly cleared the protest site.
4 days in Hong Kong…By night
Hong Kong by night is a buzzing, vibrant city with endless options for places to see, drink and eat.
One thing I was surprised about was that Hong Kong loves horseracing! Happy Valley racetrack opens for late night racing every Wednesday (seasonal – do check the schedule!) until about 11pm. It was rather surreal watching horses race with giant skyscrapers glittering in the background!
Entry can be paid using your Octopus card; beer is a little more expensive inside the racecourse but not too upsetting. You can place bets from HK$10, which is a little over USD$1. Unfortunately, the horses seemed to be broken on our trip – we didn’t win a cent!
Another great place to visit is the busy district to Mong Kok. We walked down the busy Goldfish Market, which does indeed sell goldfish but also adorable puppies and kittens. When you tire of intermittently squealing “OHMIGOD they are so cute but this is so cruel” and then lecturing your unsuspecting husband on the psychological damage being poked, squealed at and photographed would do to a puppy – there are plenty of restaurants and street food stalls to replenish yourself at.