Twelve hours later, or was it thirteen whatever, it was a long haul flight. But I’m reminded by my neighbour that it’s another 12 hours to New Zealand where they were off to, so I feel lucky I guess. Still, I feel exhausted before I’ve even gotten off the plane. The air outside the airport, the big airport, is no reprieve either. A wall of thick humid hot air greets you passing through the front doors. By the time you reach your hotel, you will need a shower. Then another one every few hours it seems. It’s September, and the humidity is high, and your water consumption has to keep pace. What better way than sitting down in a bar!
Hong Kong is split in two. Kowloon on the mainland to the north and the southern island consisting of the smaller urban areas of Central and Sai Ying Pun, and the business district Wan Chai. Kowloon has much of the bar activity throughout. Knutsford Terrace to the east in Kowloon is just one of the perfect places to sit down and try to chill on a Saturday night. At night Victoria Harbour area on the north coast overlooking Wan Chai bears witness to what’s billed the greatest light show on earth. It’s free and visible for a long stretch of the harbour. I must say, maybe I caught it on a bad day. It consists of several buildings, not least the iconic Bank of China, switching their lights off and on for a full thirty minutes. It’s not very impressive, it’s not very big (aside from the size of the skyscrapers), and it’s most certainly not worth the hassle to miss anything else for. By all means, if you happen to be passing, stand by and watch it for a few minutes as it’s a little entertaining. But there’s no climax, so don’t think you’ll miss any great finale if you wander off after 5 minutes.
Hong Kong is a city like most others. Soho is fun and bustling, Central Plaza and Pacific Place are high merchandise shopping areas surrounded by tall buildings; and Kowloon is a much more mixed area full of great hotels, shopping of all levels and plenty of low-quality and high-quality food. The metro is very effective, but try and be aware of where you’re going as there are some huge – and I mean massive – long underground walkways with endless exits. It maybe be better to exit quicker and walk above ground if you’re keen to see the city! There are a few things that should certainly be on your to-do list, though. On the south bank in Central, there is the beautiful Hong Kong Park, a welcome respite to the bustle of city life.
Contained within is the Tea Museum and small ponds with cafes. Not far away as the crow flies (but almost a marathon due to the winding roads – I exaggerate) is the Zoological and Botanical Gardens. Just stay past sunset, as the mossies do come out in force here, even if they’re hounded by bat protection! In-between these two green oasis’s is the train up to Victoria Peak. A small almost vertical train that ascends the side of the mountain to a stone’s throw from Victoria Peak. There are cafes and shops up here, but the ride and the view is worth every penny. Avoid at peak times, as the queue can get very large. Taxis will take you up a less scenic route if you’re short on time. At the top of the train, you can ascend further still to the Victoria Peak Gardens, en route to the Victoria Peak itself. While any healthy person can do this, be warned that parts can be steep and slippery and the effort required in the climate may be a challenge for some, but it is all paved roads (no trekking!) so a taxi ride is possible (if pricey). The views of the south-west of the Island though are great and worth the effort I thought. There are many, many, hotels in Hong Kong as you might expect in a global city-state like this.
While Hong Kong is not really a beach destination, if you’re the exploring type then take a bus or car to the southern coast of the south island and you’ll find a handful of decent beaches. Probably the best beach is going to be in the small town of Shek O, towards the south-east. Buses are limited but inexpensive. Be sure to familiarise with the timetable though, else you might require a taxi on the way back. There’s plenty of small cafes here for food and drink.
Hong Kong. A place of back street fortune tellers (don’t be afraid, ask for one!), street markets, karaoke in almost every bar, and wealthy modernity placed alongside the underpaid working people. It mirrors London in many ways, with people keeping largely to themselves, but pleasant when there’s a reason to engage. Were it not for the humidity it’d be a place I’d happily live.