Hong Kong, now officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, was returned to the Republic of China in 1997, but it maintains autonomy in legal, economic, trade, financial and monetary, shipping, communications, tourism, cultural and sports fields. With limited land for expansion and an extreme population density of more than seven million inhabitants, Hong Kong is famous for its distinctive skyline of high rise buildings.
Arriving in the city by bus for the first time, we were overwhelmed by claustrophobia and confusion. The bus terminal was inside a city building and when leaving there, we had no idea which way to turn or how to get to our hotel. Our expectation that the locals would speak some English after so many years of British occupation was unfounded. After walking, dragging our luggage, for a while, we established where we were on a map but decided to flag down a taxi as we were still some distance from our destination. Again, we thought if we gave the driver the name of the hotel, written in Chinese, that he would be able to take us there. When we entered the hotel lobby we saw to our dismay that he had taken us to the wrong one. Right street, wrong end! So another long walk dragging cases till we reached our hotel, exhausted.
The Intercontinental Grand Stanford Hotel in Kowloon was better than our expectations. We had requested a room with a view over the harbour and were totally blown away by it! From the twelfth floor we could see a wide expanse of water from Kowloon Bay to Victoria Harbour and across from us the towering buildings in Central, on Hong Kong island.
Because we had limited time here and had officially left our Travel China Guide tour, we decided the most time efficient way of sightseeing was to take the half-day tour offered by Viator. We were picked up from a nearby hotel by bus and taken to Aberdeen Harbour and fishing village to see how the locals lived in their house boats (junks). The high-rises framing the harbour and the ultra-modern yachts moored not far away posed quite a contrast.
We chose the additional option of taking a Sampan ride on the harbour to get a close-up view of ferries, trawlers, junks, fishing boats and the local Tanka people going about their daily lives. We also saw the famous Jumbo floating restaurant and were amazed at its size.
Following a visit to a jewellery emporium, we set off for a scenic drive through Hong Kong island to Stanley Market and village, passing Repulse Bay along the way. This is a sheltered bay framed by the mountains crammed with high end condominiums and townhouses favoured by holiday makers.
At Stanley Market we had time to browse through the little alleys where market stalls sold clothing, suitcases, paintings, hand bags, watches, small electronics and, of course, Chinese souvenirs. We then walked down to the waterfront which is lined with small pubs and cafes, bought drinks and ice creams and enjoyed the beachside views.
Next it was off to Victoria Peak – Hong Kong Island’s highest point at 552 metres (1,811 feet). The views over Victoria Harbour to Kowloon are so spectacular from the northern side of the peak that it is no wonder this is some of the most sought after real estate in the world. The Peak Tower offers a higher viewing platform, for a price, but we were content with the view from the paths around the complex. The Galleria shopping mall terrace also gave views over the other side of the island toward the reservoir. We grabbed some coffee and lunch at Starbucks before meeting up with the other people on our tour and heading over to the Tramcar terminal for a thrilling, near vertical tram ride down the mountain. The Victoria Peak Tram is a trolley which is pulled up the very steep slope by a single steel cable. It takes less than 10 minutes to descend to the lower Terminus station in Central.
That evening, after dining in a restaurant on the harbour’s edge, we took a walk along the Promenade of Stars, like the one in Hollywood but recognising mainly the Chinese celebrities, such as Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. About 8pm in the evening the skyline lights up with a sound and light spectacular called The Symphony of Lights, with all the city buildings on both side of the harbour displaying special coloured lighting and lasers to the sound of music. The crowds pack the harbour’s edge to get the best vantage points. Afterwards, with the lights still ablaze, professional photographers cajole the tourists into posing for souvenir photos.
- Hong Kong Stanley Market, Certainly Worth A Visit ( 赤柱市集 ) (luxuryhaven.co)
- What To See, Do & Eat in Hong Kong If You’re Short On Time (landlopers.com)
- Finding tranquility in busy Hong Kong (dailymail.co.uk)
- Picture of the Day: The Hong Kong Skyline at Night (twistedsifter.com)