In many ways starting the summer with Egypt and then the Philippines was a bad idea, it led us to slip into a false paradox of relaxation. I mean it was nice to relax, but to go from somewhere as laid back as Borocay and then plant ourselves in Hong Kong is a real step up and as a result our days have started with tired eyes and ended with tired feet. But thats not necessarily a bad thing, we have spent over 12 hours each day on our feet walking most places and really getting a feel for Hong Kong life.
We have walked the length and width of Kowloon and Hong Kong island, I would guess we’ve been walking over ten miles each day, in 36 degree temperature and extreme (often 100%) humidity. The kids have really hung in there and now we all feel like the trip is in full force.
We have literally ticked off all of the well known things to do in Hong Kong and so this entry will wrap up Hong Kong and detail some of the more interesting things we did and our personal favourites.
No trip to Hong Kong would be complete without a visit to Victoria Peak, for most travellers on a stop over it is the only place they head to and I have to agree that if you don’t do anything else in Hong Kong, you really should combine a trip on the Star Ferry from Tsim Tsa Shui to Central on Hong Kong Island and visit the peak on a clear day or at night.
Costing just $2.50/$1.25 (20p/10p) the journey is on an old and world famous fleet of ferries that crosses the most famous harbour in the world to the back drop of the best skyline in the world and takes just 10 minutes. Crew members still adorn the original 1920’s uniform and you get a window into old Hong Kong and after taking some 10 or so crossings we still found ourselves blown away by the view and prestige.
You can then hop on bus 15C to the peak tram, which some century old tram that takes you to the summit of Victoria peak and is supposed be amazing, or take bus 15 to the actual summit. We chose the bus which cost about $9 and took a prime seat upstairs. The bus climbs its way up to the summit past some quite spectacular views and gravity defying turns, its an edge of seat affair if you have a fear of heights and takes about 20 minutes.
I’ve read people asking if you can actually walk to the summit, yes you can. But if you take the road way there isn’t a path for the large parts of the route and it is very steep in parts. Not really a risk I would take with kids, but on my own I would walk it no problem. I guess the walk would take around an hour depending on how many times you die on the way.
The view from the top is spine tingling, and typical China, at the summit is a mall with a lift to the roof where you get a view over Hong Kong that is nothing short of spell binding. We have been lucky enough to see some stunning cities and hands down, none come close to Hong Kong. We didn’t make the journey at night and I really wish we had, but by the end of our days we were just so exhausted we had nothing left. That said we did make time to nip to the harbour to look over at Hong Kong island and were mesmerised.
Sticking with Hong Kong island we walked most of the financial district and Soho. Due to the huge sky scrapers a lot of the head of HK island is footbridges linked through malls and easy to walk and navigate. But once you get to a certain point you end up brushing shoulders with billionaires and the global elite. Those looking to head to the middle levels (HK island is very steep and hilly) can take the longest escalator in the world coming in at a cool 800m. One amazing thing about the financial district is that one minute you are amongst the biggest corporations on earth looking up at building so high they are often in the clouds (though not whilst we were there with blue skies every day) and then after 5 minutes you are amongst arty boutique style shops and art galleries. Walk a little further and you could be in mainland China as temples begin to appear and the simple Chinese man sits at his door eating noodles with chopsticks oblivious to the trillion dollar conglomerate just a stones throw away.
We continued our walk further uphill and suddenly even the simple Chinese buildings thinned out, probably because the builders couldn’t be arsed walking up the ridiculously steep hills, steeper than any I have ever seen before. We walked the bad boys and sweated about a gallon each making our way to a beautiful slice of greenery called Hong Kong Botanical and Zoological Gardens. Over a century old this slice of paradise is surrounded by huge buildings housing some of Hong Kong’s 7 million residents. I am sure the space is worth millions of dollars in real estate terms and so it is great that this zoo and garden has retained its place in the heart of the island. But what is more amazing is that it is completely free. Its pretty easy to navigate to, a key give away is that if you are walking uphill you are probably going to the right way!
It was a welcome and solemn break for us and though it is called a zoo, it really isn’t, well it is, but it pretty much houses only various species of monkey, a few reptiles and an avery. But what it did have, and the real highlight for us, was the Orang-utans. They amaze us every time we see them, and we even got a sneak preview of some babies to which we all cooed and were excited about. Really.
One of our favourite temples on the island was Man Mo temple. One of the oldest temples in Hong Kong it is dedicated to Man Cheong who was a statesman in the third century BC and Kwan Tai a Han dynasty soldier from the 2nd century BC. It is a magnet for Chinese parents coming to pray for their children’s health and educational success. But what made it attractive for us was that it is full of incense coils and sticks placed in order to worship. Huge coils hang from the ceiling and it was well worth the walk. The kids love places like this and for me, it was like free deodorant coming out smelling of incense. And, being a Yorkshire man I am always up for things which are free!
Talking about things which are free I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Wednesdays across the whole of Hong Kong is free museum day. Every museum is free for everyone. And so we decided that Wednesday would be museum day. Naturally.
We whittled it down to three; History museum, Science museum and Space museum. The former opened at 10am and the two latter at 1pm and so we set off walking up Tsim Sha Tsui to the world famous and globally renowned Hong Kong History museum.
It is one of the most thorough museums we have ever been to. It starts some 400,000,000 years ago with a single rock and the 8 exhibitions which follow are called ‘the story of Hong Kong’. No expense has been spared creating a wonderfully interactive and well thought out museum which takes you from that single rock right up to the current day with everything in between. We spent ages there and learnt so much. I gave the kids a deal; If they all remembered a fact which interested them the most about the country and then recited it to me once we had left we would eat at McDonalds for lunch.
After a Big Mac meal that really hit the spot we headed next door (to the museum of history) and to the Science Museum.
The science museum was packed to the seams and so I don’t think we got the best out of it. No doubt it is a fantastic museum and I noticed a screen which said ‘interactive exhibitions 465’ and then beneath ‘interactive exhibitions in full working order 435’ which as anyone that has ever been to Eureka! in Halifax will know is really good. I remember once going to Eureka! and finding over half of the piddly 30 or so exhibitions out of order.
Just as we were leaving the museum and on an escalator Jack started to scream behind me, his sandal was caught in the escalator and pulling his foot into the side. I dragged him off with a real force and though he lost part of his sandal, thankfully his foot was saved and no injuries were sustained. (A couple of days later he fell down an escalator causing a bruise almost the width of his back and was genuinely lucky to not break his back or ribs) He is currently banned from escalators and so must resort to steps.
We scoffed as we made our way to the Space museum joking that what does Hong Kong know about space. Turns out that the very successful China space programme is courtesy of Hong Kong minds and technology. Again the place was rammed and so whilst we enjoyed it, we didn’t get to do everything we would have liked to.
Most days we have headed to a playground nearby called ‘middle road playground’ it is on top of a building and easily reached from the far end of the avenue of the stars or from the steps at the back of the Sheraton. Its a fantastic and large playground for kids. Naturally it is free and in perfect un knob-head’ed condition. Which to be fair goes for every park we have come across, there just aren’t any dick heads in Hong Kong. In the UK a brand new park will be built and there are kids waiting for the builders to do one so they can head in and destroy it like it is their passage of rite. The kids have really loved their little retreat and the perfect place to mingle with locals from different ethnicities. For me, its been a great place to have a minute and to fill our water bottles up from the water fountain. How they run around in the searing heat we have had I will never know. But still, open 24hrs, the playground is a place I would advise any family to head to for some kid fun and adult relaxation.
Another place nearby is Kowloon park. On Sundays between 2.30pm and 4.30pm ninjas come and strut their stuff in public showing off their skills. Gutted that we missed it, I was up and ready to start fly kicking people and had perfected my thousand hand granny slap.
Tai Chi is on every morning and free to attend, there is a park, nature garden and sculpture walk. There is also an outdoor pool charging just $17/$8 (£1.40/60p) which the kids absolutely loved.
We have slipped right into Hong Kong life and really got to grips with one of our favourite places and favourite city in the world. Naturally a few things have pissed us off, but the main thing is that Chinese people seemingly have absolutely zero concept of other people. Its like from birth a piece of their brain that recognises other people is missing. If you stop a Chinese person and ask directions, they will be the friendliest and most welcoming person you could meet and only too happy to help. But consider this; In the UK your best mate could get in a car and instantly he becomes a knob head. I think we can all agree that driving in the UK is infuriating, as every other driver is a prick. Well in China, once a Chinese person starts to walk they get into a zone and its one of two zones. The first is that no one else matters, they are not moving for anyone and instantly they become a wrecking ball of a human making their way to wherever they are making their way to. If I didn’t do some funky yoga moves out of their way I would be like a pinball bouncing around the pavement. Funnily enough the kids have found it easy to negotiate the minefield of shoulders. The second zone is the sloooooooooooow zone. Seriously, I got an A* in A-Level Physics and I cant fathom how they can manage to walk so slowly and not either go backwards or fall over. The issue is that the streets are so busy and they have this sub conscious knowledge of where you are behind them making them meander and zig zag as you try to squeeze past them.
But, that really is my only complaint. Everything else has been brilliant, the people, the place, the experience. We have loved Hong Kong and I meant it when I said we could live here. Though it is expensive – With the average main meal costing $38, average snack $10 and a bottle of water costing $6 it is worth it.
Actually I will wrap this up by repeating an article I read this morning in the newspaper. A woman was saying she had lost her special edition Hermes handbag that was worth some $930,000 (£78,000), when pressed as to why she spent so much on a handbag she replied “well usually I only spend about $100,000 (£8,500) in case I do lose it, but this was a special edition”
We’ll really miss Hong Kong 🙁