7 Things I Love About Hong Kong

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Last March, our family spent Spring Break reveling in the international allure of Hong Kong. These images are just some from the hundreds of shots I took. There is excitement in being a part of the passing flash of color in the ever changing sea of people crowding the streets. It’s a delicious melding of office workers, locals out for the day and tourists with necks craning to take it all in.  Exotic smells of spices and sizzling meat waft out of cafe doorways. A repairman climbs up lashed bamboo scaffolding. Off a busy side street, an older man lounges around in his pajamas (I swear!). It was the perfect experience.

Armed with the list my brilliant husband compiled, off we go!

Navigating the busy waters to reach the dock.
1.  We ride the Star Ferry out to Victoria Peak. It has been cloudy and a little rainy all week, so a big burst of radiant sunshine on happy faces gives us a much needed shot of vitamin D as the ferry steadily churns water across Victoria Harbor. Views of the coastline are amazing, especially from the top deck. Victoria Peak is best seen on a clear day. Many prefer a romantic view of twinkling city lights, but we don’t want to worry that clouds will drift in at dusk and obscure the glittering night scene below. People in the long line that snake around the tram depot tell us they have been waiting 45 minutes, and they are not even near the front of the line. There are just two Victoria Peak trams on one looping track. We decide to grab a cab up. Cabs are reasonable and afterward it will be much easier to catch a tram for that steep ride down. On the way to the observation deck, we browse through several small floors of colorful shops with various price ranges of good and “meh” types of souvenirs. At the top, a stunning 360° view greets us, as far as the eye can see! Gentle breezes under the sunny sky nudge us. Hong Kong is beautifully laid out – a miniature city by the sea, nestled between lush green mountainsides dotted with the residences of those blessed be able to take a daily drink of fabulous views.

The cable car to Lantau Island isn’t working. That ride is the cool factor. We cross it off the list. No one cares to go to the racetrack, another cross through.

The unjust Opium Wars.

2. The Hong Kong Museum of History takes us on a journey that chronicles the wonders and tragedies of China. There were tales of majestic dynasties, ancient relics, beautiful works of art and thousands of things to see and learn. The most eye-opening exhibit to this American born Chinese was the turbulent periods of China’s Opium Wars with the British Empire and the resulting “Unequal Treaties” with other nations. Reading about it is one thing. Viewing old pictures and paintings and poring over detailed accounts during that time really touched me. That epoch is considered to be the start of China’s “Century of Humiliation”…

Restaurants put chairs and tables on the street to serve customers.

3. We check out some of the nicer shopping malls, but they’re the same everywhere. More intriguing are names like “Night Market”, “Ladies Market” and “Sneaker Street”. There are many markets. We walk through several of them. After a while, they all run together with rows and rows of stalls going up and across several streets. People jostle by stalls packed top to bottom with all sorts of merchandise. Our kids go from booth to booth, comparing prices, trying to bluff the seasoned vendors. At night, there is an exciting vibe as strings of lights guide bustling visitors and locals through the maze. On the outskirts, people sit at tables and chairs by the lights as dishes of savory delicacies are brought out. A wonderful aroma lingers in the air as we walk by.

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4. Dim Sum at Super Star Seafood Restaurant in Times Square, Causeway Bay was lovely. A friend insisted we join him for dim sum. The dishes he ordered were excellent! So many tasty dishes that we had never had before! 

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5. Exploring eateries is so much fun! A friend took us to a well-known multi-story roast goose restaurant. Another local promised us that there is a better one in the New Territories outside HK. The taxi drops us off in front of a nondescript storefront. We have to wander a bit further to find the restaurant around the side of the first building. There is no fancy dining room. Judging by the families and busy wait staff, it is a local favorite. This restaurant had tissue packets with their logo on them, and the roast duck IS better!

Even in the serenity of the garden, one can't escape the HK skyline.6. Chi Lin Nunnery is a peaceful oasis of quiet reflection in Diamond Hill, on the Kowloon side. It isn’t on the top of the list, but it is wonderful to slow down and take in the calm pace. It, unfortunately, was rebuilt in 1990. Still, one can wander through the serene gardens with a backdrop of soaring skyscrapers. There is a little shop for refreshments and delicious chocolate covered truffles!

7. The places we visit and the sights we see are wonderful, but it is knowing that this is the first family vacation we have taken since our daughter married that makes it a truly magical time. We will never be at this point in our lives again. The memories are priceless!

BONUS! Accommodations and Other Sights:
Our daughter and son-in-law stay at a lovely high-rise, Hotel Panorama, with floor-to-ceiling views of the harbor. We and our son settle in at a charming little boutique hotel, The Minden, two blocks over. It was one of the top choices of The Lonely Planet. There are some great hotel deals in the U.S., but hotels overseas aren’t as accommodating, price wise.
On a misty wet night, we pop open the handy 7-Eleven umbrellas we picked up the first day and make our way to the Avenue of Stars promenade. From there, we can view the nightly show of the Symphony of Lights. As we wander along the Victoria Harbour waterfront in Tsim Sha Tsui, many more hardy souls begin to appear. Music plays and light bounces off buildings up and down both sides of the harbor. There were probably no fireworks due to the light rain. It is a nightly show, but it’s not something to see again.  I fear I have been spoiled by laser shows in Texas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PylKtOqqwK4 . After the show, we enjoy a walk down the Avenue of Stars. I am happiest when I can link an arm through one of my children’s as we stroll along. To explore Hong Kong with them is my heaven!

I only mention the Central-Mid-Levels escalators because my dear sweet husband cheerfully put me through that l-o-n-g, l-o-n-g, torturous ordeal. Guinness World Records lists it as the world’s longest outdoor covered escalator system. It’s a series of escalators with some moving sidewalks thrown in.

Macau is primarily known for its casinos. A couple of old school friends of our daughter living in China meet us. I’m not a gambler and spend my time walking around the outer edges of the many casinos the group visits because the concentration of cigarette smoke is horrible! Would have much preferred to see the Ruins of St. Paul. A bright spot of the side trip is the interesting Portuguese food at a local cafe!

Nathan Road becomes our main base as we are there every day of the trip. Our son knows that a tailored suit would cost much, much more in the States so he goes searching for the perfect suit. After some negotiating, so begins several days of re-fittings. He is looking forward to flashing that camouflage lining!

Our daughter and son-in-law take a couple of days off on their own. They visit one of the temples. The lush vegetation and monkeys playing nearby are a novel experience.

The kids head home after the first week and my husband and I will continue on to Shanghai for a one week guided tour. (I may write about it in another entry.) Son and husband go off to find a local laundry. Someone sends them down a side street. Lo, and behold, that boy finds another tailor and negotiates an even better price! Oh, no – the daily fittings continue!

Things we wished we’d made time for:

*  Sit atop double decker #6 bus Central to Stanley or #15 bus Central to The Peak
*  Jordan Road at Temple Street Market at night to hear ear-splitting Chinese opera
*  Tram – goes Kennedy Town to ShanKeiWah (since 1904, nail-biter!)
*  Panoramic elevator view – get on from the 17th floor for a 40 story ride in the glass “bubble lift”
*  Early morning stroll through Causeway Bay’s Victoria Park to see tai chi and kung fu

Maybe on the next trip …

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