One of the nice things about Manila is its central location to other southeast Asia destinations. With three weekends in the Philippines, I decided it made sense to see someplace else while I was on that side of the world. So, I hopped over to Hong Kong for the weekend where Col met me for some sightseeing.
We arrived Friday evening. While it was only a 90 minute flight for me over the South China Sea, it was a 20+ hour journey for Col. We took the convenient and relatively inexpensive Airport Express from the airport into central Hong Kong. It was 160 HKD (about $20USD) for two one-way passes into the city, and the ride took about 25 minutes. It was much cheaper and faster than a cab.
From Hong Kong’s Central Station, it was a short walk to the hotel. Central HK includes a maze of elevated sidewalks to move people around the city above the traffic. It can be a little confusing at first to find your way around, but once you get the hang of it, it’s really convenient. It also helps that they include inclined moving walkways and escalators through the Mid Levels district, as the streets can be really steep.
On Sunday, we noticed hundreds of women sitting in the walkways. They lined the sides of the walkways all the way from our hotel down to the harbor, sitting on pieces of cardboard. They were sleeping, doing each others’ hair, listening to music, surfing the web, reading, etc. A little time on the google revealed they are Filippino and Indonesian domestic workers. Since they live with their employers, and Sunday is culturally a family day, they gather in the walkways with each other (their adopted families) and spend the entire day together. Pretty wild.
We managed to find our way to the hotel from Central Station. I had booked via Orbitz and wasn’t sure what we would end up with. Hotels in central HK can be pretty pricey, and I had to keep it to less than $200USD per night in order to get reimbursed by my employer. I settled on The Butterfly Boutique Hotel on Wellington based on the reviews and overall rating. We were pleased to find it was actually quite a nice hotel. The room was pretty small, but had a Queen bed and the whole hotel is updated with a very modern/trendy style.
We had a lot to pack into two days in HK. There’s so much to see and do, so I wanted to be as focused as possible so we could still have fun. I used United Airlines’ Hemispheres Magazine as a planning guide. They do a feature each month called “3 Perfect Days,” which gives a concentrated itinerary for various destinations. They did HK in 2007 and 2011, so I used both articles to pick some key things to see and do, as well as some restaurants I wanted to try. Our highlights included:
The Peak Tram is a must do for anyone visiting HK. This historic incline railway has been operating since 1883, carrying visitors to the top of Victoria Peak. The ride up is a little disconcerting if you don’t like heights or steep ledges. As you head up the side of the mountain, looking back gives quite a view of the tracks heading straight down.
The view of central HK and Victoria Harbour from the top is amazing. I’ve seen so many pictures over the years, but it’s definitely something to see in person. We headed to the top of the Peak Tower for the best views. As with everything I came across in Asia, a shopping mall dominates the experience. It was pretty annoying.
Seeing the city from the harbor is really a must when you visit HK. We took the Star Ferry across the harbor in the afternoon before realizing we wouldn’t get to see much on such a hazy day. So, we returned later that night for the evening one-hour cruise figuring the lit skyline would be even cooler. It was. And, as luck would have it, we were in the middle of the harbor for the nightly light show. Every night, the lights of more than 20 buildings in HK and Kowloon (across the harbor) are coordinated to music and lasers for a 20 minute show. It was really cool to see.
Man Mo Temple
The Man Mo temple honors the civil and martial gods. The HK temple is the largest Man Mo temple in the world. It includes several rooms filled with statues and artifacts with various shrines throughout. Visitors burn paper (usually small denomination bills) as offerings, as well as incense. My favorite was one back room, which is a mausoleum. People leave offerings to their deceased family members that include cakes, fruit and even a half drunk can of PBR. Klassy.
Luk Yu Tea House
This was my favorite part of the trip. For years I’ve read about authentic steamed pork buns, and this dim sum parlor did not disappoint. The steamed, slightly sweet bread dumplings were filled with amazing BBQ pork. Col got the chicken and bamboo shoot soup, which was also delicious.
My favorite part of Hong Kong is the intersection of eastern and western cultures and history. Getting around is very easy since all signs are in English and Chinese. Nearly everyone we encountered spoke at least minimal English. When you only have a couple days to see as much as you can, that definitely comes in handy.
I went into this pretty sure I wouldn’t think much of Hong Kong. As I planned the trip I spoke to several friends and colleagues who had been, and all I heard was how great the shopping is. I’m not much of a shopper, let alone a high end one. And, while shopping definitely permeates nearly every aspect of Hong Kong, there are still plenty of fun things to do and new experiences that don’t include an air conditioned mall.