Hong Kong: Final Days

Well, I’ve already been home for about a month now, but I never got around finishing this little series of mine while I was in Hong Kong nor the days afterwards. So this is just going to become a short wrap-up of the last days. I’ll add photos to the post later on (I hope 🙂 ).

On the third day I took my trip to the New Territories of Hong Kong. They basically are now the suburbs of this vast city. There are about 3.5 million people living in this area. The name implies some sort of wildness, but as a matter of fact, it really is rather urban than a wild. Here also the poorer areas of Hong Kong can be found. The trip showed us some of the larger suburbs, as well as we came close to the border with Mainland China. There are also some very nice parks there and areas which we were told are being occupied by lots and lots of Hong Kong people on weekends for relaxation and BBQ. All in all, the tour was nice, but nothing very special, I had hoped for a little bit more, but as a matter of fact… well… it’s urban and no wildness.

Next day, Christine and her brother Andreas arrived in Hong Kong and over the next two days we discovered Hong Kong together, re-visiting some of the areas I’d already been and also strawing more into the smaller streets I had avoided while walking alone. We visited Temple Street’s Night Market and of course got a lot of souvenirs there.

The final highlight of my holidays was a trip to Macau, a neighbouring island of Hong Kong and also a Special Administrative Region of China, which means, it has the same self-administrative rights like Hong Kong for the next upcoming 41 years (it had been handed over to Mainland China in 1999). We got there by an one-hour speed-boat trip, for which we had to emigrate from Hong Kong, immigrate in Macau and vice-versa on our trip back. While Hong Kong was a colony of Great Britain, Macau was one of Portugal (so everything is written in Chinese and Portuguese, only little English). What’s interesting about Macau is the fact that it is the “Las Vegas of the East”, as casinos and gambling are legal there. And they have a larger market than Las Vegas. According to our tourist guide, there is about 4 times the revenue earned at the casinos of Macau than in Las Vegas! Besides the casinos, we found a factory outlet where we could buy cheap real brand cloth (no, not fake!).

The last day at Hong Kong we spent rather relaxed by visiting some places we liked again and walking through the history museum. We had to leave for the airport at around 4pm and I had to check-in about 4h early of Christine and Andreas, as I took a my trip home via Doha again.

Flight home was not as pleasant as the trip to Hong Kong as there were significantly more people on the plane and I hardly could sleep. Re-immigration to the European Union went without any problems… until I noticed after Customs that I had forgotten one of my bags in the luggage area… I had to get a special permit for re-entering and of course had to get through security again, which took some time, but I found my bag where I had expected and could finally return home to Austria without further problems.

To sum up my trip, I really liked the time in Hong Kong and it will of course become a valuable memory. I still liked getting home, though.

Hong Kong: Day 2

Star FerryToday’s day started with a nice breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant, which was not exactly cheap but okay. Today I had planned to visit Hong Kong Island, especially Central, the commerce quarter, where I had not been yet.

From pure distance, it is around 1.5km on the map from my hotel to the IFC building, which hosts the largest building of Hong Kong (at the moment, a larger building is already being built). I neither wanted to walk nor take a taxi, so I had a genius plan: I could take the Star Ferry over to Sin Sha Tsui, where I had been yesterday, just switch Ferry and go back to Central Pier. Total coast: 4.4 HK$ plus the advantage that I do like those little ferries.

IFC from Exchange SquareSaid and done, I reached Central half an hour later, starting to wander around IFC and Exchange Square, looking around malls and other buildings. Pretty impressing moving alongside all those skyscrapers. After roaming around for around 2 hours I decided I’d definitely wanted to visit Hong Kong Park (like I had visited Kowloon Park yesterday). Riding several escalators and waking I reached the park about half an hour later (I did not have a lot of stress and did not hurry up). I was very impressed by the park. While the Kowloon Park resembles more of a entertainment park (without rides), Hong Kong Park seams more dedicated towards relaxing and meditation. There is a whole park inside the park called Tai-Chi park where a lot of people sit meditating or relaxing during their lunch break. There is also a 105-steps (30 meter) high Vantage Point which of course I climbed for taking some photos. Tai Chi Garden in Hong Kong ParkAfterwards I walked through the aviary, where several hundred birds live in a quite huge area. I played around with my tele lenses, but the camera at the moment is still better than me…

After again about an hour I walked via the former Government House (where a guard didn’t want to let me take photos) and certain skyscrapers back to the Star Ferry where I took the same way back to my hotel which I had taken to get to Central: via Tsim Sha Tsui.

As I had been on my way for about 7 hours, I decided not to do a lot today evening, just enjoying the view of the skyline. For tomorrow I have booked a tour to the New Territories which will start at 8:30 from City Hall, so I’ll need to get up at least 7am.

(A short side story for today: in the morning, a British Royal Navy Frigate had entered Victoria Harbour. I did not dare taking a photo of it, since every time I pointed my camera near it, two policemen standing nearby got a little bit nervous. And this is China after all…)

Hong Kong: Day 1

Hong Kong Island SkylineToday I started off by looking around the area I had wandered around yesterday evening, being astonished as how different things look in the daylight. While the skyline is still impressive, Hong Kong now looked more gray again, but hey, still impressive. The air is not very clean, everything looks ashen when viewing it a certain distance (like over to the other side of the bay).

While I was wandering around the Convention Center I soon encountered a monk of the Buddhist Temple (at least he claimed so) who wanted me to offer a gift (“No money! No money!”), which of course just required a small donation in cash to the temple “for everlasting peace of my soul”. Well, what had I expected 🙂

I finally arrived at the Star Ferry pier and before I really thought about it I used the ferry to move over to Kowloon. I visited the famous Clock Tower and looked around the Museum of Art (how can you build such a huge building without a single window???). I finally wandered off to Nathan Road where all different types of shops (from very serious to “Fake watch? Nice massage?”) are located, with uncountable neon signs. Neon Signs in Nathan RoadAs I was there they didn’t look that impressive, but I definitely need to go visit this area at night, must be an unbelievable few. I stopped wandering around shortly before Night Market (I found that out later when looking at the map, if I had known, I would have gone one the few hundred meters).

As I definitely needed rest after walking around for almost 3 hours now in a temperature and humidity making me sweat like I’ve had never sweated before, I decided to move on to Kowloon Park.

I really liked the area and took some time relaxing there, watching people and exploring the park.

Star FerryAfter now almost 5 hours I decided to go home as I definitely had exceeded my available power. Again using the Star Ferry for an unbelievable low fare of 2,4 HK$ (~0,25€), I reached the Exhibition Center again and moved back to the hotel. I had never needed a shower that urgent before in my entire life!

In the evening I again went wandering around the area I already knew, again astonished by the night-skyline.

Arrival at Hong Kong

Finally, after almost 24h of travel I arrived at Hong Kong International Airport. The weather was rainy but warm, around 30°C. From the plane to the immigration area was quite a long walk, I even had to use a train. For busy people who don’t want to walk that far, some airport taxis offer to take them directly to Immigration for 50 HK$. After sitting in a plane for that long, I preferred to walk.

Immigration went through smooth, I expected the procedure to take longer but they organize the waiting queues quiet efficiently so everything went fast. I am now in possession of a ninety day visa for Hong Kong. After going through immigration and picking up my luggage (which was already waiting for me after I went through Immigrations), I was picked up by a driver of my travel agency and taken to the Harbor View International hotel. My room there is quite small, but clean, I have a nice view onto the harbor. Unfortunately internet access is quite costly (40 HK$ for one hour, 60 HK$ for four hours), so I will only go online once every two days at maximum.

After sleeping for some hours I decided to take a small walk around the nearby harbor area and visit the Convention Center. In the meantime night had fallen in and now I finally saw a very beautiful Hong Kong.The skyline of Kowloon at the day of my arrival. Part of the Skyline of Hong Kong Island at NightDuring my taxi transfer to the hotel, my first impression of the city was “grey” with bad air quality. Now, after sun-set, the city really became beautiful. I have direct view to the skyline of Kowloon here from my hotel room and the Convention and Exhibition Center is only a few walking minutes away. The look at the huge skyline in the darkness is really breath-taking. It is by far better than any skyline I have seen before (granted, I have not seen that many skylines before). I walked around for about four hours and experimented with my camera which I still don’t really master for good night-shots.

A small note about security: while walking around I always felt safe. There are plenty of people around and the main roads and walking-paths are illuminated very well. At the moment I feel safe, I don’t know how it will be once I move away further than I did today.

Qatar Airport, Gate 13…

quatar-gate13First part of my trip to Hong Kong is a stopover in Doho (Qatar). I just arrived here about 1.5h ago and now have to spend around 5h in transit. I decided to directly head to my gate and wait there. Unlike Munich Airport, free WiFi is available here, which I really appreciate.

The flight with Qatar Airways was nice, it was a quite new A330 which had plenty of free seats, therefore I had two seats for myself, which highly increased comfort. Meals were good, cabin attendants were really friendly and video-on-demand entertainment system even in economy class made the time go by quite quickly. I am now really looking forward to my flight to my final destination, Hong Kong.