I had pretty high hopes for my last trip of the year…
With 2013 being pretty damn awesome all round on the travel front, I wanted this trip to see out the year with a real bang – just as I started it way back in March with my adventure to Japan.
And not one to do things by halves, flying back to Asia for just a week seemed like the best (and most ambitious) way to end my 2013 adventures! Well…
Hong Kong most definitely didn’t let me down!
Holy heck! What a week.
It’s great when a trip completely lives up to your hopes and expectations, and Asia’s amazing World City truly ticked all the boxes on this visit. I’m so glad I bit the bullet and decided to head back so soon, as it was an itch that really did need to be scratched. And I’m also very thankful for that compensation I received for my Japan flight earlier in the year – What a blessing that was in the end, as that’s what allowed me to take this trip.
So what did I get up to? As you can imagine, with only 6 days of play time I was on the go pretty much the whole time. Starting off with the standard 34 hours without sleep, between waking up in my bed at home on Friday morning to going to sleep in my guesthouse room in Tsim Sha Tsui on Saturday night, I was determined not to waste a moment.
It was a much smoother first couple of hours this time around thankfully too, as the journey to my accommodation passed without incident – the same bus journey as last year, but no epically long walks needed!
After ditching the luggage and freshening myself up in my tiny room at the Homy Inn, it was straight out to stroll the streets of Tsim Sha Tsui and reacquaint myself with the awesome sight of Victoria Harbour over the water. Catching it at sunset was an ace way to see in my first evening, although it’s a shame I wasn’t quite switched on photography wise at that point!
I went to bed that night thinking I’d be out like a light seeing as I hadn’t slept since two nights previously. And I was… Only to wake up three hours later, and not be able to get back to sleep for another three hours! So I didn’t escape jetlag completely…
That saw me enjoy a lie-in on my first morning, with me finally heading out the door at lunchtime. It was back towards the airport for me, with Lantau Island being the destination to check out one of the main things I missed out on last time – Ngong Ping and the Big Buddha.
Arriving at Tung Chung station it was a bit of a shock to see the queue for the Ngong Ping 360 cable car. Heading there on a Sunday possibly wasn’t the brightest idea, and it was a long 90 minutes at least before I was finally being carried over the ocean and hills up to Ngong Ping village. Thankfully I didn’t have to share a car with the mainlander family that were behind me in the queue. How do I know they were from the mainland you ask? By their child’s liberal use of the pavement as a toilet…
Still it turned out to be a worthwhile trip. Although Ngong Ping village itself was rather artificial the scenic views from the Buddha were pretty ace. Although I had to laugh at the Indian couple who dragged their entire luggage up all 240(?) steps! Oh dear…
With darkness falling already by the time I was back in Kowloon I decided to get off at Yau Ma Tei and get my first experience of Temple Street Night Market. It was pretty busy and bustling despite it being fairly early in the evening, and whilst counterfeit goods and cheap dangly trinkets aren’t my thing I ended up wiling a good couple of hours away wandering through the stalls. I even stumbled across a Chinese dance with various men doubled up and dressed as dragons. Very unexpected!
It was also good to chow down on some decent street munch again, with some tasty noodles and beef dishes stuffing my stomach for the night. A stroll back down to Tsim Sha Tsui finished my energy off, and that night I did sleep well!
Two nights on my own was enough to get myself readjusted to Hong Kong and Monday morning saw me swapping my solo guesthouse room for a pretty packed hostel. I was a bit dubious after my recent hostel experience, but to my delight YesInn @ Causeway Bay turned out to be an ace place to stay.
I couldn’t check in straight away, so decided to make the most of my Octopus Card and get around to see some of the lesser visited sights. The beautiful Chi Lin Nunnery and Chinese gardens and the colourful Wong Tai Sin temple were all well worth a visit, whilst the high-rises and billboards of Causeway Bay provided the modern contrast to those more traditional sights.
Whilst weighing up what to have for dinner that night I stumbled across the fact that a Michelin starred restaurant was just down the road from the hostel, and for pretty spectacularly cheap prices too – I was sold!
Din Tai Fung may well be a Pan-Asian chain now, but oh man it does some spectacular Dim Sum! I’ll save a full write-up on this for it’s own post, but it was a spectacular meal. And all for the grand sum for £11.79. Amazing!
Monday concluded with some rooftop drinks with some newly-made hostel amigos and it was a fun way to finish off a pretty sweet day. It didn’t get too heavy for me though, as my alarm was set for early Tuesday… It was time to head to Macau.
Again I’ll save my Macanese experience for it’s own post, but it was worth the boat trip over, not least to see the sudden contrast between the Asia’s gambling mecca and it’s Iberian influenced streets not 10 minutes apart from each other. A very unique little place…
Oh and I even had time to stumble across a local football match right in the middle of Wan Chai on my way back from the ferry port. That was a random Tuesday night sorted then!
So, Wednesday? Up pretty early again, I decided to hop into one of those quirky little minibuses and roll down to the south of the island to lush Stanley. The beachside village felt like a world away from the hustle and high-rises of Central and was the perfect place to come and chill out away from the madness. Crazy to think it was only a 20 minute drive if that! I loved it down here, and having seen this lush side of Hong Kong Island now I’m pretty gutted that me and Chelcie didn’t discover it last year.
And hey I was even able to get some chips here for lunch! What? I had a craving for them…
Afternoon quickly came around and I decided to go check out the Mid-Levels escalators to satisfy my curiosity of just how long these really were. The long journey up turned out to be pretty fascinating, although the walk back down through SoHo left me pretty knackered.
Amazingly however, for a city of seven million people, I actually bumped into someone I knew on that stroll back down – A guy I used to work with from my home town who just happens to be living in Hong Kong now! It really is a small world…
Once I was back in Central I realised that sunset wasn’t far away and that visibility was good – It was Peak time!
Seeing the views from The Peak at night was the number one item on my list this time around, with my previous visit being on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I don’t need to say much more about it, except for the fact that it didn’t disappoint. Spectacular!
And so my final day in Hong Kong rolled around über quickly. It was time to bid farewell to hostel life again and check myself into my final day treat of a night in the shiny new Ibis in Sheung Wan. Once my stuff was dropped off it was time to pound the streets to make the most of my final 24 hours.
Initially I took some more scenic tram rides, wandered around Wan Chai and strolled the awesome streets of Sheung Wan where I revisited the famous Man Mo Temple. I’d forgotten just how cool this area was with so many quirky and cool eateries and galleries dotted around the steep streets. I kinda wish I’d had more time to explore further, but with the clock ticking I was a busy boy.
The afternoon and evening saw me enjoy another spectacular Dim Sum dinner, stroll through Temple Street Night Market and Kowloon again, take in my last glimpses of Victoria Harbour and, saving the most famous til last, finally take my first Star Ferry journey of this trip.
Once my feet could take no more it was time to call it a day and relax in my own comfortable space. And, oh yeah, it just happened to be 24 floors up, with some pretty sweet vistas of both Sheung Wan and over the harbour. An epic way to see out my final night of an amazing trip!
I really couldn’t have asked for more from my Hong Kong adventure this time around. The fact that I was determined to make up for my own failure to make the most of this spectacular city last time meant I pushed myself to see every inch I wanted to see, and try every little thing I wanted to try this time around. It really is a spectacular destination, both exotic enough to satisfy the adventurous, yet safe enough for the novice traveller to dip their toe into and still enjoy. Seriously, don’t just make it a brief stopover on your way to other climes, but make it a proper visit! Heck, I implore you!
Personally though I’m just so glad that I was able to come back so soon and see just how rewarding Hong Kong is upon repeat visits. I don’t think it’ll be the last time either…
So here’s to you Hong Kong, as I raise a glass to you for providing the sweetest cherry to top off my 2013 travels. Amazing times!
Have you loved Hong Kong just like I did? What did you enjoy about it?