Hong Kong Highlights

Jan 12th, 2005, 04:29 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 646
Hong Kong Highlights

We visited Hong Kong for the 4th time, from 27 December to 3 January. Some of the things which we had planned to do but didn't were Dolphin-watching off Lantau (too cold!), evening meal on Lamma (too lazy!) and sailing on the Duk Ling (it was fully booked until 6 January). However, we did manage to fit in a lot of other stuff.

Photos of our trip are at http://uk.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/xen...=/4584&.src=ph

Some of the highlights and my musings are as followsbr />
Hotel: We stayed at the Kowloon Shangri-La http://shangri-la.com/hongkong/kowloon/en/index.aspx. This was our second stay there and I think it’s a wonderful hotel and don’t understand why some people seem to feel that its location is rather inconvenient. As well as offering great harbour views of the Island, it’s only a minute’s walk to the pier for the fast ferry to Central and is directly opposite the new entrance to the KCR station from where, with the help of the moving walkways, you can be at Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station on Nathan Road in about 2 minutes. Tsim Sha Tsui East promenade is directly in front of the hotel and makes a very pleasant stroll down to the Star Ferry pier.

Transportation: Limo transfers were already arranged to and from the hotel, but we each bought a standard Octopus card (full details at http://www.octopuscards.com/eng/whatis/index.jsp ) with $100HK credit on it on our first day and re-charged it about halfway through the week. They are invaluable and save having to carry loads of loose change around, or queue up at ticket desks. Hong Kong’s public transport system is amazing and in 4 visits, I’ve never had any reason or desire to use a taxi. We travelled on ferries, trams, MTRs and buses and the only form of transport we found that didn’t accept them was the Citybus from Ocean Park to Admiralty. They can also be used for vending machines and various retail outlets like 7-Eleven, Circle K and Watsons – don’t leave home without it!
Xenos is offline  
Jan 12th, 2005, 04:31 AM
  #2  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 646
The Peak: We caught the bus from near the Central Star Ferry pier to the lower Peak Tram Station in Garden Road and rode the tram up to the Peak. The views from the tram itself aren't particularly good, since the rail is laid in a kind of a gulley for most of the journey, but the experience of travelling at an angle of about 45 degrees all the way is well worth it and you do get to see some of the older houses from the colonial period along the way.

You arrive inside the Peak Tower, which has been developed over the last few years, so that it's almost a theme park in itself. We got out of there as soon as we could find the exit, which isn't as easy as it sounds, as it isn't very clearly marked - they obviously want to keep you in there spending money for as long as possible! I THINK we eventually found it on level 2.

The views from the terrace are absolutely stunning, especially on a clear day like we were lucky to get on this latest visit and we spent about half an hour just gawping and snapping photos.

We then decided to walk back down. A popular walk is the Peak Trail down Lugard Road back to the city, but this time we decided to go down the other side towards Pokfulam. The views probably aren't as spectacular as city-side, but it's an interesting and picturesque walk, through the heavily wooded country park and past Pokfulam Reservoir. After passing the riding school for the disabled, you eventually arrive at a main road. Stay on the same side of the road for buses to Aberdeen, or cross over to catch a bus back to Central and Wanchai.
Xenos is offline  
Jan 12th, 2005, 04:32 AM
  #3  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 646
Lantau: Most of the organised tours to Lantau seem to visit the Po Lin monastery first and then go on to Tai O after lunch, so to avoid the crowds, we caught a morning ferry to Mui Wo and then got the number 1 bus to Tai O. We then visited the monastery and big Buddha at Ngong Ping (21 bus) later in the afternoon just as the tour buses were arriving in Tai O.

Tai O is on the western coast of Lantau and as you get off the bus when you arrive it looks like a traditional fishing village. Wander around the harbour and the market and it still looks like a traditional fishing village, with stilt houses built over the water, old fishing boats and narrow streets lined with market stalls selling fresh fish straight from the tank and dried fish hung up from the posts. But, walk a little further back from the harbour and you'll see high rise flats and modern buildings. It's a place of contrasts and makes a really interesting stop during a visit to Lantau.

Visiting the big Buddha at the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau is a must. At 202 tons it's believed to be the biggest of its kind in the world and it certainly impressed us! It's free to visit the monastery and climb the steps to the Buddha, but you have to buy a ticket to actually go inside the statue, where there's a museum with relics of the Buddha. The price of the ticket (about $25HK) also includes a snack meal in the veggie restaurant at the bottom. We got a bowl of noodles and vegetables, a couple of dim sum and a can of coke, so we thought it was well worth the money and very much appreciated after the climb up and down all the steps.

I'm not sure if this is something that happens every day, or if we just struck lucky, but when we arrived at the monastery in the early afternoon, the monks were gathering around the front of the temple, chanting and praying. After watching for a while, we left to climb the steps to see the Buddha and halfway up, we turned around and there was a long procession of monks and followers making its way to the dais at the foot of the steps. They all gathered around there and then burned really elaborate paper statues in a huge incinerator.
Xenos is offline  
Jan 12th, 2005, 04:33 AM
  #4  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 646
Ocean Park: Ocean Park covers 200 acres on two sides of a mountain in the south of Hong Kong Island near Aberdeen. It includes many attractions and rides and makes a great day out, whether or not you're into theme park rides. The cable car ride between the two levels was as adventurous as we got, but the views over Repulse Bay were absolutely stunning. Visiting the Panda enclosure was the highlight of our visit to Ocean Park. Probably the only time I'll ever get up close to one of these beautiful creatures. I even bought a panda sweatshirt from the souvenir shop! Other Ocean Park attractions, for those who aren’t into theme park rides, include dolphin and seal shows, a walk-through shark aquarium, an atoll reef, a butterfly garden, and an aviary. Admission to the park was $185HK each for adults. Allow an absolute minimum of 4 hours for your visit, but you’ll probably spend longer than that there!

Shopping: I love Hong Kong’s markets. We didn’t get time to visit the flower, bird or Temple Street Night markets this time, but I would certainly recommend them for first time visitors. We DID go Ladies Market and Stanley Market. Ladies Market is great for cheap tat, souvenirs and designer rip-offs and for just mingling in the crowds. Stanley is a real tourist trap and sells much the same stuff as Ladies Market, but is worth the trip for the bus ride alone – get the number 6 from Exchange Square and try and ride on the front seat on the top deck for fabulous views of the Island.

Shopping Malls are all over Hong Kong. One of my favourites is Harbour City/Ocean Terminal, near the star Ferry pier at Kowloon. It has such a wide and varied range of shops, from top name designers to a local supermarket, that I could spend all day just window-shopping there. Electronics and computers don’t seem to be the same good buy in Hong Kong that they once were. We found little difference in prices from what we could get in the UK and they don’t seem to have all the latest state-of-the-art products for certain equipment. We found much better bargains and choices in Kuala Lumpur last April.

If you’re looking for cheap, everyday, casual clothing, there are several chains like U2, Giordano and Baleno all over the place, where they sell reasonable quality basics like t-shirts, jeans and sweaters at good value prices.

Xenos is offline  
Jan 12th, 2005, 06:22 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 23,074
Great report. Seems like many people, myself included, were enjoying the nice weather in HK over the holidays.

A few comments:
- I walked by the Kowloon Shangri-La, and I do admit it's not as inconvenient as I've portrayed it in the past, especially with the new moving sidewalks to the TST MTR. I guess it's all comparative - of course it's not as centrally located as the Peninsula or IC.

- There are several ways to get down from The Peak by foot. The shortest and steepest route is down Old Peak Road directly from the Tram Station. If you take the Lugard Rd/Harlech Rd loop, you can walk down to Hong Kong University and the western district. Or to Pokfulam like Xenos did, or even down to Aberdeen via a longer route. I think I've done it all.

- Glad you enjoy Ocean Park. At HK$185, that's quite an expensive admission. And I think the beach you saw from the cable car is Deep Water Bay, not Repulse Bay. However, if you're over 65 and has a HKID, admission is free!

- I have bought Giordano and U2 clothings before, but in recent years my favorite is Bossini. And looking at how crowded their stores are over the holidays, I think most Hong Kongers agree. Thin wool sweater (wool from Italy) for HK$99. Long sleeve T-shirts for about HK$69. And the quality, in my opinion, is better than GAP.

- And were you trying to get the free Thursday harbor cruise on the Duk Ling? My parents went in early December - a foreign passport is required for registration. I believe there are only two sailings - one departing from Kowloon, one HK. And the cruise is towards the eastern part of the harbor (where one can see the old Kai Tak runway - the end of which is now a driving range), and last an hour.
rkkwan is offline  
Jan 12th, 2005, 07:01 AM
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 646
rkkwan - lol, yes it was a bit nippy over the holidays wasn't it? We were expecting to walk around in short sleeves, but found we needed at least a sweater or hoodie on most days and fleeces or jackets at night.

We thought the admission to Ocean Park was pretty reasonable, but then we're coming from the UK with a very strong pound and not the US, where the $US and $HK are pegged together. We found most things far cheaper, relatively speaking, than on our last visit in 2001. Yes, Deep Water Bay is the closest one to the Ocean Park cable cars, but we could definitely see the gaudy temples of Repulse Bay in the distance!

Oh yes, I forgot about Bossini. I tried a really nice jacket on in there and almost got caught up in the locals' frenzy to buy as much warm winter clothing as possible, but then realised that I had more than enough winter jackets back home!

We WERE trying to get on the Thursday Duk Ling cruise, but the lady at the HKTB told us that it had been booked solidly for the whole of December. That was probably the biggest disappointment of our trip since we had really been looking forward to it.


Xenos is offline  
Jan 12th, 2005, 08:03 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 23,074
Oh, glad you enjoy your trip to Tai O and the Big Buddha too. The bronze statue is the largest "outdoor sitting" statue of the Buddha. I guess there are larger types in the world - like reclining indoor ones.

Regardless of size and religion, it is a very beautifully crafted and constructed statue, with a very kind and peaceful face. The location on a little hill overlooking Po Lin Monastery and the Ngong Ping plateau - a "blessed" area with lots of monasteries/nunneries - is also breath-taking.

You probably went after lunch hour, as the packaged buddha/vegetarian meal is a pretty good deal. Fellow fodorites "yk" went, and reported on this board after Thanksgiving.

I didn't go this time, as I went during my last 2 visits to Hong Kong. But Lantau remains my favorite day-trip from the city.

As for the Admissions to the Ocean Park, again it's all relative. I mean, a weeklong pass to all 6 major museums of Hong Kong cost HK$30. Or roundtrip to Macau only HK$300. Or Duk Ling trip for free! See, when I am visiting Hong Kong, I tend to think like I'm a local, and not a tourist. Can't help it.

Another reason I usually don't recommend people to go to Ocean Park is that there are many Seaworlds or equivalent parks in the US that are larger, with newer better rides, than Ocean Park. [Yes, they do cost more.] Since most readers here are Amercian, I don't see why they should spend time in Hong Kong doing that, and that will probably apply to the new Disney park too.
rkkwan is offline  
Jan 12th, 2005, 10:38 AM
  #8  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 646
No, I should imagine that if you have a choice of enormous theme parks on your doorstep, then visiting Ocean Park wouldn't be the best use of limited time in Hong Kong.

To be honest, the day we went there, we had originally planned to go to Cheung Chau, but when we awoke, the morning was looking pretty cold and grey and so we didn't fancy it and decided to go to the park instead. I'm glad we did, because seeing the giant pandas was worth the cost of the admission on its own - not something I'm likely to get a chance to do in the UK!
Xenos is offline  
Jan 12th, 2005, 06:44 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 28,926
great report...is there more??
rhkkmk is offline  
Jan 12th, 2005, 07:55 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 28,926
great pics thanks for sharring
rhkkmk is offline  
Jan 13th, 2005, 12:26 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 194
Regarding the Thursday Duk Ling cruise, can we register by phone or must this be done in person at one of the HKTB locations? It appears that the capacity is only for 30 persons on each sailing. Is availability a problem normally?



HappyTraveling is offline  
Jan 13th, 2005, 01:44 AM
  #12  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 646
Thanks rhkkmk. That's about it really. I could go on about the hours we spent enjoying the sun and people-watching in Kowloon Park, or on the upper walkway on Kowloon promenade or on the seafront at Stanley (where we spent an amusing half hour watching a local policeman getting his photo taken with two leather-clad bikers and a Harley Davidson!), but I don't think that's of much interest to most people on a first visit with limited time in Hong Kong. Or I could ramble on about the wonderful Christmas lights and the fireworks on our first night, but that wouldn't really be relevant to any other time of year. So I've tried to just put in what I hoped would be the most useful points for the most people.

HappyTraveling - you could try registering for the Duk Ling by phone or email, but you have to show your passport, because the trip is only open to genuine tourists, so I'm not sure whether they would allow you to do so. I don't think availability would be such an issue at other times of the year, except maybe Chinese New Year.
Xenos is offline  
Jan 13th, 2005, 04:49 AM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 23,074
About the free Duk Ling cruise, yes, you have to show your passports to register for one of the 60 seats each week (two cruises, 30 persons each). My parents went to the Tourism Board office at the TST Star Ferry on Wednesday 12/15, and the 12/16 cruises were full, so they register them for the 12/23 one.

So, don't expect to just walk in and get on, but if you can go to the Tourism Board office a few days ahead in off-season, you should have no problem.

BTW, many Hong Kong residents have foreign passports, and they are all eligible to go too.
rkkwan is offline  
Jan 13th, 2005, 06:04 AM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 28,926
xenos---you miss jusdge fodorites...we like every little detail...bore us!!!
rhkkmk is offline  
Jan 13th, 2005, 07:15 AM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,671
Thanks for a great report!
Kathie is offline  
Jan 14th, 2005, 01:45 AM
  #16  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 646
OK rhkkmk, you asked for it! So here's a little bit about Christmas in Hong Kong -

I had read about the Winterfest which was taking place throughout December and into early January, so I was expecting the odd Christmas tree and santa, but I wasn’t prepared for the wonderful array of Christmas lights and greetings that lit up the buildings along the harbourfront each evening and the starry Christmas lights strung across many of the major shopping streets. I somehow just didn’t expect Christmas to be such a big thing in Hong Kong.

On our first evening we wandered down to the TST promenade to catch the 8pm Symphony of Lights and it seemed like the whole of Hong Kong had had the same idea! It was absolutely jam-packed with people out to see what I think was the last firework display of the holiday. The fireworks weren’t really all that spectacular – I expect they save the best shows for Chinese New Year – but from all the ooohs and aaaahs, it certainly sounded like the hundreds of children there enjoyed them!

With all the people that were out, all we could do was shuffle slowly up the promenade, carried along by the crowd and it took us about 45 minutes to do the 500 yard walk to the Inter-Continental through the Avenue of Stars, which was beautifully lit with, of course, stars! In front of the IC was a lovely Christmas tree grotto with, I’m guessing, about 20 trees hung with lights and upon which children could hang “wishing tags”.

It was wonderful to see all the childrens’ faces as they hung up their tags and I even forgave the mother who was crushed next to me, carrying her son and daughter’s candy floss like a flag for them to follow, when she managed to deposit half the sticky pink floss all over my jacket!

Hong Kong will definitely be on my wishlist of places to spend Christmas with my future grandchildren!
Xenos is offline  
Jan 14th, 2005, 07:52 AM
  #17  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 646
Some thoughts on Stanley – I’m not sure if the market has got smaller, or if our taste for tat has become more jaded over the years, but we “did” the market in about 45 minutes, much more quickly than on previous visits, but it was fairly quiet the day we went there, so we didn’t have to push our way through crowded narrow alleyways. I bought 2 pairs of wrap-around pants for $80HK each, which I thought were a bargain (not sure how long they’ll last after being washed though!). I’ve never seen these before, apart from the ones which my daughter brought back from Goa and which I borrowed off her for our Malaysia trip in April. They take a bit of getting into, but are really flattering and with the loose, split legs will be perfect for my holiday in Paxos in July. I also bought a bunch of lovely dark velvety purple orchids from the flower shop on the edge of the market and they lasted all week – a bargain at just $20HK!

We left the market and meandered down to the beach, where we spent a few minutes scrambling on the rocks and then walked up to the promenade. A biker in full leathers and black shades rode past us on a Harley Davidson and we thought that was quite an unusual sight for Hong Kong. Then he rode past the other way a minute later and spent about 10 minutes just riding back and forth along the promenade – what a poser! He then parked up and was engaged in a conversation with a local policeman. We thought he was going to get a ticket for illegal parking, but no chance. The officer went into a nearby shop and appeared outside again a few minutes later with the shopkeeper carrying a camera and then proceeded to pose alongside the bike (complete with leather-clad biker) whilst his shop-keeper friend snapped away! Seems like Harleys must be quite an unusual sight in Hong Kong after all.

We then went for a couple of pints of Fosters in the Smugglers Inn. This seems to have changed hands over the years and smelled strongly of chip fat, but the décor hasn’t changed, it’s still the same beer barrel tables, oak beams and foreign currency notes all over the ceiling that we remembered. Another thing I remembered was not to be put off by the “squat and squirt” sign on the ladies’ toilet door. I think this was the previous owner’s idea of a joke and it actually is a real sit-down toilet, not the hole in the floor you might expect and it was surprisingly clean the day we visited. Mind you, after a couple of pints of Fosters, I’m not usually that bothered if I do have to squat
Xenos is offline  
Jan 14th, 2005, 09:11 AM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 23,074
I don't think I've ever bought anything in the Stanley Market in my life, but here are my favorite things to do in Stanley:

- Walk down Wong Ma Kok Road after you get off the bus, and you'll pass by St. Stephen's College (a highschool), and get to the Military Cemetary. Many British soldiers who died defending HK during WWII were buried there. Well kept and quiet. One of my favorite place to go on a date.

- There's also the St. Stephen's Beach directly down from the cemetary. Also pretty quiet and nice.

- The newly rebuilt Murray House and the promenade in front of it. Classic British colonial building that was originally in Central. The King Ludwig restaurant there has lots of German brew on tap. I planned to eat there, but went to a different German restuarant in the city instead.
rkkwan is offline  
Jan 14th, 2005, 09:28 AM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 759
A great find of mine in Stanley was the little stalls selling the cheap ties. I have a bad habit of dipping expensive ties in soup about 20 minutes after putting them on for the first time.

On out last visit we found a large collection of joke legal profession ties(Scales of Justice, ties printed with the words "not guilty" a 100 times upon them) - quality was not too bad, cost? about £1 each
Walter_Walltotti is offline  
Jan 14th, 2005, 09:31 AM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 759
I think Stanley is a great place for silly nik naks and momentos for people who weren't really expecting you to bring them back a 200 year bronze bust from the Orient
Walter_Walltotti is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -

FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 06:11 PM.