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Trip Report Trip report - 4 days in Hong Kong

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Just getting over the inevitable post-flight cold combined with jet lag, so time to write a trip report.

We (2 adults) flew LHR to HKG with BA and stayed 4 nights in early December at the YMCA Salisbury Road.

Day 1 (Thursday): Arrival. It was a shock when the wheels touched down as we thought we were still in the clouds. When we got outside we realised thick smog was blanketing everything. First stop after passport control was to get Octopus cards. We were confused where to buy the card when we got to Arrivals, as we could only see a desk for the Airport Express, which we didn't want, and a long queue. A helpful attendant confirmed we could get the card there, but also pointed us towards another desk on the AE platform which had no queue at all. We put 200HKD stored value on each, then found the bus terminal, caught the A21 to Middle Road and walked round the block to the hotel. It was an interesting journey, seeing the suburbs and the contrast between the glass and neon on the ground floors against the dilapidated state of the apartments above. The luggage was delayed getting off the plane, so we got to the hotel around 6pm, 2 hours later than anticipated. After checking in and a shower, we went for a walk round to get our bearings and food. Then back to the hotel room, gawping at the view until a respectable time for bed.

Day 2 (Friday): The Peak and Cheung Chau. We caught the Star Ferry then the first bus to the tram terminus. There were tape barriers at the tram terminus, forcing everyone into a single queue for tickets. The man in front of us showed the attendant their Octopus card and was let straight through to the tram gates, so we did the same to bypass the ticket queue and straight onto a tram. At the top, we went up an escalator and saw signs for a coffee shop so stopped for a drink. I was just saying how we needed to find a door to outside, and DH pointed out the door behind me. We walked a little way down the Lugard Road for photo ops, then back to the Galleria and thanks to GPS found our way to Plunketts Road and walked to where I used to live (apartment sadly long demolished and built over). We intended to take the bus down and ride the ding ding trams then find the mid level escalators, but it was so hot and sticky we couldn't face the thought of being packed in to a tight space or walking far. So instead we stayed on the bus until Central Pier and got the first ferry we saw. We ate mango mochi (yum) from one of the many store fronts as we wandered around the village, enjoying the breeze and avoiding being run over by bikes.

Day 3 (Saturday): Museum of History and markets. We walked to the Museum of History and spent more than 3 hours there. A very good museum giving an overview of geological and social history. Then bus and ferry to Exchange Square to catch a bus to Stanley, but it was 3pm by then and there were more than 2 busloads of people already waiting, so we abandoned that idea. Instead, we backtracked on the MTR to Jordan, walked to Reclamation Street and wandered the market and up Temple Street until we'd had enough of being pushed and shoved by the relentless stream of people.

Day 4 (Sunday): Stanley, Chi Lin Nunnery, Nan Lian Gardens. Back via the Star Ferry to Exchange Square and bagged the front seats upstairs on the bus to Stanley. The ride firstly up towards the Peak, then past Repulse Bay and to Stanley afforded many impressive views, but you need to hang on tight as the drivers take no prisoners on the hairpin bends. We visited the Tin Hau temple and perused the Christmas market outside the Plaza, feeling distinctly un-Christmassy in that heat but sampling the mulled wine anyway. Stanley felt very European to me - the bars opening onto the sea front could have been a Spanish village. A bit of shopping in the market (pashminas and jewellery for Christmas presents) then back on the bus to HK (front seats again!). MTR to Diamond Hill and walked to the Chi Lin nunnery then across the bridge to Nan Lian Garden. Both were relatively quiet and serene, discounting the hoards of Filipino maids on their day off.

Day 5 (Monday): Lantau, Big Buddha, departure. We checked out of the hotel and got the AE shuttle bus to Kowloon station and dropped the bags. What a fabulous facility that other cities could learn from - it would make the Heathrow Express worth the price. Took the MTR to Hong Kong and a short walk to Central Pier to catch the ferry to Mui Wo. I can't believe how cheap transport is - we were mulling over whether to buy an ordinary or deluxe ticket and debating whether the $10 difference was worth it, before realising we were talking about less than £1. We went for the ordinary class anyway (cheapskates), less than £1.50 each for a 50 minute trip. From Mui Wo, we caught the bus to Tai O. Another interesting journey, contrasting the ordinary villages and housing with gated communities and luxury apartments. Plus we got to see the 2 prisons, which seemed inordinate for a small island. It was drizzly at Tai O, but we wandered around the dried and live fish stalls and across the river to see the stilt houses. We didn't fancy a boat trip in the rain, so caught the bus to Ngong Ping to see the Big Buddha. Unfortunately, the hills were shrouded in clouds, and when we got off the bus fog had brought visibility down to a couple of feet. In fact we only knew we'd arrived as the driver turned off the engine - we couldn't even see the other side of the pavement. We walked to the steps at the base of the Buddha, but couldn't see a thing. The remote chance of seeing it from the top wasn't worth the physical effort of 250+ steps on the off chance, so we abandoned that idea. The original intention was to get the cable car down, but that would have been a waste of money, so we worked our way back to the bus turnaround. We dithered about which direction to head in as we could only see one bus stop through the fog (not ours), but luckily bumped into someone who pointed us in the right direction. Bus to Tung Chung, got off when everyone else did and followed them hoping they were heading to the MTR, marvelled at the length of the queue waiting to go up to the Buddha (poor fools), MTR back to Central and got the bus to the Peak tram terminus again. It was 4.30pm and we thought it would be nice to see the skyline from there as dusk fell. Unfortunately, so did several hundred other people. We didn't have the patience to queue for an hour or more, so we crossed the road and got the same bus back to the pier again. On the way we debated whether to get the ding ding tram or try the bus up to the Peak, then realised we weren't moving and were in mid rush hour so either option would be crowded and traffic jammed and could leave us short of time. So, we abandoned that plan, found Starbucks at the pier and sat with a coffee watching the boats for a bit, then made our way back to the HK MTR station and the airport.

The good:

The hotel. The location was brilliant and the harbour view spectacular. The room was modern, comfortable and well equipped. Reviewers who say rooms and bathrooms are small are obviously not used to UK hotels!

The Octopus card. So much time saved queuing for tickets and tokens. We also used them for water and snacks in the 7 Eleven shops, which meant we didn't end up with pockets full of small change.

Air conditioning everywhere. The temperatures were only around 21-23 C but 85% humidity made it unpleasantly sticky. We wore short sleeves the whole time, marvelling at the locals wrapped up in coats, hats, scarves and Ugg boots.

Public toilets. These far exceeded expectations. They were present everywhere we wanted them, contrary to reports each one had loo roll and soap, and the cleanliness put UK public loos to shame.

The bad:

The crowds. We are used to London, and fully aware that HK is a busy city, but the non-stop crowds everywhere, at all times of day and night, became too much in the heat. It was a relief to escape from the city to the islands and quieter environs.

The smog. Luckily we visited the Peak on our only clear day. as visibility was very poor on the other 3 days and we couldn't see the Peak from Kowloon. We could feel burning throats and shortness of breath - how can people cope with that every day? It would put us off going back.

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