Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hong Kong Part 1

Hong Kong was a dream! We all loved it.

Hong Kong skyline from the Peak
We arrived late at night on Monday, January 3 and left in the evening on Friday, Janaury 7, so we had more or less 4 complete days in Hong Kong. We were all pretty exhausted and getting over a gastro & jet lag; our only regret is that we all badly needed to rest. But we did manage to get a lot out of a fantastic city.

We stayed at the CityView on the Kowloon side. Although most people that have visited mainland China would argue that any part of greater Hong Kong is far removed from the real China, staying in Kowloon was definitely more China than Hong Kong island and a nice introduction to the sights, sounds and smells of Asia.

Our hotel was great. We rented two rooms. They upgraded us to a suite free of charge and the staff were excellent. I wouldn't call it luxurious, but at $90 a night per room, it was excellent value. The location was superb. We were a 15 sec walk to the Yau Ma Tei subway station and right around the corner from the Night Market. Having said that, all of us would probably stay on Hong Kong island the next time for a variety of reasons; the largest reason would be to be a little closer to the bright lights and night life of Hong Kong.

We started our first day with a stroll through the Reclamation Street market - lots of stuff I wouldn't be able to name and would think twice about tasting - no that's a lie; I'll taste anything twice. But it was cool to walk through a huge market with lots of new foods.

Reclamation Street Market
Next, Harrison took on a Chinese octagenarian at the jade market and haggled her down to $2.50 for three jade figurines representing their Chinese zodiac animals. When she wouldn't budge anymore, he threw up his hands and walked away - good move! She handed over the calculator for him to punch in the magic number. I think she got a kick out of it as well.

Unfortunately we got there right after closing ...
We kept going down Nathan Road and across Kowloon Park to the Harbor City mall, the largest mall in Hong Kong. Now, the thought of traveling across the world to spend a few hours in a mall is slightly less appealing to me than an extended colonoscopy, but this mall is crazy! I couldn't help but chuckle at Trish; she reminded me of my kids on Christmas day. "Oh my god! There's Prada! And Louis Vuitton and Jimmy Choo! And they've got Dior for Kids, but look at these designer cupcakes!" Seriously, it was a solid 3 hours of exclamation marks.

 If any of you are inclined to shopping, this is a must see if you visit Hong Kong. I even enjoyed it. They could use a few more electronic stores and a pub would be nice but I digress. I can't think of any high-end brand name that is not represented here. It was pretty cool. Trish added to her collection of sandals and the girls picked up some sparkly shoes. Harrison settled on some toys and I was happy to get out of there for under $400.

Aboard the Star Ferry
In the afternoon, it was lunch overlooking Hong Kong harbor, a trip over the harbor in the famous Star Ferry and then a walk along Queen's Road. The kids were excited to "ride the really long escalator", so we took the 30 or so escalators from Queen's Road West to Conduit Road ... only to realize that there's nothing to do up there. It's wholly residential. So we walked back down again which wasn't as bad as it sounds.

Man Mo Temple: The incense coils take several weeks to burn down

Although it was only 3:00pm, everyone's energy was beginning to wane so we took a brief detour along Hollywood Road to Man Mo temple. Then there was some trinket shopping in Soho, a quick subway trip back to the hotel  (Hong Kong's subway is amazing!) with the intention of putting our feet up for a few hours and then catching an evening Cantonese meal and a trip to the Night Market.

Everybody but me slept a solid 14 hours - right the way through to the next morning.

As a footnote, I got up around 8:30pm and ducked out for a taste of China. One of the porters at the hotel directed me to a "very famous Hong Kong restaurant". Not so sure about that, but it was a tiny hole in the wall with good food. It was a soup kitchen where I sat with 5 other locals, only two of which decided to move rather than have to watch me eat noodle soup with chop sticks and a spoon. The menu was all in Cantonese so I choose one of the 6 items translated into "Beef with Noodles" which the waitress signaled to me was the incorrect choice, so I'm not really sure what I ate. But it was boiling hot and pretty tasty and I knew I'd stolen an experience that was neither Trish nor kid-friendly.

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