Hong Kong central
A few years ago, Hong Kong should have been a precious visit, allowing an approximate idea of China, mixed with British organization.
Today, it seems to have lost importance: China is an open country, and arriving in HK after visiting China, as we did, loses a lot of impact. A few British remains, the beautiful and lively bay, the great social organization, and… modern architecture. Not much, but enough to justify a visit.
Hong Kong bay
The bay is the gem of Hong Kong central, and with total justice: no matter in which side you are, either at low or high level, the views of the bay are always gorgeous.
Crossing the bay in a ferry is a mandatory experience, and no one misses the light show at night.We felt sorry, because we saw the bay under several weather conditions, but never under a bright sun.
I think, there will be sun in Hong Kong… sometimes, but not for us.
Hong Kong central, by day, is… shopping, so, nothing better for a brake in the night than… shopping!
However, I had a compensation: I think that I was the only foreigner to notice the temple that, probably, gave name to the street (Fernanda is in the picture but didn’t see it – her eyes and thoughts where in… well, you know!
May I make a confession? I don’t understand why my guide book mentioned Star Ferry as a great attraction. I understand that in an extremely well organized city, with hi-tech solutions in mass transport, the “old” ferries may be considered a piece of museum, kept in action for cultural reasons.
I know that, this line, created in 1888 has a very rich story, but I must confess that, for me, it was rather common, matching the conditions of many ferries regularly used in Europe (and still a dream in many third world countries). And yes, it is a cheap and nice way to cross (and see) the bay. Maybe that will be enough to the recommendations in the guide book.
Address: The Star Ferry Pier, Kowloon Point, Tsim Sha Tsui,
One of the most remarkable achievements in Hong Kong central is the intricate network of protected passages over the roads.
It’s easy to escape the danger (the noise and the smoke) of the traffic, and it is comfortable to circulate in the air-conditioning from building to building.
However, that gives us the strange feeling of being somewhat… confined, without the chance of feeling the town, and, as all the knots of the network, are shopping malls… dramatic!
Well… someone that I know didn’t feel anything alike, you may believe…
In a so dense forest of concrete, it’s nice to find a place with a traditional look and small proportions.
This square is not a big one, the statue is not impressive, but upon arriving we almost feel, at last, free to breath.
A break in the massive soil occupation.
There are not as many signs of British presence in Hong Kong central as we expected. Of course, it’s easy to find a house, a church, a garden with colonial style, but less than expected, and discreetly hidden in the cement and glass “forest”.
One of the best exceptions is the Legislative Assembly, with a small garden “protecting” it, and throwing the modern giants to the background.
Concrete and tarmac leave not much space in Hong Kong Central district, but where it is available, space is carefully treated.
Exchange square is one of the examples, a small area with lakes and statues but also with the absence of something green.
As you climb uphill, the landscape changes: the wide avenues give place to narrow winding roads, trees line the roads, and the skyscrapers appear as the exception to the lower profile of the houses, here and there, seeming a planned aggression to the landscape.
We made it by bus – Walking should be hard!
Described as the longest escalator in the world, with its 800 meters of total length, this may be useful for locals, but not much for tourists: if you go up to the top, as they are one way only, and mid-levels a residential area, you will end facing the problem of how to get out of there.
We used it only for a couple of sections and left, allowing us to find the way to Man Mo temple, descending instead of climbing, wit a short and easy look at Hollywood Rd.
Too discreet in the outside, this temple is an explosion of colors as soon as you enter the door. Small spaces to lots of details, compose a dense atmosphere, where people jostles, moving around for prayer or photo.Originally built in 1848 and dedicated to Man Cheong, the God of Literature and Kwan Yu (Mo), the god of war, this temple was use to settle all kind of conflicts.
The tradition has faded but devotees continue to come and burn huge bell-shaped coils of incense that we may see hanging from the ceiling, providing the smoke and intense smell common in all Chinese temples.
Art collectors may spend hours in this street, as the shops are side by side, and the announced prices are inviting.
The others, like us (thanks God, Fernanda only collects shoes and bags), do have nothing special to see, just a quick look in the way to or from Man Mo temple.
Bank of China
Skyscrapers are the dominant look of Hong Kong, most of them becoming anonymous in the competitive forest of steel, cement and glass. The Bank of China, with its distinctive size and forms, glows in the whole.
With its 315 meters, the Bank of China Tower was the first building outside USA to break the 1,000 feet (300 m) mark, and the tallest building in Hong Kong and Asia, when it was built, in the beginning of the nineties.
Views from Victoria Peak
I spent three days in Hong Kong, delaying the visit to Victoria peak because the weather was so cloudy that we couldn’t see it from below.
At last, we got a couple of clear hours and went up. Be careful with this point: the best of the peak are the views and they aren’t always available.
We HAD good views.
Modern and accessible
The most important museums of Hong Kong are concentrated in a modern complex by the bay, in Kowloon side, the Cultural Centre.
The most visited are the Art museum, still with a section in Flagstaff house, and the History Museum.
Easy to identify and reach, it shares its part in the night Festival of Lights, around the bay.
Avenue of the stars
Inspired in Hollywood Hall of Fame, between the New World Centre and Victoria harbor waterfront there´s a pedestrian avenue celebrating cinema.
All local great stars are evoked, with statues and inscriptions celebrating one century of movies.
The avenue is one of the best places to see the symphony of lights show.
Temple Street Night Market
It’s the only “monument” in Hong Kong that I had to see twice. Standing close to the hotel, it is a temptation to any woman, and I couldn’t escape it.
Being critical I would say that it is only a street market; being honest I must admit that it has something special – richness, variety, and all the life that it brings to the area.
Being confession time, I must recognize that I – me – myself – also bought a couple of cheap things.
One of the most interesting details in Temple Street Night Market is the long line of stalls with fortune tellers.
I thought that they were just a couple of them, being surprised by their big number.
Quietly standing side by side (without any remarkable demand), they are a good example of “Chinese patience”. No hassle, no shout, just waiting by their dimmed lights and precarious stalls. Funny, indeed!
Old Time Remains
The fastly growing city means the replacement of the old, colonial buildings by the new skyscrapers and modern buildings. Some of the old stuff is still surviving, and turning into landmarks, may, eventually be kept. That happens to the clock tower, once part of the railway station of Kowloon, and today… just a remaining tower.
Close to the cultural center, and Star Ferry terminal, it fits well in the square, while around it the word “tower” gets another meaning.
It’s a landmark in Hong Kong. At least, I couldn’t read anything while preparing my trip without the references to it.
Well, I didn’t stay there (too “cheap”, for us!) but stayed next door.
The location is so excellent as ours (or… well… even better) the facade is classical and beautiful, and limos do come and go. But I think that staying next door, we saved there enough to pay all the trip to Hong Kong.
Nathan Road – Heavy commerce
Advertised as one of the most commercial streets of Hong Kong, Nathan Road is… one of the most commercial streets of Hong Kong!
One Indian tout in each square meter, large and small shops side by side, scams menacing all around, and Fernanda still angry because I only gave her time to enter 489 of the …. stores*
* Sorry, I had no time to count them all!
Out of Town
Some sites identify Stanley with its Chinese name: Chek Chue.
Respecting that, my notes about Stanley (market and more) will be listed in this post, as part of Hong Kong page.
Here we go…
Promoted by the guides as a must see in Hong Kong, I couldn’t skip this market. Well, it is a market… Though a little more interested than usual (it was raining out there) I bought nothing.
Fernanda didn’t… also. Big surprise!
It was a pity that we went there under the rain: the central beach is small, calm and attractive, but the surroundings have many alternatives, and the water must be warm enough to convince even Fernanda.
A good lunch and a quick visit was all that we could have.
Maybe next time!
A Victorian building from the 19th century was dismantled to give place to Bank of China tower in 1982, and moved to Stanley, rebuilt with a few changes, and used as barracks to British troops.
Nowadays, it is occupied by several restaurants and the Maritime museum.
Tin Hau is a goddess that (it seems) has about 60 temples in Hong Kong, some of them classified as monuments.
I think that it is not the case of this one, located in Stanley, and that I visited in minutes, while waiting for lunch in a restaurant close to it.
A small shrine, half carved in the rock, in a slope by the sea.
I couldn’t learn anything about it – only the name (I think!).
Rain in the beach
Repulse Bay was in my agenda – not to swim (the time was too short for that), but to have a look.
Unfortunately, the weather didn’t help us, and with all those stores calling for Fernanda I didn’t even stop. The general look from the wet window was interesting, and, if I go back to Hong Kong under a sunny day, it will be included in the new agenda.
Eating in Hong Kong
Beaches: By the sea
A good meal at a very reasonable price!
Maybe because it was raining, there weren’t many clients around, and we could choose a table just facing the sea, with a breeze cooling the place.
The service was gentle and discreet, and the fish served with French fries was fresh and well done.
It seems to be closed, now!
Address: Stanley Market
Cafe Deco: Lunch at the Peak
We had lunch in the peak complex, and trying to escape fast food (that I hate) we went to Cafe Deco.
We had a reasonable lunch, not too priced, with the impressive views at our side, across the large windows.
Favorite Dish: Ice cream was a very good desert
Address: Level 1 and 2, Peak Galleria, 118 Peak Road
Wildfire: Not as expected
I was forced to have dinner in the airport, with lots of time to pick the best place, and used it meandering around the several restaurants, reading menus, trying to choose “the right” meal.
That’s when I saw, at the entrance of one of them… a giant bottle of Portuguese “Porca de Murça” wine. “Portuguese” and “wine” were two words suggesting that it would be THE place.
Wrong! It was an Indonesian restaurant, with no wine at all.
Just in front, a Chinese restaurant… could do. But the views of the dead chicken and geese hanging at the entrance dismissed Fernanda. Some more few steps, and… a western restaurant, with Portuguese names in the menu, and… wine. That SHOULD be the place.
That was the place.
Well, the food (reasonable) had nothing to do with Portugal, and the wine…was only a reference in the menu – in a restaurant that couldn’t sell any kind of alcohol.
The waiter suggested her costumers’ usual solution: descend to the market downstairs, to buy a beer, and bring it to the table.
I followed the advice (not beer, but… wine) and had a dinner soon forgotten.
YES! Airports are not the best idea for a good dinner!
YMCA – Perfect Location
I was apprehensive about this hotel: Three stars… the price of four… good references everywhere, but…
OK! It matched the expectations: the entrance is ugly, the lobby modest, but the room was perfect, as it was the breakfast buffet.
We stayed in the 16th floor (more expensive) and had a panoramic view over the bay.
Excellent location, allowing us to walk in most of our visits in Kowloon side, and with easy access either to ferry or subway to go across the bay or to Macau.
Address: 23 Waterloo Road Kowloon, Kowloon, Hong Kong, HK,
Hong Kong warnings
Steep and quick
If you can support the long line to get a ticket, the experience of climbing to the peak is short and nice.
The hill is rather steep, and though securely seated, you feel like bouncing backwards as you go up.
Will it be for that reason that they put everybody facing the hill, neglecting the eventual good sights in the way up and down?
Walking in Hong Kong is simultaneously easy and tricky – elevated and protected passages, smart signals, we even forget that down there are cars.
For a newcomer, before understanding the system, we risk feeling lost in the maze of corridors, stairs, and… malls (my God!).
I really love simplicity, which means… Macau.
Difficult and easy
From Kownloon, the access to Star Ferry is easy.
From Central it is not so easy.
The web composed by elevated passages and buildings are a bit tricky, and the access from the sidewalks is even more complex.
So, take my advice, give yourself time, and advance with calm, watching around, and using the extensive information posted in the malls that make part of the web, to get closer to it.
Memories of Hong Kong
The Chinese use of burning incense in the temples, filling them with smoke that pushes Fernanda quickly out, is done in Man Mo temple in a special way, with dozens of spirals hanging over your head, and slowly releasing the smoke and smell from their extremities.
“Arraial” is a Portuguese word without an exact translation that defines the festive look of the whole.
If it wasn’t the rain…
I know that three days in Hong Kong would leave not much time for the beach, but I always thought that, at least one hour would be found to a quick swim.
No! The weather didn’t allow it, and we used the saved time (would you believe?) … shopping.
Beach will be missing in my memories of Hong Kong.
Now a riddle:
Who can guess what do we find in Victoria Peak, besides gorgeous views?
No one got the answer!
Do you give up?
Ok, this is the solution:
A Shopping Mall
At last! A Shopping Mall in Hong Kong!
“Cacilhas” is an harbor in Tejo river, facing Lisbon.
For those who knew Lisbon before the construction of the first bridge, Cacilhas was… the other side of the world, a world of hard work, hard conditions, but the charm of the adventurous crossing in a “Cacilheiro”, the generic name given to the boats and ferries used as the only solution available to cross.
The bridge reduced the importance and use of the “Cacilheiros”, but they keep on working, and going to Cacilhas to drink a “Ginginha” is a tradition known by many Lisbon inhabitants.
Now you may understand (and allow) my discreet smile when I saw a “Cacilheiro” in Hong Kong.
Signs of the connection to Macao, of course, but… what about a Ginginha?