I still haven’t been to mainland Asia but at least I’m getting closer. This time I had a chance to spend a week in Hong Kong with my lovely boyfriend Blake. For the first time ever, I didn’t do my usual research and prep for the trip. The extent of my planning was to post a Tweet asking for restaurant recommendations (Which, but the way, worked very well and I had some awesome food in Hong Kong – see my Michelin Stars post.). So when I got to Hong Kong, the whole thing was a big surprise.
First of all, it was so humid it was hard to breathe. I was expecting hot, but I was not expecting sweltering and so humid that my sunglasses fogged up the second I stepped outside. The next surprise was the haze, which I’m told is a combination of the weather and pollution. The combination of the haze and humidity meant that I never made it up to the hotel’s pool as my top priority was seeking air conditioning and totally avoid being outside. The weather snafu aside, I had a great time. If you get a chance to go to Hong Kong, here’s the stuff I did and my ratings of each.
I love seeing landmarks and in Hong Kong, this is probably the main one outside of the Hong Kong skyline itself. It’s about 30 minutes by train and another 20 minutes by very scary (at least to me) cable car ride away from the city centre. The Buddha measures 34 metres (110 ft) in height, and weighs 250 metric tonnes. Prior to 2008, it was the biggest Buddha in the world, but Thailand completed their Buddha in Phuket since then and have taken away that honour (or so Wikipedia tells me). I think the Buddha is definitely worth the trip. It’s beautiful and it’s huge, and just those two characteristics alone make it pretty cool. The bonus is the cable ride which is stunning on even a crappy day that we had and must be even more beautiful in the winter.
The Jade Market is on the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbour and showcases dozens of independent jade vendors. There’s jade of any quality, size and budget. You should definitely haggle but you don’t have to do it too much because the prices are already reasonable for a Western tourist. I got some really pretty things there and would definitely recommend checking this out. You can get there easily by train, but if you take the ferry over, I’d walk up Nathan Road so you can do some shopping on the way.
Speaking of Nathan Road, it’s a good road for shopping. You can find good tailors, shopping malls, jewelry shops and lots of clothing shops. Sadly, I didn’t buy anything since my butt and feet are too big for Hong Kong sizes. Oh, well.
I wasn’t thrilled with this market. Everyone talks about it, but I guess I’ve seen similar before which is why I didn’t like it too much. It’s your standard Chinese style clothes, Hello Kitty everything, bad knock-off purses and lots of souvenirs. I would check it out if you had time to kill, but I would definitely not sweat over it if you don’t make it. Instead, I would spend my time shopping on Nathan road, or checking out the big souvenir store on top of Jordan station. The name escapes me now but it’s literally on the corner of Nathan Road and Jordan Road, just above the station. I got some beautiful pillow cases there and you can get gorgeous vases and stone and jade carvings. There’s also a full floor of tea vendors. Very cool and reasonable prices.
It seems like there are more tailors than 7elevens in Hong Kong, and that really says a lot seeing as there’s a 7eleven on every corner! If you’re a Western tourist, you will be bothered by the endless Indian tailors following you down the street, trying to sell you a crappy, cheap suit. They’re like flies. You really want to just whack them in the face after a while because just shooing them away doesn’t work. So do your best to ignore them and make your way to Punjab House and get yourself a fabulous suit. We ended up spending a lot of money with these guys are we’re extremely happy with their quality and service. So much so that when they come for their annual visit to Sydney, we’ll be sending all our friends to them.
This is supposed to be a cool shopping area on the Hong Kong Island side, home to the world’s longest escalator. It was fine to visit since I had some time, but it’s nothing amazing. There’s the giant escalator, which is actually a bunch of shorter sections connected together in steps. It was built to help transport lazy expats to and from work. It runs down towards the business district in the morning and up for the rest of the day. It crosses Queens Road, which is why I’m talking about it here. If you make it out to the escalator, check out the various side streets for a yummy lunch or shopping. There’s pretty much any kind of food available there.
Hollywood road is famous for antique shopping. There are the super high end antique shops with just a few pieces on display, as well as specialty shops (for vases or jade for example) and small mom-and-pop type shops, which I found the most endearing. Even the cheap shops are quite expensive so come with a lot of cash and an idea of how you’re going to bring your treasures home. I really enjoyed the window shopping but found some of the shopkeepers very pushy, which consequently totally turned me off from buying anything.
My boyfriend Blake has never been to a circus so I thought it would be nice to take him to Cirque du Soleil so he can see the awesome acrobatics I was used to seeing at other Cirque du Soleil performances. Since there’s a permanent Cirque du Soleil theatre at the Venetian in Macau, we decided to make a day of it and take the ferry over. Even though both Hong Kong and Macau are under the protectorate of China, we still had to go through customs at the ferry terminal, which took a while so plan accordingly. The ferry ride took about 70 minutes. Transport to casinos was easy – cheap taxis or frequent, free shuttles. Macau is often compared to Las Vegas, but it’s not even close to it in reality. It’s just way too quiet and the casinos are too spread out. Anyways, we went there to see Cirque du Soleil, which sucked big time. I’m soooo disappointed. I’ve loved every other performance I’ve seen but this one was a big waste of time and money. Skip it. Skip the Venetian altogether. It’s so crowded it’s suffocating. To be honest, the only cool thing about our excursion to Macau was dinner, which I wrote about in another blog. The food wasn’t amazing, but the overall experience of dining at a 3 Michelin Star restaurant was pretty neat. The annoying part was that after dinner we had to be on the water for an hour and then another 30 minutes going through customs (again!). If you do go to Macau (and I don’t think you should), make it an overnight trip to save yourself some frustration.
Symphony of lights
I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t great. You should see it only because everyone who goes to Hong Kong does and it’s on every night so it’s hard to find an excuse why you wouldn’t see it. Just make sure you’re by the water so you can hear the music. The light show looks pretty silly if you don’t hear the music that goes with it. The best way to see Hong Kong’s lights is from AquaRoma. You can have a drink or full dinner and enjoy the gorgeous skyline 39 floors up. I highly recommend dinner there.
I refer you yet again to my food post for a few recommendations, including T’ang Court, which was super fabulous. Otherwise, food is pretty hit or miss. You can find some great cheap eats, but you’ll probably need a local for the best ones. Best tip I can give you is get on Twitter, post something like “anyone can recommend good food in Hong Kong?” and undoubtedly someone local will pick up your Tweet and reply to you with some great places to try.
Lan Kwai Fong
Last, but not least on my list is the famous nightlife area frequented by expats. We had some great food there at Indochine and I hear that many other places on that strip are quite yummy. What really cracked me up was that it seemed every white single girl was out there looking for guys. Or maybe they weren’t, but they looked like they were. I guess it’s THE place to pick up as well as to eat!
Enjoy your trip to Hong Kong! I know I did! One final tip – don’t leave your hotel without an umbrella. 7eleven sells them so you can buy a cheapo one so just get one. You won’t regret it.