5 things I loved about Hong Kong
Once upon a time, Hong Kong was nothing more than a small fishing village, a colonial outpost of the British Empire. You wouldn't think that seeing it today. A thriving financial centre, Hong Kong is one of the global cities. It's loud, chaotic, smelly, cramped - and I absolutely loved it. It was tough getting this list down to just 5 I loved about Hong Kong, so you can read my full review of Hong Kong here, but I've given it a go.
5. The Walled City Park
The modern history of Hong Kong kicks off in the middle of the 19th century, but the history of the Kowloon Walled City starts before then, as a military fortification built in the 15h century.
Caught between the Chinese controlled mainland, and the British controlled Hong Kong Island, the area fell out of the jurisdiction of both authorities and became a sanctuary for criminals from both sides of the border.
By the 1980s, over 50,000 people lived in an area the size of a couple of blocks. Buildings were often constructed with no foundations, and the structures were so densely packed together that no sunlight could reach the alleyways within. In the 90's, with control reverting back to China, the authorities agreed to demolish the Walled City, an area of unprecedented crime and vice.
Today a beautiful park is all that is left. A few remains of the foundations of some of the tower blocks serve as a reminder as to just how cramped the Walled City was. An exhibition in the Yamen, the only standing building from the city's creation brings to life the history and day to day life of the city. The history of what came before, and the beauty of what is there now made the 40 minute bus ride by Central well worth the trip.
4. Kowloon's night markets
Probably the most intense place I have ever visited. Forget Delhi, Bangkok, Manhattan and Rio - Kowloon is in a world of its own.
The evenings really do feel like an assault on the senses. Neon lights, pavements packed with people, the smell of food carried across the humid air, at times it all felt a bit too much. But that's what made this place so much fun.
And that's before we get to the night markets. Ever since I went to my first one in Chiang Mai in 2014, I've loved night markets - it's so different from anything we have in England. I visited at least 7 in Kowloon, but there were 2 that really stood out.
For aesthetics, Fa Yuen Street's night market is as good as any I've been to. The never ending apartment blocks on each side of the street framing the colourful stalls of each vendor. I took the photo above from a bridge overlooking the street.
The second one is Temple Street market, one of largest night markets I've been to. It felt never ending, and the types of things sold there were incredibly varied. The only drawback is nothing here (or in the other street markets), were particularly cheap - even with haggling.
3. Sailing on the Aqualuna
From one extreme to the other - just about the most relaxing thing I did in Hong Kong was sailing on Victoria Harbour.
At £20 a ticket, it's not exactly cheap, but an hour on the waterway between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon was one of the best hours that I spent. The boat has some music, drinks of your choice included in the price and the best bit was, despite going during sunset, it was almost completely empty.
It provided a different perspective of the skyscrapers on both sides of the waterway. The open area at the front of the boat also meant there were no restricted views, a problem with the cheaper, and shorter Star Ferry boat which provides a crossing between the two parts of the city.
2. The journey to the Tian Tan Big Buddha
Sometimes the journey is just as good as the destination - and for me, this was the perfect example of that. And to think, I almost didn't go.
The thought of a near two hour trip from Hong Kong Island to the middle of Lantau Island didn't sound like my idea of fun, but I didn't take into account the method of travel.
After some time on the Tung Chun line, the final 30 minutes of the journey requires a cable car journey at a cost of roughly £20 for a return ticket.
The cable cars first go over a small waterway, before skirting the perimeter of the airport. Watching planes take off from cable cars is quite an experience. The cars then go up and down a couple of hills, leaving the skyscrapers around the train station far behind. Below you can clearly make out the hiking trails and hardened individuals hiking the hills.
The Big Buddha itself is impressive, although it's a relatively recent addition to create tourism around the Po Lin monastery, a Buddhist monastery dating back over 100 years, It's definitely worth the near 4 hour round-trip.
1. The secret view from Victoria Peak
Victoria Peak is Hong Kong's most famous attraction and it more than lives up to the hype. I went up twice; once via the Peak Tram during the daytime, and once on a local bus at night. Of the two, I preferred the journey on bus, it's much cheaper and gave me a chance to take in the skyline as the bus zig zagged up the hill. The tram, while unique, is a short ride directly up the hill.
The view from the Peak is extraordinary. It's good in the day, but it's special at night, with the city all lit up. I visited during the Hong Kong light show and I spent a long time admiring the view. What made it even more spectacular was the secret view I heard about during my time there.
Most people tend to hang around the observation tower (don't pay extra for tower tickets, complete rip-off), but I headed behind the tower and shopping centre into a small path called Findlay Path. It was a path that got progressively quieter and smaller. I was told there would be many times I'd think to myself that I'd found the secret view, but once I saw it, I'd know. The path was eerily quiet and about 5 minutes in I saw a clearing, but continued walking. The path continued to wind around the hill and at one point, I could barely see in front of me.
After 10 minutes of walking I saw about 3 people standing by some railings - I'd reached the secret spot .... and it was was better than I could have imagined.
You almost feel ontop and amongst the skyscrapers, and watching the lights of the city dance to the light show is something that'll stay with me forever. As far as views goes, this is probably the best I've seen.
Hong Kong lived up to expectations and then some. It had everything I wanted from a city break and surprises I couldn't have anticipated. It's weird, but I really miss the energy, the chaos, the sounds and even the smells. I had no issues travelling as a Sikh, and even found a Gurdwara in the middle of the city. Honestly, this top 5 list could easily have been a top 10, or top 20 list, there's so much I loved about Hong Kong.
Comments are closed.
British Sikh, born in the Midlands, based in London, travelling the world seeing new cultures.