Just came back from a very enjoyable trip to Hong Kong. It was great fun to re-explore Hong Kong, this time with friends both old and new who live there. The demography and languages spoken have changed subtly over the years: although Cantonese remain the most commonly spoken language, most people switch effortlessly to Mandarin without batting an eyelid. But Hong Kong is not just a magnet for mainland Chinese; its economic hub & “gateway to China” status draws people from all over Asia, as well as the West. Historically, Hong Kong is made up of people from different places and is a confluence of different subcultures. So perhaps any changes in demography is just a step in the evolution of this city. Hong Kong is also a mix of old world & new world charm. Skyscrapers loom large but some construction works are still supported by bamboo scaffoldings, the setting of many 80s’ Jackie Chan robber & cop movies.
Here are some of the things that I enjoyed really much on this trip:
1. Going on a walking trail
Stripped of Mongkok’s neon lights, Tsim Sha Tsui’s congestion or the skyscrapers towering over Central and 9 million residents, Hong Kong pretty much sits on rolling hills and clusters of islands surrounded by emerald seas. I had been wanting to do something off the usual tourist track and to check out some of these hill tracks. Thanks to jj & his colleague, I managed to gate-crash this group who were going on this trail at Pat Sin Leng, which literally means “8 Immortals Range”. It’s called that simply because there are eight peaks, that’s why!
At the northern part of the New Territories, the trail is generally rather far for most people to get to. From the Fan Ling MTR, take mini bus 52B to Hok Tau Reservoir (tell the bus driver, since there’s no sign and you’ve to walk in a bit). From Hok Tau Reservoir, the climb up to the starting point of the 8 Immortals Range is the hardest. But it was so worth it upon reaching Huang Ling which I consider the starting point: undulating hill tracks unwind up and down the ridge, revealing impressive expanse of scenery at every peak, with views of mainland China on one side, and Tai Mei Tuk on the other.
Click here for more photos.
2. Crossing Victoria Harbour for only HK$2.50 (less than US$0.40)
One of my favourite things to do in Hong Kong is crossing Victoria Harbour by ferry. You can take the ferry from the Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry pier on Kowloon to Central or Wanchai on Hong Kong Island. It costs almost nothing – less than US$0.40 to be precise, and you can go by day or by night; the night views from Victoria Harbour brings to mind the second stanza of the evergreen classic Pearl of the Orient 东方之珠. It only takes a few minutes to cross to the other side – and the trip is over too soon (although if you talk to the crew, you can stay on board and ride again). For people who commute daily, this is a convenient, fast & pleasant alternative to taking the MTR or getting stuck in a traffic jam on the bus when travelling between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. I can’t believe that there were talks of closing down the Star Ferry some years ago! This is a true gem of Hong Kong.
3. Taking a bus around Hong Kong Island
Yes, in Hong Kong there’s an island called Hong Kong Island. The part facing Victoria Harbour is the seat of the commercial district. Beyond that though it’s the haunt of the rich & famous (Hong Kong celebrities are known for buying luxurious homes here) with some pleasant spots like Stanley and Repulse Bay. Enjoy the scenery by sitting on the upper deck of a double-decker bus and get a rather exhilarating experience as the giant bus squeezes pass narrow roads, winding up steep slopes and tumbling down the hills. The glistening waters and cheery sun beckoned so enticingly so I got off to chill by the sea.
4. A drink at Asia’s tallest bar
Ozone Bar at Ritz Carlton Hotel. It’s on the 118th floor of the ICC Tower, currently the tallest in Hong Kong and the 4th tallest tower in the world. The drinks may be a bit pricey as expected, but not unreasonably so. The decor is modern but the environment is not snooty – I walked in with a grubby pair of walking shoes & old jeans. Although Hong Kong was only in the low 20s when I visited, high up here in mid air, we literally chilled at the outdoor areas, as the air was very crisp & windy!
5. Checking out Occupy Central
I heard about the Occupy movement which started in Wall Street New York and which spread across several other cities, including Hong Kong. Little did I know that the protestors were camped at HSBC Building itself (although the Occupy protestors dissed pretty much most banks located around the vicinity, including DBS). I’m impressed by the freedom of speech in Hong Kong.
6. Yum Cha!
Enjoying little baskets of delectable bites, with a pot of tea. Need I say more?