Modern twin-brother of Macau
The header above is a bit provocative and reflects our personal attitude to Hong Kong and Macau. Although both places were set up as a mixture of Chinese and Western influences, Macau’ European face is reflected in traditional Mediterranean architecture and climate whereas Hong Kong confronts the traditional China with the modern dynamic skyline of its business districts.
Anyway, it is worth to spend few days in both cities just to see how different route they went on the way to their contemporary status.
Airport, accommodation, transportation
During our two trips to Hong Kong we were staying on Hong Kong Island in Soho, close to Sheung Wan metro station. Firstly it offers good access to the public transportation and Hong Kong’s exploration, secondly it can be reached very quickly from the airport.
Before leaving the customs area of the arrival terminal in the airport please use the opportunity to exchange money and to buy your public transport tickets. We took unlimited metro access for 72 hours + 2 single extensions from/to the airport which are otherwise not covered by the metro tickets. The cost of such ticket looks to be quite high at some 80 euro. However, given the fact that the return ticket from/to the airport takes 40 euro out of this, it does not look that bad. An additional bonus is provided by the complimentary bus service available at Hong Kong station which ensures a smooth transfer from the train to the bus and to the doorstep of your hotel on the island. There are several bus routes servicing different hotels so that you’ll need to check at the information desk which one to take.
Contrary to what you can find on the web page of the Hong Kong public transportation company (www.mtr.com.hk), the Airport Express Travel Pass does not include,public busses. If you plan any bus trips just top up your travel pass with some money (the travel pass is called Octopus card) with which you can not only pay to the bus driver but also buy your coffee, sandwich, snacks etc.
Accommodation in Soho ensures an easy access not only to the public transportation but also to the plenty of restaurants of different categories and styles and grocery shopping. Finding a place to eat or to buy water and fruits was not taking more than 5 minutes after having left the hotel.
What to see?
Take the metro to Central Station and leave by using the exit J2 to the Chater Garden from which you will have a perfect view on one of Hong Kong architectural landmarks – the Bank of China Tower. Although the word “garden” is a bit too much to describe this concrete square with few trees, you can meet the local people practicing their Tai Chi if you are lucky.
Then continue climbing for some 300 meters to the Garden Road where you’ll find the Peak Tram Terminus. It might be that you’ll have to queue for some 40 minutes to buy your ticket and to get to the tram. There is no rule about the best visiting times. Irrespectively of how much time you’ll have to spend there, it is worth it. The views from the Peak are spectacular and different impressions can be experienced if you visit the place during the day and in the evening.
On our way back to the hotel we took the walk on the Connaught Road Central to see the modern heart of Hong Kong. This was quite interesting as we discovered that the city of Hong Kong is actually conducting its dynamic existence on three levels i.e. underground – through the network of connections between the subway stations the inhabitants can walk for kilometers, stop for shopping, dining etc. on the ground – as everywhere else in the world and above the ground – through the network of pedestrian fly-overs along main roads (Connaught Road Central) offering the direct access to all the buildings on top of accesses located on the ground.
Tramway Trip in the Hong Kong Island
This is the cheapest and the most efficient way to explore the island. The old-style double deck tramways are not very fast but they offer an unique opportunity to enjoy the views from the upper deck PROVIDED that you take the train at its terminus to secure the place in the front. We took the green line at the Western Market stop and we were enjoying the views ranging from modern architectural styles in the West and the Centre to the traditional far eastern residential areas in the East of the island. The whole trip takes some two hours until Shau Kei Wan terminus and it costs 0.80 euro (not covered by your Travel Pass, payment at the exit).
The tramway trip could be combined with the excursion to Shek O village located in the southeastern part of the island. Shek O offers the access to the beach as well as the experience of traditional Chinese village. The place can be reached by bus no. 9 (not covered by Travel Pass) within 20 minutes from Shau Kei Wan metro station (being also the tramway terminus).
Except of luxury shopping malls and stores which you can find everywhere around the world, there are some unique places in Hong Kong worth to visit. First of all, you should know that Hong Kong is the biggest market for the second-hand luxury watches. You can find many stores with second hand Rolex watches which you can buy at 30-50% of the original price (with or without papers whereas watches without papers could be subject to more aggressive price negotiations). The quality and the genuineness is guaranteed by the reputation of the marketplace supported by the invoices and, if available, original guarantees.
Many stores with second-hand watches are located close to the Night Market (Jordan Station, exit A). The Night Market offers the late evening opportunity to buy traditional stuff “made in China” like electronic gedgets, toys, fake goods etc. During your walk through the market you will be picked by guys offering you to visit their shopping establishments in the side streets where they offer high-quality fake goods like purses, accessories etc. We visited one of the warehouses and we were witnessing bulky transactions concluded by the high street boutique owners in the major European cities. You can also dine in the place, however you need to know how to use the stabs :-). This was actually the place we learned to use the stabs because we were hungry and the restaurants did not offer forks and knives.
Another place to visit is the daily market in Mong Kok (Station Mong Kok, exit E2). It offers the same type of stuff as the Night Market in much wider variety on much bigger space. Copy watches and purses are to be found here. Moreover, there is a huge area with stores offering original sports goods. Reserve at least half a day to explore.
At the end of the day we recommend to visit the local Chinese market place in Cheung Sha Wan (Sham Shui Po Station, exit C2). Except of experiencing oriental smells and views of the market’s stands I recommend to explore the entire district as it offers an opportunity to visit China without obtaining Chinese visa :-).
The place the visitors should visit is the Hong Kong Avenue of Stars located on the southern coast of Kowloon (station East Tsim Sha Tsui, exit J) where you can admire sculpture of Bruce Lee, take the professional picture with the panorama of Hong Kong skyline and watch Symphony of Lights every evening 8 PM.
You can also consider visiting the biggest outlet mall in Hong Kong (Station Tung Chung). However, the outlet prices in Hong Kong correspond to high street prices in Europe and the main attraction of the place was – from our point of view – the walk around the surrounding modern residential districts with plenty of apartment blocks accommodating flats where 70 squere meters count as huge living space :-).