I’m a fan of Hong Kong pop culture in the 80’s and 90’s. Watching the latest action heroic movies or TV serials and singing along to the popular Cantopop tunes were part of my everyday life. Hence, I was overjoyed when wifey suggested a trip to Pearl of the Orient (東方之珠). The thought of seeing the familiar skyscrapers, streets, buildings, and the glorious food in those movies or serials was overwhelming. A certain nostalgic feeling hits me. It almost felt like going back to a place I have known for a long time.
I was happily anticipating my maiden trip and looked forward to the Wan Ton Mee, Curry Fish Balls, Steamed Milk. And most importantly – Dim Sum!
买东西，吃东西 (shopping and eating), a catchy tagline previously used by Hong Kong Tourism Board fits Hong Kong to a T. She is indeed a food haven and shopping paradise. Fast and good tasty food can be found at every corner of the streets. Shopping, shopping, and more shopping places seem to pop up everywhere.
City of Hong Kong
There is always a huge concentration of people no matter where we went, similar to those scenes in the movies and TV serials, But everything seems to run smoothly and orderly in this densely populated city. The hectic and fast-paced Hongkongers remind me repeatedly that this is an extremely busy metropolitan. People are seemingly stuck in the ‘rush hour’ mode. Time means money and a lost minute are often perceived as a step away from a fortune to be made.
The locals understand and speak both English and Mandarin. But Cantonese is the way to connect with them. I fall terribly short in this department, Sei Teng Emm Sei Gong (Loosely translated: Can understand but don’t know how to correspond) were the only words I can manage. Sigh, those times spent on movies/ serials/ cantopop are rendered as wasted..lol
Bad experience with Hong Kong City Tour
Our Free and Easy trip was booked via a travel agency and it came with a compulsory half day city tour. Sad to say that the city tour was anything but good. As most tour guides and companies/ shops have an affiliate and merchant agreement, the affiliate (tour guide) will get a cut whenever tourists buy from the merchant.
We were annoyed that our guide was going all out to make us buy something at the shops. His expression changed when we declined to buy. This bad lasting impression prompted a mental note: avoid joining tour groups for any future trips. During the ‘bad taste’ city tour, we were brought to Repulse Bay, JC Diamond Factory and Chinese Tonics wholesalers. The included lunch was the worse we had in Hong Kong.
The boat people in Aberdeen
None of the places was interesting enough to be mention except for the visit to the boat people at Aberdeen Harbor Hong Kong. I found Aberdeen interesting because the old and rustic junk boats and sampans are a stark contrast to the modern buildings nearby. It seems like a big fusion between the old and new era.
We were ushered into a water taxi which brought us around Aberdeen. The ride lasted about half an hour where we saw junk boats doubling up as homes. We were told that most of the boat people had already moved to the modern residential buildings.
Another big contrast to the junk boats and sampans were those gleaming and luxurious yachts berthed nearby. Understand that these yachts belong to the rich and famous members of Aberdeen Boat Club.
Lastly, we saw the famous floating Jumbo restaurant but did not get the chance to visit. I made a mental note to visit the restaurant someday but till date, I have yet to do so.
Ngong Ping 360
The next stop in Hong Kong was to visit the Big Buddha (aka Tian Tan Buddha 天壇大佛) at Lantau Island. The majestic bronze Buddha statue is a must visit place for the fact that it is one of the world’s tallest. I longed to take Ngong Ping 360 cable car ride after watching its construction on Extreme Engineering: Hong Kong Cable Car episode on Discovery Channel.
Ngong Ping 360 is one engineering feat as the construction took place at the hilly terrain of Lantau Island. We took the MTR to Tung Chung station and were happy to see that the cable car terminus is conveniently located next to MTR station. The view on top of the cable car is absolutely stunning. And I cannot help to feel that Singapore’s very own cable car pales away in comparison.
Tian Tan Big Buddha of Hong Kong
The cable car started its descend to Ngong Ping terminus when we saw the magnificent Tian Tan Big Buddha on top of the plateau. From here, we have to go on foot to visit the Big Buddha. We were greeted by two hundred steps when we reached the foot of the hill. Gosh!
The hot weather that day makes the climb to the platform where the Big Buddha is seated, an exhausting one.
But once we reached the top, the majestic Buddha and the scenic surrounding views made up for our efforts. We stayed for quite a while just admiring the stunning view which the Buddha enjoys.
After spending some extended time enjoying the breeze on the hill, we make our way to Ngong Ping village. But we feel it is overly touristy and packed with people. Hence, we were on the next available cable car back to Tung Chung to check out Citygate Outlets Shopping Mall instead.
Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong
Granted with a number of skyscrapers, Hong Kong has a breathtaking skyline considered to be among the best in the world. The surrounding mountains and Victoria Harbour complement the skyscrapers perfectly. The charm is further enhanced when the night falls.
Each night, the skyscrapers and buildings on both sides of Victoria Harbour will light up in a synchronized manner turning the night lively and vibrant. One good place to witness this light show is at the Avenue of Stars (星光大道) at Tsim Sha Tsui. This popular promenade offers a fantastic view of the skyscrapers lining the waterfront of Victoria Harbour with their lights gracing Hong Kong’s skyline.
It is truly a mesmerizing sight to behold. The night also marks the end of our Hong Kong trip but I am sure we will be coming back when there are still so many interesting places in Hong Kong which we have yet to visit.