Hong Kong: Breathtaking in every light

Today was the day where I got to go to my first real tourist-y attraction in Hong Kong. The Peak is over 396 metres above sea level and from this area, you can see Victoria Harbour, the International Finance Centre, and Mong Kok (on the Western side of Kowloon) alongside many other buildings and regions of HK. Over the past few days, protesting in certain parts of HK meant that my friend steered me away from these areas and subsequently, what activities we had planned during my first stint here were susceptible to change. However, because the Peak is not too close to Central, I got the chance to go up there today. And it was this that made me really appreciate Hong Kong’s beauty. Because from a natural scenic perspective, this may not be the first place that comes to mind (or indeed, a place that comes to mind at all). But from an urbanization viewpoint, the Hong Kong skyline does for the eyes what any form of chocolate does for the soul. It is an absolute visual treat!

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Getting to see HK from above!

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Hong Kong skyscrapers during the day

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A different viewpoint from Sky Terrace 428 (as was the photo above)

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Hong Kong at night (from Café Deco terrace) 

Note that the Sky Terrace 428 is at the top part of the Peak. You have to pay an extra 45 HK dollars but it is well worth it for 360 degree views above Hong Kong.

Upon arriving at the Peak by taxi (because the queue for the tram was unbelievably long and today has been hot and humid), we walked around the shopping centre which lies at the bottom of the free viewing platform and the higher Sky Terrace 428. Normally there are different displays on- my friend told me that a month ago the display was Mr Men and Little Miss (which, truthfully, I would have quite enjoyed). Today however, in preparation for Halloween, a number of attraction employees were roaming around dressed as clowns, headless individuals, zombie girls (with zombie teddy bears) etc and Halloween decorations were dotted around the shopping centre. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, it could be fun, but on a warm, bright day when you want to take scenic photos, having to watch out for Halloween characters creeping up on you or jumping behind you is a little bit of an inconvenience. And ironically, later in the evening when such characters would have created more of a stir, we were unable to see any of them roaming around (although this may have just been coincidence).

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My new best friends!!!

Another thing I’ll say about the Peak shopping centre is that a couple (though not all) shops have policies on individuals not being able to take photos or touch items. And as someone who has been to other shops in Hong Kong whereby these rules are not applicable, this does irritate me a little.  Also, if you are not obviously local or bilingual, watch out for shop owners negotiating a smaller price drop downwards, especially since some items are costly. My friend speaks both Mandarin and Cantonese, and shop owners were more keen to drop prices for him. However, this is just a minor point, because the shops (though obviously geared towards tourism) had some really quirky and cheap items in them (such as a Dim Sum compact mirror- I had to get it, it was only a pound!). Plus I found my sister part of a present but I won’t say what it is in case she reads this 🙂

We decided to queue for the tram upon leaving the Peak that evening. Although the queue looked long, we were pleasantly surprised at how quickly the line moved.

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A to-scale model of the tram at the Peak

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The back wall of the tram station turns a rainbow spectrum of colours. It’s very pretty!

The ride home was quick, only 7 or 8 minutes, and is very beautiful but here’s something to bear in mind; when the tram arrives (if you are taking it at a busy time), you won’t get a seat waiting patiently to get onto the transportation. We experienced a situation on the tram whereby one women purposely prevented a whole bunch of people from sitting on a free bench next to her in order to make room for her female companion who had drifted behind in the rush that was boarding the tram. And if that happens and you stand, your calf muscles will get a fairly intense workout as the tram is downhill and quite fast. I would suggest that if it looks too busy, get the next one (they run every fifteen minutes) and make sure you look out for the yellow markings on the platform to stand at since this is where the tram doors will open.

 Overall, the abundance of shops and restaurants, alongside some gorgeous viewing points, made the Peak a lovely way to spend the afternoon and part of the evening. Not only was the Sky Terrace 428 particularly spectacular, but having paid entry you get free audio-guides in whichever language, allowing you to learn more about the history of the Peak and the buildings and regions of Hong Kong identifiable from the viewing platform. Note that the Mandarin and English version contains slightly different facts and sound effects (the English version had few sound effects, the Mandarin version apparently had more). This is not a bad thing, just something to be aware of 🙂

A huge positive of the Peak and it’s surrounding amenities is that a number of restaurants have similar spectacular views over Hong Kong (and these don’t necessarily have to be pricey, such restaurants include Burger King and McDonalds and also include many non-fast food restaurants). These views can make for an enhanced dining, dessert or drinks experience.

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My really nice dessert and drink (watermelon cocktail) experience at the Café Deco terrace.

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog!

*Note that the opinions regarding the Peak in this blog post are purely my own, and in the interests of being honest, I wanted to include both the favourable and not so favourable aspects (in my opinion) of the attraction.*

A day documented in snapshots: Hong Kong, day 2

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Bakeries and patisseries are rife in Hong Kong. Note to self: try an egg tart (bottom middle cake).

To be honest, I’d eat any of them!!!!

 

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A street in Fortress Hill.

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Advertising Halloween, Hong Kong Style, Laforet Shopping Centre (a less than conventional approach to advertising a scary holiday).

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My travel companion pandering to the awkward vegetarian

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Sichuan style noodle soup (dam dam mein), steamed vegetable dumplings, dipping sauce and at the front of the photo…

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Pan fried spinach buns (san jin bao). Despite initial scepticism (I thought nothing could beat noodles), these are unbelievably delicious and just a bit addictive!

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From Central to Causeway, politics permeating.

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Most efficient metro system? My travel companion wanted me to say “simplicity and efficiency absent from London underground”. Which might be true, but nothing beats the Metropolitan line (childhood bias).

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Hong Kong mini-bus

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First scenic (ish) shot of Hong Kong. The harbour in the background, skyscrapers in the foreground.

Thanks to “no name travel companion” for making the cheesiest caption suggestions ever (and since I lack that level of wit, I had to reject them or my envy would overwhelm me).

Hope you enjoyed this slightly different (to my usual essays) blog post!

From UK to HK: my food thoughts, first Cathay Pacific experience and initial impressions of Hong Kong

Hot Almond and Black Sesame Soup?

Black glutinous rice and wheat congee in coconut milk?

Yes, I’m ashamed to admit it, but less than 24 hours into my arrival in Hong Kong and already I’m having a bit of a love affair with the food. The above soups are two traditional desserts which I’m told are popular with the locals in Hong Kong and which I got to sample as a late afternoon snack at Ching Ching Desserts, a dessert restaurant in North Point. Picking a sweet when a) the concept of having a soup for dessert is unfamiliar and b) the menu is full of glorious pages of colourful and varied concoctions definitely led to some feelings of confusion (although this also may have been a result of jet lag). But eventually, having just sat down after being caught in an unexpected bout of rain (and in spite of the heat and humidity), I chose the hot almond and black sesame soup, while everyone else went for black glutinous rice and wheat congee in coconut milk. My travel companion and his mum told me that if you take a traditional Chinese approach to medicine, almonds are good for the skin and thought to “nourish internally” whilst black sesame (which I had never tried before) is supposed to be beneficial to the kidneys, regulating many bodily functions. In addition, the soup was really nice- rich with a creamy texture and akin to the kind of sweet, warm drink you sometimes want to enjoy before going to sleep. As someone who is not a big fan of rice pudding, I was also pleasantly surprised by the black glutinous rice and wheat congee. I think the word “glutinous” made me reluctant about the dish but the texture was similar to porridge and the coconut milk base made it very tasty! The restaurant itself was small, casual and brightly lit, as well as being not too busy.

I also really enjoyed the dinner that my friend’s mum made, lettuce wraps filled with peppers and beancurd with a small bowl of sticky rice. The first snack food I’ve tried in Hong Kong (mango covered biscuit sticks), are also incredibly moreish and so far, I’m finding food to be very light. This means that you can eat something full on flavour without feeling as though you are caressing your very own food baby 🙂

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Almond and black sesame soup                             The outside of the dessert restaurant

Flying with Cathay Pacific

The past 24 hours have been very eventful, mainly because they consisted of a last minute panic regarding packing, saying bye to my parents and sister at Heathrow, an 11 hour flight between London and Hong Kong and submitting a china visa application in Hong Kong.

But the flight itself was a particularly interesting experience. As a girl who has travelled (at most) maybe 4 and a half hours in an aeroplane before now, I figured the flight might be challenging for me. However, I cannot condemn Cathay Pacific. Although I struggled to face my greasy hash brown and omelette breakfast after 8 hours (at that point) on a plane, the staff were helpful, the earlier dinner was was edible, the plane was nice and the woman at the check-in desk was amazing and gave me a better seat than what I had originally been allocated (still economy but with more leg room). So thank you to that lovely member of staff!

On the flight itself, I was lucky as I had another passenger next to me who was very nice, and who I ended up chatting with. And after 4 hours in the air went fairly quickly, I didn’t know why I had worried about being on the aeroplane for so long. However an hour later, I found myself inadvertently adopting a new persona. Picture Tigger from Winnie the Pooh on a long-haul flight and you’re not far off! Because, maybe it’s just me, but there’s something about knowing you have to sit for such a long time (even if you do stretch your legs) which makes you want to be doing anything but sitting still. I also had a massive struggle with sleep, which I think was because I could not trick my body into believing that it was in a natural sleep-like horizontal position (as you normally are in a bed or in a sleeping bag). I’ve discovered in the past that I can’t sleep in cars or on trains, and I can now add to that as I couldn’t sleep at all on an 11 hour flight! However, feeling sick with tiredness couldn’t numb how excited I felt when I first spotted the islands of Hong Kong and their skyscrapers from the sky. And whilst I really struggled with jet lag during the late afternoon, taking a nap and having some food helped me feel more human again.

Initial impressions of Hong Kong

This is a tough one because as previously mentioned, tiredness and jet lag have definitely been affecting me today. Also, I’ve not done too much exploring yet! But on first impressions, so far so good.The places I’ve seen have a brilliant buzz, the metro system is efficient and shop and café fronts are so much more colourful than what I am used to back in the UK. Although I have caught sight of a few protesters from a distance, this isn’t really something I wanted to focus on as my blog across all counties is intended to be from a tourist’s perspective surrounding food and attractions. I make this point just because I know a few people might have stumbled across my blog post under the category or tag “Hong Kong” and expect to see a minute-by-minute account of what’s happening politically. Nonetheless, I hope you found some interest in what I had to say 🙂

Thanks for reading!