In the hart of winter
Bijgewerkt: 14 jul 2019
Hai Everyone, we have arrived in Hong Kong but the temperatures are freezing, the coldest days in HK in the last 60 years!" Not the best place to be standing on your flipflops, t-shirt and short trousers and nothing to dress ourselves properly as we didn’t pack any winter clothes at all. For the first time in 4 months, we have to wear long pants, socks, 4 layers of clothes and a sweater for 4 consecutive days during daytime. The average local Chinese takes the weather more seriously and goes for dense boots, a hat and a jacket with fur collar.
The metro brought us, within 25 minutes, from the airport in the centre of Hong Kong. As the hotel we stayed in had pickup service, we were nicely met by a driver and his van that brought us to the Ibis hotel, which is located on Hong Kong Island. A bit of luxury after the somewhat Spartak rooms we had in the Philippines.
Hong Kong has the best (underground) metro network of the world. The driving is efficient, fast and easy. About 2 million people in Hong Kong take the metro every day. The Octopus card (same as the public transport card in the Netherlands) is the means of payment for the metro, but also for the bus and tram. In addition, you can also use the card in various stores as a means of payment. The tourist card is 150 Hong Kong dollars, which comes with 100 dollars travel credit. The remaining $50 is a deposit which you will receive after you have returned the card at the airport or at the information counters at the stations.
Because we could only stay here for 4 days, we immediately went into the city after our check-in to do some shopping. This was, among other things, a lens for the camera. After some research we found a store that sold Tamron lenses. As these lenses are produced in Hong Kong we though the prices would be lower than anywhere else, but after we entered the store we found out this wasn’t the case. It was worth its price though as Inge was ecstatic, because now she was able to make those beautiful pictures you see on our website again.
You can find shops on every street corner, but if you need something specific, Mongkok is a good place. The streets are divided into 3 different categories: Sai Yeung Choi Street is the street for all electrical equipment. Tung Choi Street is where you will find the Ladies Market. This name is derived (you guessed it) because of the many women's stuff sold here. And Fa Yuen Street is the street where you can buy (sports) shoes, among other things. From Nike's, Adidas to Under Armor, you'll find every sports brand here.
Is it cheap? We thought so, but the prices are not much different from Europe. In any case less than we expected. Except at the Ladies Market where you can buy a "REAL" Michael Kors bag or Long Champ for only EUR 10.00. Yeah right, a real bogus of course. Satisfied with a wonderful day of shopping and exploring the city, we went to our hotel and went to bed early to get up early the next day for a cultural tour.
Our day started well, because the sun was shining and is was less cold than the day before. It was around 10 degrees. With a croissant and coffee in our hand (our first normal sandwich since ages) we were on the way to the metro.
The first stop was the 'Ten Thousand Buddha's'. The Thousand Buddha's Monastery is located near Pai Tau Tsuen, about 15 minutes from Kowloon. The monastery is situated on a mountain with a beautiful view, but before you can enjoy this view, you have to climb 431 steps. The entrance is hidden between two office buildings and the entrance seems more like a suspicious street than an entrance to a temple. However, if you continue, you will soon be accompanied by life-sized Buddha statues on both sides of the path. This path leads to a main temple where the founder is buried. He is accompanied by more than 10,000 miniature buddhas, each statue different from the other and that is quite special and impressive to see.
Our second stop was the Tian Tan Buddha. From metro station Tung Chung you have 25 minutes gondola ride to get there. Keep in mind you can expect a long queue, because many people take the gondola lift. It is better to buy a ticket online in advance, because then you can stand in a different row and that saves you a considerably amount of time.
The Tian Tan Buddha is a 34-meter-high bronze statue in Ngong Ping on Lantau Island. This Buddha statue is the largest seated Buddha in the open air in the world. The posture of this statue, which is positioned in a gesture of blessing for all, gives the colossal Buddha a dignity and a character that evokes feelings of humility from the visitors. The 'Big Buddha' is surrounded by six Bodhisattva statues. These images symbolize the six perfections (generosity, ethical behaviour, patience, effort, concentration and wisdom) which belong to the Buddhism.
On the opposite of the Buddha you will find the Po Lin monastery. This monastery is also called 'The Buddhist World in the South' and is still inhabited by monks. In the main temple of the monastery three bronze Buddha statues can be seen, representing the past, the present and the future. The temple is beautifully decorated with wooden, colourful ornaments and in the temple itself you will find many statues decorated with gold leaves. Both sights are definitely worth it when you are in Hong Kong.
The third stop was one of Hong Kong's biggest attractions, 'The Symphony of Lights', a light and sound show that is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the 'world's largest permanent light and sound show'. More than 40 skyscrapers take part in this show. The show takes place every evening, around 8 pm, during which the skyline of Hong Kong lights up. The best place to experience this light show is from the boulevard at Tsim Sha Tsui on Kowloon. We had read a lot of good things about this, so we were early to get a good spot. With a hot chocolate, we were already enjoying the standard illuminated Victoria Harbour. At 8:00 pm there was an announced that the show would start, so we already had our camera at the ready. At 8:08 pm we hadn’t seen anything yet. We did see a few green laser beams, but that was all. At 8:15 PM everyone stood up and left the gallery. Did we look the wrong way? The show turned out to be less spectacular than we expected. Go there in any case to see the illuminated Victoria Harbour, because that is worthwhile.
The plan was to explore Soho today. To get there, you can take the metro to Central or you can walk a bit to see some more of HK.
Soho is a neighbourhood that mainly consists of nice trendy bars, restaurants and shops. The longest escalator in the world is also located in this region. For us an attraction, for the residents of HK a means of transport to get from their home in the Mid-Levels to work in Central HK. The escalator is about 1000 meters long, covered and runs between houses and apartment buildings. Every day 60,000 people use this means of transport. The use of the escalator is free, from start to finish.
We stepped of halfway and turned left towards the Peak until we came to the Hong Kong Park, which is located in the middle of high buildings in the centre of HK Island. There used to be military barracks here, but in the late 80s the idea arose to build a park on this spot. The park also serves as a free zoo, because you see many different (tropical) birds, monkeys and even lemurs. After a round of park, we were ready for our next stop: The Temple Street Night Market.
The Temple Street night market is the most famous and crowded night market of HK. Both locals and tourists stroll through the many stalls to buy something fun. From an hour or five in the afternoon Temple Street turns into a large chain of market stalls and food stalls. Here you can buy some souvenirs or other useful items for cheap prices. It is also a great place to eat 'real' Asian, if you only want to spent a few euro’s. We went back to Soho in the evening to fill our belly in one of the many restaurants.
Our last day in HK has arrived. Tomorrow we fly to Vietnam and will start a new adventure. But before we leave we still have a full day to do some sightseeing.
The Man Mo Temple is one of the oldest temples in HK and was built in 1848. The temple is dedicated to two gods: Man, the god of literature, and Mo, the god of war. The temple was also used to resolve disputes. The quarrelling parties were supposed to write a promise on yellow paper and a punishment if they would break that promise. To seal their promise, they had to slaughter a chicken, let the blood flow on the paper and then burn that paper.
As soon as you walk into the temple, the strong smell of incense sticks gets to you. Everywhere you will find incense sticks and spirals. There are even huge incense spirals hanging above you. However, igniting the incense is a must if you want to plea the "GODS". They love fragrances.
To light the incense sticks there is a strict ritual to follow. The first thing is to bend 3 times and kneel. Secondly you have to make a bow with a mudra (hand gesture) and finally one can offer 3 sticks of incense: One for the present life, one for the previous life and one for the future life. The first incense stick is placed in the middle of the incense pot, the next one is placed with the left hand to the left of this incense stick. And the last incense stick comes on the right side of the first incense stick. Of course, we did this completely wrong, but no one explained that to us. Hopefully our prayers will be heard ... ..a big apartment in Amsterdam, a Range Rover Evoque and a summer house in Cape Town.
We want to try traditional food in every country and dim sum is this kind of dish. We found a small dim sum restaurant in Soho, which was also one of the oldest in Hong Kong. We asked for 4 local dishes, dim sum balls with mashed pig, this looked like a bapao sandwich, but was very sweet. The second dish was beef satay, (nice sate sauce) but later it turned out, we were just eating intestines. The third dish was shrimp and pig in a dim sum and finally spring rolls. It was fun to do, but we will skip this next time.
Four days of Hong Kong is enough to get a good view of the city. It may not be the most beautiful city, but the combination of modern and old is so well interwoven that it gives the city allure. Due to good and efficient public transport you do not have the feeling that so many people live and work here. In our eyes a city where we could live. For now, we have to say goodbye to this city, because tomorrow we fly to Vietnam.