So we could fly from Bangkok to New Delhi using the round the world ticket, we had to fly via Hong Kong. A little odd, since it is totally off course, but rules are rules and we could not miss the opportunity to see a little bit of China. We decided we’d get out of the airport and spend the weekend there.
Sleeping at the airport
After reading that Hong Kong’s airport is one of the world’s best options for the budget traveller who wants to save on hotel – remember the site about sleeping in airports? -, we organized our flight to get there late at night and the other one to leave in the morning. We could sleep in the airport both on arrival and on departure and we would still have one night to sleep in the city.
Already at the airport we noticed the huge difference between Hong Kong and Bangkok. To start, the toilets are totally automated. The airport is huge, with moving walkways here and there, all very modern. There is a train to go from one terminal to another, we actually weren’t understanding much, we just followed other people. 😛
Immigration was super easy, stamp on the passport for 90 days without having to answer any question (the stamp is in Chinese, so cute!). And here we go to the baggage claim. Damn, as when we slept at the airport in Singapore, we regreted having bags to claim, the transit area here is also much more comfortable.
At the main lobby we saw many people that had the same idea as ours, it took us a while to find a quiet place near an outlet, I’d spend several hours on the computer looking for a hotel and things to do on our weekend in Hong Kong. Yes! This airport has free internet!
Sleeping here was much better than in Singapore and I’d easily do it again.
As we woke up we were presented with a beautiful view from our ‘bed’: the orange sun rising between the mountains just beside the full moon. Wow. And I didn’t even know there were mountains in Hong Kong.
Much better than this was our last night at the airport
We returned on Sunday evening hoping that they would allow us to check-in in such advance – the flight was only in the next morning. Cathay Pacific employees were hyper kind, they checked our bags in and we walked to the transit area.
From here on I began to feel the most VIP person in the world. Passing the gates the airport becomes another world, with numerous restaurants, lounges and bars with super comfortable couches, massage, reading area, TV room and rest area. All this with free internet.
I spent hours chatting with my family in Brazil and slept on a chaise longue using my sleeping bag as a blanket. The lights turned low until dawn! Honestly, who needs a hotel?
I slept on a chaise longue using my sleeping bag as a blanket. The lights turned low until dawn! Honestly, who needs a hotel?
We’ve learnt the lesson: next time we want to spend the night at the airport we’ll book the flight to depart early in the morning. Or even better than that, we’ll travel with carry on luggage only!
Saturday at the Kowloon Peninsula
We found out that the cheapest hostels are located in Kowloon, which is part of Hong Kong but is on the peninsula, in continental China, not on the island of Hong Kong itself. In the morning we separated two sets of clothes in the small backpack and left the rest in the locker at the airport, we took the train inside the airport straight to Kowloon. Hong Kong’s subway/train system is real good and easy to use.
We followed the directions from Hostel World. We just found it strange that several hostels seemed to be at the same address. (?)
Arriving at our chosen one, Li’s Hostel, we understood everything. In the same building were still other hostels, each one occupying a different floor. Now imagine how are the elevators in such a place! Luckily our room was on the third floor, so we used the stairs.
The room price was 250 Hong Kong Dolars (approx. US$ 32), one of the cheapest we found.The initial impression was not the best. The reception seemed something clandestine and dirty. But the room, though small – we could barely opened the door -, surprised us. It was clean, the bed was comfortable, the bathroom was in the room and even had a bathtub and there was a TV with Sky in the room! Super luxury for our travel patterns.
We spent the day wandering throughout Kowloon, the most populated region of Hong Kong. We went to several districts using the subway and walking, visited outdoor markets that had every kind of imaginable trinket along with shops selling dried seafood, which have a horrible smell. In another quarter we saw lots of electronic and famous brands shops.
Buying jewellery is so common in Hong Kong that there is even a brochure to explain how the tourist should proceed to check if the stone is real.
Many jewellers, with super beautiful windows. We understood why there was a brochure at the airport about how and where to buy jewellery here. Several people come to Hong Kong only to buy jewellery, they are very cheap. Beautiful works on gold, huge stones such as diamonds and rubies, we saw it all in several windows, shops on the streets, with unbelievable prices. If we had left to buy our wedding bands here we’d have got them even cheaper than they were in Bangkok. Buying jewellery is so common in Hong Kong that there is even a brochure explaining how the tourist should proceed to check if the stone is real.
The streets of Kowloon are very nice, the region seems to be poorer than the island and seems to have less British influence. There are many people in the streets, a lot going on, most people speaking Chinese.
If walking on the sidewalk prepare to get wet, the air conditioning of the buildings are always dripping! In a moment we thought it was raining but the sun was up in the sky, shinning. I mean, not so shiny… the day seems to be always kind of cloudy in Hong Kong…
Bruce Lee and The Symphony of Lights
Every night, at 20hs, happens in Hong Kong the Symphony of Lights. The multimedia show, which is on the Guinness Book as the largest permanent light and sound show, combines interactive lights of 44 key buildings on both Hong Kong Island and Kowloon with musical effects to showcase the vibrancy and glamorous night vista of Victoria Harbour.
The best place to watch it, if you don’t want to spend money, is from the peninsula, because the majority of participant buildings are on the opposite side, on the island. But if you want to spend a little more, there are several options of cruise boats during the event, it must be nice to be out there and see both sides.
We stayed on land and arrived early to get a nice spot. While we waited for the show we took photos with the Bruce Lee statue, if you don’t know he is from Hong Kong, we had ice cream and practiced one of my favorite sports: “people watching“, in a mixed place like Hong Kong it is super fun!
The show started and it was amazing!! Dancing lights!! The music is very loud and gives the feeling that we’re inside the show. Gorgeous gorgeous, I super recommend. And the best part: it’s free.
Sunday in Hong Kong
It is the highest point of the island. To get there you need to take a funicular up to 48 degrees of inclination, this is very steep! It’s a long way and looking out of the window gives the feeling that the buildings around are crooked. I found it pretty cool. 😛
At the Peak Tower is the wax museum Madame Tussauds and outside, as the main attraction, a wax statue of guess who? Bruce Lee! He is everywhere!
We bought a HKD 48 (US$ 6.20) ticket, which gave us access to the Sky Tower Terrace, the highest point.
The view from up there would really be wonderful if it wasn’t for the pollution. Remember what I said about the impression that it is always cloudy in Hong Kong? From the top of the tower you can understand the problem, from the side that we should be able to see the harbour and the boats, we could only see a haze. Naively we thought it was only a misty, cloudy day, but we met a Brazilian guy up there, who lived many years in Hong Kong. He explained that a few years ago it was not like this and that this pollution comes from mainland China. I imagine that because the island is mountainous it probably holds this pollution right up here. Too sad, because the place is beautiful. Much more beautiful than I had imagined before coming.
The Peak has also other attractions, shops, restaurants, hiking the hill and a timeline with old photos telling the story of Hong Kong on the wall. It’s worth the visit.
Walk through downtown Hong Kong is a completely different experience from Kowloon. Here the buildings, all very high, do not drip. It’s all very modern, wide roads. The buses are like the London ones, but more modern.
Beach time – Repulse Bay
Since we’re on an island, we decided to have a look on the beach. We walked a lot to find the bus terminal and walked even more inside the terminal to find the bus to Repulse Bay. It was nice to walk throughout the city centre, we even saw a super cute bride and groom and they reminded me of our Thai wedding bands that were still in the box (I wanted to wait for a romantic moment to start wearing them hehe).
The bus ride to the beach was gorgeous. Because of the mountains we passed through areas without any buildings, all green, a rare thing for these sides here. Down the hill we passed by several beaches and the driver told us where we should drop off – not that he spoke any English, but we got along very well!
Repulse Bay is a beautiful beach and very quiet. It could hardly be otherwise, the most common thing here are ‘prohibited’ signs. It is forbidden to dive, to fly kites, to fish, to cycle, to surf, to play ball, dogs, everything! Hey, so isn’t there anything to do on this beach then? Unless you have a good book, I don’t think so.
At the other end of the beach is the Kwun Yam Shrine. A sort of temple with many images of gods and saints in the best Chinese style. It was one of the coolest things we saw in Hong Kong, each part of the temple has a meaning that is usually written at the entrance, a lot of superstition. I love these things! Since I am not silly I walked over the Bridge of Longevity and added three more years to my life. 😀
At this point we were exhausted and went back to the airport, one more bus, more walking and another train.
Hong Kong still has many other attractions that we have not visited. I wish we had allowed more time to spend here. There is the Giant Buddha, which I really wanted to see but there is a mega staircase to climb and it would not be possible at that time. There are the other islands, Lantau and Macau, museums, amusement parks – including Disneyworld, amongst other things.
Hong Kong surprised me, maybe because I did not have many expectations, but I really liked and super recommend.
- Being a former British colony it is very easy to do anything and find someone who speaks English
- Despite being part of China, Hong Kong’s administration is still fully separated from the mainland. The currency is different as well as immigration services. To enter mainland China you need a visa in advance
- Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon is the region with the highest concentration of cheap hostels and this is where most backpackers go
- We didn’t need to buy a guidebook, the brochures we got at the airport explained everything very well, what to do, where to go, how to get there, how much to pay…
- Shopping: it’s well worth having some money for jewellery and electronics
- When we were there it was springtime and it was very hot, 28 degrees every day, but not unbearable like Singapore
- When at the restaurant, if they serve a soup as a side dish, pay attention if there is a chicken foot inside
- Bread Talk is here too 😀
In the Cathay Pacific plane, flying from China to India, we were tired of waiting for the right moment and decided to start wearing the wedding bands. Better doing it before we lose them! I still think it’s too corny to call each other ‘fiancé’, but I have to say that the bands were cute on our hands. 😉