Generation Z. Cruising in an RV.: OLA: Getting Excited in HongKong (HK)!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

OLA: Getting Excited in HongKong (HK)!


HongKong Island Skyline at night
the tram coming down from the Peak

Exciting is the word for HK! In five frenzied days we covered Hong Kong Island, Lantau Island, Kowloon, and Macau. There are five things that best describe HK: world’s bests (longest escalator, largest seated Buddha, largest lights/music show), great food experiences (Chinese fine dining and street food, British afternoon and high tea), easy transportation (ferries, MTR, taxis, buses, trains, trams, cable cars), best shopping (variety and good price), and proximity to Macau and Shenzhen!

the Skyworld at the Peak
It was Bill’s first trip to the Chinese city and my umpteenth since almost 30 years ago when I ran a business there for half of every month (the other half in Manila). The changes are simply dramatic! Then Kai Tak International Airport was located such that passengers could not believe how a plane could squeeze past the high-rise buildings as it approached the runway.  The massive HK International Airport is now on Lantau Island and a looong bridge/highway connects the island to the peninsula.
artistry inside Man Mo

The only thing that was familiar to me was Victoria Peak, the highest point on HK Island, but even that has changed.  Now a giant SkyWorld juts upward on the peak to create a 360 degree view. A big Peak Tram hauls huge crowds that line up to ride to the top. The enchantment I felt when I took the ride on the old tram is gone. The Peak is now so commercialized with all the restaurants and food chains and stores and boutiques all over! Besides, it was a foggy day and the view was unfortunately hazy.

Mid-Levels Escalator at Soho
But Man Mo Temple and Cat Street changed all that! The area is great for Chinoiserie and the disappointment soon faded away.  Especially when we got to the Mid-Levels Escalators, the longest escalator in the world, equivalent to about 2,600 steps, half a mile long! At its mid-point is the Soho District with lots of watering holes for Chuppies (Chinese yuppies) and expats. I used to live in a Mid-Level Apartment. How much easier my life would have been if we’d had those escalators then!  

The Symphony of Lights from Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade
the Giant Buddha after 260 steps
That evening we had our first sumptuous dinner at Serenade, a Chinese restaurant overlooking the harbor on Tsim Sha Tsui. We had the best view of The Symphony of Lights, the largest lights/music extravaganza in the world involving the biggest buildings on HK Island! Upon waking up the next day we went to Lantau Island via hover ferry and bus (coming back via cable car and MTR). Besides the new airport, the island is home to five-year old Disneyland, the 30m high Giant Buddha (the biggest seated Buddha in the world) and the Po Lin Monastery with its famous three bronze Buddhas (Past, Present, and Future),   

Past, Present, and Future 
Our second Chinese dinner was at Yu Joy in the Elements with Nini, an old friend, whose daughter is in charge of men’s fashion in Louis Vitton. Upon waking up to another day, we quickly went to fabled Macau! We discovered it is not just a gambling mecca (with only 30 casinos against Las Vegas’ 100, it nevertheless rakes in ten times the revenue)! It is also a World Heritage Site, with many old places of Chinese and Portuguese influences.  And the hydrofoil gets you in and out of there in just 50 mins!

St. Paul Ruins in Macau
Although the highlight of the day was the Tree of Prosperity (a large golden green tree comes up after a golden dome opens up from the floor while a large crystal chandelier comes down to meet it after the golden ceiling opens up). There were even a Bellagio-like lights show and an inexpensive Macanese dinner at Wynn Macau. However, we spent most of the day the visiting World Heritage Sites: The St. Paul Ruins, the Largo Senado, the three oldest churches, the oldest squares, and a temple that had been there even before the Portuguese came, with Taoist, Buddhist, and Confucian Pavilions!

the tri-religion temple in Macau, there before the Portuguese came
HK Walled City Memorial
On our fourth day, near our hotel, we found the HK Walled City Park, a tribute to the section that, until 1993 when it was demolished, bred prostitution, drugs, and crime in HK. The Park is HK’s finest with the Old South Gate, the Chess Garden, the Almshouse, the 6 Arts Terrace, the Zodiac Garden. But I liked the memorial best, a testament to an ugly period. Then we joined Bryn (whom we met in Palawan) and his brother Marc for the famed Afternoon Tea at the Peninsula for which many wait in line for over an hour!

fortune telling booth at Temple Night Market
That night, we started our own version of the HK shopping spree by punishing our legs walking the Temple Street Night Market with its fortune tellers and Chinese opera singers and the endless booths of the Ladies Market. Upon waking up the next day, we quickly looked for the Cotton-On store for a specific shirt/short combination my daughter April wanted. Unfortunately, the design had been replaced. So we tried to complete our ‘mission’ at The One shopping plaza, skipping Kowloon Park.

Wynn Macau Light Show
But, alas and alack, there was no more next day in HK to wake up to!  If we ever get the chance to go back, we will see Aberdeen, the fishing village where you can get a sampan joy ride and dine at the biggest floating restaurant in the world. We shall also be more prepared for the entry requirements for Shenzhen in mainland China, only a little more than 2 hours away by train, where they say the best shopping can be had! HK is truly one exciting destination! You must go there at least once!

the Tree of Prosperity at Wynn Macau
Afternoon Tea at the Peninsula
Next Stop: Getting Enchanted in Taiwan
Dinner with Nini and Anna at Yu Joy