APR2014-HongKong

After nearly two months of travel, we finally arrived at our last port of call: Hong Kong. We had never been to Hong Kong before, so after we disembarked from the ship we’d been calling home, we checked in to a hotel and stayed in the city for four extra days. Ideally, it’d be nice to have a full week to really explore this city, as there is so much to see and do.

Hong Kong is split into two parts that are separated by Victoria Harbor. The northern part is Kowloon, which is where we stayed, and the southern part is Hong Kong Island. It’s really easy to get between the two parts. We used both the subway and the Star Ferry.

Here are some of the sights and experiences we loved:

The Peak

HongKong-74No trip to Hong Kong is complete without a visit to The Peak. This is the highest point on Hong Kong Island and it offers spectacular views of the entire city. Ben and I came here first during the day and then returned at night so we could photograph the city all lit up. There are several ways to get up to the peak, but the historic funicular tramway is by far the most fun. The tramway first started running in 1888, and though the cars have been modernized, they still run on the same track. What’s really crazy about the ride, however, is how steep it is. You reach a maximum gradient of 27 degrees and if you’re standing up, it feels like you’re leaning half-way to the floor just to stay vertical. It’s quite the experience!

Up at The Peak, there are several viewing areas, some restaurants, and of course, a shopping mall. There are shopping malls everywhere in Hong Kong, but we were grateful for this one because it’s where we found a store called “Silversmith,” which carries all kinds of really unique hand-crafted silver jewelry. We’re not really jewelry people, but I loved the organic style of their stuff and ended up buying a little camera necklace.

The Mid-Levels (Escalators)

HongKong-278The Mid-Levels are located on Hong Kong Island, halfway up the hill/mountain to The Peak. Because the streets are so steep, there is an escalator that you can ride up and down, getting off and on at different cross streets. In fact, at 800 meters (2,600 feet), it’s the longest escalator in the world. It runs downhill in the morning and uphill for the rest of the day.  This is a pretty ritzy part of town and there are lots of unique restaurants, bars and stores to check out. We came to this area more than once for dinner, drinks and exploration.

The Star Ferry & the historic streetcars

Both the ferry and the streetcars are a great way to get around the city, but they’re also an experience in themselves. The street cars can be found on Hong Kong island, and they’re pretty neat-looking. They have two levels, so they’re very tall, but also very narrow. They kind of remind me of the bus in Harry Potter that magically squeezes to fit in certain areas. The Star Ferry is a Hong Kong institution, having started its runs in 1888. The main route goes back and forth between Kowloon and Hong Kong island, and if I remember correctly, costs less than two dollars to ride (for the upper deck).

 

The Big Buddha and the Aerial Tramway

HongKong-136The Big Buddha (or the Tian Tan Buddha) is interesting to see, and you can really make a whole experience of it if you do it right. It is located on Lantau island, which is east of Hong Kong. We took the subway to get to the island and then the aerial tramway to get up to the Buddha.

The tramway is called the Ngong Ping 360 and it’s pretty incredible… if you’re not afraid of heights, that is! It is 3.5 miles long and takes about 25 minutes to get from one end to the other. The views are breathtaking, especially when you can start to see the Big Buddha appearing amongst the lush mountains. The subway took us from Hong Kong to the location where you pick up the tramway.

chopstick-loresThe Big Buddha is 112 feet tall and sits on top of a thrown that you can get to by climbing over 250 stairs. It’s a pretty big tourist attraction, so there are crowds. Adjacent to the Buddha is a Buddhist monastery and a little village with stores and restaurants. This is where I found the Chopstick Gallery, a store that sold nothing but beautiful chopsticks. I had to make a few purchases here 😉

 

Lamma Island

lammaLunchLamma Island is located south of Hong Kong Island and is a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. You can get there via a ferry that leaves from the central part of Hong Kong Island. What’s nice is that there are two ferry docks on Lamma Island, and you can hike between these two locations. We took the ferry to the Yung Shue Wan dock on the west side of the island. There is a cute little town there with restaurants, shops and such. What’s great is that there are NO cars on Lamma Island, so all the streets are for pedestrians and bikers, making things feel much more quaint. We were starving when we arrived, so we found a place to eat in town and sat right on the water. Most of the places there are no frills, but charming nonetheless. And the food was amazing. We spent some time wandering the small shops in town before venturing out on the hike.

lammahike-loresThe 1.5-hour hike goes from the town of Yung Shue Wan (where the ferry dropped us off) to the town of Sok Kwu Wan, where we would pick up a different ferry. The scenery is just beautiful, as much of the trail takes you along the lush, oceanside hills. You pass beaches and various food carts on the way, and we crossed paths with travelers of all different nationalities. It was an excellent way to wrap up our 2-month journey! Once we arrived in the town of Sok Kwu Wan, we stopped at another waterside restaurant for a cold beer before catching the ferry back to Hong Kong Island.

Some other things we enjoyed in Hong Kong:

The Museum of Art (on the Kowloon side, on the water)

The Flagstaff House Museum of Teaware (in Hong Kong Park)

The KS Lo Gallery (displays a variety of Chinese seals, kind of like stamps carved of stone) There are certain shops in HK where you can have your own seal carved for you as well. Ben did this at a shop in the mall at The Peak.) The day-to-day term for these are “chops.”

Finally, some more images from Hong Kong:

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