The First Weekend… Hong Kong

So let’s ignore Friday, where we literally fell off a plane, sat on a bus, checked into our hotel, staggered into a dim sum bar (?), wolfed down some fairly decent food then crashed until about mid morning Saturday…  and start with the weekend in Hong Kong.

Waking up, we realised we were in the worlds smallest hotel room – double bed pushed against a wall with 2ft at the bottom and along the right of the bed – I kid you not, the only place for the rucksacks was infront of the door while we were in the room. For next time 18ft is not big enough for 2 people!  But you get what you pay for and it’s cheap, modern, clean and almost in a good location – at least its not a hostel.

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Deciding it was best not to spend any time in the room in case we stood on each other, we headed out and walked from our place in east Kowloon near the Whampoa MTR stop, west towards Central Kowloon via the famous Tsim Sha Tsui promenade and the Avenue of the stars, only to find the whole thing not just closed but dismantled as they renovate… it will be amazing but right now it’s jut confusing road chaos which explained why the bus the night before had taken quite so much time.  The bit at the end between the Space Museaum and the Star Ferry Terminal is still operating so we had a potter on the viewing platform and took some photos before deciding we’d walked enough and it was time to eat!

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We’d been recommended the seafood dim sum at Din Tai Fung so negotiated the luxury shopping mall of the Harbour City Ocean centre (they seem to be really enthusiastic consumers here) on to the Canton Road and into the SilverCord shopping centre to find the restaurant.  There was a queue but we opted for a shared table which sped things up and soon had hot tea and their famous Xiao Long Bao (in the steamer at the back in the photo) – including instructions on how to eat; put Bao in spoon, make a small hole with your chopstick to release the broth and then eat with the ginger, soy and vinegar sauce provided. One Michelin star no less! They also made cucumber taste good, amazing!

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Suitably stuffed we wandered through Kowloon park – a randomly tranquil oasis of tropical planting in the middle of town, complete with a flock of flamingoes – taking pictures of random art, exotic birds and old folk playing mahjong.

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In the early evening we hit Temple Street night market with its endless stalls of ‘I didn’t know I needed that’ and ‘that’s a fairly passable fake of a Mulberry handbag’ before grabbing a table at a street stall for a bottle or two of giant beer.

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Before working out the amazing tube system (honestly – so much better than London!) back to our box / bedroom.

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Sunday

We’d had a random conversation with someone the day before who said that the cable car up to the big Buddha was going to close on Monday for renovations (it seems to be a January thing…) so we decided to set an early-ish alarm and head out of the city to the island of Lantau to see the big Buddha at Ngong Ping.

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Commonly known as the ‘Big Buddha’, the 202-tonne Tian Tan Buddha is a representation of Lord Gautama some 23m high (or just under 34m if you include the podium and lotus). Unveiled in 1993, it still holds the honour as the tallest seated bronze Buddha statue in the world. It’s easily accessed via the MTR, then via cable car from the Tung Chung stop – though you can hike from there and our train was filled with Lycra clad Hong Kongers all about to spend their Sunday morning walking the trail.  We took the cable car and i didn’t think about skiing..honest…

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At the top of the cable car there is a representation of a traditional village complete with ye olde Starbucks and MacDonalds but its well worth climbing the 268 steps up to see the Buddha himself as he sits facing north overlooking the Chinese people.  There is a large bell within the Buddha which is controlled by computer and rings 108 times during the day to symbolise escape from what Buddhism terms the ‘108 troubles of mankind’.

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From the top we jumped on the number 21 bus to the far west and a place called Tai O, home to the Tanka boat people.  Some of the traditional houses are built on stilts above the sea and it’s all about fishing and selling the produce – at which point pictures are not going to give you the smell-o-vision I need to give the full story – but as you walk through the main market the seafood being sold is either alive, dead or being dried on traditional straw mats – so the smell is quite 360.  They were also drying what looked like egg yolks on the big round baskets in a mix of salt and sunshine – I’m assuming for cooking?

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We then jumped on a bus over to Mui Wo to catch a ferry back to Hong Kong Island and dinner at Tim Ho Wan. Now this is an unassuming place in the metro station, it had a queue, the best baked pork buns ever and anoth blooming Michelin star… we ordered way too much and it still only came to £15 for the 2 of us…

2 great days, 2 lots of dim sum, thousands of Buddhas and 51k of steps on the pedometer!

 

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