life travel

Hong Kong, July 2013

I hadn’t been to Hong Kong since 2007, so I was keen to revisit on my way to North Korea. Last time I was spoiled by friends and colleagues of my dad, and had friends there – I remember delicious food, seeing the Peak, Disneyland, the Science Museum (where I discovered my driving was very fuel-efficient), and shopping with a Legendary Shopper. This time I planned on a more anti-social experience, getting in some quality Cate-Time before going on a tour where I would be with other people 24/7!

I stayed at The Mira. It’s a lovely hotel – luxurious and hip, but not in a intimidating way. I felt pretty ambivalent about the afternoon tea there, but the breakfast was great (apart from some poorly labelled sesame – peanut sauce), and the other hotel bars were good for snacks. It’s close to a mall so I ate across the road at the Yunyan Sichuan Restaurant one evening – I wasn’t a fan of the main I ordered, but the vegetables and desert were nice. I used the hotel car service to get to and from the airport, it was comfortable and low stress after a long flight! Best thing about The Mira was the spa area – the pool is beautiful, great for a swim after a long day. I did that two evenings, and it was so relaxing. Little warm for serious lap swimming, but for 40 lengths or so it was fine. The spa was amazing, I got a lovely body wrap and massage which left me feeling blissed out. Incredible 30% off deals at the spa right now, too. Highly recommend.

Sunday I was aiming to stay outside all day to beat jetlag, so I headed to the Chi Lin Nunnery. I was hoping to walk there (about an hour), but after getting trapped on the wrong side of a highway and lost in a mall, I gave up and took a cab! Once I got there, it was incredibly beautiful and peaceful. The soothing sound of chanting, I don’t think a recording, although I couldn’t figure out where it came from. They have lots of statues of holy things, which you mostly aren’t allowed to photo, but you can kneel in front of and zen out. I’m not religious, or even spiritual, but it’s a nice environment to contemplate things. I peered inside one to see an office with a computer – a little bit of technology in something otherwise old and timeless.

Then I went to the Kowloon Walled City, stopping off en-route for a delicious BBQ pork bun (I love love love BBQ pork buns) which I ate in a nearby park – relaxing moment, one of those that I try and mentally capture, because travelling alone can be hard. The Walled City has an interesting history as an ungoverned settlement, and it’s also really pretty to walk around. After chilling out for a while, I headed to the Temple Street Night Market to see if I had remembered how to bargain! I hadn’t, so I overpaid for some pretty things, but not horribly, and I managed to get a cellphone case and screen protector for my new Nexus 4 – something I had been unable to find in Australia! So that was good. And the usual bracelets, including something that was claimed to be Pink Jade – I’m not sure about that, but I am sure it is super-pretty. And faux-Toms, with Canadian flags on them. Seems wrong to buy faux-Toms, but… Canadian flags! That is awesome.

Day two (Monday) I went to be cultural, starting with the Hong Kong Museum of Art. Lots of beautiful art, and I really enjoyed the modern section. There was something called The Eden, which featured simulated “people” walking around, meeting, and reproducing, starting with Adam and Eve, and eventually dying out. I found it gripping! I’d had an idea for a digital ecosystem like that for so long now, but I haven’t made it because I don’t have all the variables figured out – that made me realise that it doesn’t need to be perfect to be compelling.

After lunch at Din Tai Fung and a wonder through a park, I headed to the Hong Kong Space Museum. This was aimed at kids, but I still found bits of it really cool – like the section on manufacturing in space! Space chemistry! Apparently you can make things in Space that you can’t make on earth, because they will have different properties, so the international space station will have manufacturing on it. I had no idea about this! Fascinating! And there was a model space ship that you could wonder around, and details on Astronaut suits – how they keep astronauts warm, and safe. They had things that you could play with, including a gyroscope thing (lame), and some more exciting ones, a flight simulator, a low gravity simulator, and another one that I couldn’t see properly as I wasn’t willing to queue.

I bought a ticket that would get me into 7 museums for $30 HKD, but probably would have been better to just pay per museum, as many of them were closed on Tuesday and I only saw those two. I finished the day with a wonder along the Avenue of Stars (beautiful views), and the Star Ferry at sunset – which was spectacular.

Day 3 (Monday) didn’t get off to the greatest start, with the sesame/peanut sauce. Then I took a cab over to the tram that would take me up to Peak, and the cabbie had hacked his meter to rip off tourists. I argued with him, but eventually decided to pay the extra 165 HKD (just under 25 AUD) rather than risk it. I later spoke to the hotel though and showed them the (fake) receipt he had given me and they – I found this really impressive – tracked him down using the security cameras, and reported him! The view from the Peak was pretty incredible though, and I had the most delicious BBQ pork buns of my trip whilst looking over all of Hong Kong. The restaurant was a tad over-priced, but worth it for the view. Then I walked down from the Peak (painful, it’s a steep hill and was raining) but took a route through the botanical gardens, which are beautiful, had dinner at a restaurant Fourquare recommended (food was pretty good).

By this point I was totally done in! So I spent my final day chilling out – leisurely hotel breakfast (no peanuts this time), serious spa time (amazing), and in plenty of time for my flight at the airport. My flight was delayed, so I got to try two of the Star Alliance lounges. The Singapore Airlines one has delicious food (Häagen-Dazs!) but no bathrooms. United has less good food but clean bathrooms, and toothbrushes.

I wan’t entirely sure how much I’d enjoy HK by myself, but it was actually great. There were a couple of times that I would have preferred to be with someone (like when the cabbie was being a jerk!) but eating dinner out alone wasn’t as scary as I remembered it being in China, and I found plenty to do. Someday I’ll go back with someone, eat on the dim sum boat again, stay at the Intercontinental and chill out by the Infinity Pool, and take afternoon tea at the Penninsula… but there’s plenty to do otherwise. Worth a visit – but I say that about pretty much everywhere!

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