The Sights & Sounds of Hong Kong

I’ve said a lot about the hotels, and airline of Hong Kong, but I’ve said little about the city. Though we only had 2 days to explore the city this time, we were able to touch on most of the high points of the city. It was pity though that weather was a bit rainy and cloudy to visit the many Buddhist monasteries around the city, but there is always next time I suppose.

Introduction: Christmas in Hong Kong, and New Year in New Zealand
Cathay Pacific First & Business Class Lounge San Francisco
Cathay Pacific Business Class (Reverse Herringbone) SFO-HKG
The Conrad Hong Kong – Harbor View Twin Room
The Intercontinental Hong Kong – Harbor View Room
The Sights and Sounds of Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge HKG Airport
Singapore Airlines Business Class HKG-SIN-AKL
The Rees Queenstown Luxury Hotel Apartments
Great Drives near/around Queenstown (Glenorchy, Milford Sound, Wanaka)
The Hilton Auckland
Attractions in/around Auckland (Hobbiton, Mt. Eden etc.)
Emperor Lounge @ Auckland Airport (via Priority Pass)
The Park Hyatt Sydney – Opera View Deluxe King Room
Virgin Australia Business Class SYD-LAX

 

 

Hong Kong Park is a block away and just across the street from the Conrad and Admiralty station. The park is an ideal place for a morning walk to enjoy some quiet time and listen to some tropical birds before the city awakens.

Hong Park really is a hidden gem with its multitude of walking tracks, wildlife preserves, and playgrounds. It’s the best place to go to drown out the hustle and bustle of the city and experience the city like the locals. We walked out of the hotel after breakfast just as the fog cleared up and the first sign of blue skies was visible. The trails in the park are well marked with easy to read signs in English. Having been here before, I headed straight for the highlight of the park: the Aviary.

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We walked by a pond full of frogs and turtles where some kids were running around and playing. There were quite a few colourful tropical fish in the pond.

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The first stop on our walk was the conservatory, which was decorated festively for the holiday season. There were some nice tropical plants and flowers inside.

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As we were walking along, we saw this tower with a rather long spiral staircase. I figured the views from the top would be nice so I struggled up the stairs at break neck speeds.

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We walked past Olympic Square where they stage shows and concerts apparently. I just can’t figure out why they had it labeled “Olympic” when the city has never held the Olympics.

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The views from above were ok at best, and maybe not worth the sweaty shirt. Seriously, isn’t Hong Kong one of the most humid cities you’ve been to?

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There were some views of the Aviary and residential buildings from the tower, but nothing special.

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We finally made it to the Aviary after our quick walk around the park. What makes this place so awesome is how they feed the birds and how close the feeding stations are to the walkways which run through the Aviary. 
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Hanging branches have oranges, apples, and other fruits on which tropical birds hop around and feed. The good variety in color really makes it the ideal spot for bird watching and using that telephoto lens on your DSLR.

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The mina birds seemed to like the oranges, while the parrots nipped at the apples more often than not.

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Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware

After the aviary, we took a quick walk through the museum of tea ware which is located adjacent to the park entryway.

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The museum showcased traditional Chinese tea ware and utensils. It was interesting to learn that they alternated designs and sets based on the occasion.

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There was quite a bit of detail regarding how to make the tea pots, which was nice, but there wasn’t any hands on tea pot making when we went.

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Pacific Place Shopping Center

We walked back to the hotel after our quick tour of Hong Kong Park. This time we took the escalator down into the Pacific Place Shopping Center, which is just above the Conrad. In fact you can walk through a lot of Hong Kong Island through these underground connected walkways with stores.

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There were some carolers down on the ground floor who we watched for a little while before heading up to our room.

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The corridor leading to the Conrad Hong Kong is located on L3 and is right next to this swanky store called “The Vault”. Apparently the store sells luxury eye wear, in case you are wondering about it like I was.

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Victoria Peak and the Peak Mall

Second stop on our tour of Hong Kong was the popular Victoria Peak lookout and the Peak Galleria mall with many Western food options including Burger King, Starbucks, and Haagen Dazs. The fastest way to get to the peak mall is via the tram, but it is often more convenient and cheaper to take a taxi because of the lines in front of the ticketing office.

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The peak mall has a nice fountain area in the front and a bunch of shops and restaurants lined up along the edge of the hill where there are some extraordinary views of Hong Kong.

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Normally, I prefer to walk down Lugard road for the best views of Hong Kong, but since I was traveling with my grandparents, we just avoided the extra walk and bought the tickets for the observation deck.”Sky Terrace 428″ tickets cost 48 HKD (~$6.20) per person and includes audio guides giving the viewer information about the history of Hong Kong and the buildings.

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You are greeted with some of the nice views as you go up the escalators inside the mall.

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The best time to visit the SkyTerrace is probably at night, but it can be super crowded then. And so honestly to avoid the rush, it is best if you go as early in the morning as possible.

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From the peak, you can see both the north and south sides of Hong Kong island. It pretty much provides a one stop shop for the lay of the land. On this particular day, it was super crowded and a bit sunny so everyone just wanted to leave after spending a few minutes there.

Riding the Metro and Ladies Market

It was almost 4pm on Christmas eve, when we came down from the observation deck. At which point we too a cab over to the Ladies Market in Mong Kok on the Kowloon side of the city. I had wanted to take the parents and grandparents over to Stanley Market, but that was apparently closing at around 5pm according to the hotel concierge.

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I always love to see the markets in Hong Kong because they provide a good variety of merchandise for a cheap price. Though I wasn’t really in the mood to buy stuff, it’s always amusing to watch tourists bargain with the shop owners and find out what the locals are buying.

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We enjoyed our time there, but it was so crowded that we decided to leave after spending a mere 10 minutes in the market.

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Next, we walked down the stairs to the underground train station/mall area where we took a train to Tsim Sha Tsui where we could walk down the Avenue of the Stars and take the Star Ferry back to Hong Kong Island.

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Tickets on the Hong Kong Metro (MTR) are extremely cheap and the subway cars are all extremely clean. Luckily all the stops are announced in English and listed on the walls of the subway cars, which makes it extremely easy to navigate through.

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Here is a Hong Kong MTR Map with some points of interest labelled.

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Upon arriving in Tsim Sha Tsui, we were disappointed to find that the famous Ave of the Stars was closed for renovation and that it would not reopen until sometime in 2016. It ended up not being an issue at all since we spent the next night at the Intercontinental, where our rooms featured this view (probably one of my favorite pictures taken during this entire trip):

We headed out for dinner at Khana Khazana (a not so great Indian restaurant) before finally heading to the Conrad and nodding off instantly.

DAY 2: Lugard Road, and Stanley Market

Christmas morning started off with a morning walk down Lugard Road next to the Victoria Peak Galleria with my sister. I was hoping to capture a sunrise photo, but the cloudy nature of the day spoiled any chance of that happening. Nevertheless we enjoyed our walk in the pleasant weather and a morning walk here is not to be missed if you are in the city.

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While I was taking pictures, I had a couple of pleasant conversations with locales who were more than willing to take our picture as they finished up their morning walks. These views really make you wonder why the heck one lives in Texas. We ended the walk with a brief stop at Starbucks after which we took an empty tram down.

Stanley Market 

There were some showers in the vicinity Christmas day so we decided against going to the Ten Thousand Budhas Monastery over in Sha Tin. Instead we elected to go to Stanley Market where we avoided most of the rain by stepping under the covers of the market. Later on it really turned into a beautiful day to walk around.

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Stanley Market is located on the southern shores of Hong Kong Island, a good 25 minute taxi ride from the Conrad. It’s a really interesting drive over because you get to see all the beaches where people hang out during the summer and lavish bungalows where some of the wealthy live. It’s also, of course, a very beautiful with its multitudes of green hills and views of the sea.

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Stanley Market has quite a variety of shopping areas in one spot. While one end has a Western mall type thing going on, the other has the traditional bargaining markets that Hong Kong is famous for.

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I saw this signboard and wondered what it meant. Maybe they held the biggest dog show? Someone enlighten me as to what that means.

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I found it funny how they had a store literally crowded from floor to ceiling with groceries and items from the U.S. I mean it was packed in there with all kinds of stuff one might find at a Walmart Supercenter in the U.S.

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There were also some vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables. We picked up some really good mangoes, and enjoyed them later in our hotel room.

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We walked around Stanley Market for almost an hour and bought some cheap souvenirs. RoundtheWorldin8days 199

As I said before, I really enjoy just window shopping and comparing prices to what they are in other places. There seemed to be quite a few decent deals on some handmade crafts, though the electronics were all more expensive than what one finds in the U.S.

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I guess Open Gangnam style is still in fashion here 🙂

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Many of the stores were selling cheap versions of Google Glass, I guess I should’ve waited and gotten mine here 🙁 (Talk about buyer’s remorse). Just Kidding….

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We finished off with some coffee and drinks at the Starbucks after which we returned to the Conrad and checked out.

Conclusion of my time in Hong Kong:

The day after Christmas we bade farewell to our grandparents, who were headed to India, and left the hotel for the airport. It was a bit sad to say goodbye to my grandparents and leave such an awesome city. I surely hope to return soon.

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Bottom Line:

Hong Kong is easily one of my most favorite cities in the world and is truly unique in that it seems to be the crossroads of the Eastern and Western cultures. The skyline itself is, in my opinion, the single best of any city. Furthermore, the city has some of the best restaurants, shopping, hotels, airports, and airlines in the world, which really makes it the complete package. My sister tells me that she wasn’t all that impressed and still thinks New York or London is better, but I hope to change that on the next trip over here. 😉

 

Next up: Singapore Airlines Business Class HKG-SIN-AKL……