Hong Kong was to be our final fling – the last stop on our round-the-world jaunt, so as we boarded our plane in Singapore we were both excited, but at the same time a little melancholy at it being our last port of call.
After a slightly bumpy landing at Hong Kong airport we hopped on to the Airport Express train for the quick run into Kowloon. We were there in the blink of an eye and just minutes after checking into our hotel, the Holiday Inn on Golden Mile, we popped out to explore Kowloon.
Heading off down Nathan Road, a road I remember from way back when I were a little’un, when it was crammed full of neon signs, red double-decker buses and shop owners touting their wares to anyone passing, especially 16 year old European boys! Forty years on it’s changed somewhat. Yes, some of the bright neon signs are still there, but the sheer scale of some of the new buildings is breathtaking. Hong Kong may not have expanded much horizontally, but vertically it’s gone through the roof!
What hasn’t changed about Hong Kong is the sheer pace of life. It’s a pretty full-on place, with thousands of people on every street, bright lights, the noise of traffic and taxi horns and piped music blasting out of every brightly lit designer store in any one of many huge shopping centres.
Every block has its collection of tailors offering you bespoke suits and shirts, ‘copy watches’ copy-bags’ and many other products and services. To some this could be quite intimidating, but ultimately they’re just trying to make a living. If you’re polite and nice with them, they’ll be the same back. A simple ‘No Thank You’ said with a smile is all that’s needed to let them move onto their next potential customer.
Getting around Hong Kong is remarkably simple. Most of the time we just walked from place to place because it’s all quite compact and easy to get around, but if necessary there’s a really good MTA subway system, cheap taxis and of course there’s the world-famous Star Ferry for getting between Kowloon and Hong Kong island.
Hong Kong has one of the most impressive skylines in the world and one of the best places to see it from is the Star Ferry. It costs pennies to cross from one side to the other and it lets you see some uninterrupted views of the world’s tallest structures. Another good vantage point is Victoria Peak, which can be accessed using the Peak Tram. This runs from downtown Hong Kong and although sometimes very busy, is well worth the wait because the views from the top are truly spectacular. We were lucky enough to get a really clear day and were able to see for miles.
When it comes to eating in Hong Kong there’s so much choice available. Most of the time we made do with snacks bought from the thousands of little stalls scattered around, but virtually everywhere you turn there’s a dim sum restaurant to be found at the top of a staircase somewhere or if you’re in one of the many shopping malls there’s bound to be a food court serving freshly cooked food, both local and international. On one of our days we chose to eat in our hotel at the Osteria Italian Restaurant. There was an enormous choice of both buffet and a la carte dishes. We chose their lobster risotto as one of our courses and it was absolutely delicious. There was smoked salmon, fresh oysters, freshly cured cold cuts and a salad buffet to rival anywhere. Despite this it’s all reasonably priced and the service was excellent.
The Holiday Inn on Golden Mile is perfectly placed for exploring. Only minutes from the waterfront and the Star Ferry, it is surrounded by modern shopping malls as well as lots of the little Tsim Sha Tsui streets and all their independent traders. It’s a short taxi ride from the Airport Express station and is right on some of the main MTA and bus routes. It has a rooftop pool and bar, which we didn’t really find time to take advantage of, but we did manage to squeeze and hour in at Hari’s Bar one evening. It’s a lovely relaxed atmosphere where you can forget the hubbub of the Hong Kong Streets and relax in a quiet and tranquil space.
When the time came on our final day we packed up, took a taxi out to the airport and with a lump in our throats, realised that this was it, the end of our fantastic, unforgettable amazing year out. We might never do something like this again in our lifetimes but we collected memories to last forever.