Hong Kong overflows with sounds, sights, traffic and aromas. A British colony from 1841 until 1997 and now an Administrative Region of China, it is not surprising that it is a mixture of “East Meets West,” a place where high tea is as accessible as dim sum.
The city blends the old and the new. In some places skyscrapers and giant malls almost edge out narrow streets and alleys. Huge signs hang over the middle of the road. Sidewalks are bordered with herbal shops, McDonalds, 7/11’s and stands displaying unidentifiable fruits and odd vegetables like cucumbers the size of a cantaloupes. The smell of outdoor cooking permeates the air. Roads are crowded with pricey cars. Other than Germany, Hong Kong has the most Mercedes Benz.
For the best view of the city, its harbor and distant territories, take the tram to the 1,575-foot-high Victoria Peak. It has been operating since 1888. Before boarding, learn about the funicular’s history at The Peak Tram Historical Gallery, located by the Lower Terminus. On the way up, the cable car passes the city’s most exclusive neighborhood. Atop the Peak is the world’s highest Starbucks and a mishmash of restaurants and shops - some quite nice and some very touristy.
Down on solid ground, the Hong Kong Museum of History may not be very interactive but it tells the Hong Kong story with artifacts, movies, and exhibits. It is well worth your time to see its film presentations. One is about culture, another about modern amusements. While walking down the 1960s street, learn about HSBC bank, pawnshops, grocery and herbal shops. Another exhibit deals with the horrors of Japanese occupation. Plan to spend at least 2 hours there.
If you are a bit of an intrepid traveler and want to be economical, use the underground transportation system (MTR). It is incredibly efficient and if you don’t mind the crowds (which are also above ground) you will get to your destination quickly. Be forewarned: To buy a ticket you have to be able to read Chinese or find someone that does. The walk to the train is long, but you can browse in a variety of shops along
Take the MTR to The Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan District. This Buddhist Temple, built in 1847, has a black Buddha. The scent from giant incense coils that hang from the ceiling permeate the building. It’s often crowded with the faithful, those praying for good fortune and tourists.
Another “must see” for tourists, seafood and fish ball noodle lovers is Aberdeen in Hong Kong’s South District. Now surrounded by high-rise buildings, it was once a simple fishing village where many fisherman lived on their junks (sampans or boats). Today, many only live on the boats during the day. But it’s easy to recognize those who still live 24/7 on their boats. Clotheslines strewn with laundry are strung across their junks.
Aberdeen is renowned for its seafood restaurants, in particular the Jumbo Floating Restaurant. Looking like a Chinese palace, it is said to be able to seat 2,300 diners.
But I already have been there. So, I dine at the huge, Times Square vertical mall. It brims with upscale shops like Tiffany’s, a mega cinema and the Food Forum - 10 Asian specialty restaurants. My choice is the hot-pot restaurant, BuDauweng. And, they really do mean “hot.” I feel like I am breathing dragon fire as I eat meat, vegies and shrimp rolls. Though many of the staff do not speak English, thank heaven they understand the phrase “more water, please.”
Besides giant upscale malls, Hong Kong is famous for its markets. They are the place for bargains, especially if you are good at haggling. The Ladies Market on Tung Choi Street in the Mong Kok District of Kowloon has kiosks of clothing, jewelry, home furnishing and accessories.
The Temple Night Market looks like a scene from a Chinese movie. The Tin Hau Temple (Buddhist) sits right in the middle of the market. Its myriad of stands has a large selection of tchotchkes, electronics, jade and authentic food.
So much to see in 48 hours. Being an accidental tourist in Hong Kong is unexpected, unplanned fun.
To learn more about Hong Kong, visit www.discoverhongkong.com