Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hong Kong part one

Mr & Miss R - Cafe Deco at Victoria Peak
Our trip to Hong Kong was definitely action packed.  After flying in last Wednesday night, we took a taxi from the airport to our hotel and then had dinner at Cafe Deco with Stephanie at Victoria Peak.  The views were fabulous and we caught The Peak Tram (cable car) back down the Peak, which was a lot of fun, followed by a double decker tram ride back to our hotel.  After dealing with volcanic ash flying out of Melbourne, we also had to contend with a category 3 typhoon coming into Hong Kong.  Luckily it went away the next day.
Victoria Park - Causeway Bay
I loved waking up the next morning and looking out over Victoria Park opposite our hotel in Causeway Bay where you could see eagles flying overhead and people practising martial arts before the weather got too hot.  It's the largest patch of green on Hong Kong island and Mr Rosanna and I even managed a run (albeit a very hot one) in the park while we were there.
I also loved catching the double decker trams that run along Hong Kong island as well as the Star Ferry from the island to the Kowloon mainland.  There's something very quaint about old school transportation.  We didn't have time to sail around the harbour in a Chinese junk but that would have also been fabulous.  Public transport in Hong Kong puts Melbourne to shame - the MTR train system is amazingly fast, safe, clean and efficient - trains run every 4 minutes on all lines and are never, ever late.  You also use the one card (Octopus card) on all forms of transport - trams, trains, ferries and buses.  You can even use Octopus cards to buy groceries at shops like 7-11.

We spent our first day in Hong Kong shopping in Causeway Bay - the prices and brands are comparable to Melbourne so we didn't really pick up a lot of bargains.  I did buy one special piece from Shanghai Tang (the main store in Central is housed in a beautiful Art Deco building), discovered a great local brand called Initial, plus bought a gorgeous hand painted snuff bottle from Chinese Arts & Crafts.
That evening we met up with Stephanie after work and went to Lan Kwai Fong for a drink where all the groovy hole in the wall type bars are located off little lane ways (very similar to Melbourne).  We then went across to the mainland to the Temple Street night market (which seemed to sell a vast array of marital aids and 'sexy' underwear) in Tsim Sha Tsui where Stephanie took us to a local restaurant and we sampled frogs legs with bitter melon and black bean (tastes like chicken), some kind of boneless fish on a stick (yummy!) and drinking beer from a bowl which apparently is a local custom.  Interesting...

We did a day tour of Lantau Island the next day which was a real highlight.  Hong Kong airport is located on Lantau Island as well as the Tian Tan Buddha - the second tallest outdoor bronze seated Buddha in the world.  On the way to the Buddha, we checked out the two huge suspension bridges recently built in Hong Kong, dipped our feet in the South China sea and visited one of the last fishing villages in Hong Kong called Tai-O.

We finally got to the Buddha and for me, it was a special trip, probably all the more meaningful because I've been quite influenced by Buddhism over the past 10 years.  And the Buddha itself was incredibly beautiful.  We had a vegetarian lunch at the Po Lin monastery and from there caught the Ngong Ping cable car all the way down to Tung Chung (where Stephanie lives).  That was also a real highlight as it hadn't been built when I last visited.

After our tour finished, we said goodbye to our fellow travellers and then went to Stephanie's apartment where Mr Rosanna and I actually chilled out by the pool for a couple of hours in the late afternoon sunshine.  It was definitely an eye-opener when you see how the locals and ex-pats live in high-rise apartments with their Phillipino or Indonesian female helpers to look after the kids and do all the housework.  It is a different life, I'm not sure that it's necessarily better, just very different to life here in Melbourne where so much of what we do is very hands-on.
Stephanie's apartment complex
Stephanie took us and her family to another local hole in the wall seafood restaurant that night and it was one of the best meals I've ever had.  Probably all the more delicious given Mr R and I did an incredible amount of walking in the time we were there and were ravenous most of the time!  Seriously, while the interior was extremely basic - the food was amazing.  We loved it and had a great time going somewhere most westerners wouldn't even know existed, let alone visit.
Tung Chung, Lantau Island
After our meal, we went to Discovery Bay - another area on Lantau Island where many ex-pats live due to the relatively low-rise apartments (three or four storey), very stylish piazza and pier lined with waterfront restaurants lit up at night with fairy lights - it was all quite lovely and peaceful.  Hong Kong Disneyland is also in Discovery Bay so it's a great location for a family holiday.  Mr Rosanna and I then caught a larger ferry all the way back to Hong Kong island.  More on the second half of our travels in tomorrow's post

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