Hong Kong has long been on my travel bucket list and this holiday was a walk down memory lane as I was travelling with my father-in-law who was born and raised in Hong Kong, though he hadn’t been back in over 30 years.
This meant that I probably saw a completely different side to Hong Kong than the usual tourist areas. Staying on the Kowloon side in the Shangri-La hotel was really convenient for getting across to Hong Kong Island via the Star Ferry but also provided a great view of the harbour from the tea/breakfast room. As we had early booking on this hotel we received a free upgrade to their Horizon Club, which gave us access to food and drink between 6-8pm, including alcohol.
Our stay in the city focused on the places and buildings that my father-in-law remembered from his years living there. What surprised us the most was that almost all of the places and buildings still existed; including the old Kowloon fire station where he lived whilst his father was in the Hong Kong fire service. Although the building is still standing, it is now a high end boutique shop, nevertheless he was still able to describe to us in detail what it was originally like in his time there. We took a few pictures to commemorate the event:
Old fire station
After looking round the fire station, we headed up to the Marine Police headquarters, a prominent white colonial building sitting up on a hill. This was a fun side trip for my father-in-law who, due to the rivalry between the police and the fire service, had never been allowed to go in. There’s not much to see inside but it does house a few nice looking restaurants including one serving dim sum.
Using the Star ferry to cross to Hong Kong Island was great and a very easy process.
BET tip *You will need change in order to buy your ticket to use the ferry*
*You don’t receive a paper ticket but a chip*
Once on Hong Kong Island we took a tram ride out towards Happy Valley, where you can watch the horse racing (which unfortunately was not on at a convenient time when I was there). The trams are a great way to travel through the city and really evokes a sense of nostalgia. The trams are quite old and small so be careful when travelling on them and be sure to hold on!
BET tip *You don’t need to pay before you get on the tram only on the way out*
Getting off the tram at Happy Valley we found a really nice French style café where we warmed ourselves up with some tea and beer!
After some more walking around the city and freshening ourselves up at the hotel, we headed out to Hutong restaurant. This restaurant was recommended to me by a work colleague who had previously lived in HK and it was completely worth it. I booked a table by the window, which provided great views over the harbour and a front row seat to the light show which takes place every evening around 8pm. The food is northern Chinese and we tried some lovely dishes including sweet and sour fish, beef in broth (which was extremely spicy) and dumplings. The service is excellent and you can also reserve a table where you sit on the floor (Japanese style). The restaurant was also great at sorting out some birthday desserts for my in-laws who are both celebrating a significant birthday this year!
Day two took us to the Peak. After some very organised queuing we boarded the funicular to the top and the ride certainly provided some great, if not scary views over Hong Kong. The Peak is a massive tourist trap so be warned that it will be very crowded and you will have to walk past a lot of touristy shops before you reach the viewing platform. The views from here are amazing; on one side you look out over the city and the harbour and on the other you look over the outlying islands that surround Hong Kong. After the viewing platform we walked around the Peak which I would thoroughly recommend as it’s a very easy walk providing panoramic views of Hong Kong.
That evening we had drinks at Sevva which is a rooftop bar with lovely views over the skyscrapers before we headed to Italian Bistecca Steak House where we had great steak and wine, despite the outside of the building looking more like a building site!
Our final full day we took the ferry out to Cheung Chau Island which takes approximately 1 hour. This was the island that my father-in-law used to holiday on, it didn’t have any cars on then and still doesn’t. Everyone gets around by bikes or walking, although walking can be quite interesting trying to dodge all the speeding bikes with rusty brakes! After finding out who to speak to to hire bikes (I asked in the local convenience store) and after a bit of haggling we were off.
BET tip *Although there are signposts around the island it is still quite easy to get lost/take a wrong turn. Makes sure you have a rough plan of where you want to go*
*There are flat paths along the coast but the hills are really steep so make sure you are physically fit to tackle these hills*
The cycle ride was interesting, especially as it started to rain, but also because at various points we ended up having to carry our bikes down stairs, past people’s houses when the path we thought we should take actually didn’t exist or was blocked by a scary looking dog! There isn’t loads to see on the island but it’s quite nice to experience a different way of life and to explore. On a clear day the viewpoints provide a fantastic view across the bay back to Hong Kong Island.
Hong Kong is definitely a place I will be returning to in the future and lets hope that the landscape still hasn’t changed that much (but hopefully I will return within the next 30 years!)