The trip to Kuala Lumpur unleashed the wanderlust in me like nothing else. What city seemed international, had history, great infrastructure and a Disneyland to please my inner child? The answer - Hong Kong!
Cheap thrill – The cheapest tickets were on Malaysia Airlines with a 12 hour transit in Kuala Lumpur, and I had a valid visa! So, after I stepped into KL, saying my hellos to the now familiar city, grabbing a little food, stocking on some mint I only found in Malaysia, I made it to my connecting flight.
Landing at Chek Lap Kok (HKIA) is one of the many things that one can look forward to experiencing in Hong Kong. The fact that you are gliding over water seconds before the wheels hit the tarmac is amazing and a little exhilarating.
Hong Kong is a great city for a solo traveller. The first thing I did after I landed was to pick up a local SIM card and an Octopus Card(similar to the Oyster card in London/EZ-link in Singapore). The card lets you pay for all forms of public transport(buses, trains, trams etc) and lets you shop a little bit too(at 7-11's and the likes). The Airport express high speed train is amazing, albeit a little expensive, it is definitely an experience. Having landed at 7.30 PM, all I did that evening was equip myself with a SIM card and the Octopus card, grab some dinner and crash. AirBnB came to my rescue with inexpensive and fun stay options in the city. 6 Nights in the city(3 different home stays, in prime locations - Causeway Bay and Sham Sui Po) cost me all of INR12000.
Day 1 had to be Disneyland. Something fills your heart with excitement and joy even as you board the Disney train at Sunny Bay, the sight of the castle just has you grinning like a goof! The park is much smaller than the ones in Anaheim and in Orlando and all attractions can be covered comfortably in one day. The Lion King musical and the character parade were the highlights of the day.The most memorable part of the day being watching the parade with the characters on a train, wearing raincoats(cool improvisation to handle the rains!) . I watched all the other musicals and shows as well. Coffee and snacks at the Markethouse Bakery were just what my freezing soul needed that day. Hong Kong gets bearably cold in December, the winds and rains however, make it less comfortable. it is important that you layer up in this city to tackle the winds.
The Peak was the star of day 2. The tram ride to the peak and the stunning views of the city can be reason enough to visit. I spent a lot of time just walking around the CBD, Wan Chai, stumbling upon a few small markets. Shanghai Street, also called Kitchen street was an interesting place to shop - any cooking related contraption/accessory that one may want will be available here.
All my evenings were reserved for The Symphony of Stars, or to just watch the city from the Central Piers, similarly, a few mornings included a quick walk through Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, the splash of green is a treat to the eyes and a great way to start the day.
I stumbled upon Pradasphere, a moving Prada museum because I took the wrong bus! The evolution of this brand and the amazing set up of the museum felt like a bonus.
Lam Tseun wishing trees were the highlight of my third day. While the temple and the wishing tree itself are quite simple and not greatly impressive, the long bus ride showed me so much of this city. The Tin Hau and Man Mo temples are interesting too. The Jade market and Temple Street needed a couple of hours. These markets are only for people who can bargain ruthlessly( if bargaining to bring down something from HKD250 to HKD50 is your idea of fun, have at it!)
The next day was a trip to Macau, visiting the ruins of St Pauls, Jackie Chan's casino and other attractions. Macau requires about 12 hours and can be seen best as part of a guided tour. The Sino-Portuguese accent is the cutest, most heartwarming thing I have heard. Mario, our guide did a brilliant job of describing the population confused by its need for siestas, mananas, coffee, egg tarts and working super hard(they are Chinese too!). The old backalleys and the casinos coexist in harmony.
The ferry took us back to Hong Kong in the evening. The Kowloon ferry terminal, like most other public transport terminals in the city, is a sprawling mall and great for a little indulgence on a budget.
Lantau Island, Ngong Ping 360, the cultural village, Po Lin monastery, Wisdom path and the Ngong Ping Piazza were the agenda for the next day. The cable car ride was amazing - the views of the sea, the airport, the hills and the Giant Buddha were something else. This cultural village is extremely picturesque and calming.
After the spiritual calling, it was time for indulgence, and what city does indulgence better than Hong Kong? The Ozone Bar is situated at the 117th floor of the Ritz, the highest bar in the world and the nicest views of the Harbour(Notice the Oh So British - "harbour"?). The chocolate tortes they offer are delicious. Watching the sun set from the 117th floor is pretty awesome!
My agenda on the penultimate day in this amazing city was to go on the mid-levels escalator(Trust them to come up with an escalator as a form of public transport!), and to just walk around(At IFC mall, and cityscape watching at central Piers). The mid levels escalator has some really interesting shops on the side and some small make shift galleries. The little streets, shops, the quirky restaurants and boutiques(and a Vera Wang just sitting pretty next to all the kitsch!) made my day. I spent the evening walking around Causeway Bay, watching people party and meeting a new friend, someone I had met earlier that week, who introduced me to Sushi and Genmai Sencha and forever changing my life!
The Umbrella revolution/protests were on through the length of my stay, and never once did I feel threatened or unsafe.
I fell in love with this city the second I set foot in it and through the week that I spent in it, it established its place in my heart. Hong Kong is now, my favourite city.