A recent work trip took me to the vibrant city of Hong Kong. After attending to business for the first 3 days of the week, I took the opportunity to take a quick break and make a holiday of the rest (thanks to generous bosses). I also wanted to honour the promise I made to myself last year: One single holiday a year. I am glad I did.
No doubt HK is a very safe and convenient city for all travellers and more so for a single woman. But, what is really striking about the city is the contrast it presents of the old and new. The modern and the traditional. The west and the east. The busy and the relaxed.
One can enjoy the serenity of the many Buddhist, Chinese temples, nunneries, and gardens in the morning, get a semi-Ariel view of the city and Kowloon island from the peak or the IFC mall late afternoon/evening and then retire to one of the many restaurants and bars in Lan Kwai Fong, in the night, to take in the buzz and energy.
A perfect place for the gypsy in you.
So, map in hand, I headed off to the various places I had shortlisted: Many on the map and a few off it. Being my first time in the city, I wanted to see the usual recommendations and the not so usual ones. This post, I hope, will help the first or second time visitors to HK. After that, you are on your own.
Usual recommendations are to take a ride on the star ferry at Victoria harbour and watch the light show from there, Causeway bay and Jardine’s Crescent for shopping, a walk around Chungking mansions, an old, cramped building housing around 4000 immigrant Asians, Africans, cheap restaurants and shops (again, nothing noteworthy for people from Asia, who can see such buildings in their home countries), and Hong Kong park, a lush, well made urban park, right in the middle of the city.
Once done with this list, I moved on to the lesser visited/not so visited places. I had 4 days and a huge list, but I will write about the ones I like liked the most.
Some of the other things you can try: Ride the mid-level escalators (the world’s longest outdoorescalator) right to the top and walk around the botanical garden or visit the Jamai Mosque, enroute. Visit the Victoria Park on the weekend when all the Filipinos and locals are out with families and there is a lot of singing, dancing and laughter. Have a meal at cha chan teng, one of the few surviving old style restaurants, which have now become a cult thing. Walk around Nathan Road if you like high street brands. Visit the Marine Police HQ, which has now been turned into a hip commercial plaza, thankfully with the appeal intact. Pay a visit to the Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple. And lastly, stop over at the Man Mo temple, after walking up the street and looking at some of the oldest surviving housing structures - - blue house, green house and orange house.
A few things I still have to do the next time in HK: Visit the West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade for some great view of the sunset. Get a suit tailored for myself. Visit the peak in the evening, before sunset. Visit the temple of the 1000 Buddhas. And attend free Tai Chi classes on the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade in the mornings.
Hong Kong does not have a lot of history left as they were all broken down to make fancy buildings and infrastructure. But, the efforts are on from the past few years, to save the few that are standing. While the modern, glitzy parts are great and is a model for a lot of countries to learn from, history is what makes a city attractive. While you can see the love for fashion, glamour and many things Korean and Western, the old traditional places, markets and people is what make the city striking. For me atleast.
If you want to see the old and the new interspersed beautifully, get ready to sweat (in the humidity) and walk around a lot, to explore this fascinating city. The fact that I could do the walking, exploring, carrying, eating and drinking on my own, without being harassed or leered at or disturbed in any way, added to the excitement.
And remember ladies, no heels or chappals. Yes, it is a glamorous city, but if you love your feet and back, wear those traditional sports shoes!
This blog was first published on Gypsy Feet. Gypsy Thoughts.