13 December 2010

Hong Kong (March 2010)

Color-coded Cab service at HK Airport
So in March this year I decided to join a friend of mine who was off to Hong Kong on business. This was not my first time to the far east but definitely my first time to Hong Kong. Saying I was excited was certainly an understatement. I flew Emirates Airlines which ofcourse meant flying via Dubai. So in other words, I first flew 9hours to Dubai, transit for about 3 hours and then roughly another 6hours to Hong Kong. I love traveling, but hate flying, unless its business class ofcourse (lol). So the flight was long and we arrived at Hong Kong airport at about 11pm local time. I was exhausted and was hoping that the service at passport control was going to be a swift one. Well, service was way faster than i had expected and that was just the start of my expectations being exceeded in Hong Kong. They have a really cool taxi system which is governed by colors, almost like following the trains on a subway in Europe. I stayed in the Kowloon district of HK (about 30min driving), so I was off in a red cab!  

HK's Kowloon District
We stayed at the Grand Kowloon Hotel which not only was amazing, but was on the infamous Hong Kong Harbour which meant we had awesome views from our rooms. The service was great and speedy as well and in no time we were all settled in our rooms. So far I was loving HK! I was lucky to enjoy good weather all of the 6 days that I was there despite the weather report predicting rain. The Kowloon district is quite small I felt, which was good because traveling to the malls and shops was simple. The hotel had a daily shuttle which took us to and from every 30min which was great! I loved Hong Kong for various reasons but the 3 things that stood out the most was the city was unbelievably clean, no dirt or even little papers in the streets. Secondly, it was very hard to find a dirty car as well. Its as if car washes didn't charge to wash cars there! All the cars no matter which parts of the city I was in was always clean. And then thirdly, absolutely no signs of poverty anywhere, no beggars, no street kids, nothing! Especially considering that China is so close by, I'd have expected it. 

Hong Kong Harbour (view from my hotel room)
With regards to shopping, in comparison to South Africa, Hong Kong is not cheap but not really expensive compared to places like Milan or the rest of Europe really. The malls are really nice and they basically have all the big names you'd expect to see on Oxford street, Bond street and 5th Avenue. I really like the fact that they too have all these wonderful stores on the road as well as in the malls unlike back home where big name stores are found in the malls only. Generally one feels safe almost everywhere you go with absolutely no sense of feeling threatened in any way at all, despite the lack of any visible policing. I guess coming from South Africa one tends to take note of these things. Language barrier was not too much of a hassle as most of the stores and places I went to the staff spoke English and were generally quite pleasant and helpful. 

On Friday I attended the local mosque in Kowloon and was quite impressed to see there was quite a large Islamic community living in the district, mostly Pakistanis and Indians tho, but impressed still nonetheless. The mosque was nothing shy of beautiful as well with its marble pillars and walls. 

Malick and I
My travel buddy Malick and I met up with his Chinese client who was kind enough to show us around to certain dining hotspots and all I can say is ... Damn!!! these people eat weird things! but hey, when in Rome right? (lol). Our new designated tour guide/client took us to a restaurant inside a very fancy shopping mall. I cant remember the place's name for lack of being able to pronounce it but what a spread! There didn't seem to be a starter, main course, desert kind of layout but more like a tit-bit setting. Foods varied from Shark Fin (eeuww!!!) that looked like 2minute noodles to a, I have to admit, not half bad Abalone in some sort of sauce serving. There were some other foods that I never attempted to try out, due to the fact that they just looked inedible, but hey! the watermelon juice was awesome (lol). 

Shark Fin Soup

Abalone in sauce

After dinner that night, our Chinese friend told us about a little island called Macau which was a 45minute boat ride from HK harbour and after checking that visas were given on arrival we were on our way. The boat ride was cool, costs about $300 (HK dollars) and felt like taking a local flight on a small airline carrier. Macau is sort of like the Las Vegas of Asia. Many huge casinos, all the big names like MGM and Starworld are there. So in other words... it's a gambling mecca! Ofcourse we tried our hand at a few games of roulette, but I was way more intrigued by "Craps". I'd always seen people playing craps in the movies but back home in Cape Town none of the casinos have Craps available. So in just about short of 2hours we were up $4000Hk... woohoo!!! But, the compulsive gamblers as we soon came find out we are, gave it all back in a few short hours. So after that and a midnight snack at the local 24hour MacDonalds we were back on the boat and arrived in HK at about 7am. I always believed in coming home early in the morning rather than late at night (lol). 
Casino in Macau
Casino in Macau
That Saturday morning on our return from Macau we slept most of the day away and was also busy packing as our flight back home was that Saturday night. In conclusion my trip to Hong Kong was way too short, I'd love to go back there because there's so much more I'd still want to experience in HK. Hong Kong might not be a cliched tourist destination like a tropical getaway but I would definitely recommend adding it to your "must see" list. There's quite a number of things and pics I would like to still add to this post but I'll leave that for another time. So watch this space... :-)

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