I visited Hong Kong recently. It was just for a day, but I really enjoyed the trip. Hong Kong is one of the few countries that Indians can visit without a visa. Unlike Thailand where you get an on-arrival visa, here there is nothing printed on your passport indicating that you’ve visited Hong Kong. Instead they give you a small slip of paper which says you’re allowed to stay there for two weeks. I took an early flight out from Tokyo and reached Hong Kong at 5 30 am. The Hong Kong airport is quite big and it took me at least 15-20 minutes to reach the immigration counter.
Once I was done with the immigration procedures, I took the airport express from the Hong Kong airport to the Hong Kong station. It costs 100 Hong Kong Dollars (HKD) and takes 24 minutes. The Hong Kong airport for those who don’t know is built on reclaimed land from the sea. I thought the train ride from the airport to Hong Kong station was interesting. One of the first things you notice in Hong Kong are the mountains and hills surrounding it. It came as a pleasant surprise to me because I had imagined Hong Kong to be quite similar to Singapore or Tokyo but the view of the mountains was quite refreshing. When the train ride started it was the sea on one side and the mountains on the other. After a while the train went through a long tunnel for a few minutes and suddenly when it came to the other side we entered the Hong Kong city with huge skyscrapers everywhere. The difference seemed surreal. It kind of reminded me of the movie Hunger Games and the train ride from the village to Capitol
As many other times before, I forgot to change the time in my watch and since Japan is an hour ahead I assumed it was 7 30 AM but actually it was only 6 30 AM. So I left early from the airport thinking I was getting late. It seemed to me like shops and restaurants open only by around 8 30 or 9 in Hong Kong. I was desperately looking for some place to have some coffee and breakfast but it looked like nothing was open! I walked quite a bit before I could find a restaurant that was open. It was a taiwanese restaurant. They had nice dumplings.
I decided to buy a one day pass from the Big Bus Tour company. It was a good decision I think. They operate in three routes around Hong Kong. And each route takes about 1.5 to 2 hours if you don’t get off at any place in between. I got off in a few places to look around. The bus started from the Pier and the first place I got off was Victoria Peak. It’s the highest mountain in the Island and from there you get a really good view of the city. There is a really cool tram that you can take to go up the hill. The ride takes about 10 minutes and it is quite a steep climb up. The view from the top of the peak is breathtaking. The sky terrace which is on top of the Peak tower (a building at the peak) offers the best 360 degree view of the city. The whole city can be seen from there. When I came back down, I saw a huge queue for the tram. It was a good thing I went there early.
Next I stopped for the Sampan Ride. It is a ride on the sampans. There are apparently people who still live on the boats in that place. The boat I went in was small and was operated by an elderly lady. There were only 6 of us in total in the boat. The ride was very nice. There was a floating restaurant on the way. The lady asked if I wanted to take a photo in front of it and I gladly obliged. She did a really good job of turning the boat around so the floating restaurant was exactly in the centre behind me.
One thing I realised about Hong Kong was that there were many older tall buildings among the new buildings. This was very interesting to me because in Tokyo you don’t really come across that many buildings that look old, especially in the main commercial areas. But in Hong Kong it looked like for every ten buildings that were new and modern looking, there was one building that looked old, with many having window air conditioners. I wondered if it was because Hong Kong is a much older city than Singapore or Tokyo. The British occupied Hong Kong after the First Opium war (1839-42) and later took many parts of the island and new territories for lease from China in 1898. Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 when the lease expired.
I got back to the Pier at around 1 PM and then took the ferry across. It was a very short ride. Once on the other side I went hunting for another restaurant for lunch. I found a local restaurant and ordered some kind of flat noodles. It had too much oil in it. The taste was ok. After this I was waiting for the next bus at a junction. There was an Indian guy trying to talk to strangers and was asking them something. At first I thought he was a pimp or something. But later it looked like he was asking people if they wanted a tailor made suit. It was strange. Next I got on the bus again for a tour around Kawloon. By the time I got on this bus I was actually really tired and slept for about an hour on the bus. From this route you can see some amazing views of the harbour.
I took the Airport Express back from Kawloon station to Hong Kong Airport. It was a long day, but a day well spent. Even though Hong Kong is like many other cities, it has it’s own charm. The mountains and the sea that are intertwined with the city make it unique. I definitely want to go there again someday to spend a few more days just walking around and getting to know the city more.