Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Hong Kong Part Two

Wow, seems like weeks ago that I was in Hong Kong but I only left two days ago! After my last post, my sister in law arrived, and as it was her first visit we did a lot of touristy stuff including Ngong Ping 360, TST (night & day), the Museum of Art, Star Ferry, The Peak, Mong Kok, Goldfish/Pet St, Flower Market St, Fa Yuen St Market, Temple St Market, Langham Place, Cat St, SoHo, the Mid Level Escalators, the tram, Repulse Bay, Stanley... pretty much most of the major sights.

We only had three days so I thought it was going to be pretty hectic, and indeed we were out pretty much all day most days and exhausted ourselves thoroughly by the end! However it seems that it's actually not too difficult to see all the major sights within just two days, thanks mainly to the highly efficient public transport system and how close everything is to each other I think...

Anyway, for those of you thinking of visiting HK as a tourist, a few tips:

The 'Symphony of Lights' from TST
One word - lame. I mean, one of my friends had already told me how unimpressive it was so I had low expectations, but I was still surprised at how feeble it all seemed... Basically, some of the lights on some of the buildings in Central will flash in time with music, and occasionally there are some spotlights and lasers active as well. Unfortunately not enough of the buildings are involved, and they really cheaped out on the soundtrack (at least the night I was there). It was like a cheesey midi from a 90s website that is blaring at full volume, and you can't switch it off even though you really want to! They really could learn a lesson or two from the Bellagio fountains in Vegas, which is by far the best public light/music display I've ever seen - they used opera, and simple white lighting. Basically, if you don't manage to get to TST at 8pm... don't worry, you didn't really miss anything.

Street Markets
As I mentioned in the previous post, please avoid Ladies Market at all costs as it's a huge rip-off! A much better value one is Fa Yuen St in Mong Kok for things like clothes, handbags and souvenirs. Or if you're looking for electronics, you can't go past Apliu St market, which is still great value for things like mobile phone accessories, torches, camera tripods, travel power adaptors, etc. Temple St was not too bad as well, though one of the hawkers was a bit aggressive when it came to flogging her wares. Good for trying a claypot rice, street style.

I was quite surprised to discover that most of my relatives didn't know the major HK museums are free on Wednesdays - this includes the Museum of Art, Heritage Museum, Science Museum, the Dr Sun Yat Sen Museum, and the Museum of Coastal Defense. I especially recommend the Museum of Art in TST, we caught a free English guided tour and it was pretty awesome, so much better to have an expert explaining stuff to you that would normally be a bit dry... A nice summary of all the museums is here.

The Peak
Half the point of this is the tram ride up to the top, and the rest is the view, but if you want to save some money either way, make sure you don't buy the admission fee for the observation deck, because guess what, you can get pretty much the same view for free if you go to the top floor of the old shopping centre called The Peak Galleria. They certainly don't make it obvious, but if you somehow manage to get of the tower complex, walk outside and go into the old pinkish/beige building (with the Starbucks on the ground floor), just keep going up the escalators until you can't get any higher, to your left there should be the childcare centre (I know, it's weird they have one up there) and the door just to the side of it will lead you to a huge (and often deserted) deck where you can get a beautiful, pretty much unobstructed view of HK. And the deck on the other side (the more obvious door) will actually give you a view of the other side of the island, though this can only be enjoyed during the day. Another way to keep it even cheaper is take the bus instead of the tram, however I wouldn't advise it for those prone to motion sickness!

That's it for now, next up will be a wee summary of my short time in Singapore.

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