Including travel, our trip took about sixteen days, but was handily split between four locations– not only did this make for an endless variety of sights, sounds, tastes, and memory-making, but it also provides me with an easy way to avoid a marathon recap post (you’re welcome, maybe?).
We left SFO late on the 4th, after having worked a (very distracted) full day and enjoying a customary pre-flight drink. GP was just as excited to fly on the Singapore Airlines A380 as he was to get to Hong Kong (“Look how big the plane is!” “Yes, yes, it’s very big. Take your sleeping pill.”)
We landed in Hong Kong in the early morning, making our way quickly through immigration and to the first in a series of airport-to-hotel car transfers; because we had worked with a travel agent to book our hotels, we wouldn’t have to worry about catching a train, bus, or cab into town. As we drove to our hotel in Kowloon, I tried to make sense of the lighted buildings that soared all around us– with about 7 million people living in this relatively small area, it’s interesting to imagine the daily life of any of them. With only four days in town, we wouldn’t exactly be living like locals, but we’d try to soak in as much of Hong Kong as we possibly could.
After freshening up a little at our hotel (our room wasn’t ready, but we were able to change and not look quite as disheveled as when we stepped off the plane), we headed to Victoria Peak.
The morning was misty, so the views weren’t exactly spectacular, but we were able to appreciate the (very, very) steep tram-climb up the mountain, as well as the blister-inducing walk down (just for me, as GP was wearing appropriate shoes for this activity– I travel with Band Aids because I am an idiot sometimes about shoes). After navigating through the tangle of escalators, stairs, and walkways through the Mid-levels and SoHo, we headed to the hotel for a small break before making our way to Lantau Island.
Having seen subway ads for the Ngong Ping 360 gondolas, we figured it would be easy to find our way to the cable cars that would take us to the peak where the Po Lin monastery and Tian Tan Buddha sit. We found the cableway and were soon on our way over the peaks to the Ngong Ping village, where we could climb the 286 steps to the enormous seated Buddha.
This was the first Buddha of our trip, and an astounding way to start– he’s over 100 feet tall, and a pretty great reward for having climbed all those steps. Once our Buddha-viewing needs were satisfied, we wandered around the monastery, marveled at the huge incense sticks, and finally determined that it was time for some dim sum closer to the hotel.
The next two days of our trip were taken up with amusement parks (yes, this guy is my husband– and I’m happily along for the ride). We hit Hong Kong Disneyland first, rounding out the collection of global Disney parks; with that visit, we had officially visited every single (fully constructed, sorry Shanghai) Disney park on the planet. There is, of course, a full blow-by-blow trip report elsewhere, should you be interested in knowing all the details.
Our next park was Ocean Park, which was more like a Sea World spread over a mountain and waterfront. Each was exciting in its own right, and an interesting way to soak up particular bits of culture (concepts of queueing and personal space, for instance, are rather different from what we’re used to).
The final day of our time in Hong Kong consisted of soaking in as much of the culture as we could. We visited the Hong Kong Heritage Museum and had it mostly to ourselves, I bought an “emergency” pair of leggings in a subway station (I was cold, and thankfully the “one size fits all” included my larger-than-many-Asians hip size), stepped into an enormous market hall, and took a trip across Hong Kong Harbor (and back!) on the historical Star Ferry.
It’s always fun to play the “What’s different about this place? What’s the same?” game, and we continued it here: the sheer number of people is rather different, as is the crowd behavior (there was a fair amount of the ol’ push-and-shove at HK Disneyland, which was a little unsettling), but I think the palpable excitement about an upcoming holiday is nearly universal, especially in big cities. Whether it’s Christmas in New York (hello, pushing and shoving around the Rockefeller Center tree) or Lunar New Year in Hong Kong, there’s something pretty cool about that collective anticipation.
As the Lunar New Year approached, the mood in Hong Kong became more and more festive, with citrus trees festooned in red and gold decorating everything from shopping centers to train stations and, of course, the incense-smoke-filled courtyards of the temples that we visited. It was, for lack of a more insightful word, really special to be in a place that full of joy and anticipation; pretty nice to have a second crack at New Year’s, right?
If these 900 words weren’t enough to satisfy your Hong Kong curiosities, head on over to Flickr for a whole mess of pictures! (If you’re in the mood for a couple amusement park trip reports, may I suggest these two?)