36 Hours in Hong Kong
To celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary my husband thought it would be good to spend the day on the Pearl River in China (very appropriate)
Although I had always had a desire to visit the Terracotta Army the Pearl River is very much in the South, so we planned a more rural tour of the country. First stop was Hong Kong from where we would take a train to Guangzhou and start our adventure, but that is a different story.
First, I had 36 hours to show my husband where I had spent a period of my childhood. We did the tourist things – funicular train to Victoria Peak, night markets, street food and ‘real’ Chinese restaurants.
I had anticipated that the territory would be different, when I was there as a teenager it was a British Colony, American Soldiers spent time here away from the conflict in Vietnam and the poverty amongst refugees from other countries was much in evidence. Now returned to China the islands and Kowloon were bound to be different – surely?
Well, yes there were visible changes – so many more high rise buildings around the harbour, more modern buses, even more shopping malls yet so much was not changed – the crowds, noise and bustle were as I remembered, as were the small tea houses, crammed markets and street traders (my husband was nearly persuaded to be fitted for a new suit ‘ready in 24 hours, Sir?’ before I intervened). And the Star Ferries – our commonest form of transport in 1967 and in 2017
On our first evening we decided to eat in a restaurant on the Kowloon side near our hotel as we were slowing down due to ‘jet lag’. We were reminded that Hong Kong is known as the most vertical of the worlds cities when entering the restaurant of our choice and realised that the ‘front desk’ was just a doorway – we were heading for the 7th floor! A real traditional eating house with great views over the harbour, we were the only tourists which was encouraging – always a good sign if the locals eat there too.
We had forgotten an electrical adaptor and whilst not needing one in Hong Kong we thought we would need one as we travelled through China so decided to risk a purchase at a night market. A great experience if you ever have the chance. Noisy and chaotic yet very business-like. We were not overly jostled by the traders and found it simple to explain what we were looking for.
Once at the correct stall we were offered a variety at various prices. I choose a multi-country one which cost approx. £20.00 – no haggling was encouraged as I was informed it was a high-quality product and the price was already fair. I took the risk and bought it – turned out a very wise investment and has proved useful back in the UK when foreign visitors have arrived without an adaptor for their iPhone chargers etc.
Next day we went over to HK Island and travelled the Peak Train up to Victoria Peak – I swear I had been on that train ‘back in the day’ as it looked so old and so familiar.
The Views from the Peak have not overly changed although it is a much more organised tourist area with pathed walkways, tourist stalls and more eating opportunities than I remember. Even though it was busy on the paths it was not crowded and so worth the time in the queue waiting for the train upwards. We were there on a Saturday, I understand it is not so busy on weekdays.
We had a quick lunch then headed back down to lower levels and began looking for the ‘oldest tea house in Hong Kong’ which our guide book recommended. On the way to Lin Heung Tea House we walked through many small but busy markets. Amazing how many stalls can be fitted into the tightest of spaces, sell an enormous number of different items yet each be so visible, it was easy to identify fruit from flowers from vegetables, from fish etc. On such a small island space is obviously at a premium and every nook and cranny utilised. Below is a photo of my mother walking through a market placed on a set of steps near Aberdeen Street in 1967 – the market is still there today.
Entering the Tea House was like entering a different world, nothing like an orderly British Tea Room at all. You are sat at the nearest table which has the vacant number of seats you request so we were sat at a table of 8 – lucky for us our new companions seemed to know what to do so we could copy them.
Basically, you help yourself to the Dim Sum passing by on trolleys and have your card marked so that you can pay the correct bill as you leave. Our difficulty was not knowing what each of the Dim Sum were, my mistake was leaving the first purchases to my husband – he arrived back with Chicken Feet! I appreciate they may be a delicacy, but I could not put something in my mouth that needed a pedicure. Anyway – they were only a few and not filling so he managed to eat them all. The next choices were much tastier although I did not know what it was I was eating, then finally we had Lotus seed dumplings – gorgeous and so worth the trauma at the start.
I am not noted to be a tea drinker and, as you would expect the tea came regularly throughout the meal so, all I can say is I enjoyed it. Fresh, hot, not strong yet full of flavour.
I have since heard the Wellington Street/Aberdeen Street area on the island is marked for redevelopment, so the Tea House is threatened with closure – go before it is too late.
We finished off our manic run around by having dinner at a Street Diner – literally sitting on small chairs at a small table (think nursery furniture) on the street whilst cyclists and pedestrians whizzed by. Drinks were kept chilled in vast open chest fridges swimming in ice and food arrived quicker than you could say ‘instant’, there was an atmosphere of pure chaos yet there was also a sense of order. It all tasted fresh and wholesome and I felt that I belonged.
We stayed at a hotel in Kowloon and one of the first things I noticed was the sculpture in the Lobby. There were also smaller sculptures and art works nearby, although to be truthful I was more interested in checking in then heading out to really pay attention.
Arriving back at the hotel on our first evening we were late so used a short cut through the lower ground level that during the day is a Coffee shop/Bar. As we walked through the area to the lifts I noted that the walls had some noticeable works of art displayed. ‘The walls look like an art gallery’ I said to my husband, then noticed that is exactly what it was. Further investigations revealed that the hotel does house established and emerging artists.
Follow the link for some examples of art on show or call in for a drink and see for yourself. The hotel is called The Eaton Hotel and is on Nathan Road, Kowloon
My favourite is a Statue by Chen Wenling called ‘Childhood’, I thought it so expressive of fun that despite its size I knew it was a representation of the joy that childhood should be even before I discovered its title. I said ‘hello’ every time I passed.
There was more to Hong Kong than I recall, although I was young and spent most of the time at school I guess. So much had changed and yet, so much was the same – the same could be said for the girl on the statue.
And so on to the main part of the adventure…