Second stop: Hong Kong & Macau
If you want the quick version of this trip check out my Youtube video:
Hong Kong and Macau: Four Countries, Three Weeks
Okay, I’m going to say it… I didn’t really get the fuss about Hong Kong. I know. I was surprised too. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy certain things. It’s clear from my video that we had some good times but Macau really stole the show. I think particularly with travel blogs, do we really pay attention if we say we ‘love’ every single place we visit. That’s why I feel I need to be honest about Hong Kong here. Unlike the food, which was great, the place was a little bland. I know many who love HK and that is absolutely fine. Just, for me it was a haven of shops, a consumerist dream with little else to offer. Overall we felt underwhelmed considering its glowing reputation.
I recognise our experience of Hong Kong will perhaps have been influenced by our terrible accommodation. Even though accom. is just a base (you had no choice, living in the box we were staying in), coming back to ‘Chungking Mansions’ was tiresome. Just don’t do it. It’s cheap, yes, but let’s just say you get what you pay for. I got sick very quickly of walking through that place receiving inappropriate comments which were hurled just in the short distance from our room to outside. This unfortunately happens everyday for many ladies and it was almost guaranteed every time I took a step in that place. I felt uncomfortable. I have stayed in basic places before, even without hot water and still tried to not let it effect my opinion, making the most out of the ‘experience.’I can’t blame the accommodation fully for our reaction nor ignore it.
It was a seedy area to stay in and I’m sure if I’d stayed in a decent hotel, my outlook on HK would perhaps have been brighter. But, even outside of Chungking there was a distinct feeling of unfriendliness. Macau on the other hand was wonderful. We needed that day trip and it was without doubt the highlight of our stay here. Here is our itinerary for HK.
1. Arrived at ‘Chungking Mansions.’
Whomever came up with ‘mansion’ to describe this place is extremely ironic. It’s made up of tiny hotel rooms. I repeat. TINY. If you’re looking for knock off ‘phone cases, handbags, watches…cocaine sir?’ (this was offered to my boyfriend) then this is is the place for you. Dodgy as hell.
2. The Symphony of Lights
Okay, so we left our terrible digs, but its okay because HK is going to be amazing. Let’s start with the most famous light show, ‘The Symphony of Lights.’ I don’t know if people in HK just have a funny sense of humour but yet again, this had an ironic title. Was I looking the wrong way? A more accurate description would be ‘The Symphony of A light.’ No plural. It felt like there was one building doing all the work. It was nice to see the junk boats but honestly, what an anti-climax for an incredible setting. It reminded me of those really old rides at Universal or Disney World that they cling onto for nostalgia, when you really just know it’s long overdue to say farewell.
3. Pulse 3D Light Show
Here comes my first positive comment on HK! YAY. Luckily, after ‘The Symphony of Lights’ came an impromptu light show which blew it right out of the water. Projected onto a huge screen with lights, animation, music, the show was really great and got me pumped up for our stay. Positive attitude was back on board. It was only the first evening after-all.
1. Ngong Ping 360
This is where you take a cable car across to see the ‘Big Buddha’ on Lantau island. It was really foggy so we didn’t get a great panoramic view, but we still had a laugh about how scary it was. The village leading over to the main sight is completely built for tourists but once you’re past that and seeing the Big Buddha and Po Lin monastery, it’s all good.
2. Yat Lok – Michelin Star Restaurant
I know what you’re thinking. How come you’re staying in CK Mansions but can afford to dine at a Michelin Star Restaurant? Well, whilst Yat Lok has one Michelin Star their prices are really cheap. It’s extremely local. You sit in, eat and leave. No messing about. It’s far from what you would associate with Michelin Star in a traditional sense. The service was unfriendly but the goose is great. Definitely worth a visit.
3. Victoria Peak
This is the place to get your photos of HK at night. I thought the tram was the best part about this to be honest. The view is nice but I wasn’t ‘wowed.’ It’s a must-see in HK so I wouldn’t miss it out, but don’t be expecting too much.
1. Mongkok Ladies Market
Don’t worry gentlemen there are some shops for you. This place has incredibly cheap clothes. It reminded me of Korea with its array of character shops, even if its something mundane like a tape measure or apron. As long as it has Totoro’s face on, I will buy it. Those shops are my weakness. It was great though. I enjoyed pottering around the place, eating egg tarts and probably spending too much money.
This area was really quirky. It reminded me of a sophisticated Northern Quarter (in Manchester, U.K.) It’s a trendy area with small bars, street art and great restaurants. We went up the largest escalator in the world which runs through this area and searched for a pie restaurant. When I say pie, I don’t mean those sweet, dessert pies. Oh no. I mean proper, British, savoury pie. To anyone who knows me, this is a big deal. I haven’t had a good pie for a year and a half until I ate at The Globe. For two northerners who’ve been living in Korea, it was bloody marvellous. Momentous even.
Day 4: Macau
This day we took a trip to Macau. Firstly, make sure you book your tickets in advance, especially on weekends because it gets very busy. It’ll state on the ticket to arrive 10-15 mins before the ferry departs. What we didn’t realise is that you really need to start going into security check an hour before to be safe. It took a long time and we were rushed through immigration to get it on time. Wiping the sweat from my brow just reliving it.
1. Main Island
Macau has Chinese and Portuguese influences which is really unusual! You can see European buildings such as the cathedral or The Facade which is next door to a temple. Really bizarre mix. We just wandered around the local area. We went from watching Tai Chi to then bumping into some European country dancers. Summed the place up really.
The otherside of the island. This is where you will find the casinos. Casinos are big business here and I’ve heard it makes more money than Vegas. Gambling is banned in China, so many tourists come to place their bets. I’ve never been to Las Vegas but it has exactly what you’d expect of casinos. Excess and luxury are the words for this area. We wanted to try our luck in the casino until we realised you have to place a minimum bet of 200 dollars. Such novices.
3. The House of Dancing Water
This was without doubt the highlight of this trip and definitely up there with our top experiences. Imagine Cirque du Soleil meets a Tim Burton film. That is how I can only describe the House of Dancing Water show. It’s incredible. A spectacle of acrobatic, physical performers but with magical and eerie effects. It’s a must see from me. If you’re going to Macau, you cannot miss this.
1. Hong Kong Museum of History
It’s free which is good but we were a little bored with the start of the exhibition. It’s initially prehistoric history and artifacts. However, it improves and there is a section about the Japanese occupation which was really interesting.
2. Eating Pie…(again)
So, it was our last day and we didn’t know when we were going to eat pie again. It makes us happy because pie is life. Remember that China trip with school I spoke about? If not, you can read about that in my Postcards from Shanghai post. Well, I met my friend, who lives and works in Hong Kong. We reunited in Kyoto, Japan 6 years after he returned to China. Since then, we’ve met up in the U.K and now HK. It was really great to see him. So, we returned to The Globe and ate pie together. The waiter recognised us, embarrassingly.
Thus endeth the HK trip.
Don’t miss tomorrow for my black and white photos from HK & Macau.
Next in the ‘Postcards’ series will be Kaohsiung and Tainan, Taiwan. 안녕 (Bye)