This past month, we spent 36 hours to experience Hong Kong before heading to India.
If you are flying across the Pacific to any of the Asian countries, Hong Kong is a perfect spot for a layover visit. This is a big city with hundreds of huge skyscrapers, well-made main roads and beautiful water views.
Hong Kong is made up of several little islands. We chose to stay on Kowloon Island, away from the hustle-bustle of the main Hong Kong Island. We booked a night at the Intercontinental Hotel Grand Stanford and insisted on a room with a harbor view (which we got!). This hotel was centrally located in an area called Tsim Sha Tsui. Here is also where we met Bimbo, the Lamborghini.
Here’s a short write-up about our little adventure:
On the first day, we took the Star Ferry across from Kowloon Island to Hong Kong island. This ferry service was frequent, super cheap and offered gorgeous views of the Hong Kong skyline.
After spending $10 per trip from Edgewater to NYC, the $2 ferry ride seemed like such a deal.
I thought Hong Kong was well-organized. There were bridges for people to walk across main roads, and direction boards every where. We chose to avoid taking a bridge at one time and realised fairly quickly that taking one was perhaps the best thing to do. And did I mention thin and tall buildings?? Beats NYC for sure.
Our first stop was ‘Home – Eat to Live’. This was a vegetarian, organic food restaurant with some pretty delicious food. We found it on the website, Happy Cow with great reviews and are happy to report that those reviews were legit.
The smaller streets on both sides of the main roads reminded us of China Town in NYC and in LA. Lots of people, narrow and densely populated roads, many tiny adjoining shops, and lots of vibrant color.
And squatted street musicians at street corners playing hang drums – that looked like upside-down wok pans with little bumps on them. Quite a delightful sound, I must add.
History is everywhere in Hong Kong, and if you go to the right places – you will see culture. We decided to spend our time on Hong Kong Island in an area called Sheung Wan.
One of our stops was the Man Mo Temple on Hong Kong Island. It seemed like a shrine on the street, albeit a popular one. There was a definite whiff of incense outside by the entrance but when we walked in, it was a different story altogether. Incense smoke everywhere, the fragrant smell almost intense in some areas.
The atmosphere was enchanting and trance-like, and despite the smoke and smell, I felt at peace. We bought a packet of incense sticks at the counter – Offering incense during prayer is a ritual we were familiar with – so we did that. It was a beautiful experience.
We picked up water, a bottle of wine and some munchies from a shop near the ferry stop, and once back in the hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui, we ordered Thai fusion food from a nearby restaurant called Nara Thai. What a find!
We have discovered that the best way to explore a city is via public transport. The following day, we decided to hop on a subway to visit the Chi Lin Nunnery on Kowloon Island (a few miles north of where we were staying). The subway was quite easy once we figured out the train map. There were signs everywhere, and the stations were pretty clean.
We did have a slight issue buying tickets because we only had bigger bills and the machines wouldn’t take credit cards. This problem however was an easy fix because every station had a booth/information center where we could buy tickets from a real person.
The Chi Lin Nunnery was one of my favorite places in Hong Kong and a must-see. We got to the nunnery around opening time. This place was basically a big temple with a giant Buddha deity and some other Gods in the complex’s halls. It was serene to hear Buddhist chanting the whole time we were there. The entrance to the monastery had a lovely lotus garden, wooden structures and wonderfully-trimmed shrubs.
Practically next door to the nunnery was the Nan Lin Garden. This spot was peaceful, with a big yellow and orange bridge structure in the middle of the park. There was a shop in the park, a couple of restaurants open for late lunch, a tea house and a pretty waterfall. I would say one could easily spend 2-3 hours in this area – such a respite from city life. I highly recommend this visit.
After the nunnery, we decided to make our way down to Nathan Road – a commercial shopping area with big malls and small shops.
The first thing that caught our eye on the streets were egg puffs. We saw so many people walking around with this food that looked like waffles with goose-bumps! We found a popular spot (hole in the wall, really but on the Michelin Star recommended list), waited in line (my, what a line that was!) and finally got our hands on one. Quite yummy, and a definite thing-to-do in Hong Kong.
In one of the little lanes on Nathan Road, we saw a true jewel of Chinese history: A Cheongsam, hanging on the rack in a tailor’s shop. A Cheongsam is a body-hugging, traditional Chinese dress. It seemed like it would fit my daughter, and she showed some interest, so she decided to try it on. The old lady in the tailor shop was so nice to Anya. And yes, we ended up buying the dress. I am so excited to now have an authentic cheongsam in Anya’s closet.
That afternoon, we continued our walk around Nathan Road, and then walked back to our hotel. It was a long walk back, but worth it.
Before we knew it, our fun time in Hong Kong came to an end. It was time to take the flight to New Delhi! Next time around, we’ll make our way to Lantau Island to see the world’s biggest Buddha and to Victoria Peak – the two things we couldn’t squeeze in our 36-hour visit.