Monday, June 9, 2014

Travel Notes: Two Days in Hong Kong - Day 1


I booked my recent trip to Bali through a travel agent, so I was easily able to extend my layover in Hong Kong to two days, so that we could explore the city a bit. K and I landed on a Sunday afternoon after an overnight flight from London. The best way to get from the airport to Hong Kong Island is by the express train - it takes only 24 minutes to get to Central Station and costs only HK $100 (just under £8 or US $13) each way.

First arriving in Central is somewhat disorienting - you find yourself surrounded by skyscrapers above, with thin double decker buses and trams cross the busy, colourful streets in front of you. I'm not sure what I expected Hong Kong to be, but I found it a surprising mix of Western financial centre and Chinese city - although, I must admit that this was my first time on the Asian continent.






This was also my first time trying out airbnb, which I would now absolutely use again! K and I rented this apartment in Soho, which was super well located, very cosy and the perfect little foothold in a great part of town. I would definitely recommend staying in Central or the Mid-levels when staying on Hong Kong Island, given that this allows you to be in close proximity to everything and there are a ton of bars and restaurants and markets. The reason why this part of town is called Mid-levels is immediately apparent once you arrive in the city - Hong Kong is built on a steep mountinside and this area is literally mid-level. Given the climb, from Central and into Mid-levels there is a really cool outdoor escalator system to save your legs that you can hop on and off at various points. The escalator also provides a great vantage point of the streets below.


By the time we got settled into the flat, it was already early evening, so we went for a few drinks at the Four Seasons pool terrace. That doesn't entirely sound glamorous, particularly when we weren't actually staying at the Four Seasons (when we first walked it, we were sure we would be rumbled and chucked out on the street), but the pool terrace overlooks Victoria Harbour and across to Kowloon, at the view is amazing. There was a fair amount of pollution that night, making the air quite smoggy and limiting the visibility, but we still had a great view of all of the buildings down the coast, the skyscrapers lining the Harbour on the Kowloon side and of the boats going by. I even saw my first junk boat! From 8pm, there's a light show on the Kowloon side, called the Symphony of Lights, with light displays on all of the tall buildings.









After a few somewhat overpriced cocktails (normal by London standards, but I was soon to find out the large price variance in Hong Kong), we were hungry. We ended up at a noodle bar, Tsim Chai Kee Noodle on Wellington Street, and ordered noodles with pork and prawn wontons and beef. It was delicious, but it took me roughly 20 minutes to get the hang of slurping up the very long and tangled noodles with my chopsticks. The restaurant was very communal, with shared tables, and a few people were hesitant to sit with two obvious Westerners - I hope that wasn't down to my awkwardness with chopsticks.




After dinner, we wandered back up through Soho to Staunton Street, where I had been told that all the expats would found.



That was absolutely accurate. With bars with names like Yorkshire Pudding, it was obvious that this was the Western expat neighbourhood. We had a few drinks at Staunton's wine bar and marvelled at the expat lifestyle through the increasing haze of our jet lag. It was a Sunday night, but everyone seemed to be drinking like it was a Friday and work was very far away from them. We came back up to this neighbourhood the next night, as it was really close to our apartment, and the story was the same on a Monday night.



I quickly learned that noodles are not a very hearty meal, but more of a snack, and I quickly went looking for some late night (OK, on jet lag, it was roughly 10pm) munchies. One of the things that I love to do while travelling is to look around grocery stores in other countries - I think it's fascinating. In Hong Kong, you can get almost anything in green tea flavour, including matcha  Oreos. I settled for a bag of Doritos.


That ends the first evening in Hong Kong - more on Day 2 coming soon.


(All photographs original to Something Pretty on the Side)

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