Hong Kong- Shopping, eating and bun festivals…

A hop, skip and a jump and we were in Hong Kong!

We planned a four night stay in Hong Kong before heading to Thailand. I thought it’ll be plenty of time since it’s a small place, right? Wrong! There’s just so much to do (and so much to eat) that I could’ve easily spent a lot longer here.

As it was we had to pick out the bits that we really wanted to do and leave stuff for another visit!

Getting around Hong Kong is easy peasy! We took the airport express train to Kowloon- if you’re travelling with others, get a group ticket instead of a return as it’s a bit cheaper. We didn’t get an octopus card (their version of an Oyster card) as we didn’t plan to use the train enough to make it worth while. Singles are pretty cheap though- ranging from 30p to a few pounds depending on where you want to go.

Our hotel was in Yau Ma Tei on Kowloon- Silka Far East hotel. The location is pretty good as it’s right next to the Temple Street night market and a short walk to the MTR station as well as walking distance to the Ladies Market, goldfish market, and a bunch of specialist shopping areas. We spent our first day just exploring these areas (and managed to buy some new trainers from the sports shoes street) which was great. It gives you a real feel for the city as you see locals (mostly young people) out shopping and dining and generally living life.

Speed of light!

One of the places I had to visit was the fabric/ textiles shopping area. Located around Sham Shui Po MTR station, this area is another places riddled with specialist shopping streets. I was looking for Ki Lung Road in particular. This area is full of wholesale fabric stores, haberdasheries, leather stores… It’s all a bit overwhelming to be honest. I bought a few pieces of fabric from the market sellers there and sent it home via sea. I’m looking forward to sewing them up when I get them in a couple of months! Lol.

Since we were in the area, we decided to try the original Tim Ho Wan restaurant. This is the one which has a Michelin star! So we queued for maybe twenty minutes (quite a long time considering we got there at 2pm on a weekday…), but it was a very nerve wracking wait. But only because we don’t understand Cantonese! Numbers are given out as you come and called out as they’re ready- all perfectly normal except for the fact we had no idea when it was out turn! We ended up hovering right next to the hostess stand to catch a glimpse of where she was on her list in order to keep up! The menu here was slightly different from in Singapore but the main attractions were the same. It’s not really my cup of tea (I still think the dim sum in London is better!) but I like the novelty of having been to the world’s cheapest Michelin star restaurant! Lunch cost less than £10 for the two of us.

Our visit coincided with Buddha’s birthday (6th of May) which incidentally coincides with a bundle of other festivals here in Hong Kong. It was the birthday of a local deity as well as the finale of the Cheung Chau bun scrambling festival. This meant a variety of events going on simultaneously around the islands- we used discoverhongkong.com to figure out when, where and what we were going to do. We decided to just focus on one thing and chose the weirdest event of all… The bun festival of course! The bun festival is only a small part in celebrations on Cheung Chau. There’s also plenty of parades and things that lead up to the big bun finale. The festival originates from a time when a plague was afoot on the island and this festival was a way to appease the ancestors…

The bun competition started at midnight so we decided to catch a late ferry over to Cheung Chau island about an hour from Central ferry terminal on Hong Kong Island. It’s located in a recreation area next to the temple (just follow the crowds!) and entry is by ticket only. Luckily the tickets are free and plentiful- they start giving them out from 10pm- so we grabbed a couple and joined the mile long queue to get in. So the competition involves 12 contestants, a 14 metre tower and plenty of fake buns. (Pictures to come!) Apparently they used to use real buns until the big tower collapse of 1976 where a bunch of people got injured. At the stroke of midnight, these competitors race up the stack of buns and they have three minutes to collect as many buns as possible. The higher up the buns, the more points they get. It was a hilarious three minutes! As soon as the festival was done we hurried onto a ferry back to Hong Kong Island- they had extra ferry services running late on that night. I was pleasantly surprised at how organised transport was at the ferry terminal. Rows of buses and taxis plus lots of people directing the crowd coming off the boat meant a speedy exit back to the hotel!

Lantau- we spent one day on this island (where the airport and Disneyland is located) and I have to say we picked a terrible day to go. Worst weather ever to sightsee here! Dense fog surrounded the island! We rode the gondola up to the top of the island where there is a “traditional” village and a monastery with a giant Buddha. It probably wasn’t worth paying for the gondola ride but it’s a convenient way to get there. Otherwise you can take local buses up there for far less. So I have to say we didn’t really see that much but we managed to take some cool foggy photos!

Lantau fog

 

We tried out the high tea at Peninsula Hotel- a colonial tradition. There’s no reservations so we arrived nice an early at 1.30pm (tea begins at 2pm) to make sure we got a table. To be honest I was far from impressed. The food wasn’t great and the service well below what I would expect from a hotel of this standard. It costs around £20 per person so still cheap(ish) for a fancy afternoon tea by English standards but frankly I’d recommend to AVOID wasting your time and money here! Go eat some street food!

Two things are a must do for any tourist in Hong Kong- take the Star Ferry and see the evening light show on the harbour, though not necessarily at the same time… The Star Ferry is dirt cheap and an institution here in Hong Kong. It only takes you from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon but is a lovely way to see the city skyline. The light show is a daily event on at 8pm (I think? We missed the beginning…) and is what it says on the tin- a show of lights lighting up the buildings on the Hong Kong skyline along to some ditsy Asian pop music. It’s the cheesiest thing ever but a must do! We caught it from the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront where you can hear the music and also an English narration.

Star Ferry rings

 

I definitely need to come back to Hong Kong. Soon! There was so much I wanted to do: go to Disneyland, go up the Peak, go hiking, do more shopping… It’s my kind of city!

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