Our previous trip to Hong Kong occurred under sad circumstances, and during July, a time of year known for it's heat and humidity. November is a much more climate friendly time in Hong Kong. I'll attempt not to duplicate too much of what I wrote in my post back then, but I will go into more detail about the tourist attractions and how to avoid tourist traps.
My favorite tourist attraction in Hong Kong is without a doubt Victoria Peak, not least because that is where My Husband proposed to me! How could a girl decline when faced with this gorgeous view?
If you ever visit this city and arrive in the daylight hours, keep an open mind. In the cold light of day you see her "warts'n'all," but come nightfall Hong Kong lights up like a glittering jewel.
My Husband's family had invited my Mum to the wedding too. She accepted and she met us there. It was so much fun to rendezvous on the other side of the planet and a great excuse to hit the tourist spots once more.
We stayed in Kowloon, in Tsim Sha Sui, just across the bay from Hong Kong Island. With space such a premium in Hong Kong and the tourist industry flooding in from Mainland China, hotel prices have skyrocketed. The rooms are small unless you are prepared to pay big bucks, but even though our room was on the compact side, it was fully furnished with all mod cons - flat screen TVs (of course a great idea if space is so valuable), fridges, and coffee and tea making facilities. Views in Kowloon will be back-alleys and other high-rise buildings unless you are on the water front - even bigger bucks for that - but ya didn't come here to sit around your room all day did ya?
Our hotel was all about location location location - we couldn't have asked for better, and thanks are due to our niece who generously put us up in the Ramada Kowloon, a stones throw from the water front and the MTR station (that's the train system in Hong Kong) and a dander (or what passes for a dander through the thronged streets of Kowloon) away from Nathan Road and Kowloon park, where you go to instill some sanity, far away from the maddening crowds!
It's a good idea to get yourself to a 7Eleven as soon as you arrive and get yourself an octopus card. You can add money to it as you go along and you use it to pay for MTR, or in places like McCafe, 7eleven and other stores. It has some electronic thingy in it so you don't even need to take it out of your purse to make it work.
We decided to show Mum the view from the Peak. To get there from Kowloon you could take the MTR under the bay or hop on the Star Ferry for a 20min harbor tour. It's a commuter route and easy on the pocket or rather the octopus card. When you get to the other side you then need to take a taxi, plentiful and cheap, to the tram station to ascend the peak. That is if you want to ride the tram - it's a funicular train and if you've been on one before you can skip the queues and take a bus to the top. It's as cost effective to taxi to the peak if you have 3 or more passengers.
However if, like my Mum, you insist on taking the tram, beware of people herding you into queues for you to buy the package deal to the viewing platform. You can get tickets for it up there. It's gets you a little higher up but you have much the same view from the peak itself.
Simply get into the line for the tram and pay using your octopus. The tram is a commuter route - people live up there, so avoid going at rush hour too. However, if you want to do sunset you may have to just bite the bullet - or better still take the taxi up and the tram down IF you simply must get on the tram.
It's lovely to walk around at the top and ogle the sights below. Another great option is to book a window table at The Pearl on the Peak. It's on the pricey side, but if you are willing to splash out, sunset, here, is the time and place to do it. And the view from our table...
And here's the view from my tummy. I was no cheap date that night!
Mum had done her homework before coming and had read about the Big Buddha on Lantau Island. Lantau Island lies to the west of the main urban area of Hong Kong. Rural by comparison, even though it hosts the airport, Disneyland and discovery Bay.
To get to the Big Buddha take the MTR (use your octopus card) to Tung Chung Station (Orange line). It is accessible by road (bus) or by gondola - think ski resort not Venice!
If you've been skiing then don't bother with the gondola. Mum has never been skiing and wanted to take the Gondola - a two hour wait in line. Tourism is really taking off here. My Husband and I'd done the gondola trip back in 2006 and we didn't remember it this bad. What further confuses the issue are the folks wandering around trying to sell package deals and bus ride combos. If you can tear yourself away from the idea of riding in the gondola, hop on bus 23 to Ngong Ping.
Ngong Ping has it's usual tourist/franchise shops and restaurants, but I like to support the Po Lin Monastry. They sell a meal ticket with entrance to the Buddha. There is no menu - you just eat whatever they are making that day, but you do get a great vegetarian meal there, and they do interesting mock meat dishes made from tofu.
And now for the gardening bit...
Anyone any idea what this fruit is? The tree was growing at the monastery - please leave a comment if you know.
From Ngong Ping we took the number 21 bus to Tai O. Dubbed the "Venice of Hong Kong," you won't find any gondolas here! But there are lots of houses built on stilts in this fishing village that dates all the way back to the stone age.
I particularly admired their skills at container gardening.
And liked how they utilized such small spaces to make such attractive wee gardens.
Tai O breathed relaxation into us after all our hectic traveling and sight-seeing. A break from the bustle of the big city and herds of tourists, we wandered around oohing and aahing at the exquisite cuteness of the place. For example - this tiny temple...
And on closer inspection just click on the picture to check out the detail in the carvings on the roof.
We found a little coffee shop, a blissful far cry from Starbucks and city bustle, and we sat on the decking out over the water, sipping our tea from delightful little cups.
Had we our own boat, we could have simply tied up at their little dock just on the other side of the wooden rail from where I was sitting.
It was the perfect perch to watch the world not go by.
Lovely to have this time with my Mum to soak up the things we both like - water ways, tea and sunsets. Harmonious in our togetherness.
I think you can get that I loved Tai O. Hopefully someday I'll get back there or at least visit more places like it. The number 11 bus gets you back to Tung Chung town center and the MTR line.
And the wedding - simply spectacular. Our niece and nephew-in-law both looked gorgeous. She had six different dresses, each one more beautiful than the one before. The day started at 9am when we gathered at the brides place and ended with a banquet that evening.
My Husband had the honor of giving the bride away. A momentous and emotional moment for the Mother-of-the-bride mother, who was also stunning in her gowns - yes that was plural too. Each one a show stopper. I was so proud of them all.
The bridesmaids were adrift in peach fabric - pretty gowns for beautiful young women. In fact everyone looked downright fabulous! I do so admire the petite figures these Hong Kong women have. I felt huge in comparison, but I'm used to that in Hong Kong. But as I stood for photographs, I couldn't help but wonder - does this family make my bum look big?