By Chris K
The contrast between our week in New Zealand and Hong Kong couldn’t be more stark. In New Zealand, we experienced some heart-stopping adventure thrills in breathtaking scenery and took part in an epic rail-journey that we won’t soon forget.
Here in Hong Kong, we’re going to experience what life is like in one of the most densely populated places on Earth.
And it’s quite a change. Hong Kong has a population of almost 1.6 times that of New Zealand, packed into an area of roughly 1,100 km2. This density has lead to Hong Kong becoming the world’s most vertical city, ranking number one on the list of cities with the most skyscrapers.
From all of our research, it is clear that there is so much to do in Hong Kong; two days is just not going to cut it. Knowing this, we’re going to fit in as much as possible in our two days here in Hong Kong – and we’ll surely make it back soon.
So what’s on the agenda?
A bit of sightseeing.
But mainly eating. And shopping. That’s the plan.
Is there more to Hong Kong than just stuffing our faces and our luggage full?
7AM : Arriving in Hong Kong
It’s really hard to like long flights (unless you’re in first class). It is much easier to endure them, though, when you know that just on the other end of the flight is something special.
And our hotel in Hong Kong is really something special.
We’ve chosen to stay at the Hotel Intercontinental on 18 Salisbury Road, Kowloon (email / website) for a great number of reasons – it’s really central, most rooms have stunning views of the city and the harbour, it’s very well regarded by other travellers…
There are a couple of other reasons, but we’ll get to those.
For now, all you need to know is this.
Flying into Hong Kong
To catch a view of Hong Kong from above, you can watch this video showing the approach of an international flight.
It’s a bit long so we recommend you skip ahead to 3:26, to see the wonderful view of Hong Kong as it appears from behind the cloud cover.
11AM: Cruise the Hong Kong harbour and visit Hong Kong’s Islands
Our day has been planned by Will, a Hong Kong local for the last three years, and in the spirit of all great local guides he’s defying our expectations of what Hong Kong is like and taking us on a completely different experience.
Will has gathered an impressively eclectic group of HK locals, expats, and fly-ins for our four-hour cruise. Most of his friends work in one of the many global institutions powering Hong Kong’s financial centre, which has lead it to become one of the major financial trading centres of the world.
Old and New, when the Duk Ling cruises the Hong Kong harbour. Photo by Nick Stenning, Licensed under CC.
Packing the eskies (iceboxes) with some choice wine, beer, and local specialities (particularly seafood), we clamber aboard. Will promises a tour of secluded coves and beaches, far away from the mad pace of cosmopolitan Hong Kong – and for the brave ones, perhaps some impromptu diving off the boat before a refreshing drink over lunch.
As we sail out of the harbour, we cross paths with the mighty Duk Ling – apparently the last authentic Chinese-style junk still in service. The Duk Ling usually roams the harbour for short sight-seeing trips – you can pick up tickets at the HK tourist office.
We pull up alongside her, and it’s clear that the vessel is magnificent. Immediately we’re transported back to an era of smoke-filled gambling dens, lotus flowers and silk, illegal trading and piracy.
There’s almost a small mutiny aboard our humbler vessel, everyone keen for a chance to stand at the helm of the Duk Ling and fantasise – until someone mentioned the price for chartering the Duk Ling. Lacking the sort of treasure that would need to be exchanged, legal or otherwise, we choose to stay aboard and sail on to our island destination.
According to Wikipedia, the name “Hong Kong” is a phonetic rendering of the pronunciation of the spoken Cantonese or Hakka name meaning “fragrant harbour”. Around the dock this isn’t necessarily the case, but with as we sail further out of the harbour the meaning becomes more clear.
With the sea breeze in our hair we sail out of the Hong Kong harbour, the skyscrapers towering above us and gradually receding in the distance. Out on the water it’s a completely different experience of Hong Kong.
The January sun in our faces (the average is about 18 degress Celsius), we make our way to many unnamed coves on a wonderful tour of the islands of Hong Kong harbour. There’s no man overboard until a hidden signal from Will puts a less fortunate member of our crew into the water. No one is game to join them in January, although by March the water would be pleasantly swimmable. For everyone else, lunch is calling.
It’s a completely different experience of Hong Kong than what we were expecting, and it’s so pleasant to see a different side to the famous city that most people just miss out on.
Want to cruise the Hong Kong harbour?
If you want to organise your own charter on the Hong Kong harbour, you can try the following providers;
Finally, if you don’t want to charter a cruise, you can actually ride the Duk Ling on a short trip around the Hong Kong harbour.
5PM: enjoy an early, but epic, dinner at the Hotel Intercontinental
We are eating fairly early on in the evening, but we have somewhere to be at 8PM.
Hong Kong is famous for it’s cuisine, with around two hundred restaurants achieving a Michelin star (or two, or three!).
Will had a list as long as his arm of places for us to try, but unfortunately, we’d already made our minds up. Dinner was going to be at the Intercontinental.
And it isn’t like we are restricting ourselves with our choice – in fact, we can eat at four choices of restaurants and eight choices of locations. The restaurants include Spoon by Alain Ducasse, the world’s most acclaimed Japanese restaurant in Nobu, and Yan Toh Heen, an acclaimed Chinese restaurant.
You can’t really blame us for wanting to eat in our hotel with the calibre of these restaurants, especially with some of the crazy dishes they have served up in the past.
So. Hungry. For. Cuisine.
Find some more inspiring dishes here.
8PM: marvelling at the Symphony of Lights in Hong Kong
If anything is going to emphasise the contract between Hong Kong and New Zealand, it is this. A spectacular light show that involves basically the entire city. Lasers, neon, more lasers, even more lights.
We’re down on the street for this, wandering along the Avenue of the Stars and trying to find a good spot to see the light display. We don’t really have to struggle too hard, given that the show involves around forty-four buildings in Hong Kong and Kowloon.
We’re lucky to have a pleasant evening with no rain.
The show won’t run during a category three typhoon, which makes sense. Because, you know – typhoon. No time to watch pretty lights in a typhoon.
Here’s a brief video submitted by one of our readers that gives just a little taste to the incredible light show.
One day in Hong Kong
So that’s all for our first day in Hong Kong. Yes, we’ve barely even scratched the surface, but it has been an easy introduction to a city that can easily become overwhelming. We’ll throw ourselves into the fray tomorrow and fit in some of the famed Hong Kong shopping – and we’ll also continue to work our way through the cuisine heaven that is Honkers.
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And in case you missed it, here are some great travel tips from Gabriele Baljak. Let us know your travel tips on Twitter, too!
Thanks to Gabriele for those travel tips!
What are your Hong Kong tips?
We know we’ve missed something – what else could we see?