Posts tagged ‘river cruise’

Eat. Shop. Cruise? A surprising day in Hong Kong.



By Chris K

Today’s Itinerary

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?

Eating.

Shopping.

A bit of sightseeing.

But mainly eating. And shopping. That’s the plan.

And yet…

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.

Travel, vacations, holidays - these sort of views make it all worthwhile. Sign up for our daily travel email to see more like this.

Stunning. Photo by Intercontinental Hotel Hong Kong, Licensed under CC.

All agreed?

 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.

Duk Ling in the Hong Kong harbour evokes memories of distant travellers and long journeys. Sign up to our travel newsletter and escape with us.

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.

Experience cuisine heaven in Hong Kong, with so many Michelin star restaurants to choose from - it's a must-visit travel destination. Learn more on our daily travel email newsletter.

We’ve no idea what this is and we don’t care – we want it. Photo by Intercontinental Hotel Hong Kong, licensed under CC.

So. Hungry. For. Cuisine.

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Photo by Intercontinental Hotel Hong Kong, Licensed under CC.

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Photo by Intercontinental Hotel Hong Kong, Licensed under CC.

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.

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Photo by Barbara Willi, Licensed under CC.

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.

Tweet us Travel Tips!

We’re working hard on building a travel community on Twitter, and you can get in on the action yourself – we’d love to hear from you.

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?

Bangkok – hot, hot, hot!

By Chris K

Today’s Itinerary

Bangkok is the world’s hottest city

We’re out of the frying pan and into the fire as we fly from Oman into Bangkok, Thailand – officially the hottest city in the world. With year-round mean air temperatures of 28°C (82°F), we’re lucky to be in Bangkok during the ‘cool and dry’ season between November and February.

Arriving into Suvarnabhumi Airport at 7:25 AM, we make our way into central Bangkok using the Airport Link (SARL). Our hotel is the Shangri-Hotel (Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok 89 Soi Wat Suan Plu) on the banks of Bangkok’s river, the Chao Phraya. The temptation after that long flight from Oman on arriving in our room is to dump the luggage and collapse straight into bed, but….must….resist!

Only being in Bangkok for two days and after an overnight flight from Oman means there’s lots to do, but little energy to do it, so our local guide Anna, who’s lived in Bangkok for two years, has promised to let us take it easy – but that doesn’t mean we can slack off!

After jumping straight into the shower and putting on some long-sleeved clothing made of light fabric, we’re off to the Oriental Pier.

11 AM: A River Ferry to the Grand Palace

Outside the Mandarin Oriental Hotel is the Oriental Pier, and that’s where we meet up with Anna. She has planned an easy day for us today, and promises a relaxing surprise this afternoon.

We catch the Chao Phraya Express ferry from the Oriental Pier for a quick trip up the Chao Phraya river, part of the navigation toolkit of any Bangkok local.

We disembark at the Tha Tien Cross River Ferry Pier, and from here it’s a quick walk to one of Bangkok’s biggest tourist attractions, the Grand Palace.

It becomes clear why we wore long-sleeved clothing and pants at the entrance to the Grand Palace. As a holy and important site to the Thais, there are people at the entrance checking your dress and ensuring that it meets their standards for respectfulness. Although you can hire clothes, it’s really better to dress appropriately to begin with. In this video, journalist Lauren Bercarich explains all.

The Grand Palace isn’t just one, but rather a complex of buildings, and has been the residence of the Kings of Siam since 1782, and is still in use as a royal residence and as a ceremonial site. The beautiful and intricate architecture is entrancing and it takes several hours for us to complete a tour. We linger particularly at the Wat Phra Kaew, which houses the famous and significant Emerald Buddha. Only Thailand’s King is allowed near the Emerald Buddha, ceremonially changing the Buddha’s robes throughout the year.

Wat Mahathat, Bangkok, Thailand

“wat mahathat bangkok”, a photo by telmo32, CC License

2 PM: Wat Po and the Origins of Thai Massage

After visiting the site of the Emerald Buddha, we arrive outside the Wat Po temple.

It’s full name is the Wat Phra Chetuphon, and is well known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. Inside is an enormous reclining Buddha, roughly 40 metres long and covered in gold leaf. That alone is impressive but with a smile Anna turns to tells us more about Wat Po.

And what a surprise! It turns out that Wat Po is considered the origin of Thai massage – and is, in fact, a functioning Thai massage school, the country’s most prestigious. This is too good an opportunity to pass up and for the rest of the afternoon, we experience the best in Thai massage and relaxation at the site where it all began.

Thailand Tips – What is a Wat?

A typical Thai Wat, which is loosely translated as monastery or temple, has an enclosing wall that divides it from the secular world. Find out more here.

Sunset over Wat Arun.

Sunset over Wat Arun. Photo by Mark Fischer, CC License

6 PM: Night Markets

We’re early for dinner by Thai standards, but it’s been a long day and we want to fit in a quick tour of the markets before we finally collapse. We head up to the Suan Lum night markets by motorbike taxis because, in Anna’s words

“The best tip I would give is to use the motorbike taxis – the guys on street corners with orange vests on. That’s if you’re game- they’re much quicker in the horrendous congestion of Bkk (Bangkok)! You can bargain a little because they’ll give you a tourist price at first, but they’re cheap anyway. And they’re way better than tuktuks, because they won’t take you to the tailor or shop that is giving them fuel vouchers in exchange for customers”

At the night markets, we load up on accessible street-style food in a big open courtyard, listening to local live entertainment.

Goodnight Bangkok!

That’s it for our first day in Bangkok. Smiling and serene from our massages and with our bellies as full as Buddha’s from the night market, we fall asleep in minutes.

TukTuk, Bangkok, Thailand

“Go Baby, Go Go”, a photo by lynhdan, CC License

Want to go? Need to know!

  • Don’t disrespect the monarch! Lengthy prison terms up to 15 years can be imposed for insulting the monarchy.
  • Keep your fluid intake up! According to the World Meteorological Organization, Bangkok is the world’s hottest city. Located just 14 degrees north of the Equator, Bangkok is sunny at any time of the year with temperatures over 30°C (86°F). So make sure you have plenty of fluid throughout the day.
  • Bangkok has many public transport options, including the BTS Skytrain, the underground metro line MRT, Bangkok buses, river boats, and the famous tuktuks. Find out more at TransportBangkok.
  • Locals refer to Bangkok as Bkk.
  • Did we mention that it’s hot in Bangkok? Drink water, silly!

Have you been to Bangkok? What did you love? What did we miss? Tell us in the comments!

UPDATE FEB 2013:

Mark Fisher (who took this amazing sunset photo that we used above) was kind enough to update us that the Suan Lum Night Markets have closed down. As an alternative, he says;

[although it is father out] the Train Market (Tarad Rot Fa) in Bangkok is very interesting and could be worth adding to you itinerary.