03 – 06 AUGUST 2015:
My sister Jill, cousin Justine and friend Rabikah were in Philippines with me so we decided to go to a nearby country for a few days and picked Hong Kong as Jill and I have never been before.
First impressions were that it didn’t reflect the Chinese culture I had imagined much….I expected to see lots of red street decorations, big fat buddhas, large outdoor dragon statues, and people wearing some authentic garments but maybe that is an old skool or perhaps ignorant expectation, or maybe Hong Kong just differs from other parts of China.
GRAND HARBOUR HOTEL
We spent a while deliberating whether to stay on Hong Kong island or Kowloon. We did a bit of research in to the differences between the two but we were still left a little clueless so we decided to pick a hotel regardless of which side of the water it was on. We picked the Grand Harbour in Kowloon which as you would expect is located on the harbour called Victoria Harbour. The views from the Harbour were spectacular at night with all the skyscrapers and apartments all lit up. The hotel itself was very grand when entering as the lobby had some beautiful flooring and chandeliers. Unfortunately, the rooms were a bit of a let down as whilst they were clean, they lacked any style and were quite old fashioned.
On our first night, we were sitting in the lobby area – up the main stairs there was a wedding reception taking place and a massive fight broke out between all the Chinese men (and a few of the women too). Jill was there with the camera recording it all whilst I was trying to hold her back, a little scared that she would end up getting involved in the brawl. No idea what it was about, perhaps the bride was having an affair with the best man or maybe the groom was!
Considering it was the summer holidays in HK, I expected Disneyland to be busier and was in fact warned by many people that it would be heaving with families. I didn’t find it overly busy but what I did notice was that it is hard for me to enjoy Disneyland in such a high climate. I spent more time sitting down with an iced drink trying to escape the heat as opposed to actually exploring the resort.
However, saying that, the resort isn’t particularly large; a few rides dotted around, a fair few souvenir shops and many overpriced places to eat – Which is exactly what you would expect!
A parade took place at one point in the afternoon but we could have easily missed that as it was just by chance that we walked to that part of the resort at that time – I didn’t see it advertised or anything. The parade was fun, all of the Disney characters on floats going around the centre section of the resort.
Disneyland was open from 10am – 9pm the day we visited but after a couple of hours I was done and ready to go home. My cousin Justine enjoyed it much more than I did so each to their own. The reason I wasn’t a fan of the place was because it really lacked atmosphere and I would have expected the Disney characters to be walking around the resort to take photos with, as opposed to just being part of the parade.
TEMPLE STREET NIGHT MARKET
This doesn’t compare to some of the famous night markets in other cities such as Pat Pong in Bangkok. It is quite small but there is still a varied selection of stalls from phone accessories to jewellery. Hong Kong isn’t particularly cheap compared to nearby countries such as Philippines or Thailand so naturally the products at the market were more expensive than I could have got elsewhere. However they sell a few things which are more cultural which can be worth getting your hands on, for example they had a nice selection of chopsticks and bowl sets. After shopping we went to one of the authentic street food places. Definitely not 5 star dining. More like plastic chairs and bugs flying around but it was nice to eat with the locals.
Many members of our family told us to go to Macau whilst in Hong Kong. We had a free day so my sister and I laid in bed debating whether we could be bothered to go to Macau. The day was getting on and we were pretty cosy watching Grey’s Anatomy on the hotel TV. Eventually we got ready and headed to the ferry port. We had no idea what we were doing as locals don’t speak much English and even the signs were not English friendly. Luckily a woman spotted our looks of uncertainty at where to go and she asked if I was Filipino. We all got talking as she was travelling to Macau with her sister for the anniversary of her son’s death. She made sure Jill and I followed her and got to Macau safely. Once there we separated and Jill and I headed to the Old Town, first stopping at the Ruin of St Pauls. Down the cobbled steps was Senado square. Macau in general seemed to have a mixture of old Portugese style architecture (because it’s the former longtime Portugese colony), Chinese buildings and the more contemporary flashy casinos (which is why Macau is often referred to as ‘Little Las Vegas’). Generally Macau reminded me of being somewhere in Europe (just with a lot of Chinese people). We didn’t visit any of the casinos because I’m usually poor within 5 minutes of entering any kind of gambling venue so decided to keep hold of my last few remaining notes.
The return ferry to Kowloon had left earlier than we had expected so we had to take a ferry to Hong Kong island and then get a cab to Kowloon. I thought that would be a nightmare but actually it was quite quick and the cab wasn’t too expensive. The ferry ride is just over an hour but you do need your passport as there is a lot of immigration process.
I personally didn’t go to Victoria Peak because I was in charge of checking out of the hotel as it was our last day (in reality I just wanted a lie in). Jill went to Victoria Peak, which is a mountain in the western half of Hong Kong island, with our friend Meghan. They walked to the top of the Peak which provides a panoramic view of Hong Kong and there are also some little market stalls dotted around.
Jill seemed to really enjoy her day out there! I enjoyed my lie in!
Whilst Hong Kong had some very nice parts and I enjoyed the places we went, I don’t think it’s somewhere I would visit again. There are lots of places to see in the world and I try to not go to the same place too many times unless I have a special connection to the place. Unfortunately I didn’t feel that way about Hong Kong. Perhaps I would visit Shanghai or Beijing to see how it compares.
One thing I found difficult to deal with was the cultural differences with regards to manners. The Chinese people in general were not what I would call friendly, at least not compared to the other places I recently visited such as Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand etc – Many locals would go above and beyond to help you in those countries but this wasn’t the case in Hong Kong.