A Walk Between Tradition and Modernity in Hong Kong

by - November 05, 2017

We arrived in Hong Kong at night. For the first time, we crossed a border in the underground. We did it by boat, by plane, in dirty buses full of chickens. We did it by bikes, but never in the subway, nor ever below ground. We came from China and our visa expired that same day. We had to leave the country. The trip by subway was long, just over in two hours. On the Chinese side we pay fifty cents and on the Hong Kong side, we pay almost five dollars for the same distance. The first difference that we feel between both regions (we doubt if to speak of countries) was economic. In Hong Kong, everything was ten times more expensive.

Modern and futuristic, bathed by the South China Sea and under British rule from 1841 to 1997, which passed to China, it is on HK Island that European influence was more noticeable. The mix between Chinese culture and the West was permanent. One country, two systems.

We knew that the bus was much cheaper than the subway and almost as efficient as these. We decided to complete the trip in Bondi. The hard part was finding the stop. Luckily, we could now use the Internet again without restrictions. We found the collective number but not the exact place where it stopped. We opted to take the tram. Walking in the city with the backpacks is the most exhausting thing.

We stayed in the Kowloon area because it is cheaper. Accommodation is quite problematic in Hong Kong. We had not booked anything and when we started looking at prices we saw that the hotels were exorbitant. After a lot of kicking, we had no choice but to sleep in the Chungking Mansions, a place that I do not recommend. It is an old building of about 15 floors that is currently full of cheap pensions on each floor. I suppose there will be better and worse, but I do not think there is much difference between them.

That same night we went to Lan Kwai Fong without knowing very well what it was. Basically, it is a whole area where all the bars and nightclubs are concentrated. I see people drink on the street. People drank until 2 or 3 and then went into the clubs. In my case, I did not have to pay anytime and they are very cool. It's a very good place to meet people if you travel alone. The only problem is that the sites start closing at 5 and the metro does not open until 5.30. So you have to wait a while or take a taxi.

Only then we saw the city for the first time. It is true, the buildings of Shanghai are tiny with those we saw in Victoria Harbor. Behind the buildings, green and leafy mountains they occupy 70% of Hong Kong.

There are houses among the grove of the mountains. Hong Kong is one of the most expensive cities to live. Among the peaks of the mountains, there is one that stands out: Victoria Peak. We promised to go up the next day to see the city from above.

As I said, I had other expectations for Hong Kong, one of them was food. I had heard the fifteen wonders of the Cantonese food but I do not know if I was not lucky but in the previous days, all the restaurants were a failure. Although here the dim sums were very good. We then return directly to get to bed.

We wanted this morning to visit Macau from Hong Kong. Today we had the whole day free and we took advantage to go to Macau. We went to the ferry station and bought the round trip ticket. There is only one operator who makes the trip. So although the ticket is not cheap it is the only way. Once We get to Macau, the circus starts. There are many buses operated by the casinos so you can get up and go to yours.

People go to Macau, for multiple reasons, the Chinese to bet, the tourists to see the Chinese betting. I went to eat Peking duck. It's one of my favorite dishes and in Macau, they make the best duck in Hong Kong.

I am always amused by the surprise of the Chinese when we ask for the whole duck instead of half. They repeat a thousand times that it is a lot of food, although the truth is that I am always hungry. The duck and other dishes were amazing. It is the best Chinese food I have eaten in my life.

I have never seen the grace to visit the casinos if you are not going to play. Maybe in Las Vegas, because they have other tourist attractions, but in Macao, I honestly do not see the grace once you have seen one. The others are all the same. We walked through the center that I did not feel was any wonder. We saw the church and again get back to Hong Kong.

Today is our last day in Hong Kong and the last one also of the incredible trip to China. We are not going to get up early and we have the flight that will take us back home at night. So today we have almost a full day to continue enjoying the trip, and many things to see in Lantau in one day.

At 7 we left our hotel after checking out and recovering our deposit, to stop again at the McDonald's. We have a couple of coffees with breakfast for the usual $ 50 that breakfast costs. With energy to face this last day of the trip, we decided to go for the ferry to cross the bay. On the way, we found a market and entered. I had already been in Japan but I have to say that it hit a lot. There are bags filled with hundreds of alive frogs. At least I did not associate it with Hong Kong. Maybe the image I was carrying was of a modern and cosmopolitan metropolis. Although I quickly realized that I was quite wrong.

We decided to go to Victoria Peak. I do not know if there is another way to arrive but we went with the cable car. We return to the subway station to go directly to Lantau. Here we will have the opportunity to see the world's largest bronze Buddha made in bronze, the Po Lin Monastery and if it gives us time the Ngong Ping Village.

To get to the Giant Buddha, we will have to take the Cable Car, which will take us to the upper part of the island. To get to Lantau we also have the option of going by ferry, but this time we have opted for the metro, much faster option. We take our tickets and change at Lai King and then go to Tung Chung, the stop on Lantau Island that leaves us right next to the beaches.

You can also take the bus to the Giant Buddha, but without doubt, despite being more expensive, the experience of the funicular is worth much to enjoy. The price if you want to go in a transparent cabin is $ 255 per person round trip and $ 165 if you choose to go in the normal cabin.

We stayed with this last option. After 15 minutes of a queue and is that even being Sunday, the day that more people are, we have come a few minutes before they opened at 9. So the queue has been minimal. And if we also count that 8 people enter each cabin, the process is fast. They could have had it that way in the Zhangjiajie National Park. Another good option is to book the entrance to the cable car in advance online.

And as we go up with the cable car and you can imagine, extraordinary views are surrounding us. No doubt an experience in itself this way of accessing the Great Buddha. And while we continue ascending, we discover another signature to access: walking! And we see several groups of people crossing the mountains by roads and walkways suitable for it.

Although firmly, if you are not trained, we do not recommend it at all. You have to go through mountains and mountains until you reach the end, although without a doubt the experience and the views have to be impressive. And so, after 25 minutes in the Cable Car, we arrived at our destination, taking in the last section views of the Giant Buddha from the air.

Once we are back on the ground, the first thing we have to do to reach the Big Buddha is to go through Nong Village. Yes, without a doubt it is a rather artificial place, totally created for the tourist. But because of what little we see, it can be interesting if you want to take some handmade souvenir different from all you can find the rest of places that at least we have met on this trip.

After crossing the practically unique street of which Nong Village is composed, we arrive directly at the Great Buddha. Here we really arrived after climbing the 269 steps that give access to the largest bronze Buddha in the world. We thought that the climb was going to be much harder because of everything we had read, but nothing could be further from reality. Could it be that we have already hardened after the trekking in the Great Wall of China? In a few minutes, we stand at the top, to enjoy breathtaking views, for which it is certainly worth climbing the 269 steps.

The Great Buddha could be said to be a part attached to the Po Lin Monastery, which symbolizes the union of man with nature. Surrounded by several statues of gods that represent immortality, this is an area that you can not miss if you are a few days in Hong Kong. After enjoying a unique enclave, we go back down the 269 steps. We go to the Po Lin Monastery, located just opposite where we discovered one of those corners that give soul to a country, surrounded as it could not be otherwise.

Here we enjoy in the best way what are the last hours of this trip to China. Despite the moments of nerves that we have gone partly by the local character, which is somewhat difficult, it has reminded us, at every moment, why we like to travel so much. It is 12 noon when we look at the clock. So before going to our next point today, Tai O village, we stopped at a restaurant, where we ordered some spring rolls, tempura, fried pumpkin and dumplings, and water.

We then watered down the food by a couple of espresso cafes that we needed to continue the day and with those who do the after-dinner. It is 2 o'clock in the afternoon when we go to the bus station of Nong Village, located in the middle of the main street to catch bus number 21. It takes about 40 minutes to get to Tai O, a village in Lantau that we have read is highly recommended. But when we see bus schedules on weekends, our hearts sink to the ground.

And is that these are a bit reduced in the afternoon and having to leave for the airport about 5 in the afternoon, we do not want to risk going too far. So after assessing it a couple of times, in the end, we decided to leave this visit for the next time we come to Hong Kong, sure there will be. It is almost 14:30 at noon when we return to the funicular where, after doing about 15 minutes of queuing, we return to sail the skies of the island of Lantau.

When we get to the entrance of the Cable Car, the queue to go up is more than an hour and a half. It is something that is already announced in a cartel and judging by the people we see, we even believe that much more. One of the things we see is that there are lockers to store bags or backpacks. Being right next to the airport, if we got to know before, we would have left them here to have used much more time and go directly from here, and may have visited the Tai O village. But, well, this is done and now it is time to go back to the hotel to look for them and to go back to the airport.

We return to the subway and after paying $ 18 per person, we undo the road traveled this morning until we reach Tsim Sha Tsui, the station of our accommodation in Hong Kong. We arrived at 3:30. So we still have a couple of hours to enjoy the city. So we are going to walk aimlessly through the streets of this area of the city.

We see a Westerner on the opposite sidewalk and we decided to cross to ask him. While we wait for the light to be cut, we notice that he is not the only one. It is full of Westerners and even Hong Kong people do not seem so Asian. The floor is not full of spit either. We go towards the American. The custom that no one spoke English in China was still with us. So we did not even consider asking someone else.

We asked him about the bus that goes to Kowloon. His answer was disconcerting. In his right hand, he had four strips of paper, in the left only two. His sight was lost on the television that was hanging inside the premises. He offers us beer and he has already switched to whiskey with ice. He is little more than 50 years old but with a lot of youth in his existence. He was born in Hong Kong, at the time when the island was an English territory. He says it with pride. He was born in the United Kingdom. He smokes.

Hong Kong is willing according to feng shui laws. Every building, every window, every floor. Everything was previously consulted with a specialist in this matter. Hong Kong has a special disposition and that is what makes it prosper so well. For a long time, the mountains were considered as sleeping dragons. Kowloon, even, means nine dragons. Because of its location, Hong Kong would become the belly of the dragon, its egg.

The sun began to set as the talk passed and we had to reach our destination, unaware that the talk could be a destination in itself. We proposed to walk a little. Between the subway and the bar, we wanted to stretch our legs a little. 45 minutes are left for the races and in half an hour they close the betting boxes. We said goodbye quickly. He takes advantage to go to Happy Valley to see them live. We are not so far.

We walked between skyscrapers and shopping centers. We had read that the best sites were the Temple Street Market and the Ladies Market. Everything is oriented to consumption. Even a passage to cross the street can take you to a shopping center without even asking or warning. Everything induces to buy and everyone does it.

What a disappointment! The Street Temple Market is like a village Sunday market, in which they sell a little bit of everything, mostly electronic, but nothing that interests tourists. They sell cables, household appliances, and various nonsense.

We asked several and they told us that there were electronics stores a couple of streets up. We went and we were amazed. The prices of all the products were more expensive. I went with the idea of buying some hard drives and nothing more expensive. It will not be for not bargaining because, with one I was about half an hour haggling, we decided that today was not the day for electronics.

We try our luck with the clothes. Everybody talks about the imitation clothes in China, the cheap and the good quality that it has. Although the guides say that in HK this topic is more controlled, everyone recommends going to the ladies market. We went with the idea of ​​buying some shirts. In that market, only toys and women's bags are sold. If you want an imitation bag, this is your place. After kicking we only found a site but the quality was really bad. Today was not our day for shopping.

We are struck by the number of women we see eating on cardboard and canvas at the entrance of shopping centers. Most of them are from Indonesia, the Philippines or Vietnam. They left their children in their countries to come and take care of the children of others. They travel to their country once a year. Next door, an Apple store. There is a long line and it is to buy the new iPhone 6. Likewise, they are the laggards. The new model has launched 3 weeks ago.

From there we went to the walk of the stars to see the Symphony of Lights show. Here once again we fell for the recommendations of the Lonely Planet. The views from the walk of fame with the buildings illuminated at night are amazing. We decided to continue to finally reach our destination.

After having a sweet and a couple of coffees, we return to the hotel for the suitcases and direct to the subway to go from Hong Kong to the airport. We have several options to go from Hong Kong to the airport that is on the island of Lantau. We go by metro, for $ 10 each to Tsin Yi and from there we link to the AirPort Express for $ 45 more per person. Here we have to say that in the machines and the triptychs it says that the price is $ 60.

But when we are in the machine a girl from the station tells us to go to the ticket office that is cheaper. So without being very convinced, we approach and they charge us $ 45 for 2 people. It took us about 15 minutes to get to the airport. In total between metro and AirPort express, we counted about 45 minutes from Tsim Sha Tsui.

The first thing we do is to look at our flight schedule to the screens and it is that after the cancellation we had on the trip to Cinque Terre, there is no way that we remove the fear of the body when we have to go to look at the schedules to the panels. Once verified that the schedule is correct and our flight seems to be ok, we check in our bags!

So we have to wait just over an hour to leave our luggage and get free to go for dinner. After several laps, we ended up in the one where we ordered a couple of pasta dishes where we spent part of the dollars that we have left. We only have a few minutes left to embark. And that is true. We embark punctually on the plane that will take us back home and with which we finalize our incredible trip to China.

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