By: Susan Gerle
Back in 2002 I made my first visit to China. One of the ah-huh moments, besides standing on the Great Wall and shopping in Shanghai, was to see an exact replica of the White House. A multi-millionaire had it constructed it in the middle of nowhere and back then it was being designated as a private school.
Ten years later I am back in China and getting a further understanding of the country. Even though Hong Kong is a beautiful, progressive city, it is still trying to grasp the idea of being itself. It still hasn’t embraced its own identity but continues to copy the USA. It’s too bad because it is such a beautiful place and has much to offer.
Hong Kong Time’s Square does countdown every New Year’s Eve. Soho is a large and vibrant shopping district. Want to see a mini version of Sydney, Australia? Just wander down to the harbor. And don’t forget Disneyland and Sea World. It’s been an eye-opener for me, complete with Burger King, MacDonald’s and KFC.
We arrived in Hong Kong after a 12 hour journey from Vancouver, Canada with Air Canada. Other than a shortage of leg room in the seats, the airline treated us well.
When we arrived at the airport, we went through immigration before picking up our luggage. It was a no-nonsense space with nothing to look at and attendants moved us quickly through the line-ups. Then we got our luggage and went through customs. We were only required to stop if we had something to declare. On the honour system here!
In order to get downtown where we were staying, we just followed the signs for “trains” and then turned right to get to tourist info and a city map. Then we bought tickets for the MTR, which are extremely cheap. One of our party got a discount because he was over 65. We took the train to Kowloon Station. Everything was very quiet and serene, even when it was busy, even on the MTR!
When we arrived at the Kowloon Station, we took the hotel shuttle bus (ours was #4), which was included in the price of our MTR ticket. Everything was very organized and we just waited our turn. It’s all under cover and the bus took us right to the hotel, the BP International, although the driver had to park beside the hotel to let us out. Walking to the front door was the only time we were out in the weather.
The hotel itself was very comfortable. BP International was named after Bayden Powell, the founder of scouting.
Check-in was also easy. We got a password for wifi access. It was the room # and our last name, so easy again. We also got a complimentary drink at the hotel lounge with our room. The hotel was conveniently located downtown and within easy walking distance to Temple Street Market, the Harbour to go over to Hong Kong Island, and all the other great shopping. There was a 7-Eleven across the street if we wanted to buy any snacks for our room.
Other than going out for a traditional Chinese meal on Temple Street, which we realized later we got terribly overcharged for, we had a fairly quiet evening.
We had ordered a buffet breakfast with our room, which was a combination of traditional and ethnic food and exceptionally good. Before long we were off for a full day of sightseeing. We walked down to the harbor and headed for the Star Ferry. There is no charge for people over 65 and the fare for others is equivalent to 30 cents Canadian!
We took our passports with us so we could o to the 55th floor of the money exchange free of charge. They have a museum about the Hong Kong money but the most interesting part was being able to take pictures from that height. Even though there was low cloud it was still worthwhile.
Then we headed for a local bus (bus #6, 260, or 6A) and the Stanley Market, which was out at the end of the island. It was a beautiful coastal drive for about 45 minutes and cost the equivalent of $1.30. The market itself had the usual souvenirs but it was interesting doing the sea walk and just looking at the harbor. Our lunch that day was traditional Chinese and we shared eating space with workers from a city crew.
On our way back to the hotel, we wandered through Kowloon Park, a lovely peaceful green space near the harbor.
That evening we headed out for the Temple Street Market, only 4 blocks walk from the hotel. There was a much better selection there and the negotiated prices were lower. We all like Dim Sum, so we went in search of some, which we finally found a couple of blocks away from the market. After stuffing 5 people our bill came to the equivalent of $200 HKD, a fantastic buy! Could we find the place again? It would require a bit of a search but it was the only Dim Sum being prepared outside and frequented by locals.
The next part of our journey – Singapore!
There was complimentary instant coffee and tea in the room and distilled hot and cold water in the hall.
Bring your passport for free access to the 55th floor of the 2nd tallest building, the money exchange on Hong Kong Island.
The light system is different from North America in some hotels. It’s controlled by the room key so when in your room, use the key in the slot and remove it when you leave to automatically turn the lights off.
No tipping is expected, unless you want to say thank you for exceptional service.
A 3 prong plug is needed.
Because Hong Kong weather is similar to coastal weather in northern areas of North America you may want a warm jacket and an umbrella with you.