Monday, 6 May 2013

Part 2: Hong Kong

So, after four days in Singapore, we made our way to Hong Kong. For the first time, we flew with Singapore Airlines and I can confirm that the outfits of the hostesses are just lovely. The flight from Singapore to Hong Kong takes about four hours and when we arrived we were welcomed by a "nice" Summer storm. The journey from the airport to the hotel was intensified by a crazy and scary rain. But we made it. However, let me say, flying into Hong Kong offers some of the best views I have ever experienced in my life. Hong Kong from above is simply amazing.

We stayed at the Grand Hyatt hotel. The hotel is very big, certainly not the kind of boutique hotel I usually like but I must say the service and the food were absolutely top notch, so I would definitely recommend it. Our room was on the 22nd floor and all the facilities were on the 11th: swimming pools, tennis court, gym, sauna, playground, as well as the spa.

Since we arrived on a Thursday evening and Rob didn't have to work on Friday, he had the chance to do some sightseeing with me. We started with a visit to the Peak, the highest point on Hong Kong island; to go all the way up we took the gravity-defying Peak Tram, Hong Kong's oldest thrill-ride (125 years). Rising almost vertically the funicular clanks its way up the hillside to finish after eight minutes at the Peak Tower. Unfortunately, we didn't have the clearest day but I can only imagine what the views must be like if you are lucky with the weather.

Once back down again, we visited one of Hong Kong's most famous and oldest temples, the atmospheric Man Mo Temple. The temple is dedicated to the gods of literature (Man) and of war (Mo). I loved walking around the temple but I must say the frankincense was overwhelming, to say the least! We visited quite a few temples on this trip and one thing I noticed about these temples is that they are a bit scary. Well, I don't know if scary is the right word, but perhaps intimidating. You know when you enter a church and you are usually taken by a sense of peace? Well, it doesn't happen in a buddhist or taoist temple. In fact, it is quite the opposite; it was almost as something bad was going to happen to us any minute. Or maybe it was just me feeling a bit out of place.

Next, we walked around SoHo and Hong Kong Central Park before making our way back to the hotel.

We then headed out again for a delicious meal at Sevva, a restaurant I would definitely recommend if you are in town, both for the food and the ambience, not to mention the killing views from the terrace. 
After such a lovely evening and delicious dinner we were all charged up for more adventure. We spent the second day in Hong Kong taking ferries! We first took the Star Ferry and went to Kowloon, where we strolled around the Avenue of Stars and enjoyed the panorama from the Promenade. Once again, it was very hazy, so, unfortunately, the pictures are not the best.

We then strolled a bit in this side of Hong Kong and hit the famous jade market and temple street market before going back to the pier to board another ferry, this time to Lantau Island to see the Tian Tan Buddha, also known as Big Buddha, without a doubt the highlight of the trip.
 Reaching the Big Buddha is not the easiest thing but if you happen to be in that part of the world make sure to put it on your agenda. It was an absolutely amazing experience; in fact, I wish we had more time to enjoy it all. Next to the Big Buddha there are also temples as well as a monastery with a tea garden and a wisdom path, all worth a visit.

And from spirituality to mundanity. The following day we went to Macau, also known as the *Vegas of the East*. If you know me, you know that I am not a fan of Vegas, or in general gambling places. Sorry, but I don't see the beauty of hundreds of flashy casinos, buildings resembling famous and old places and architectures in the world, artificial lights and overcrowded rooms. That's just not me. However, I trusted my guide when it said that Macau had much more to offer than casinos. So we went, and I am glad we did. Macau was a Portuguese colony from the mid 16th century to 1999 and there are fortresses, churches, and buildings everywhere that evoke the style of its former Portuguese masters, intermixed with Chinese temples and markets. I must confess, it was a very interesting experience. And yes, we did take a trip to one of the casinos, the Grand Lisboa to be precise, but we had to leave after five seconds as it is still allowed to smoke inside the rooms and we felt intoxicated! 

The next couple of days were all about exploring, visiting more temples and shopping in other markets. And I couldn't leave Hong Kong without a proper Afternoon Tea at the Peninsula Hotel. We had to queue for over an hour to be seated but it had to be done! As I said in my previous post, I missed London and I missed my afternoon teas! Girls, if you are reading this, we should start a new Afternoon Tea series Around the World!

Overall, the trip was amazing and it was certainly a great experience to visit these two cities which are a mixture of old and new, tradition and innovation, East and West. Now I can't wait to plan our next holiday.... :)

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