Sunday, 8 January 2012

Our Hong Kong Stopover

After a great Christmas of catching up with family and friends, we headed back to Japan, but this time it was suggested that we might like to break up our journey with a quick stop over in Hong Kong. As we had never been there before we thought that would be a terrific idea, so we allowed a little time and just a bit of space in our suitcases for some last minute shopping. After all, ‘spending’ is what this city was built upon and it continues to live up to its reputation as one of the great ‘retail’ capitals of the world. Jules was certainly in her element, although we were both amazed by the sheer number of ‘high end’ shops, many of which were simply out of our league. Nonetheless it is fair to say we did make a small contribution to the local economy as we continued to explore this bustling city over the next three days.

Being winter we tended to limit our sightseeing, but of course a trip to Hong Kong is not quite complete without a visit to Victoria Peak. So we jumped on board the funicular railway and made our way up the steep slope. As we headed upward, we were literally pushed back into our seats by the sheer angle of the incline and with the increasing chill factor, it gave us some idea of our viewing altitude. Yet, despite the cloudy haze, there was no denying the quality of the ultimate view. It certainly provided us with an amazing insight into the scale, architectural achievements and population density of this great city.

By sunset we were back down at sea level and enjoying a nice cocktail at the ‘Felix’ bar (designed by Philippe Stark) at the iconic Peninsular Hotel. This landmark of Hong Kong was originally built in 1928 and remains a lasting reminder of the British colonial days when the hotel entertained rich and famous visitors who had traveled from Europe on the Trans-Siberian rail link. More recently the grand hotel was a pit stop for Michael Palin as he traveled ‘Around the World in 80 days’. From here we headed down to the foreshore to watch the nightly light show from the Kowloon side of the harbour. Lasers scanned the sky and coloured lights danced across various high-rise buildings, adding to the excitement of Hong Kong by night. However I must say, the colourful skyline was just as impressive from the vantage point of the water ferry that regularly moves back and forth from Hong Kong Island and the mainland.

The next night we had the opportunity to explore the nightlife a little further when we caught up with our friends from Japan who had originally suggested our stop over. As regular visitors, they certainly knew all the best spots and had no hesitation in recommending that we head to the Soho entertainment district. This was not far from our hotel and was easily accessed by the extensive overhead walkway, which has what is recognised as the worlds longest escalator system. This was quite an amazing part of the old town; filled with restaurants, bars and nightclubs and on a Friday night it was really jumping, with happy crowds spilling into the streets. Clearly the expat community had discovered this neighborhood many years ago and had cultivated it into a very popular nightspot. We had previously explored the somewhat quieter side of this area during the day, as it is renowned for its many small galleries and antique shops, as well as the nearby Graham Street Market, which is the oldest continually running street market in Hong Kong (160 years). As an expert on the worlds great food markets and as a true connoisseur of fresh produce, Jules was in awe of what this place had to offer and of its ridiculously cheap prices. It seemed that whether it was the humble street market or the exclusive luxury brand arcades, Hong Kong had something for everyone and we had only just begun to scratch the surface! I suspect that this won’t be our last Hong Kong stopover, but I think there may be the need for a little more suitcase room next time.

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