Twelve Swell Things I Did in Hong Kong
I did more than twelve things during the ten days I spent in Hong Kong, I’m sure, but these are the things I have photographic evidence of. Everything else might just have been an elaborate and feverish dream for all I know. This post is very long but don’t let that deter you, brave blog reader; it’s mostly photographs.
1) Got Drunk At The Happy Valley Racecourse
We visited the Happy Valley Racecourse on our first night in Hong Kong. Maybe it was the stress of trying to find it, maybe it was the ultra-white lights that illuminated the place, maybe it was the fact that it was surrounded by high rise apartment blocks with thousands of tiny windows for people to look out of or maybe it was just the fact that a horse racing track looked so out of place in central Hong Kong but I found being at the racecourse very disorientating. I had a great time though, drank German beer and lost a ton of bets.
Happy Valley Racecourse is located at 2 Sports Rd. Happy Valley, Hong Kong Island.
2) Bought Chinese Coins At Cat Street Antiques Market
God, I love an antiques market. I don’t know the first thing about antiques but I do love me a curiosity. Two roads, Hollywood Road (Antiques Street) and Upper Lascar Road (Cat Street), run parallel in the centre of Hong Kong’s business district, selling all manner of antiques, gems, kitsch Mao memorabilia and a fair share of junk. I bought a few old Chinese coins so my uncle can tell me my future using the I-Ching and instantly regretted not buying a Chairman Mao watch that had a mechanism that made his arm wave every time the second hand moved.
To get to Antique Street and Cat Street take the MRT to Sheung Wan, take the A2 exit, walk along Hillier Street turn right towards Ladder Street then left onto Upper Lascar Road.
3) Choked On Incense in Man Mo Temple
Over the past few years I’ve visited somewhere between twenty and twenty thousand temples but I can still remember my visit to Man Mo temple. Although the temple was undergoing some serious-looking construction work in October 2015 when I visited, the heady, almost spooky atmosphere inside was undeniable, due in part, admittedly, to the insane amount of burning incense inside making it difficult to see and even more difficult to breathe. For the first time ever I gave in to my desire to light a stick of incense at Man Mo Temple even though I’m a non-believer and instantly burnt my hand on falling ash as a divine punishment for being a phoney. Man Mo temple is dedicated to the worship of the Chinese gods of literature and war and was built in 1847.
It can be found at number 124-126 Hollywood Road in Sheung Wan.
4) Didn’t Go to Hong Kong Science Museum
I didn’t actually go to Hong Kong’s Science Museum, preferring instead to spend the day with my feet up, tap-tap-tapping on my laptop in a cool kids’ café, but my two accomplices went and confessed to having a pretty fun time despite the lack of alcohol involved.
Hong Kong Science Museum is conveniently located at 2 Science Museum Rd, Hong Kong
5) Went To Hong Kong Museum of History
I may not have gone to the Science Museum but I did go to the history museum, not once, but twice. It was so late when I got there the first time that I didn’t get all the way around the exhibitions and had to go back to finish it off. How else would I ever know what became of Hong Kong post World War II? The History Museum is a world-class museum and if you’re in any doubt over my credentials to make that statement I have not only visited many, many museums all over the world but worked in one for almost seven years. I would seriously recommend going there during your first few days in Hong Kong for a bit of context and insight into this history-bludgeoned city.
Hong Kong History Museum is located on Science Museum Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui East, Hong Kong
6) Watched the Symphony of Lights, Victoria Harbour
Going to the light show at Victoria Harbour is like going to a family wedding. You don’t particularly want to go but you kind of have to and, ultimately, you’re glad you made the effort. Apparently the ‘world’s largest permanent light and sound show’, the Symphony of Lights has been lighting the Hong Kong skyline since 2004 but there’s no way of knowing how long it will keep draining the world’s electricity supply so you might as well watch it while you can.
Address: Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong
7) Rode The Peak Tram
I’m a northern lass and have a bit of a soft spot for a nice historic tram. The Peak Tram in Hong Kong is the world’s steepest funicular railway and takes you from Garden Road in Central to Victoria Peak, undoubtedly the best spot from which to get a snap of Hong Kong’s impressive skyline. As this tramway was built by the British in 1888 I was looking forward to getting my face up to the glass of the display cases that tell the story of the history of the tram but the queue for the tram runs directly alongside the museum-section meaning I got a good education on the sides of a load of Hong Kong tourists’ heads instead.
I don’t know if there is ever a quiet period at this particular tourist attraction but if there is go then.
8) Peeked Inside Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb
Ah, this was brilliant. So in 1955 the Hong Kong Government was doing its usual tear up the ground and throw up new buildings thing when they came across what appeared to be an ancient tomb. Local university boffs excavated the tomb and dated it as being erected at some point during the Eastern Han dynasty (AD25-220). Yeah, nearly 2,000 years ago. You can’t go into the tomb itself as it is a strictly-controlled environment but you can have a peek at the interior of the tomb through a glass wall. When we visited the staff behaved as though they had never seen the strange beast known as a tourist before and couldn’t offer much help or input but the adjoining museum has quite a lot of information. I still haven’t been able to find out who the tomb was built for or why there were no remains found inside.
A visit to the Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb might only fill half an hour but it’s definitely worth a visit if only for the creepy, frozen ambience that can only occur when standing in an ancient tomb in the middle of a built-up residential area next door to a primary school. To get there take the MRT to Cheung Sha Wan and walk from there.
9) Had A Nervous Breakdown At Ocean Park and Aquarium
We visited Ocean Park on the first night of its annual Halloween extravaganza, a decision that seemed sound before we arrived but one I quickly came to realise I would regret. I think I’m just about over the trauma I suffered that day at Ocean Park, the night-terrors have stopped at least, but I know I’ll never look at a hospital stretcher the same way again. This experience deserves a full story and it shall get one but for now I’ll tell you that Ocean Park, Halloween or no Halloween, is very much worth a visit. The retro animal performances made me cringe and the rollercoasters may have crushed one of my vertebrae but that’ll all part of the fun.
To get there take the Citybus Ocean Park Express from Admiralty Bus Terminal or Central just outside the Star Ferry terminal.
Address: Ocean Park, Hong Kong
10) Took A Ferry to Lamma Island
Lamma Island is a cute day trip from Hong Kong and a good place to get some seafood but if you’ve travelled extensively in South East Asia don’t expect the same laid back vibes of islands in say Thailand or Malaysia. That said, Lamma Island offers a nice change of pace from Hong Kong Island. You can take a walking path across the island, ride a bike, visit the little beach, eat seafood on the harbour and buy tat from souvenir shops –everything a day trip should be. To get there take a ferry from Hong Kong Central Pier or Aberdeen.
11) Browsed the Flower Market
After a few days in Hong Kong it’s normal to want to see something soft and green and alive and you only have to go to Flower Market Road in Mong Kok to do so. One of the most frustrating things about travelling is when you want to buy a load of crazy stuff but can’t because it’s too expensive to ship things home and, oh yeah, you haven’t actually got a home anymore so what’s the point in buying anything anymore? Regardless of whether you’re buying or browsing the Flower Market is a cute place to wander around for a little while. I was surprised to see the almighty carnivorous pitcher plant for sale as I saw pitcher plants growing wild in Cameron Highlands National Park in Malaysia just days before and was told by a guide that they were incredibly vulnerable and close to extinction in the wild due to poaching.
12) Ate Copious Amounts of Dim Sum
I regret every meal in which I did not consume dim sum in Hong Kong. That’s how much I love dim sum and how crappy the dim sum is in my hometown. The bets dim sum place we visited was One Dim Sum in Mong Kok, close to the Flower Market. The restaurant is small so there was a huge queue outside. I once read a bit of advice about eating in Asia – and this applies to both street food and restaurants – that said if there is a huge queue, join it. So we did and when our time came to cram ourselves into a tiny corner table we weren’t disappointed. We also used the opportunity to try something we had seen on a number of menus but never eaten – fish maw. I didn’t know this at the time but fish maw is actually fish bladder and as I’m sure you can imagine it tasted rank. Like a fishy sponge. Apart from the fish maw, the food was divine and well worth the wait. We visited a few other dim sum places, all delicious, names all now forgotten. I’m not great at this, am I?