Hong Kong 2004

I am adding short travel diaries from my past travels so as to consolidate all my journaling together.

Back in 2004, my boyfriend had the opportunity to go to Hong Kong for an overseas student exchange for 6 months. This was the first time we were parted for such a long time, so when I could, I made my way to Hong Kong on my very first solo flight.

6th October 2004 Flying solo to Hong Kong

The plane took off from Singapore Changi Airport at 1210 and touched down HK International Airport at 1530. There is no time difference between the two Asian Tiger nations. Theo met me at the airport and then directed me to buy an Octopus Card for HK$150 (it is the Singapore equivalent of an EZLink card which is a necessity for public transport in HK). From the airport, we took bus A11 which is an airport transfer express and costs HK$40 to Causeway Bay. I got my first glimpse of HK as the bus passed through Lantau, a bit of Kowloon and through western HK island to the east where we alighted. We checked in to Wang Fat Hostel where a double room costs HK$300 per night.

That evening, we took a tram to the Star Ferry Terminal and then a ferry over to Kowloon. The tram and ferry are the cheapest form of transport in HK. At the harborfront we watched the Lights Show across the river. It starts at 8pm everynight. Thereafter we walked around Tsim Sha Tsui, had our dinner and then strolled down the Avenue of Stars. The return journey was by ferry back to HK island and the tram to Causeway Bay.

If I remember correctly, HK is made up of 4 different territories, there’s Lantau Island where the airport is, Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories that stretches north towards Shenzhen, China.

7th October 2004 Lamma Island

Today we head out to HK University which is located at Pok Fu Lam road on the midlevels. Due to the mountainous geology of the region, HK is divided into three levels – ground level, midlevel and the peak as part of the city is built into the hills. We took a minibus no. 28 up to Theo’s hostel at Wei Lun hall. The minibus carries only 16 pple and stops to allow passengers to board or alight anywhere on its predetermined route. I think it would take a tourist quite a bit of guts to tell the driver when to stop.

According to Theo, there are two types of mini-buses. The green top ones move along a stipulated route and you have to pay when you board. The red top ones travels along routes according to the driver’s fancy so they do not have a number but instead will state where the bus is heading. For this bus, you pay when you alight. What an interesting system. After a brief stop at the hall to see Theo’s living condition, we headed to the university grounds to have a look around. A student approached me to for some donation and I noted that some of the local students struggle with spoken English.

After that we took a red top minibus to Aberdeen, where a boat community thrives. From there we took a ferry to bring us to Lamma Island. This part of the journey was suggested by me as I read about this island on a magazine. The ferry stopped us at Sok Kwu Wan which is the village at the south side of the Island. This place is teems with seafood restaurants. From this village we took a path that brought us to the northern part of Lamma to Yung Shue Wan town.

We walked about 2 hours during which we passed two beaches. The sun starts setting at 6.30pm so make sure you reach town before then as there are limited street lamps. Yung Shue Wan looks more developed and there are quite a few bars here. I noticed that many of the residents own dogs. We had a seafood dinner then took a fast ferry back to Central. From Central we went up to Mong Kok via the MTR.

We visited the Ladies Market, which is a night market that sells all kinds of clothes and accessories at bargain prices.  Then we continued south down to Tsim Sha Tsui. I bought some clothes and even got to try the infamous ‘cho dou fu’ otherwise known as smelly tofu. It was disgusting. You could probably use that as a fear factor challenge. From TST, we took a train back to Wan Chai for supper. It is amazing that the streets are still teeming with people at 1am on a weekday!

8th October 2004 Visit to New Territories

Today we headed out to the New Territories. Armed with only a book I borrowed from the library and some knowledge of where I wanted to go, we took the KCR East Rail (Causeway Bay – Admiralty – Mong Kok – Kowloon Tong) to Sheung Shui, which was located on the border to China. From there we asked directions on how to go to San Tin. We took bus 76K across the road from the station. The bus stopped us at the rural village and we walked in to visit this Chinese mansion called Tai Fu Tai, which was built in the 1850s by a Man official part of the HK heritage.

The lady in charge of the mansion was extremely friendly and she told us the history of the place in Cantonese which only Theo understood and later translated for me. From there, a 5 minutes walk brought us to the family ancestral hall. There was a heavy oppressive feeling here and I later found out that the front yard used to be an execution ground in the past. This part of HK used to be dominated by 5 clans – Tang, Man, Liu, Hao and Pan, and they had their own way of enforcing order in their clans. Turned out to be quite an educational trip.

From San Tin, we took bus 76K to Yuen Long West bus terminal and changed to bus number 54 to bring us to Kam Tin, another rural village. Kam Tin is also a place of heritage but as we were in a rush, we changed to bus 51 from there to bring us to Tai Mo Shan Country Park. Tai Mo Shan is the tallest peak in HK at 3,230 ft above sea level.

As the sun was already setting, we could not make it to the peak on foot so we had to settle for less and then took bus 51 to Tsuen Wan where we then took the MTR back to Prince Edward station and walked down the whole of Kowloon again. By now, my legs had gotten used to all the walking but certainly illustrates a point that it is possible to traverse HK on foot. It had been an adventure travelling to unfamiliar territories. We got to know this guy called Kenneth who owns a travel bookshop somewhere around Yau Ma Tei area. Very friendly guy.

9th October 2004 Stanley Bay

All the walking finally took a toll on us and we had a late start to the day. I got to check off one of the must do activity when in HK which is to have dim sum breakfast. This we had at a Chinese restaurant across the hostel. Yum yum for shrimp lovers. Be sure to know what to order though. After brunch, we took bus 973 from HKU area to bring us through Repulse Bay (where the wealthy live) and down to Stanley which is a tourist hotspot.

There is a beach and many locals come here to chill out too. But for tourists, this is where you get the souvenirs. What caught my fancy is this form of Chinese art called Rainbow calligraphy where the calligrapher uses a myriad of colors and meaningful symbols to paint your name in Chinese characters. After that we took a bus 6 back to Central. We found out that on Sundays and public holidays, a bus 315 brings you from Stanley up to the peak for only $9.20. It’s probably a long ride up and down the hills but it’s definitely cheaper than taking the tram.

From Central, Theo brought me to try out the Midlevel escalators, a series of escalators designed to bring people up to the midlevels where we took the tram up to the Peak. It costs S$20 for a single trip and S$30 for two-ways. We decided to take the single trip because I intended to hike the way down. The peak is indeed beautiful at night and we took quite a few shots of the HK night scenery. On our return trip, we trekked down a very quiet path.

My advice is not to try this at night. We started our trek this at 1030pm and I was spooked out the whole journey. Although there was the intermittent street lamp, it was just too deserted. Still it was an adventure and a great way of working out those muscles down the very steep slopes. After the Peak, we went to Lam Kwai Fong where you find the most happening nightlife in HK. At LKF, we took a drink and watched the 2006 World Cup qualifiers with the rest of the foreign community.

England won that night against Wales. We also bumped into Theo’s friends from the university – Kwan Kit, Kheng Haw from Malaysia and Pasi from Finland. Later we walked all the way back from Central to Causeway Bay for like the third time during my time in HK. On hindsight, probably should have taken the cab. Fare starts at HK$15 for the first 2km and then jumps HK$1.40 per 0.2km.

10th October 2004 Lonely journey home

We checked out of the hostel and paid Sam for the rest of the accommodation and then for last minute shopping at Causeway Bay for lao po bing (old wives’ biscuit). Then we caught the A11 airport transfer where I took my solo flight back to Singapore. HK was a nice getaway although I was slightly overwhelmed by the number of people and commercial outfits overflowing the roads. But it’s a place to be at all times of the day since the city hardly sleeps. The transport system is good but the standard of living is higher than Singapore. The place for trendy wear for women but not so for sports wear. Food is mediocre but I particularly liked the complimentary soup that comes with the Chinese set meals at any Chinese eatery. Dim sum is a must try too. I probably won’t visit HK again unless for shopping or to try the Maclehose trail which is a 100km trail that spans the Eastern to Western part of the New Territories on the ridge line. Still it was a teary farewell till I meet my boyfriend again at the end of the year.

Afternote 2012: Have booked air tickets for a family trip to HK in March 2013. Will be excited to see what’s changed over the last 9 years other than the number of children I am lugging along.

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