Over the past couple of years I've given my family so many different dates of return, all of which have shifted.  And when one of my favourite people invited me to her wedding banquet in Hong Kong, I kept changing my mind whether or not I'd be able to attend.  However, as my plans in Australia began to crystallise, Hong Kong became a certainty, and the launching pad for my month of reunions home and away.  There were 5 of us from the UCSB days going to the wedding, coming from three different continents, so we decided to rent an apartment together.  First top tip: even if you think you understand how compact Hong Kong accommodation is, you will still be shocked.  The people of this country have an impressive ability to fit the maximum into a small space.  It was a struggle trying to find an apartment that could comfortably sleep 5 people - even those that claimed to accommodate up to 9 on further inspection assumed that two people could share a single bed.  I did eventually find one, which was absolutely miniscule, but it introduced us to the area of Mong Kok in Kowloon.

Our apartment (from Air Bnb) was in a residential building overlooking the Ladies Market, a bustling daily market selling primarily cheap women's clothing, but various other kinds of tat too.  Another lesson quickly learned: capacity limits are based on the idea that all people of traditional Asian build, i.e. slight and not tall.  A lift that says it can carry eight people will be creaking with four Westerners inside.  Mong Kok itself is not a particularly touristy area, so it can be difficult to find things written in English, but there's plenty of traditional street food.  Wedding activities were number one on the agenda - including the fun and surprisingly exhausting game of bubble soccer - but we did explore a few other neighbourhoods in Kowloon.  The banquet itself was in Tsim Sha Tsui on the harbour, and we also managed to explore the Night Market (above) on Temple Street, which was much more about interesting art and trinkets than polyester clothing.

The cultural highlight of this trip was easily the Tian Tan Buddha, also known as the Big Buddha, which sits at the top of a mountain on Lantau Island.  We took a train to the island and then a bus that lulled me to sleep up the windy roads to see this monument, and the Po Lin Monastery that is adjacent.  It is a singularly peaceful spot, particularly in comparison to over-stimulation of Hong Kong city.  Despite being completed in 1993, there is an aura in this place of an old world that no longer exists, as Buddha sits in repose above a picturesque landscape.

Though the Tian Tan Buddha was guarded by several gentle dogs, cats were the main theme of our trip.  We visited Upper Lascar Row also known as Cat Street where antique shops sold everything from traditional tea sets to Maoist memorabilia.  The street's nickname comes from the so-called 'mouse goods' (stolen goods) that some shops sell, making the customer a cat ready to pounce on a good deal.  More literally feline, we also visited Ah Meow cat cafe in Causeway Bay, where we moved to after the wedding.  I would raise some health & safety queries (grooming the cat on the table?!) but I thoroughly enjoyed my hazelnut milk and the cats were quite sweet.  A point of interest that our hostel and the cat cafe both shared was that they were hidden away in apartment blocks.  Hong Kong buildings seem to share commercial and domestic purposes, and addresses are often written with 'F' at the beginning (i.e. 13F/100 Nathan Rd) denoting the floor of a building, which acts as another street.  I found it quite fun - our hostel was in an apartment building on top of Michael Kors!

I'll wrap this up with some tips.  First and foremost, get yourself an Octopus card - you can get these at any MTR station in the city, and they are invaluable.  You pay $150 HKD which includes a $50 deposit and $100 of credit, and not only can the card be used on all methods of transport in Hong Kong SAR but also in some places to buy food, or pay for tourist attractions.  Things like the Victoria Peak Tram accept Octopus and also give you a discount for paying that way.  You top it up at any 7/11, and when you leave Hong Kong you hand it back in at the station and they refund you any remaining credit plus all but $9 of your deposit!  Also, there is a train from the city to the airport which (for some airlines) allows you to check in for your flight while in town - I checked my luggage in downtown Hong Kong and it was waiting for me when I got to London.  Finally, be aware of typhoon season.  October usually isn't, hence the wedding banquet being booked then, but we were experiencing the fringes of the one that hit mainland China and the rain is intense.  However I did get some nice moody pictures like the one above from Victoria Peak!

No comments:

Post a Comment