A Week in Hong Kong 2010 – Days 1-3
It’s been a long time since I last went on a holiday and with the amount of work rising at my current job I was pretty much getting stressed out. So after being with the company for an entire year it was time for a break. My holiday of 4 weeks is broken up into 3 areas: Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore. The first leg of this Asian round trip is Hong Kong. Hit the jump to read more about my first week in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is one of those places that most people have been to, and in some cases have been multiple times. Me however, I did go once when I was 12-13. It’s been 12 years since I last went to Hong Kong. 12 years is a long time and given that the world of technology has advanced, so has Hong Kong itself. It is a very different place compared to the world that I remember so little about. There are only minor things that I remember but none of that matters now as this is a fresh new experience.
Day 1 – 30th August
The trip started with a an ungodly morning rise of 5am. My flight from Sydney was at 10:45am and I had to be at the airport before 8:30. Given that it was Monday morning I expected a long queue just to do check-in and I was correct. The line for Qantas had outgrown the zigzag barriers and I ended up waiting a good 40 minutes to check-in. This also happens to be the first time that I have been on an airplane alone as my travel companions were to take a later flight.
So passing through Customs and going through the Tourist Refund Scheme, it was time to fly out. It was only a 9 hour flight but unfortunately I was sitting next to an elderly person with his 12 year old son next to him. I was trying to sleep but the kid kept messing around with his dad and kept waking me up. I looked at the kid and his dad told him to stop but even at that point I could no longer go back to sleep.
Eventually arriving in Hong Kong, immediately I could notice the change in temperature, especially the humidity. Coming from Australia I never experienced such humidity. It took a little while getting used to but the sweating on my brow was getting annoying. Anyway I decided to take the MTR from the airport to Kowloon which cost me $90HKD and then took a taxi to my hotel, the Nathan Hotel in Jordan. Having checked in I went up to the room and liked what I saw.
I did walk around a bit after that and acquired a SIM for my iPhone4. The unfortunate thing was that I could only get a 3G Rechargeable SIM as it was the only micro SIM available from 3. I would have preferred a SIM that allows me to do voice calls, SMS, and data, but this SIM only allows me to access wifi in certain areas. But on the plus side I can use this SIM internationally and its valid for 128 days.
Heading back to the hotel I had to wait for the next hour or so as my travel companions would be arriving soon. They eventually arrived at 11:30pm HK time and it was pretty late. We walked around finding something to eat and we eventually came across the Temple St markets as they were closing up. We went into a random store and had dinner.
Day 2 – 31st August
After having breakfast, we head to the Jordan MTR station and the first thing we did was acquire an Octopus card. The Octopus card allows us to travel much more easily than having to purchase tickets all the time. This is the kind of thing I wish Sydney had but that is a long way away given the current state the government is in. Anyway the first agenda for the day was to head over to Mong Kok to acquire new clothes. However I had totally forgotten that nothing opens until around 11am. So we walked around quite a bit just absorbing our surroundings which I find not to be so bad. With less people around it is much easier to spot stores that would perk my interest and would allow me to come back and check them out.
Eventually after walking around for an hour we discovered one of the many markets in Hong Kong. This was the Tung Choi St market, also known as the Ladies Market and with my friends having no clothes besides the ones they were wearing, it was time for some clothes shopping. At first it seemed a little difficult to find men’s clothing but eventually we found a few places that satisfied our tastes. We probably spent a good hour or two going through the available stores and I enjoyed seeing a variety of stores from clothes, to random souvenirs, and even fruit stores. However one of the things that I hate happening the most on any holiday had happened. I got separated from my friends. basically what happened was that I was looking at a store and turned around 5 mins later to find them gone. So I ended up walking up and down the markets trying to find them. Unfortunately the both of them didn’t carry mobile so I had no way to contact them. Eventually I did find them waiting at the store I bought from. They happen to have disappeared into a tailor shop to get their clothes altered.
After finishing at the markets, we headed back to Nathan Road and explored the more central sections. We also came across a G2000 store. Now I’ve been told about this store from a friend of mine and I liked what I saw when they used to have an online store so I was definitely excited to see what they have. Checking out the store I was quite happy with what I saw and it was exactly my kind of style. This kind of clothing you can’t get cheaply in Australia. So I walked out with some pants and a jacket (apologies for the crap photo taken by my friend):
Now one of the other reasons we came to Mong Kok was a quest for tailored suits. One of my companions was directed by a colleague of his about a suit store in Mong Kok. But given both my travel companions are lazy I did the research with the given address and found that it was in the Sino Centre. So walking into the Sino Centre we were surprised to find a variety of stores selling otaku goods. It’s kind of amazing how you find places such as these out of pure randomness. There were definitely a number of things that interested me but I didn’t want to buy any otaku goods in Hong Kong. That was to be done in Japan. So after walking around we discovered the suit store which is located on the ground floor. This place was known as Mon Ami (Shop No.G10-G11, Ground Floor, Sino Centre, 582-592 Nathan Road, Kowloon) however it was closed. It says it opens at midday but it was already 3pm. Since we’re carrying bags of clothes, we headed back to the hotel to relax a bit and to escape the heat and would return later.
Much later, out of curiosity, we decided to look at some of the local tailor shops near the hotel. So walking in we got quotes and was stated $1600 HKD (about $210 AUD), but my friends were looking at spending only half that amount. The guy started to laugh at us and said that if we found a place that will sell us a suit for $800 HKD he’ll give us a suit for free. So ignoring him and a bunch of Indian touts waiting for us outside, we headed back to Mong Kok to check out the suit store. Thankfully it was open. Now for me this was quite an amusing and somewhat difficult situation. My Cantonese isn’t very strong since I was raised in a very western area where no other Chinese were, so communication with the owner was difficult in some parts. Luckily she could speak English but we had to speak slowly for her. of course she did at times speak to us in Cantonese and I could understand about 2/3 of what she was saying, but my problem was being able to respond with the correct words.
So with my friends having tried on a number of suits, they each bought 4 suits. I only bought 1 since I don’t wear suits all that often, but given that each suit was $780 HKD, it was an offer I couldn’t pass up. The owner even made a jab at my belly telling me that I’m quite fat. Well I don’t mind since I know it’s true. Well she was laughing about it and told me to lose weight and i simply laughed along with her. So with the suit ordering done it would take 4-5 days for it to completed, thus we headed back to the hotel.
Later that night for me was probably one of the things I’ve been meaning to do for some time, and that is to meet my relatives. As a kid I didn’t really talk to my relatives in Hong Kong that much mainly because of the language barrier and whenever they came to Australia I was too shy to talk to them. But as we grow older, we become more outgoing, more confident, more mature. So for me now it was easier to talk to them, and luckily for me they can all speak English. Of course they do talk in Cantonese but I can follow parts of the conversation. So we went out for a dinner and I gave them a present that my mum gave me to pass on, like all good mothers do when their kids go to see relatives. Still even though I saw 3 of them, it still felt good to connect with my distant relatives. Hopefully next time I’ll see even more relatives.
Day 3 – 1st September
With Hong Kong, I didn’t have much planned out on what to do on what days. This is mainly because stuff I had planned before got canceled so I was left with some days left open. But for today I wanted to check out a bit of Tsim Sha Tsui. At this point I started to go out on my own since my friends don’t want to see the things I do, plus I don’t know how much more longer I could put up with their random spending on crap. So the first thing I wanted to see was Kowloon Park.
It was nice seeing flamingos in the park despite being in a caged off area. You could never have that kind of thing in Sydney as the only things you see are pigeons and seagulls. Also I was planning to explore a bit more of the park but somehow ended up on Canton Road. Though of course the heat was also getting to me so I had to rest up a little. However since I didn’t really plan out this trip to Tsim Sha Tsui very well, I headed back to the hotel to find something else to do. And there was a place: the Bird Garden.
Just one of the many tourist attractions and with plenty of directions, funnily enough I actually got lost. Alighting at Prince Edward station I was supposed to head east but instead I ended up heading west. It was only after 10 minutes did I realise my mistake. Eventually I headed into the right direction and soon enough came across the flower markets which is another place to check out. Though I’m sure you readers don’t want to see photos of flowers. But don’t worry, I didn’t take any.
It’s actually quite amazing to see so many different types of birds in one place. From the variety of colours to the different levels of birds squawking in a way it’s like another world. But with the large number of bird cages in the shops and hanging, it sort of does give Hong Kong that timeless feel of history and culture. Though I must admit that I thought the Bird Garden would be much larger but it is in fact quite small.
So with not much else to do and feeling tired, I headed back to the hotel to rest up as I would be meeting up with a few people Hong Kong residents: Q and StepsWalker. We decided to meet up in Mong Kok station but given that Mong Kok station was quite busy it was a little difficult in meeting up. I was more worried about not being able to recognise them given that I’m absolutely terrible at recognising people. Eventually we met up and StepsWalker brought along a friend (sorry I forgot your name). So we headed to Sino Centre and they showed me around some of the stores that I missed on my first visit.
After Sino Centre they took me to Animate and then Dollfie World. It was so awesome going to Dollfie World as it was one of the shops I wanted to visit in this Hong Kong trip. They had quite a selection in their store despite it being small, but most stores are small in Hong Kong, and they even had a few exclusive items. Of course I couldn’t walk away empty handed so I ended up buying some Volks clothes and some other accessories.
Now what I wanted at that point was to purchase a battery grip for my shiny Canon 7D. My relatives told me last night to not go into the stores I see from the streets as they are tourist traps. So since I was with a group of locals they kindly showed me one of the places to go. We went to a number of places in one building as they hunted for the best bargain for me. I found this rather interesting as I would only visit one or two shops and then make my purchase. With prices of around $1400 HKD frankly that is already cheap enough for me. Compared to buying back in Australia, I was already saving around $80-$90 AUD. I have a very laid back attitude when it comes to looking for a deal since my perception of money is kind of screwy. But this is the beauty of coming to places like Hong Kong. Everything for me is very cheap compared to Australia though it does make me understand how very different cultures can be as well as the average person’s financial status. Still I’m very grateful for StepsWalker for doing the searching for me.
Eventually we all got hungry and we to a place to get something to eat. This place weirded me out when we walked it as it was decorated with random pirate themed crap everywhere. I wasn’t too sure what to order so thankfully Q interpreted the menu for me thus I ended up getting myself a black pork in white curry:
So we mainly sat, ate, chat. I would say that I now have a greater insight to the Hong Kong lifestyle and of how I am fortunate in some ways. For starters I have a much higher income, much more spacious living arrangements, a much more relaxing society as well as less dense in population. But comparing to Hong Kong they have cheaper food and material goods, a much more efficient transport system, the convenience of shops open till late. It makes me kind of yearn for this lifestyle as I very much enjoy the bustling city. I have only been in Hong Kong for three days it was exciting for me and I still had much more to see, as well as more to eat. The only unfortunate thing was that the humidity was ruining my appetite.
Well that pretty much covers the first 3 days of my Hong Kong leg. Look forward to the rest of my Hong Kong coverage as well as coverage of Japan and Singapore to come. I’d like to thank Q, StepsWalker and friends for taking the time out of their schedules to meet up with me and I hope to see you guys again in the future. Of course I’m hoping my Cantonese would have improved by then.
Note: All photos were taken with my Canon 7D and have not been edited in any way.