Day 40 – First Day in Hong Kong
Those of you who have followed are travels are probably well aware how much we like Hong Kong and always circle it on the calendar – it is one of the most fun places one can visit – Hong Kong has it all; pier location, high-end shopping, low-end shopping, sights to see, things to do, and superb transportation. All of that is the good news, plus it is Chinese New Year.
The bad news is that the weather forecast for the next two days calls for rain, wind, and unseasonably cold temperatures.
This was the view as we sailed into the harbor – rain and fog!
We have had such good weather on this trip, we shouldn’t complain.
One of the great things about cruising to Hong Kong is the location of the pier. It is right in the center of the main section of Kowloon, right next to the Star Ferry which carries you over to the Central business district (known just as “Central”) of Hong Kong Island, and the pier is attached to a world class shopping center – for those of you in Dallas, it is like parking your ship at Neiman Marcus at North Park.
It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but inside it is all Swiss watches, Gucci, perfume, sporting goods, diamonds, and jade.
After running the gauntlet of those stores (thankfully they weren’t open) we descended through the New Year decorations on to the street, next to the Star Ferry to brave the weather, which seemed to improve slightly.
The area where the pier is located and where the Star Ferry Terminal is located are on landfill. About a block away, where the original shoreline was located is the “Time Ball Tower” which stood above the old Police Headquarters. In the 1800’s the Hong Kong Observatory determined the precise time, and at exactly 1:00 PM telegraphed a signal to the time ball tower causing the ball to drop. This allowed ships in the harbor to synchronize their ships clocks. Here is the Time Ball Tower.
We boarded the Star Ferry to head to Central – it costs the outrageous sum of $2 HK, or 25 cents US, to make the trip – so we could link up with our favorite transportation mode (in almost every port) – the Hop On-Hop Off Bus.
A Star Ferry Boat
The Star Ferry is on its 4th generation of Ferry Boats and has been in operation as the preferred method of transportation between Kowloon and Central since 1888!
In Hong Kong, the Hop On ticket includes 4 separate routes, ferry tickets, a harbor cruise, a tram ride up Victoria Peak (more about that later), and a Sampan ride. Quite a bargain – about $60 US per person for a two-day ticket. Normally, this bus provides both transportation and sightseeing (from the top deck), but today due to the rain it will be mostly transportation with an occasional break in the rain allowing rides on top.
We started out riding on top, and for a while, as we traveled among the skyscrapers, the weather favored us.
One of the things that, I believe makes Hong Kong such a vital place, is its unique position in the world’s economy. It is both the primary access point of the capitalist world into China, and the primary access point of China to the capitalist world.
The dozens of high rise office buildings are filled with the deal makers of the world’s biggest economies conducting business.
Towers featured in The Dark Knight.
This building houses the Red Army’s headquarters in Hong Kong. It was built by the British before they handed over territory to house the British Military Headquarters, and was referred to by the British soldiers as the “up-side down Gin bottle”.
One of the highlights of a trip to Hong Kong is a trip on the Peak Tram to the top of Victoria Peak – supposedly the best view of Hong Kong. On all three of our trips Victoria Peak has been fogged in, so we will just have to keep coming back until we see it!
We traveled through tunnel to the south side of the island, passing Ocean Park, a very popular marine and water park,
and Repulse Bay which contains some of the priciest real estate in Hong Kong – averaging over $25,000 HK per square foot! This is the condo called “The Lilly”
We arrived at Stanley Market, our destination for the afternoon, and “hopped off”. Stanley market is a great place to shop. It was formerly a small town, mostly British, which has morphed into a market – where stalls and shops are set up on the first floor of a maze of building walkways. The stalls are all covered with tarps – fortunately, considering the weather. Since we were last here, a modern, multi-story shopping mall has been built as an attractive addition – about a block away. Attractive not so much for shopping, but for modern restrooms and ATM, plus a supermarket which is always welcome if you need to replenish basic supplies.
We spent several hours browsing, shopping, and enjoying the excellent coffee shop. One of the things they do in Stanley is producing items with your name in Chinese characters while you wait – t-shirts, signature chops, photos, etc.
We left Stanley in the late afternoon, “hopped” on, made our way back to Central, and caught our Star Ferry back home to the ship to rest up for the night activities.