Saturday, 21 March 2015

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a fast, vibrant and busy city. We (my friend from university - Matthew - and myself) landed in Hong Kong, the first stop during our trip to Asia, without our luggage (was left in Abu Dhabi during my transfer) and without any sleep in the last 20 hours. Google had predicted temperatures of 10-12 degrees, but on landing we discovered Hong Kong was enjoying a heat wave and temperatures had soared to 26 degrees Celsius.

Without our luggage we were able to start the day immediately - travelling up Ngong Ping mountain, using a cable car. This area was designed as a tourist attraction and opened in 2006! The mountain features a Giant Buddha and a Monestry, both of which are beautiful to look at. The Monestry was opened in 1923 with beautiful gold leaf linings and hundreds of Buddha statues inside. The Giant Buddha is situated on the tallest hill on the mountain and required the climbing of several stairs to reach.
On our second day we adventured out to the Ten Thousand Buddha Monestry. After using conveniently placed escalators we were able to reach the top with little effort. However, after a short period of time, it became apparently this was not a Monestry, but a burial ground. Families of the deceased visited the grounds with flowers, meals and gifts. After exploring all the different levels to see if we could reach the Monestry from here, we were informed we followed the wrong path at the bottom and climbed the wrong hill! The actual Monestry was beautiful, with gold painted Buddha statues adorning the walk to the top of the mountain, each with a different expression and face.

The Nan Lian Gardens and Nunnery were also beautiful. Unfortunately we arrived too late and couldn't enter the Nunnery, but could explore it's grounds. Huge ponds with Koi Carp were surrounded by Chinese Pine 
trees. The buildings were carefully designed with ornate wood features. One again, the Gardens only opened in 2006 and is currently applying to become a World Heritage Site.

In the evening we explored the waterfront and the Avenue of Stars to watch the Hong Kong Light Show. This consisted of buildings on both sides of the river flashing lights to music. I can't say it was impressive but it still manages to draw a large crowd each night. We watched this light show from the clock tower, which has many displays surrounding it to celebrate the Chinese New Year of the Ram (my zodiac!).

During our final day in Hong Kong, we traveled to Hong Kong Island! This is an island, just south of Hong Kong City where much of the financial district is located. We caught the water ferry across the river, however the views were poor due to the dense misty cloud surrounding the tall buildings. From here we traveled to the Hong Kong Flower Show. 

Hong Kong is most certainly the land of the Orchid! From the beautiful floral arrangements to the shops selling flowers, Orchids were consistently a center piece. I personally found the flower arrangements the resembled animals or Japanese gardens the most impressive.

During the afternoon (when the mist had cleared up) we began the assent of Victoria Peak. Victoria Peak resembles Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence - a high vantage point where the city can be viewed. There are two options to reach the top of this mountain - the first, using the tram to get to the top, the second, a 45 minute hike on very steep paths. Unfortunately, we chose the second. The hike is very tiring especially in the heat, but the view at the top is most definitely worth it, just remember to wear your hiking shoes!

Overall, I liked Hong Kong, I enjoyed the disparity of busyness within the different areas and the extensive range of high end designer shops.

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