This week I was combing through my archives of essays that I’ve written over the almost 11 years and came across this gem from 2014. I’d recently returned from two weeks exploring Hong Kong and Vietnam. ✈️❤️👍🏼
The familiar smell of Asia filled my nostrils as I stepped from the flight late Sunday afternoon. That unmistakable aroma that has defined all of my experiences in Asia was there to greet me like a long-lost friend.
After living in the tropics for many years prior to moving to Canada it’s hard to describe, but I think it’s the mix of humidity, dampness, and mould to meld together to form this irrepressible smell.
Having quickly gone through Customs and retrieving my backpack (yes, I had to check it after being an inch too long for carry on…really?).
I found myself in the large and airy expanse of the Hong Kong International Airport acquiring an Octopus card so I could take the express train to the city which leaves every ten minutes.
Definitely the best way to get into Kowloon and Hong Kong Island!
The beauty of the re-loadable Octopus card is you can use it on almost any form of transportation in Hong Kong.
In the blink of an eye (25 minutes) I found myself alighting the train at Central station on Hong Kong Island and heading for the hotel bus that just so happened to be ready to go. Can you say serendipity?
For this visit I chose to stay at the Courtyard Marriott in the western district of the Island. 👍🏼
This clean, ultra-modern hotel is situated on Connaught Road West and only minutes from the hip and cool Central and Admiralty districts and walking distance from the Star Ferry terminus.
After dropping my bag, I decided to head over to the Peak Tram for a birds eye view of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak.
Surprisingly, it was a clear night, which made the viewing sensational, and was able to see the New Territories from the peak, which is a bit of a rarity given that its summer and often hazy. ❤️
Exploring a new city by walking and getting off the beaten track is the most fun I think you can have especially finding little treasures that you definitely wouldn’t have come across on a guided tour or following a guidebook.
My first morning I made my way over to the Star Ferry terminal under a cloudless sky, with the heat and humidity already building… it was sticky!
The ride across the harbour to Kowloon was a short 8 minutes, but with the volume of traffic on this incredibly busy waterway my ferry (Twinkling Star) was buffeted by the wakes of ships both large and small.
My first port of call was the Peninsula Hotel which was only a short distance from the terminus.
This famous hotel is as popular and well known as the Waldorf Astoria in New York, or Raffles in Singapore. This living legend was built in 1928 and considered to be the Pearl of the Orient when it came to luxury hotels.
When the Peninsula was originally built it had an unobstructed view of the harbour with easy access to the numerous cruise liners that docked in Victoria Harbour, however, now it has both the Hong Kong Space Museum and Hong Kong Museum of Art, between it and the harbour.
Incidentally it was also the site of the surrender of Hong Kong to the Japanese Imperial army on Christmas Day 1941.
Always parked out front of the Peninsula are a swath of Peninsula Green (yep, that’s a colour at Rolls Royce and is named specifically after the hotel) Rolls Royce.
The purpose is to chauffeur their clientele from place to place during their stay… nice touch!
Although it was too early for “High Tea” it’s the thing to do when you come to Hong Kong.
In a subsequent visit with my daughter Sam in 2017 we stayed at the Peninsula and had High tea, although didn’t get to ride in a Rolls Royce. ❤️
After meandering through the gorgeous lobby, I headed over to Nathan road, which is Hong Kong’s main thoroughfare and once was referred to as the “Golden Mile”.
As I headed north along Nathan Road you could be mistaken for thinking that you were in New York, Los Angeles or London given the high-end stores and brands. And it’s not until your reach Austin Road that things become interesting, and definitely more “local”.
As I turned left onto Austin Road West and began my rambling journey through the back streets of Kowloon, I had two places that were on my list of things to see.
Firstly, the Jade Market, which turned out to be rather disappointing, but the Flower Market was truly stunning. The smell of Jasmine and pungent lilies filled the air as I slowly meandered my way through this gorgeous part of town and as you’d imagine taking photo after photo…
I do love fresh cut flowers and one of the treats I give to myself every week even at home. ❤️
I’m fairly observant and keep my wits about me to ensure both my personal safety but also uncover the unexpected, so it was me who was surprised as I was eyed hungrily by a group of three prostitutes as I walked up Shanghai Street.
It was early for them to be out (not that I would know mind you, but it seemed rather early) I thought, but after I showed little interest (other than from an anthropological perspective) they returned to their cigarettes and muted conversation.
Was it only lunchtime on the first day? Already I’d been bombarded with the frenetic energy, sights, and sounds of Hong Kong… so much to explore!
As I ambled, I felt invigorated to be finally on my trip, it’s been a tough year for me emotionally so this is my gift to myself, just over two weeks of me time and nothing but a camera and a sense of adventure ahead of me.
Now that’s what I call living… 👍🏼
I find it fascinating to re-read some of my older essays
Until next week!