3/31/07

Hong Kong

ROOM WITH A VIEW

From my 10th floor room at the Intercontinental Grand Stanford, I could very well see across Victoria Harbour the jagged skyline of Hong Kong island. Manhattan for me is still the undisputed King of Skyscrapers but this one I'm looking at is truly unique: the buildings look better when sandwiched by the water and the hills. What completes the picture in my hotel window is the sudden appearance of a junk, a traditional Chinese sailing vessel.

I'm staying for the night in Hong Kong because I was unable to get a seat on this afternoon's flight to New York. Earlier today at the Cathay Pacific check-in counter at the NAIA, the agent told me that the flight to New York is full and that I would have to stick with my original departure date which is tomorrow. As if to console me, the agent informed me that I've been upgraded to business class. The agent also took the effort of securing my walis tambo (a broom made from tiger grass) in a box when she saw me struggling with this gift I got from my friend Harley.



As soon as I cleared immigration at the Chep Lap Kok airport, I bought a return ticket on the Airport Express train to Kowloon station for 160 Hong Kong dollars. In less than half an hour, I arrived in Kowloon and transferred into the free shuttle bus which dropped me off right outside the hotel's lobby. With only my rolling carry-on, check-in was a breeze and I made it to my room in no time. I immediately tested the hotel's Instant Service via phone and asked for a shaving kit. In 4 minutes, housekeeping delivered the kit! I'm impressed.

My stay at the Intercontinental is complimentary, thanks to my Priority Club membership. For 30,000 points, I was able to snag a free one-night stay here. The hotel is very accessible to the shopping and dining areas of Tsim Sha Tsui and commands a grand view of the harbour. Walking along the nearby promenade will take you all the way to the Star Ferry Pier where ferries to Hong Kong island await.

STAR FERRY

I always try to use a local ferry whenever I can as it gives me a chance to be intimate with the local scene. There are many memorable ferry rides in big cities around the world that I've taken: on the Chao Praya river in Bangkok, on the Bosphorus in Istanbul, on Vancouver Harbour in Vancouver and of course, on the Hudson river in New York. Crossing Victoria Harbour via Star Ferry therefore is a must. I've done this during my first visit here and I'm still doing it now on my way to Central. The views are superb and it's incredibly cheap - only 2.20 Hong Kong dollars between Tsim Sha Tsui and Central.

I've always wanted to see Hong Kong's skyline from a different perspective - looking down at it. The way to do it is up there on Peak Tower near the summit of Victoria Peak which I was unable to do on previous visits to Hong Kong. After getting off the ferry, I took Bus No. 15C for the Peak Tram Terminus where I paid 33 Hong Kong dollars for the return trip on the funicular railway. Being a popular ride , and the quickest, to The Peak, it gets crowded with tourists. The trip up to Peak Tower, less than 400 meters above sea level, takes only 4 minutes.

VICTORIA PEAK

I'm lucky this time that the weather is clear. The panoramic view of central Hong Kong, Kowloon and the ever busy Victoria Harbour is truly dramatic. Buildings such as the Bank of China Tower (my favorite), Central Plaza, The Center, Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, and Two International Finance Centre (the tallest structure in Hong Kong) seem to jostle for position in front of camera-wielding tourists. As night falls, the buildings lit up like tall bejeweled ladies.

Back in Tsim Sha Tsui, I found myself hankering for dinner. Near the Star Ferry Pier and sitting right next to a Philippine National Bank branch, I discovered Cafe de Coral, a busy Chinese fastfood chain with very affordable and quite an extensive menu. My Fried Garoupa dinner with steamed rice, soup and Chinese tea cost me only 36 Hong Kong dollars! Oh well, I'm glad I didn't have to eat McDonald's hamburger this time.

4 comments:

  1. Anonymous7:13:00 AM

    How can you travel so much? I would like to be free to go with you. Can you pick me up in Lisbon?
    i´m waiting for you. jacintabrantes@hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. I work a lot and save a lot in order for me to travel. I don't want to wait when I'm old and arthritic to do the kind of journeys that I do. I haven't been to Portugal; hopefully I'll see Lisbon one day. Maybe we'll meet there.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous6:49:00 AM

    OK. I´ll be here.

    ReplyDelete
  4. You are a great traveller!
    Next time visiting HK need to also visit Macau, my beautiful city!

    ReplyDelete

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