A Holiday Weekend Getaway – Hong Kong 2024 Part 1

March 12, 2024 9:25 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Nothing to declare

Early 2024 saw my next semiregular Hong Kong visit, with a series of firsts:

  • Flying with Cathay Pacific’s Boeing 777-300ER. Due to the Lufthansa strike, replaced by a packed Swiss Airbus A340-300 – the veteran quad engine, single deck passenger jet that just wouldn’t retire
  • In “winter”
  • On Chinese New Year eve
  • Only here for the weekend
  • Pre-installed eSIM data card instead of queueing in the shop for a physical SIM
  • A digital Octopus travel card to get around the place, now in Express Mode to tap and go without manual activation
  • Without any luggage. Everything necessary was tucked in the jacket pockets:
    • toothpaste/brush
    • а cocktail of emergency meds
    • underwear
    • a wad of backup HKD
    • a fat power bank

Go east

A smooth Austrian Airlines flight took me to Vienna and a less than generous transfer: about an hour. Eventually, I reached the gate just in time and was flown to the second transfer airport, Zürich. There, I took an airport train to the other terminal, joined the fellow ~230 passengers and settled in for the long intercontinental flight.

The interior of a full Airbus A340-300

Half of the 11-hour flight passed in the company of Morpheus and in what seemed like no time at all, we started our descent. Then, I saw the first new (for me) mega construction project, the crazy 55 km long Hong Kong – Zhuhai – Macau bridge. Notable for its underwater section in the middle of the Pearl River Delta, to make way for the big ships sailing above it.

Immigration and boarding the Airport Express to town were quick and straightforward, thanks to the Octopus card which relieved me from the nuisance of buying a train ticket. The speedy carriage was spotless as usual and offered internet and one curious feature – a sound volume dial on the back of the seat in front of you, which controls the speaker on your headrest, blasting TV ads. On the 30-minute trip downtown I had to take an important business call, very much in line with the commercial hub.

Back in town

I exited Hong Kong Station and hit the streets, thinking how hard it is to articulate what’s so great about this place. For an impressionable country boy, being here is an exhilarating feeling beyond words. Immediately followed by disorientation, because in this 3D maze, one needs to be aware exactly which sidewalk, intersection, overpass or building to traverse in order to avoid the many dead ends. (More on this later)

Central traffic under pedestrian overpasses

Conveniently, my fabulous dinner appointment happened to be in nearby Lan Kwai Fong, the famous night life Mecca, yet another first visit. It’s like a tamer version of Bangkok’s Khao San Road: a plethora of bars, restaurants, and something for every body. Before going “home”, I took a short walk and enjoyed the pleasantly warm, but not hot Hong Kong winter. I managed to catch a glimpse of the latest impressive skyscraper, a bubbly Zaha Hadid wonder called The Henderson. How did they find space for it among all the other high rises?

A hard to forget fact is that public transportation here is fantastic, some of the world’s best. After dining a little too much in Central, I hopped on a bus which dropped me right next to my hotel in Causeway Bay, the third district to the East after Admiralty and Wan Chai.

Chilly reception

After admiring the stunning view from the 35th floor, sleepy me was eager to take a shower, go to bed at normal local time, and beat the jet lag. What I wasn’t prepared for was the sobering surprise of having no hot water. In the next couple of hours, half the hotel staff was mobilised to try and rectify the situation: receptionist, manager, and engineer on duty. The latter was a kind middle-aged man, who was very dedicated and occasionally asked for translation from reception via his phone.

While being unable to shower quickly is unpleasant, I kept a cool head and understood this is a fully booked high rise hotel during the busiest holiday and water pressure isn’t unlimited. Ultimately, we were semi-successful and I finally called it a day.

To be continued in the second part, which includes a return to paradise, urban sailing, monkeys and dragons.

Cloudy morning on Hong Kong Island

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This post was written by rado

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