Sailing, Hiking, and Cruising on a Festive Saturday – Hong Kong 2024 Part 2

March 31, 2024 3:48 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Welcome to the jungle

The morning after Part 1’s arrival, I set out to squeeze in a short visit to rustic Lamma Island, just a half hour ferry ride away from the region’s concrete-steel-glass heart.

The queue for Lamma Island

This car-free place is amazing, because it’s a beach paradise dotted by villages with houses on 3 storeys or less. We might as well be in Thailand. The locals do use Lamma as a holiday getaway destination and overtourism can be a real issue, as the streets and boats can get very crowded. I checked ahead of time if a CNY rush is possible and was assured I won’t get stranded.

A restaurant between Yung Shue Wan village Main Street and the pier

There is some construction going on at the pier, probably an expansion of the capacity-challenged current port. It was funny to see the big display showing 15º C – pleasant Europe-style spring weather, and winter here. Such a stark contrast to the oppressive 30º C, high humidity heat during most of the year.

Cool story

I followed the winding narrow paths of the villages, before legging the green trail towards the main beach. After admiring the facilities, I continued further uphill, passing by a barbecue area used by groups of holidaymakers. The island is deceptively small and one can easily spend many hours hiking the beautiful hills, groves, villages and bays.

On the rocks

I turned back and returned to the village to get some handmade presents and delicious food, passing by island royalty Nick the Bookman, the British expat selling books. One of the restaurants provided me with a typical local breakfast choice – greasy French toast – yet another first for yours truly. While waiting to be served, I noticed they also serve dumplings and just had to order a big one, which was as good as expected. The improvised brunch went down perfectly with a cup of hot milk tea. The cashier and I had a hearty laugh when I wished him Happy New Year in broken Cantonese, before boarding the ferry back to modern times.

Harbour no ill will

At the Victoria Harbour promenade with the International Commerce Centre (HK’s tallest building at about 500 m) in the distance

Near the top of must-do things in Hong Kong is crossing Victoria Harbour by sea aboard the legendary 130+ years old Star Ferry service. It is both public transportation and a dirt cheap yet fantastic tourist attraction. No wonder the boats are packed. This veteran sailor always appreciates it as one of the world’s greatest travel experiences.

A Star Ferry seen from a Star Ferry

From Central, the ferry took me to Tsim Sha Tsui, the tip of Kowloon Peninsula. There I stumbled upon hectic preparations for the CNY parade and pencilled it into the evening schedule.

2024 marks 30 years since the 1994 release of Wong Kar-wai’s classic Chungking Express: the stylish, romantic and very Hong Kong film. So I commemorated the occasion by standing in front of the nearby Chungking Mansions. This building is a condensed melting pot of cultures, full of hotels, shops, restaurants and tangled immigrant fates, portrayed so vividly in the breathtaking movie.

Monkey business

It is imperative for every visitor to climb Victoria Peak on Hong Kong Island and enjoy the most amazing skyline in the world from above. But this time it’s different and I needed to see the place from another angle: the mountain at the Northern end of Kowloon (continental Hong Kong). I took the MTR (subway) and then a minibus, which quickly dropped me off at the foot of the mountain. There are eight hills here, and since each hump resembles a dragon back, together with the Emperor, they are Kowloon (nine dragons).

Passing by a group of appealing leafy condo buildings, I greeted a security guard and was directed to the start of the trail. It was a moderately challenging 1½ hour long hike through a few disparate sections: concrete steps, wide road (closed for cars) and a dirt trail acting as a steep shortcut. A far cry from the urban chaos below, this area was mostly desolate and only a small number of trekkers and cyclists crossed my path.

Faraway Central Hong Kong as seen from the Kowloon highlands

Which made the next, inter-species encounter, even more startling. Turning around a corner into a flat part of the road, I stumbled upon a dozen macaques 20 meters away. They immediately stopped what they were doing – if anything – and stared back at me. Some of the ½ meter tall apes were on the ground, others in the bushes, the rest up on the trees. This was my first wild Simian rendezvous and I froze up for a few seconds. Then quickly zipped all pockets, tied up my trusty Lidl bag and walked casually straight through the ambush. My Darwinian cousins kept staring intently, but made no moves at all and were soon enough behind me. Chalk up another once-in-a-lifetime experience.

After reaching and photographing the 450 m tall Beacon Hill vantage point, I rushed downhill towards the impending 8 PM parade. The trail eventually merges with an open public road, where I decided to cheat and hail an Uber. Amazingly, the driver was idling just a few minutes away, incredible in such remote area in the middle of a chaotic holiday. Even the cabbie couldn’t believe my stroke of luck.

Dragon style

The car dropped me off at Mongkok, a district 3 km away from Victoria Harbour, because you gotta see Mongkok at night. Depending on who you ask, it’s the most densely populated place on Earth, full of shops, lights and youth and oozes coolness.

Returned to TST with time to spare and asked the numerous police about a good spot to watch the parade. They politely suggested a street in the U-shaped route. Perfect location, because it had a 7-ELEVEN shop for easy access to supplies: nuts, beer, onigiri.

The show had plenty of spectators, yet the festive mood was somewhat muted. The first hour of the show consisted of different performance groups passing by each 10 minutes and not much else. The performers were made up of various athletes and school boys and girls presenting skills like rope skipping etc. As the organiser of the event was local carrier Cathay Pacific, we saw a number of pilots and flight attendants on the platforms. The cast of characters was rounded up by who’s who of the Hong Kong consumer business. And a cursing couple from the North-East of Europe behind me.

The star of the show

A couple of hours in, we started seeing dragons and red decorations to ring in the Year of the Dragon, after which the crowd started to disperse. I popped into a nearby restaurant to try the famous roast duck and pork with rice, which was just OK; I wasn’t really hungry anyway.

Finally, I had a look at the stunning nighttime Central skyline across the harbour and took the ferry there. I had to change to the subway and exit from Causeway Bay station’s Times Square exit, one comically long metro passage. It was late, therefore deserted, and all shops in the maze of tunnels were closed, so I made it in only 6 minutes, instead of the usual 10.

The Hong Kong Island skyline panorama at night

To be concluded in the next part, which includes crossing the main island, journeying to diverse locations, and almost missing the explosive finale.

Tags: , , ,

Categorised in: ,

This post was written by rado

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *