New Year in Hong Kong

Kat and I arrived in Hong Kong and found that the public transport is super easy. I paid 200$HK (£20) for an Octopus card, of which £15 was credit and the rest is a refundable deposit. The metro and lots of shops accept Octopus as payment so it’s handy.

Our bags had been delayed as we had a really speedy transfer in Beijing, so I guess it was slightly handy not to have to carry our things for the day, although it was a bit of a nightmare because we are going to be couch surfing here and we didn’t have Stefan’s address to hand as we landed (meeting at McDonald’s later on). Luckily he was answering WhatsApp so we gave his address to the baggage desk and hoped for the best. They said it might be delivered by around 9pm tonight if it arrives on the 4pm flight as scheduled. But it’s New Year’s Eve so anything could happen!

We paid 50$HK each for a discounted group ticket on the train from the airport to the metro interchange station and enjoyed really nice views of the city and a smooth ride. The metro was easy to navigate.

We headed towards the Wong Tai Sin Temple and found ourselves in the first of many malls. The underground stations are bustling shopping centres too – and we found these beautiful (and delicious) chocolate treats for sale.

We found the food court of an immense mall and I headed straight for the coolest looking stand with a neon sign saying Oh My Goose! I was sooo keen for the roasted goose and it was only about £6. But they were all out!!! So I ordered a chicken and BBQ pork noodle dish instead and was fairly horrified when the chicken was fridge-cold, not even room temperature, and it was almost totally bones. But anyway.

The Wong Tai Sin Temple is free to go in and it’s a beautiful place full of colour, dragons and incense.
The contrast between the temple and the surrounding high-rise buildings is amazing and also quite beautiful.

Beyond the first colourful and loud courtyard there is a very Zen garden with carp ponds and bonsai trees. It is a very lovely place to relax away from the bustle of the city.

Outside the temple there is a market selling all sorts of lucky and worshipful items and it was nice to poke around that.

From the temple, Kat and I hopped one stop on the metro to Diamond Hill to visit the Nam Lian Garden (free entry).

We walked to the Pavilion of Absolute Perfection and visited the Rockery with funny mottos before heading to the Chi Lin Nunnery over a pretty stone bridge and past the lamp of enlightenment.

Meeting our host, Stefan, proved a challenge. He wanted us to meet at a McDonald’s because of the WiFi. But my map apps don’t work well here so pinpointing a particular McDonald’s in a city of thousands of McDonald’s’ was sooo difficult. He found us and we walked to his apartment. He has an apartment on the 10th floor of a residential building not far from Olympian City Mall and there are another two girls staying in the apartment. Kat and I have a mattress on the floor, a girl from Ukraine (who I think is staying there medium term) has a little bed, and a German girl is on a yoga mat on the floor. The apartment is small and cramped with us all there but it’s absolutely no problem for Kat and I.

Plus, we haven’t got much time there to worry about it as we go out for dinner before the fireworks. The German girl is not nice at all and she is being rude to Stefan and complaining the whole time. A lovely Spanish girl called Marie joins us for dinner and we have a feast.

We take the metro across to Hong Kong Island and walk to meet some of Stefan’s friends. They are all really friendly but sadly we get separated in the crowd as some of us manage to get into the harbour front area but the rest don’t make it in. We find a perfect spot near the water and camp out for an hour and a half. Stefan brought UNO! And now we are the envy of everyone around. We stand up with ten minutes to go and I am so amazed that we have space to breathe. We are in a prime location for the New Year fireworks and we aren’t being crushed in a crowd!!

The countdown is fun and the building across the water has it displayed. Then the fireworks are really good. They don’t last particularly long but they are pretty and then we are moving in a big crowd along a one-way system designed to allow the public transport to cope. We walk to D’Aguilar Street, an area full of some of the loudest bars I have ever seen, and then four of us stay out to drink cocktails in an underground bar with beautiful decor but the worst DJ ever! We call it a night at about 3am.

Kat and I have been left to our own devices again today and we decided to visit Ngong Ping, a hilltop temple close to the airport.

First though, we had breakfast at a place close to our apartment.

The queues are really long for the cable car ride and I noticed a sign for discounted tickets and a reduced waiting time if we booked with Klook. There was (absolutely terrible) WiFi while we were in the queue and I managed to book us both same-day round-trip tickets for 486$HK (£48.60) and we also got upgraded to the Crystal Cabin (with a glass floor), which I didn’t tell Kat until we collected the wrist bands… Poor Kat is afraid of heights, so the whole cable car thing was quite a stretch anyway. We didn’t have to queue for anywhere near as long as we had resigned ourselves to and then we were packed into the cabin for a twenty minute ride! I didn’t realise it would last so long or take us over so many different hills but we crossed over onto the island next to the airport and climbed up and up. The views were wonderful.

At Ngong Ping there are lots of tourist attractions and extra tickets you can buy. Kat and I mooched in the souvenir shops and then hiked up to the giant Buddha on the hill, visible for miles.

After this we walked the Wisdom Path, which is a set of 23 inscribed tree trunks in the shape of an infinity symbol on the hillside.

We came down not long before the cable car stopped operating and again, the queue for the normal tickets was super long! The Crystal tickets queue was much more reasonable and we made it down before the heavens opened, though we felt sorry for the long line of people stretching off into the dark.

We returned to D’Aguilar Street for some street food and then visited a gorgeous rooftop bar called Cé La Vi. The cocktails were really pricey (about £15 each with service charge) but totally worth it for a treat and we had two each while watching the city lights.

Then we went for some more food at a Thai place just off the main Street and I had a delicious green papaya salad with some BBQ skewers.

For our last morning in Hong Kong, Kat and I decided to buy Stefan a little thank you gift for hosting us so we headed to Olympian City Mall and got him another card game for him collection. Then we went to the Michelin starred dumpling restaurant, Tim Ho Wan, for brunch. It was a little tricky with the tick-box ordering system as we weren’t sure how many items we would end up with but we judge it correctly and were pleasantly surprised at the prices – portions were three or four dumplings or pieces for between 18$HK and 30$HK. We tried a range of delicious things and these steamed dumplings in Chiu Chow style were out of this world!!

Then that was it – we took the metro to the ferry port for our Macau extravaganza…

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