Travel diary: Hong Kong, winter 2017
It definitely is!
An amazing experience while travelling alone far from home.
It began with a mail from a member of RTHK (Radio Television Hong Kong), a documentary filmmaker from Hong Kong asking me and my HIN-urbex team mate for an interview about urban exploration in Belgium.
They arrived in Belgium on May 25, 2017. We explored a cooling tower in Charleroi and the ghost village Doel in the harbour of Antwerp. My HIN-urbex team mate couldn’t join us as he was in London at that time, so my brother-in-law joined us instead. Unfortunately the documentary is in Cantonese except for the interviews, they are in English.
At the end of filming I invited them for dinner at home and they were happy to get a Belgian dish. The lady from RTHK told me that I was always welcome in her homeland and I started thinking about a new travel destination at that end of the year. I eventually planned my trip to Hong Kong.
A self-timer photo taken by a member of RTHK at the abandoned school in Doel.
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Hong Kong, Here I come
Being an expensive city, I booked more hostels to make travelling cheap. And that’s all I planned ahead. Except a visit to Lantau Island for the famous Big Buddha at the Ngong Ping village. All the rest was entirely improvised.
BUT, I didn’t expect to reveive soe messages from locals as well as a Filipino who asked to join in for a daytrip to Macau and here started the interesting part. Couchsurfing! I posted my trip on the platform and received requests for meetups a few weeks before departure.
I was ready for a 12-hour flight from Amsterdam to Hong Kong. Sure, the travel was exhausting, but worth it. Let’s continue to day one… Oh yeah, I booked all my hotels through booking.com. A true recommendation for all travellers alike.
December 22 | 5:20 pm, Hong Kong airport & first hostel
My journey above land and sea ended after 26 hours and 20 minutes, I was tired. 1 hour train ride to Causeway Bay, a short walk to my hostel and finally my bed. It was almost sunset and I enjoyed the coastline near the airport until the MTR (Mass Transit Railway) went underground.
I stayed at the Yesinn Hostel and this was my first time to sleep in a triple bunk bed. I booked a 9-bed mixed dormitory and luckily I had a curtain for a little more privacy. Although it was quite nice. Bed was sort of good and surrounding area is not very crowded. The building in which the hostel is located is a quiet and small street. Kind staff as well.
Definitely worth it if you travel on a budget.
Travel by car?
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Site office with tea and water at Wan Chai’s urban development area.
Footbridge to Wan Chai’s urban development area.
December 23 | 10 am, Meetup with the lady from RTHK
We went to the Lion Rock, a good hike to start. Once at the top the skyline of Hong Kong disappeared in a cloud of smog. She invited me for dinner, I was honoured and gave a box of chocolates in return. As it was Christmas Eve a special dish with fish was made, which came to my surprise but I ate it with taste and showed respect.
My second hostel for the next 7 nights was at Tsim Sha Tsui. The Ashoka Hostel, A relatively comfortable hostel if you travel on a tight budget. I had a small room with 4 beds and a little space for my luggage. The bed was a bit small for a European like me. Then to mention the bathroom, less than 90 by 90 cm, with toilet, sink, shower and changing place in one space. After a shower everything wet… including towels and clothes and even worse toilet and paper too.
Although some rooms are single-person and quite nice. Located in a crowded area, so prepare yourself if your room is at the side of the building. Other than that it’s a cheap alternative with kind staff.
- Height: 495 metres
- Represents “the Hong Kong people’s ‘can-do’ spirit”
- RTHK described the “Lion Rock Spirit” as “perseverance and solidarity” (逆境自存，群策群力)
So common in Hong Kong that you can’t miss them
The city is a notorious garbage producer by international standards. The latest report from 2016 tells us it’s not going good. From 2015 to 2016, waste disposed daily went up from 1.39 to 1.41 kg, while waste recovered went down from 35.4 to 34 %. That’s the worst performance in a decade.
Read the report here.
Hong Kong is not too bad for tourists, the streets are all clean and tidy. Although It stays a big deal!
A man walking on the street with his garbage carriage.
December 24 | 7.15 am, Central Ferry Pier No. 6
Macau and Filipinas… What else could go wrong? IT WAS AWESOME!!! Me and the group of 4 Filipinas and a Russian/Australian guy had so much fun. The weather was magnificent and the hike was great. We even got lunch from a Filipino living there.
We first took the bus to the city centre which led us up the stairs to a wall of the 17th century, what was St. Paul’s College and the Church of St. Paul also known as “Mater Dei”, a 17th-century Portuguese church dedicated to Saint Paul the Apostle. Afterwards it was time for a visit to the famous casinos in Macau. And at the end the 45 minute ferry back to Hong Kong. If you have some spare time it’s definitely worth it to check out the Macau Day Trip from Tripadvisor.
Construction of the Promenade with handprints & plaques honoring Hong Kong film stars, plus a Bruce Lee statue.
December 25 | 9.00 am, Long Ping station
Tai Lam country park, famous for its colourful maple trees alike nicknamed Sweet Gum Woods. It was hot again and my sweater went quickly in my bag. Camera in the hand to shoot a bunch of people and trees. To finish the hike we were surprised by a flock of goats near the bus station. We all had a good laugh and a great time today.
Tai Tong Sweet Gum Woods
As Hong Kong is known best for its subtropical climate there are mostly trees who stay green the entire year. Although deciduous trees (trees that shed their leaves annually) are a rarity, but the sweet gum tree is one of the few that are present. The leaves of these trees look a lot like the maple tree. When winter comes, they too turn a beautiful shade of red before they shed.
These woods attract many visitors, like you can see. It’s an easy trail and enjoyable, even when it’s crowded.
French bakeries & Italian cuisine in Hong Kong
Yes, it’s true. French bakeries are taking over local cuisine in Hong Kong. Also Italian & American restos are popping up everywhere. I love bakeries and sweet delicacy, sometimes my dinner was nothing more than bread with cheese. Usually when I travel I don’t eat that much. Those Filipinos took me to an Italian resto and the pizzas were huge. I didn’t know it was only one slice that you bought haha. Bean pastries are so delicious.
Hong Kong as seen from Kowloon Peak
December 26 | 9.00 am, Kowloon Peak
A.k.a. Suicide Cliff, hell of a bad name for a peak like that. Again a burning sun on my face and temperatures rising above 23 degrees. T-shirt weather for me, I come from a cold country, a.k.a. Belgium. My heavy camera hanging around my sweaty neck, agh well I didn’t care as long as I could take great photos I was satisfied. Today we met another Russian guy, Vasily and with just the 4 of us we climbed the peak. 2 Filipinas instead of the whole group this time.
- Height: 602 metres / 1,975 ft
- Chinese name: 飛鵝山, Fei Ngor Shan
- Alias: Flying Goose Mountain
December 27 | 9.00 am, First swim in Hong Kong
Same people from yesterday, different hike. This time including a swim at the Sai Kung Rock Pools to cool off on this hot day. It was pretty cool to experience this in Hong Kong. I didn’t expect this either. After sunset I and the 2 Filipinas visited the Victoria Peak. The view of the city’s skyline was mesmerising. Had something to eat and went back to Tsim Sha Tsui to my hostel. On our way back from Tai Tong Sweet Gum Woods we stumbled upon this funny goat and it was clearly attracted to me hahaha
- Also known as The Peak of Mount Austin, or simply The Peak
- Height: 552 metres / 1,811 ft
- Chinese name: 太平山
- Mesmerising view of the skyline of Hong Kong and surrounding islands
Death defying scaffolding made of… bamboo
- Very common in Hong Kong and China
- Largest member of the grass family
- Both hollow and strong, bamboo is lighter, cheaper and more flexible than metal scaffolding. Allows people to work at dizzying heights. Skyscrapers are covered with bamboo while being build.
- Scaffolding kept together with simple knots
- Proud of their craft, it’s a real traditional art
Video © CNN – Ivan Waton
December 28 | 9.00 am, Dragon’s Back
A windy day, though a little less warm but still me wearing a T-shirt. With Dragon’s Back and Big Wave Bay on schedule my day couldn’t get any better. The hike was impressive and adventurous. Unfortunately no swimming as we reached the bay while it was a bit raining. Will swim here another, for sure… Dragon’s Back was a great hike with tourists all over the place and views to admire. You are far out of the city life and nature surrounds you completely. It’s great here, I love it.
TKO or Tseung Kwan O
- One of nine new towns in Hong Kong
- Current population as of 2012: about 372.000
- Total area: 10.05 km²
- Density: 23,050 people per square kilometre (2017)
Hong Kong in numbers
- Total area: 1,104 square kilometres
- Density: 6,729.06 people per square kilometre (2018)
- Population: 7,426,082 (2018)
Hong Kong compared to Belgium
- Total area: 30,528 square kilometres
- Density: 376.65 people per square kilometre (2018)
- Population: 11,495,442 (2018)
December 29 | 10.00 am, a normal day out
Nothing planned for today, so why not check out a new town called Tseung Kwan O? A recently new residential area also nearby the sea and to make it easy reachable there’s a metrostation at the right location. From walking distance you can reach quite everything. Another thing to check out is one of the many street markets Hong Kong has. They’re almost everywhere and plenty enough to feed locals and travellers their needs. From food to clothes to the craziest gadgets and souvenirs. Repair shops filling up the streets where you can fix your phone or laptop. It’s all there.
December 30 | 1.00 pm, Lantau Island
After lunch with 2 people I met earlier and Vasya, it is time to explore Lantau Island. A beautiful and green island between the airport and Hong Kong. Perfect for sightseeing, hiking or a visit to a beautiful beach.
How to get there?
Take the ferry from Central to Mui Wo. From there you can take the bus to your next destination. Find ticket fares in the link below.
Where to stay?
The sun shines bright and a little breeze ensures perfect weather. Ferry arrived and we explored the beach at Silvermine Bay, it’s a great bay to swim, hike and relax with a grand hotel nearby. And well yeah, I booked the Silvermine Beach Resort for one night. A little luxury couldn’t do any harm, right? A hike to Silvermine waterfalls and cave followed and then back to my resort to grab dinner and a good rest. The Russan guy Vasya slept in my room too as he had no place to stay and the city centre was too far away. It was already dark as we were back at the beach.
Silvermine Beach Resort
I spent the night of December 30th at the Silvermine Beach Resort and I loved everything about it. From location to accommodation. Only 10 metres away from Mui Wo beach, you really can’t miss it. Friendly staff, clean room and big bathroom with walk-in shower, nice. My window view were Christmas decorations lighting up the front garden. The swimming pool was closed as it was winter. Well, the sea was nearby and warm enough to take a fresh swim to escape the heat. I didn’t take dinner nor breakfast there, which I kind of regret as it was really looking great on their website. New Year 2018 was nearing and my next accommodation on Lantau was located at Ngong Ping. A cheap hostel near a monastery and the Big Buddha.
Highlights of the tour to the Giant Buddha and Tai O
- Visit the Giant Buddha and Tai O fishing village during this Lantau Island tour
- Includes ferry cruise across Hong Kong Harbour and Ngong Ping 360 cable car ride
- A vegetarian lunch is included so you don’t have to plan where to eat
- Round-trip transport from Hong Kong or Kowloon for your convenience
I really recommend a visit to this beautiful part of Hong Kong, you will be surprised!
December 31 | 10.00 am, Ngong Ping
Ngong Ping is a small village with an impressive monastery, a giant Buddha statue, a shopping street, hiking trails and a cable car to Tung Chung called the Ngong Ping 360. Its 360-degrees view over the mountains is magnificent!
The only hostel in the area is the YHA Davis Youth Hostel and it is a simple accommodation for travellers who hike the mountains and bring a visit to the village of Ngong Ping. A small village famous among tourists and monks who reside at the Po Lin Monastery. Lantau’s peak trail and the Wisdom Path starts just there.
The bed was small, though, but as it was the last day of the year 2017 not every bed was occupied. Most people were celebrating New Year anyway. There was no breakfast included and showers were shared. Interestingly their were tents put up to provide extra space on the property. I really miss sleeping in a tent and these looked really nice.
January 1 | 9.00 am, Ngong Ping village
The night passed quickly and it was time to rise and shine again. I was in Ngong Ping and the Big Buddha was not very far. A morning hike to check it out did me good. I visited the Po Lin Monastery and was suprised to see this at the entrance. So I took a photo of it when someone was praying just before entering the monastery.
I ate my breakfast at 章記露天茶座, yeah haha don’t know the English name. It was a good place to eat and I had a nice coffee as well. Later that day a Filipina asked me to come visit their group at Admiralty and I left my bag at the Youth Hostel. I took the Ngong Ping 360, a gondola lift from the village to Tung Chung, and finally the MTR to Admiralty. They held a little party there and we drank wine and ate delicious self-prepared food.
I was thankful they invited me to come but it was also getting late and I had almost no time left to go back to my hostel on Lantau Island so I had to book a night at Ashoka hostel again. Luckily the owner gave me a separate room with more comfort and my own shower, yay.
January 2 | 9.00 am, Ah my bagpack
I had a good sleep at last, a quiet and lonesome night in the middle of Tsim Sha Tsui. Woke up, packed my things and walked to a French bakery to get a croissant. Yeah at last a pastry I love eating while being far from home. Tasty!
On my way to the MTR station of TST I met an old man walking barefoot on the street greeting me and he started to ask how I was doing. I said I’m doing fine and we had a little chat while he kept walking to anywhere but nowhere. He told me he just walked and sleep on the floor day in day out. Weird guy for sure.
Let’s hury to Lantau Island for my stuff. Took a while getting there, but I had no choice. I met another strange guy and his awkward companion at the bus station of Tung Chung trying to convert my religion to his or something. Hell, I don’t know, just go away man.
At last some delicious bread in my hungry tummy and went to the right station after figuring out where he started. Time to relax on the bus and pick up my stuff. At the end of the day I went back all the way to go to my next destination the Silka West Kowloon Hotel.
January 3 | 10.00 am, Free lunch at Sikh Gurudwara Temple
Normally I don’t usually accept free food from people who live in certain circumstances, but this time the Russian guy who I met frequently during my stay in Hong Kong insisted to come and eat together at the Sikh Gurudwara temple at Wan Chai. Simply put because I didn’t know anything about these people and culture. The free meal is called the Guru’s Langar and its philosophy is to provide to the Sikhs in voluntary service and to banish all destinction of high and low, touchable and untouchable from the Sikhs minds. Another experience I never thought would take place during my trip.
The Sikh Gurudwara Temple.
January 4 | 10.00 am, let’s take a break today
Almost time to go back home, so let’s go out and check out Mong Kok and Tai Kok Tsui. Hong Kong exists of islands and is thereby surrounded by lots of water. With plenty of bays and beautiful beaches to enjoy, it’s really an amazing place if you enjoy a good swim or city explore or just a hike in the nearby mountains. Tomorrow is my last day, so let’s enjoy it while we still can. I met up with Vasily and hung out at Mong Kok. I spent the night at Silka West Kowloon again. My last hotel.
Have you been to Hong Kong? What did you like about it or dislike? Share below!
» Written by Alan who goes under the name of twin-rhino | Published on January 20, 2018