Day 1. Manchester to Hong Kong with Emirates

A seven night holiday to Hong Kong, flying from Manchester via Dubai.

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Seat back entertainment screens on Emirates
We took the train from our home station to Manchester Airport and checked in for our flight to Hong Kong via Dubai.  After cappuccinos in the Giraffe Cafe, it was soon time to board the huge A380 airliner.  It was our first time on one of these ‘super jumbo’s’ and we found it to be spacious and very comfortable inside the cabin.  Our seats were located in the front section of the plane, as business and first class were on the upper level.

Service on Emirates was good and the In Flight Entertainment (IFE) had  a huge variety of options to keep travellers from becoming bored.   On glancing through the box set collection, I noticed Series 1 of Broadchurch, and as I hadn’t seen this previously, decided to take a look.

We landed in Dubai around midnight local time and had ample time to take a walk around the terminal building and enjoy a coffee before our connecting flight to Hong Kong which was also on an A380 airliner.  Our seats were in a similar position to the previous flight and cabin service was attentive and food plentiful and of a reasonably good quality.

I continued watching the Broadchurch box set until it was time to sleep for a few hours then we had a light meal before arriving into Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok airport at 2.15 pm local time.  It was my third visit to Hong Kong but my first for 15 years so I was very much looking forward to my week long visit.

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Breakfast on Emirates A380 Dubai to Hong Kong
We were soon out in the Arrivals Hall, and onto Airport Bus A11 to North Point.  The fare was HK$40 each, the journey slow due to traffic congestion around Causeway Bay, but eventually we arrived at the Ibis Hotel North Point, our home for the next seven nights.  We had arranged a harbour view room, and the views from our window on the 23rd floor were breathtaking.  Our room was compact yet modern and well equipped with a good use of space.

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Hotel Ibis North Point (Blue and Yellow building)
We unpacked and then were ready to start exploring.

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Day 2. Tsim Sha Tsui and The Star Ferry

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North Point Metro Station

North Point metro station was our first stop, and literally about 2 minutes walk from our hotel.   We bought two Octopus Cards (similar to the UK’s  Oyster  Card) as we find it much more convenient and cheaper to use travel cards than have to purchase individual tickets.

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Octopus Cards

These cost HK$150 each including an HK$50 refundable deposit.  We then took the metro to Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon and were just in time to watch the Symphony of Lights Show at 8.00 p.m.

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Victoria Harbour

It was crowded but we still managed to get a good view of the spectacular light show.  Next, it was a ride on the iconic Star Ferry across to Wan Chai.  We travelled on ‘Shining Star’ and from the water  enjoyed the delightful views of Victoria Harbour at night.  The ferry cost only HK$3.40 each,  an unbelievable bargain for the most magical of journeys.

We found a small restaurant for dinner,two dishes and drinks costing little over HK$100.  The food tasted delicious but my efforts with the chopsticks were abysmal.  More practice needed tomorrow.

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Evening restaurant

It was back to the hotel on a lovely old tram, locally referred to as ‘Ding Dings’.  Boarding is from the rear and payment is made when getting off,  at the front.   After arriving back at our hotel we were soon asleep in bed.

Day 3. A Morning Ride on The Peak Tram

We were up early on this, our first full day in Hong Kong.  We had breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant then walked the few steps to North Point Station for the metro to Central.  It was only a short walk from there to the Peak Tram station.

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The Peak Tram

We bought single tickets which cost HK$28 each.  As we had arrived early we were fortunate to find there was only a short queue and we were able to board the tram without delay.

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Victoria Peak

The steep, uphill journey takes around 10 minutes and provides spectacular views along the way.  At the top, we took the 4.5 km ‘Morning Trail’ around Victoria Peak.

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The Morning Trail

The trail provides panoramic views of Victoria Harbour and Lamma Island below and winds its way beside waterfalls, wild flowers, fluttering butterflies and bamboo thickets.

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View from Victoria Peak, Hong Kong

Locals can be seen practising the art of Tai Chi which is believed to relieve stress and improve health.     On completing the circuit we rewarded ourselves with cappuccinos on the terrace of the Peak’s Galleria Mall.

We returned to Central by bus and were lucky to get seats at the front, on the upper deck.  Travelling down The Peak by bus is also ‘a must’  just to experience the steep descent with numerous hairpin bends and the view of the harbour below.  We got off the bus in Central where hundreds of Filipino maids were enjoying their day off (Sunday) and having picnics with friends clustered around the corporate headquarters of HSBC and Standard Chartered.

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Next on the list for us, was a visit to St.Johns Cathedral and the nearby Hong Kong Park.

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Tin Hao Temple

This park features a waterfall with a path behind it, ponds filled with koi carp,  it’s an oasis of calm within the urban landscape of Central.  It was then time for a short rest and some lunch at our hotel in North Point.

Day 3. Riding the Mid-Level Escalators and The Botanical Gardens

 

Feeling refreshed after lunch and a short rest, it was back out on the MRT again to Central from where we walked across to the Mid Levels Escalators.  These are a series of connected, outdoor escalators that take 25 minutes to reach the top.  During the mornings, the escalators run downwards and then reverse in the afternoons to enable commuters to get up and down the steep hills with ease.

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Mid Levels Escalators

On reaching the top, we walked a short distance downhill to the Hong Kong Zoo and Botanical Gardens.  These were built in the Victorian era and the gardens include some exotic vegetation, fountains and sculptures.  There is also a small zoo and aviary.  From here, we headed downhill, stopping at the gates of Government House, this colonial gem was the former official residence of 25 British Governors of Hong Kong prior to the handover in 1997.

Our final stop of the afternoon was at the International Finance Centre (a luxurious shopping mall near to the Star Ferry Terminal) for some afternoon tea and a look round some of the stores in a cooling, air conditioned environment.  We returned to the hotel for awhile and our final visit of the day was to Jordan, and the Temple Street Night Market.

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Government House

The atmosphere is bustling, cheap clothes, souvenirs, watches and an abundance of fake labels are on sale here   Best for us was the inviting aroma of Chinese cooking from the many open air street stalls, known locally as Dai Pai Dong’s.   We dined in one of these, the food arrived freshly cooked and it tasted good, too.

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Dinner at Temple Street Night Market

My chopstick eating skills are improving as well. After taking the metro back to North Point, it was the end of another day in this fascinating city.

Day 4. NGong Ping 360 Cable Car and Tai O Village

We were up early to try and avoid queues at the cable car station.  We had breakfast near to the hotel at a small cafe called ‘Family Kitchen’.  It was mostly frequented by locals but also served western breakfasts.  Our omelettes, toast and coffee cost a mere HK$22 each.  Then it was onto the metro for the longish journey to the NGong Ping 360 Cable Car station.  It was rush hour so the metro was crowded, but queues were orderly and trains arrived at one minute intervals.

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The cable car ride

We arrived at NGong Ping shortly before the ticket kiosks opened, there was already a substantial queue but this moved speedily and we boarded the gondola 20 minutes later.

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The Big Buddha

Single tickets cost HK$105 each for the 25 minute panoramic ride over the airport onto Lantau Island.  It was a clear morning so we were rewarded with good views of the surrounding landscape.    We climbed the steps to the Big Buddha and visited the Po Lin monastery, stopping there for cold drinks.

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Tai O Village
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Tai O Village

A bus to Tai O village was next on our itinerary, these run hourly and tickets cost HK$6 each for the 45 minute journey.  It’s well worth going, as Tai O is an unspoilt village, with wooden homes built on stilts over the creek.    Small boats depart regularly for 20 minute trips around the creek and out to sea dolphin watching.  We didn’t spot any dolphins but it didn’t matter as the boat trip was a real treat and cost only HK$20 each.  After exploring the village on foot, we caught a bus to Mu Wo (HK$10) for the 45 minute journey to the ferry terminal, from where we took the fast ferry back to Central.

We returned to the hotel for a rest and then took the tram to Causeway Bay where we looked round the SOGO department store and found a good place for dinner.

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Tram at Causeway Bay

Day 5. A Day in Macau

We set our alarm for 6.30 am, had breakfast on Java Road after leaving the hotel and still managed to buy tickets and board the 7.30 am TurboJet Ferry to Macau.  Two tickets cost HK$318.  The journey took an hour but we then had to join a lengthy queue at immigration.   It was an extremely hot and sticky morning and we made the mistake of walking to the centre instead of taking a taxi, which are very cheap here.

Our first stop was to the very large Lisboa Casino, where we glanced in the gaming rooms which were busy despite it being only 9.30 am.

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The Ruins of St Paul

A little further away we arrived at the UNESCO old town,  it’s centrepiece being the magnificent, triangular shaped Senado Square which is characterised by its ‘wavy’ pavement.

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Senado Square

Nearby we came to the Ruins of St Paul’s, the only parts now remaining being the stone staircase and the front facade.  This is probably the most visited place in Macau and was very busy when we were there.  Next, we found a cafe for cool drinks as the humidity was increasing.  We also treated ourselves to the delicious, small Portuguese custard tarts which were served warm. These cost MD$8 each.  They were so good, we returned for more!

We then consulted our map, and located the bus stop which would take us to the Coloane Village in the south of the island.    It was really nice in Coloane, time seemed to have passed it by, as it was remarkably unspoilt.  We enjoyed lunch in Lord Stow’s Bakery and cafe, a famous colonial institution on the island.

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Lord Stow’s Cafe

The cafe and bakery was established by the Englishman Andrew Stow and his recipes for the local pasteis de nata (custard tarts) are still used today.   We then caught the bus to the Cotai Strip and visited both Sands and the Venetian Casinos.  The Venetian was modelled on the one in Las Vegas which we had visited several years ago.  A ‘canal’ winds its way through the shopping mall and it’s possible to take a gondola boat trip to replicas of the Bridge of Sighs and St Mark’s Square.  The stores in the Venetian mall are all of a high end, designer nature, but good for some window shopping.     Finally, we walked through the Casino and viewed some of the gaming tables from a distance.

It was easy to return to the ferry terminal as free buses run between there and the casino.  Unlike our outbound crossing which was full, there were only a few passengers returning to Hong Kong at the same time as us.

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Inside The Venetian, Macau

We had dinner in Wan Chai then enjoyed another delightful journey on the Star Ferry.

Day 6 Kowloon Walled City Park and an afternoon in Stanley

Our first stop this morning was to take the ferry from North Point across to Kowloon, from where we caught a bus to Kowloon Walled City Park.  This small, historic park was the site of the former Kowloon Walled City, a Chinese garrison in the 19th century that remained part of China throughout the British rule.

We took the MRT to Central and walked across to the Exchange bus station for a bus to Stanley.  We sat upstairs for good views on the journey to Stanley, passing the scenic Repulse Bay on the way.  Stanley is located on a peninsula along the south coast of Hong Kong Island.   We looked round Stanley market which was surprisingly much quieter than when I had visited several years ago.

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Stanley Market

The market is a warren of narrow lanes selling everything from silk dressing gowns to electrical goods.  We found that the market traders usually negotiated on their marked prices when we were interested in their products.  Since my previous visit,  little had changed.  We were tempted to buy a few gifts before finding a small cafe upstairs for some lunch.

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Stanley Harbour

Finally,  it was time for a walk around the bay which, in the afternoon sunshine, was looking beautiful.  We walked to the end of the coastal path where a small temple is built into the rock face.

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Stanley Harbour and Blake Pier

It was so peaceful, and it’s hard to believe that it’s only a few miles from the hustle and bustle of Central.     We returned our shopping bags to the hotel, had a rest and freshened up in readiness for the anticipation of an exciting evening to come!

Day 6. An Evening at Happy Valley Racecourse

Its Wednesday evening, and each Wednesday (with the exception of  July and August) it’s known as ‘Happy Wednesday’ at Happy Valley.  So we decided to go along and see for ourselves.  We took a tram to Happy Valley Racecourse, arriving just on the opening time of 6.00 pm.  Ground tickets cost HK$10 each and then a further HK $20 each for seats in the Grandstand.

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Grandstand seats

As we had arrived early, we were allocated seats on the 2nd row.  These took the form of a ‘two person’s desk’ which afforded panoramic views of the racecourse and the skyscrapers beyond.  Our tickets included a large race programme, containing detailed information on all the participating horses and jockeys.

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My ticket

We decided it would be fun to place a small bet on each of the 8 races and a member of staff helped us to complete the betting slips.   Before the races started at 7.00 pm we had a walk round the stadium and bought food and drinks to take back to our seats.  As darkness fell, at about 7.00 pm and the racecourse filled up with spectators,  the view was spectacular and the atmosphere intensified.

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Happy Valley Racecourse

It was our first time at a race meeting and we found it to be very exciting.  A race took place every 30 minutes, and in between there was live music.  Our selected horse actually won race 3  (beginners luck) so we were able to collect our small winnings from the cash office.  The meeting ended at 11.00 pm.  On leaving the racecourse there were several trams waiting to take spectators home / back to their hotels.

We had looked forward to our evening at Happy Valley and it didn’t disappoint.  We would definitely visit again, on future visits to Hong Kong.

Day 7. A Ferry to Cheung Chau

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Central Ferry Terminal
After  breakfast we took the MRT to Central then caught a ferry to the small island of Cheung Chau.  The fast ferry cost HK$10.5 each and the journey took 45 minutes.    This small island is situated 10km south of Hong Kong.  Streets are so narrow that only small size motorised trucks are used on the island.  Fishing boats and sampans fill the small harbour.

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Cheung Chau
There is a sizeable fish market on the seafront as fishing is still the major local economy alongside tourism.  Freshly caught fish can be enjoyed in the numerous small restaurants lining the water front.  We enjoyed a walk through the village and visited the ornate Pak Tai Temple which is one of the oldest in Hong Kong and is ‘guarded’ by four pairs of lions.

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The waterfront at Cheung Chau
We took the slower ferry back to Central, this proved more enjoyable and offered good photo opportunities along the coast from Kennedy Town back to Central.  The slower ferry took just over an hour.

Day 7. Mong Kok and an Evening trip up The Peak

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Mong Kok

Another ride on the iconic Star Ferry over to Kowloon then the metro to Mong Kong to explore the markets.  Mong Kong is full of atmosphere and is a chaotic mix of stalls selling fake designer labels alongside cheap local products.

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Causeway Bay

Bartering over the price seems to be the norm, so expect to pay at least a third less than the marked prices.  We weren’t tempted with any goods on offer here but we did find a nice small cafe called Milk Milk for our lunch.  Feeling refreshed we continued onto Nathan Road (Kowloon’s main shopping street).  As we walked along, we spotted an Esprit Outlet store in the basement of one of the smaller malls.  Racks were full of end of season lines and samples, all at very low prices.  We browsed the store for around an hour and left with four bagfuls of dresses and shirts, each item ranging from HK$89 to HK$150 each.  All this shopping made us feel hungry so we treated ourselves to delicious coconut buns from a nearby bakery.

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Victoria Harbour from The Peak

Before dinner, we returned to Central and took a bus to the top of The Peak to admire the spectacular nighttime views of the bright lights of Victoria Harbour below.  After a cappuccino in the Peak’s Galleria mall we returned to North Point where we dined this evening.