Hong Kong Holiday: Day 2 – A cloudy day in Kowloon
We woke up bright and early for our first full day in Hong Kong, at around 7:45am. We left the room at around 9:00am and knew that we had to find something to eat. I mean, there was a rumble in the jungle and that lion needed to be fed. We looked over the tourist map we picked up at the tourism bureau upon arrival and decided to make our way over to Central district’s soho, where there was supposed to be a good food scene.
Our hotel was located in the Lan Kwai Fong neighborhood, which is a great place to stay when you visit Hong Kong. By day it’s a bit quiet, but at night it has a great bar scene. There’s anything you want from noisy clubs to quiet little wine bars. As we walked through the neighborhood that morning though we had food on the mind, not drinks. We did admire the varied architecture, especially the buildings that had a more British colonial feel. After a few minutes we were walking alongside the mid-levels escalator. In Hong Kong an escalator can be a great form of mass transit, because the city is built on a mountain and a lot of people live farther up. It runs downhill from 7-10am or so, and turns around and takes people uphill after that. We followed it up to soho (South of Hollywood) and an English pub called The Yorkshire Pudding caught our eye right away.
The Yorkshire Pudding is a little gastropub that puts out some really great food. Living in Korea we can’t get a decent breakfast unless we make it at home, but this was really over the top. I ordered the Great English Fry-up, and Carolyn got the soldiers and toast. Imagine my surprise when my hard-boiled egg kinda lady ordered coddled eggs! The service was pretty great, they didn’t have coffee on site, I guess, so the waitress actually went down the street to get coffee for us. Nuts! The food was delectable, and the pub was smartly decorated. It was nice to have a long, enjoyable breakfast and watch the people of Hong Kong make their way down the escalator to work. After breakfast we also headed down the escalator, stopped for coffee at the IFC, and decided to head to Kowloon.
There’s a couple of ways to get from Hong Kong island to Kowloon, and for our first trip across we chose the Star Ferry. The Star Ferry fleet is made of these classic old ferry boats that cross the harbor in just about seven or eight minutes. You can smell the sea air and feel the wind on your face and all that. The views are why you take the ferry though. It’s kinda nice to watch the skyline pass by, and the Kowloon skyline come in from the fog, if the weather is foggy.
We got off the ferry in Tsim Sha Tsui and headed over to the waterfront to take in the skyline. The weather made the Hong Kong skyline almost invisible. It seemed like the clouds were starting to burn off, so we decided to head into Kowloon and have a look around for lunch. A quick glance at our map told us that the big cluster of restaurants was going to be about ten or so blocks away, so we pointed ourselves inland at Nathan Road and started walking.
Tsim Sha Tsui is a freaking bustling neighborhood. I don’t know how many tailors approached me trying to sell me a suit, how many jewelry stores are open for business, or how many freaking hostels there are in the alleyways, but it’s a circus compared to Central district. We walked and walked and walk, checking off the landmarks on the map as we got closer to Kowloon’s soho for lunch. Here’s an interesting fact, when we get hungry we’re insufferable. Both of us. By the time we finally found some restaurants nothing even sounded good and we just wanted to sit the heck down, ya know? Carolyn put the decision up to me, and I picked a Sichuan style place with a menu filled with not-so-expensive eats.
For lunch I ordered the homemade dan-dan noodles in a hot, spicy, peanut-y broth, served with a side of roast duck. The noodles were absolutely delicious, and the duck was so rich. The duck was so rich that you could have tricked someone into thinking it was ham. Carolyn ordered kung pao chicken, which was a completely different experience than the American version. The chicken didn’t make the picture though, because it was delivered a few minutes later than the noodles and duck and my hands were busy shoveling food into my merciless gaping maw. Needless to say, after filling our bellies with delicious Sichuan style food, we were ready to hit the street again and have a look around Kowloon.
The first stop on our walk after lunch was the St. Andrew’s Anglican Church. This church is right on Nathan Road in the noisy heart of Kowloon, but once you entered the church compound it was gloriously quiet. We went inside and sat down for a minute. Carolyn and I are both drawn to cathedrals and churches when we visit new places, and this one was gorgeous. I’ve noticed that the Anglican churches seem to be more reserved and practical looking than their Catholic counterparts. They still have beautiful stained glass and architecture, but something about it feels a bit more British, but that makes sense for an Anglican church, no? Given the British only turned over Hong Kong to China in 1997, it’s pretty obvious why there’s so many Anglican churches around. After a few minutes of silence we crossed the street to see what was in Kowloon Park.
As we entered the park we were immediately drawn by the garish gate to the Avenue of Comic Stars. This was a small display of statues of famous comic book and manga characters. It was really cool to see larger than life-sized statues of such fantastic characters, and no, we didn’t get to pose with them…they had ropes around their bases. Kowloon Park is huge, though, and we wanted to have a look around, dusk was only a few hours away and we were on the right side of Victoria Harbour to get a good spot for the Symphony of Lights. Plus there was a miniature McDonald’s, and that means ice cream on a warm day!
We slurped down our ice cream and explored the park a bit. Kowloon Park has a beautiful set of gardens. In the Chinese Garden, we found a few older people doing tai-chi. One man was particularly picturesque under the roof of a gazebo over a pond. How ridiculous is that? In the maze garden we were surprised to find our way in and out very easily, and at the aviary we sat down and watched the flamingos do their thing. I guess seeing pink flamingos isn’t really anything special, but seeing them with the skyscrapers of Kowloon reflecting in the water of their pond is special.
Carolyn ventured to the other side of the pond and I was taking pictures of her, when an old lady said something to me in Cantonese. I’m pretty sure it translated to Quit taking pictures of that pretty girl, you freaking creep. I replied “my girlfriend! my girlfriend!” and she says “oh! perfect!” She smiled at me and I made my way over to Carolyn, making a point to carry her purse so the old lady would see that I’m not some nutjob. We walked on a bit until we crossed over a bridge and found ourselves on a pier with a great view of the International Commerce Center.
The ICC is the tallest building in Hong Kong, and we enjoyed getting a relatively close up view of it. We also enjoyed the narcissistic act of taking selfie photos in the glass of the pier tower. I’d say that I believe there’s some sort of lameness about people taking selfies like this on vacation but we look really good together and our parents like to see pictures of us. Ha! The sun was starting to drop towards the horizon at this point, so we headed for the waterfront to find the statue of Bruce Lee and get set up in a good spot to take some photos of the light show.
On the way back to the waterfront we passed this beautiful mosque. The tourist guide said that you couldn’t go in unless you’re a Muslim, so we stayed outside, but the difference in architecture from the surrounding buildings was astounding. As we passed by women were heading upstairs and men were washing their hands and feet in the courtyard for prayers. So many people were streaming in and out, in all sorts of different clothes from different places. It was pretty amazing. Unfortunately we wanted to be at the waterfront for sunset, so we didn’t get to hear the call to prayers from the minarets. Who would have thought that our first good look at a mosque would be in Hong Kong, though? I’d expect it in Turkey or the U.A.E. or even in Thailand or Indonesia, but not Hong Kong. It’s a far more diverse city than I ever imagined. We walked on towards the watefront, to visit the Avenue of Stars until dark.
We arrived at the Avenue of Stars right at dusk, watched the sun set over the skyscrapers of Hong Kong island, and had a look at the stars and statues on the Avenue of Stars. We stumbled right onto Bruce Lee’s star, and took this picture. Seconds later there were a ton more feet in the area, because after all, Bruce Lee is a freaking legend. We hobbled a little farther down the path and found his statue. There was a crowd around it taking pictures like you might expect to see at the Louvre snapping photos of the Mona Lisa or something.
We decided to skip dinner and pick up a salad or something on the way back to the room and just have a snack while we waited for darkness and the light show. In Hong Kong you’re never more than about three and a half meters from a Starbucks, so we had some sausages and coffees as darkness settled in. We headed back out to the Avenue of Stars, scoped out a great spot, and waited for the show to begin.
Settled in next to the waterfront, tripod set up, and ready to go, we waited until 8:00pm for the show to begin. It’s sort of a 90′s style laser show, but on a scale that you can’t imagine. Something like 40 skyscrapers have lighting displays that dance to the music, and a ton of lasers light up the foggy sky. It’s a bit kitschy perhaps, but it’s a pretty impressive sight. I can only imagine how fast the electric meters spin from 8:00 to 8:10 every night. Holy cow.
We caught the ferry back over to Hong Kong, picked up a salad and some salmon hand-rolls at the 7-11, and settled in for the night. Our first full day in Hong Kong was a huge success, we’d seen a ton of sights, taken a ton of pictures, and only explored the Kowloon side. After 12 hours on our feet, we slept fast and hard.