No matter what you do, please come back in one piece – that’s what my wife said when I was planning my Hong Kong trip. A week before; the typhoon had hit Hong Kong and my trip had to be deferred. An absolutely new city, no guide and I was to explore the city on my own – it was a challenge. The excitement of visiting a new city, bringing back stories for my blog, experiencing the exciting new cuisine overtook all of my anxiety disorders.
Your tickets and hotel
Prior to booking the hotel, the air tickets need to be booked, which is fairly easy when you are flying Cathay Dragon.The hotel booking can be done on the basis of the location of your stay and your budget. One of the best ways when booking your hotel is to look at its proximity to the MTR station. A thing which I realised is that despite numerous MTR stations, the city is not that big and distances between stations are walkable unless you want to reach on the other side of the harbour.
Pre Arrival registration process (PAR)
The most important part of travelling to Hong Kong is filling up this online form. (link here). As it is Visa on Arrival for Hong Kong for Indian passport holders, it is important that you fill up this form and carry the print out with you while travelling. It will be checked at the immigration counter in Kolkata as well as in Hong Kong. Although it may look like an uphill task, if you remember a few simple tips then it is a cakewalk
- Keep the passport ready while filling up the form
- All the details should be as per the passport details
- There are chances that you may leave some space after completing a line or a word, the space is accepted as a character so one needs to be careful about that
- Remember the secret question that you put in and save the form
- Once done, carry a print out
Things to Do in Hong Kong
One person who was the most upset about my travel to Hong Kong alone was my wife because she would miss the fun of visiting a new country and all the activities related with it and on the other hand, if there was another person who was happiest was my son as he knew Baba was surely going to get gifts from Disneyland for him.
Hong Kong is a perfect destination for the family. A family which loves to explore new places, taste new food, appreciate the architectural marvel of the city, revisit one’s childhood with favourite disney characters and a ride on a ropeway cable car. It does not end here, Hong Kong is filled with great shopping opportunities as the best of the international brands with latest releases are present there. For a wonderful experience of street shopping and trying your hand at bargaining, try out Mong Kok Ladies market.
Ngong Ping cable car ride.
Ngong Ping is on Lantau island and to get here one needs to take the cable car. You can book the tickets online which will be a good option rather than buying them at the cable car ticket counter. There are 2 types of cable cars, I suggest the crystal ones in case you don’t have acrophobia. A 25 minute journey over the picturesque Hong Kong landscape brings you to Lantau island. Here you can take a cultural and heritage tour. The tour starts with a refreshing tea tasting session of blooming tea and then one proceeds towards the Tai O Village. The Tai O fishing village is on the western course of Lantau island and is famous for its fishing culture which you can check out. On the return, visit the Po Lin Monastery and experience the calmness of Buddhism and the prayers all around. One can watch the marvel of a 34 meter tall Tian Tan Buddha from the cable car. The statue stands tall in front of you in all its glory. Time passes quickly if you decide to spend a day here and if you still have time left do check out Stage 360, View 360 and walking with Buddha.
Pre Sunset cruise ride
I had seen how beautiful Hong Kong looks in the night and I was desperate to take a pre sunset cruise. Though there are many cruise options, the one run by HK tourism should be availed. As the journey takes place from both sides of the harbour, you can choose to get on board from either the Kowloon pier or Central Pier. I availed the ride from Kowloon pier. It is a magnificent sight to see the entire city at dusk against the setting sun and the buildings slowly lighting up which makes it seem that everyone is celebrating Diwali. The one and a half hour ride explains the history of the city. Don’t miss out landmarks such as the Statue Square and the Bank of China tower when on the ride.
If there is one reason why you should visit Hong Kong then it should only be Disneyland. After spending an entire day- almost 9 hours to be precise, I still felt there was not enough time at this magical place. My day started with a peek into the empire of Tony “Ironman” Stark, took a simulated Iron Man experience and even destroyed some enemies of earth. I took an out- of- this -world thrill at Hyperspace Mountain with my hands held tightly to the hand bars when on the ride. The Flights of Fantasy parade at this theme park is where you get to see what each child awaits. Disney characters come alive and it is an exciting show to watch. I had a quick bite at Starliner and in the afternoon took the Grizzly Gulch bear ride. Then I strolled down Toy Story Land and went over to Mystic Manor where magic happens over musical instruments. Disney’s Storybook Theatre is transformed into a modern-day library and the 28 minute musical – Mickey and the Wondrous Book lives up to the standards of a true Disney production. I was left wondering was it for real ? The best is always left for the last and the Disney fireworks left me pinching myself repeatedly if this was all a dream. With the Aladdin title track being played in the background, scenes from movies were projected on the walls of the famous Disney castle while the fireworks lit up the dark sky. Was I truly experiencing this Disney magic?
I missed my son the most when I was here and would definitely consider visiting this place; almost every year.
Man Mo Temple and Wong Tai Sin temple
Who would not pay a visit to the two of the most popular temples in a new place. Situated at both ends of the city, I started with Wong Tai Sin temple. It is said that wishes made in this temple are always fulfilled and people pray by lighting the incense sticks in front of the main altar. The worshippers participate in a very interesting way. A bunch of fortune sticks are shaken inside a bamboo cylinder and the incense stick that comes out has a number relating to a card. The reading on the card are then deciphered by a soothsayer. Man Mo temple on the other hand is the temple for the literature God, Man Tai and the warrior God, Mon Tai. Although under construction, this place at Sheung Wan is a small yet popular temple and worth a visit. Declared as a monument, you will find people offering prayers and dedications to God at these temples. Don’t forget to check out the antique market on you way back where you can pick up the much desired gift to carry back home.
Hong Kong is a city on the harbour with fish as its main produce. It thus goes without saying that fish in different forms, shapes and preparations are the mainstay. While I follow up with another blogpost on details about the food; my brief stay in this city confirmed that the food options are not restricted to Cantonese style food only. If you are a food explorer then don’t miss the chance to try roasted goose, fish ball soup or various dishes of squid, ham and pork and the famous – dim sums. In case you are not experimental, then there are plenty of cafes and restaurants offering continental breakfast and meals. You can also get some Indian and Pakistani food joints in case you are missing ghar ka khana.
Moving within Hong Kong
Going from Kolkata, you cannot miss the chance of riding the heritage trams of this city but that’s not the main mode of transport here. The MTR or the Mass Transit Railway is the smartest option possible for any visitor. You can get all the details here. There are other modes also and even transfer from and to the Airport with the Airport Express makes the journey smooth. The taxis and ferries also provide good amount of support for transportation. An Octopus which is like a Metro Card can be used as a travel pass and purchased at the railway station and then recharged at various convenience stores across the city.
The 4 days that I spent there passed away in no time and my next family trip is planned – Any guesses?
P.S. This tour of Hong Kong was in association with Cathay Dragon.