Shopper's paradise

Hong Kong Travel Blog

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The famous skyscraper of the Bank of China (Hong Kong)

It’s just after nine when we leave our hotel. We both had a good night’s sleep and breakfast at the Stanford Café turned out to be better than the dinner buffet. Granted, the scrambled eggs looked as if they had fallen out of people’s noses, but the fried eggs were not bad.

The streets of Mong Kok are quiet when we walk towards the nearest subway station. There are only some people on their way to work and a few walking their dogs. Tourists are scarce and even the streets that are normally packed with market vendors, now only show rows of deserted wrapped up stalls. 

As soon as we are underground at subway station Mong Kok we walk towards the map to see how many stops we want to travel.

Me and Jackie Chan at the entrance of the tram to Victoria Peak (Hong Kong)
Just as I see that we only have to ride the sub for five stations without even as much as changing lines, a young woman eagerly asks us if she can help. I tell her we want to go to Victoria Peak and that subway station ‘Central’ is the closest, but she insists on taking us to a uniformed man to be sure that’s the best way to go. The man doesn’t speak English so we have no idea what his advice might be. The woman, however, tells us we have to go to station Causeway Bay, which is in another direction.

We thank her and wait till she leaves. Then we buy one way tickets to station Central. I’m sure she means well and that she probably misunderstood where we wanted to go. But I’m pretty convinced  my Lonely Planet guide is a bit more trustworthy than a young woman who can barely speak English.

The tram to Victoria Peak (Hong Kong)
And who says she isn’t just hanging around trying to send tourists in the wrong direction to have a good laugh?

Ten minutes later, when we leave subway station Central, we find out my instincts were right. We surface at Statue Square and there are numerous signs pointing us in the direction of the famous peak. And while we start following those signs, we also run into the famous skyscraper of the Bank of China. Word is that the modern construction of glass and steal defies all Feng Shui rules because its shape resembles an axe and is pointed directly at their competitor HSBC. But no matter from what angle we look at it, we can’t recognize any axes. Some people have too much imagination, I suppose.

The signs bring us to a small building from where a special tram drives up the steep Victoria Peak.

The view from Victoria Peak (Hong Kong)
There is an entire exposition on the history of this tram, but I’m completely oblivious to all this. I only have eyes for Jacky Chan... I’m a huge fan of his work and think he is hilarious, so who cares how they build the tram, I want Rens to take my picture when I’m standing right next to the wax double of one of my heroes! Sigh... would he really be this cute in real life?

Since it is still early we can enter the tram within minutes, which isn’t easy since it is build in the same steep direction as the peak. It’s a bit like an attraction in an amusement park, everybody’s excited about taking an unusual ride and all camera’s are at the ready. The drive up the peak is nice and a bit bizarre because of the sharp angle, but agreeable nonetheless. And it turns out we weren’t that far off with our comparison to an amusement park. All that is missing at the actual Victoria Peak are cartoon characters! There is a whole circus with numerous extremely colourful souvenir shops and stylish restaurants and we even run into a very scary guy dressed up as a shrimp in front of a restaurant that’s entirely about Forrest Gump.

Aberdeen floating fishing village (Hong Kong)

After riding several long escalators, we finally get to the highest viewing point, and the scenery is breathtaking. Countless skyscrapers from the northern part of Hong Kong Island and the southern part of Kowloon rise from the ground, and I just can’t stop taking pictures. We feel lucky for coming early, it would have taken a lot more hassle and time if there were hundreds of other people all trying to get a glimpse from Hong Kong architecture at its best.

We stop for drinks in one of the coffeehouses (with free internet!) and then we’re on our way again.

Aberdeen floating fishing village(Hong Kong)
A taxi takes us to the Aberdeen floating fishing village, but the place where we are dropped off seems odd. There is a dock, there are tourists boats, but there is no fishing village to be seen. A woman drags us in a boat and half in half explains that you have to sail to the fishing village, you can only see it from the water. She names a price of 150 Hong Kong dollar for a twenty minute boat trip and she sails of.

‘ How much is 150 Hong Kong dollar again?’ Rens asks, while looking for his note with conversions.

‘ I have no idea,’ I answer. I’m busy checking my camera for the right setting while the boat leaves the dock.

‘ Hm… About 12 Euro,’ Rens says.

Aberdeen floating fishing village (Hong Kong)
‘ Is that a lot?’

‘ Dunno. I suppose not, we have a private boat.’ I hate wondering if anything is too expensive or not. For us, it’s always cheap and I don’t feel like discussing it all day. From a distance I can see worn down fishing boats floating in the water. The horizon behind the boats is covered with modern skyscrapers and the contrast between contemporary life and old fashioned life looks great.

‘ I suppose we should have negotiated about the price before we got on the boat,’ Rens says while he is still checking his conversions.

‘ I suppose, but it’s too late for that now.

Times Square (Hong Kong)
Look around you, will you?’ I’m getting annoyed. Now that he mentions it, we are probably paying too much and we would have done better if we had bargained beforehand. We made a mistake and let this clever woman take us by surprise while we were not properly prepared. Big deal. It doesn’t mean it should spoil the colourful views into the lives and boats/ homes of people who still live in a similar way like they did fifty or sixty years ago while a few yards away people live in modern skyscrapers.

Boats are covered with fishing nets, some men are busy repairing them. Their boat is their transportation, their livelihood and their home. It may not be luxurious but it’s straightforward. I can see the countless upsides on living like this. No traffic jams on your way to work, no frustrated fits when your internet connection fails. Never any problems with neighbors, if you don’t like the people in the boat next to you, you just move the boat.

The twenty minutes are nearly over and before we arrive back at the dock, we pass a lavish yacht.

Times Square (Hong Kong)
Rens starts bargaining the price now that the trip is almost over, but it’s pointless since we already paid. The moral of this story therefore is: if you go to the Aberdeen floating fishing village negotiate the price before you get on a boat, especially if it’s not crowded with tourists. Or not. It’s also a nice trip if you don’t bargain about the money, it shows a very different side of Hong Kong.

Our next stop is shopping area Causeway Bay, just to get a taste of the atmosphere. Besides, some lunch would be welcome as well. A taxi takes us to Times Square, which is the centre of Causeway Bay. It’s a huge mall and though we are starving, we are not in the mood for fancy dining. And the food court at Times Square is all about pompous restaurants. We randomly start walking in some smaller streets outside the mall and after a little while we end up at a nice small place with low booths, an English menu and helpful staff. The dishes of Chinese food are huge and tasty, what more could you possibly want?

Once we’re fed and a bit rested we return to Times Square and walk around in the sterile and flashy shopping mall.

Causeway Bay (Hong Kong)
The stores mainly sell clothing from the big labels like Gucci, Prada, Dior, Chanel and many others. I couldn’t be less interested in this kind of clothing, but to Hong Kong- people it’s obviously very important.

When we leave Times Square to take a look at the rest of the shopping area we run into three Star troopers (soldiers in white, plastic uniforms from Star Wars). Since I adore Star Wars (I’m a huge geek) I’m intrigued and follow them around. As it turns out, the Canadian actor Charles Ross is performing a one-man Star Wars Trilogy-show in a theatre in Hong Kong and he’s running around the high-end places in town to promote his show. Unfortunately, his show only plays in the weekend and we will have left Hong Kong by then. I think it might be pretty entertaining to see one guy do an entire Star Wars Trilogy on his own…

Anyway, when we’re done tasting atmosphere in the area of Causeway Bay, we think it’s time for a late afternoon nap and we return to our hotel.

Star Troopers at Causeway Bay (Hong Kong)
There’s no point in overstressing oneself at the beginning of a journey, after all.

A few hours later we leave the Stanford Hotel and stroll through the same streets we passed this morning. In the early hours of the day  it might have been quite deserted, now that the evening has fallen, the entire neighborhood of Mong Kok is bustling with all kinds of activity. We end up having dinner at the Pizza Hut, not because we insist on having pizza, but mainly because we don’t feel like having an extensive search for some unique restaurant. Besides, when we were in Shanghai a couple of years before, we noticed that the Pizza Hut is not considered a cheap fast food-joint in China. People actually get in line to get a table in one of the stylishly decorated restaurant that just happens to have the same name and similar menu as an American fast food chain.

At the Pizza Hut in Mong Kok there is no line for the Pizza Hut, but nearly all tables in the three story restaurant are taken, mostly with young local couples.

Mong Kok at night (Hong Kong)
We get a booth in front of the window and watch street activity and the people around us and have a nice meal at the same time.

Then we’re back on the streets, trying to locate the famous Temple Street Evening Market. The boulevards are full with all kind of stands, hilariously horrible musicians and shoppers. All shops are open, all the lights on the bill boards are on, it is quite a sight to see. As soon as we’ve actually found the Evening Market, we are caught up with all stalls and their displayed items within minutes.

There are some nice souvenir options, but also daily items, like underwear, cheap jewelry, toys, socks and clothing. And then there are the stalls that sell sex toys. We are Dutch, we’ve seen the Red Light District, we’re not that easily impressed when it comes to sex products.

Mong Kok at night (Hong Kong)
But these stalls and their numerous items are very ‘out in the open’. And it is not unusual to see local men or women taking an interest in one or more articles and having an extensive look. It’s quite unusual, I must say.

We also find out the Evening Market is about more than just buying products. An entire row of open tents provide karaoke machines and the locals are standing in line to sing their favorite song. The last line of stalls we pass offer another interesting service: palm reading and fortunetelling. Dozens of ‘clairvoyants’ are sitting at the stalls and have signs claiming they are the best at seeing your future. I wonder how anybody who’s interested in having their future predicted, would ever pick a ‘clairvoyant’. They are all there, next to each other. They all look the same, do the same and all claim to be the best. But who really is? Nobody, I suppose. They probably just tell people what they want to hear.

I’m exhausted when a taxi drives us back to the hotel.

Temple Street Evening Market (Hong Kong)
It’s been a long day and I barely bought anything. It’s a good thing I’m not into designer labels or basic tourist-junk otherwise I would have needed an extra backpack. Other than that, Hong Kong surely is a shopper’s paradise. If your budget is high enough, that is.

shirlan says:
Really makes me want to get back there.
Posted on: Feb 22, 2010
Koralifix says:
Congrats on being featured! Good on you!
Posted on: Dec 05, 2009
ahtibat17 says:
I loved reading this! I went to Hong Kong a few years ago and this reminded me so much of my trip!
Posted on: Dec 04, 2009
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The famous skyscraper of the Bank …
The famous skyscraper of the Bank…
Me and Jackie Chan at the entrance…
Me and Jackie Chan at the entranc…
The tram to Victoria Peak (Hong Ko…
The tram to Victoria Peak (Hong K…
The view from Victoria Peak (Hong …
The view from Victoria Peak (Hong…
Aberdeen floating fishing village …
Aberdeen floating fishing village…
Aberdeen floating fishing village(…
Aberdeen floating fishing village…
Aberdeen floating fishing village …
Aberdeen floating fishing village…
Times Square (Hong Kong)
Times Square (Hong Kong)
Times Square (Hong Kong)
Times Square (Hong Kong)
Causeway Bay (Hong Kong)
Causeway Bay (Hong Kong)
Star Troopers at Causeway Bay (Hon…
Star Troopers at Causeway Bay (Ho…
Mong Kok at night (Hong Kong)
Mong Kok at night (Hong Kong)
Mong Kok at night (Hong Kong)
Mong Kok at night (Hong Kong)
Temple Street Evening Market (Hong…
Temple Street Evening Market (Hon…
Mong Kok at night (Hong Kong)
Mong Kok at night (Hong Kong)
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