First day in Hong Kong - what a great place!
Kowloon Travel Blog› entry 7 of 19 › view all entries
I slept pretty well and I decided to skip the breakfast at the hotel, I just really wanted to be lazy the first full day in Hong Kong. I was out of the hotel around 10 am and I headed straight for the water and the Ferry Terminal area because I just wanted a view of Hong Kong for the first time, it felt really good. I had arrived and I had a week to spend in the city and I didn’t feel anything from jet lag or anything.
The harbor was quite empty and I just enjoyed the smell of water and the scenery. I walked down to the ferries knowing that I had to use as one of the main to-do-things of Hong Kong. I walked by the ferries and found a place to admire the Skyline of Hong Kong Island but it was covered in cloud and fog.
I walked by the Kowloon Public Pier just behind the Hon Kong Culture Centre that had some nice angles, which I admired together with all the boats passing by on the water. On the Culture Center I especially liked curved roof and the covered alley towards the Ferry Terminal and along Salisbury Road.
Between the pier and the Culture Centre there were loads of bright colored rice paper lamps shaped like the animals of the different Chinese years, and there was also a huge dragon in bright yellow color that was sweeping around a gate. I was not the only one who liked the colors of the exhibition. The bright colors of the rice lamps were photographed like nothing I had seen before.
Just next to the colorful display the Former Kowloon-Canton Railway Clock Tower was situated. The tower is one of many famous landmarks in Hong Kong. It is the only remnant of the original site of the former Kowloon Station on the Kowloon-Canton Railway. Officially named Former Kowloon-Canton Railway Clock Tower, it is usually referred to as the Tsim Sha Tsui Clock Tower for its location.
The Clock Tower is built out of red bricks and granite, and it peaks at 44 meters, and is topped by a 7-metre lightning rod. You can reach the top of the tower using a wooden staircase but I didn’t try this.
There are loads of shopping malls in Hong Kong but one of the more special is the 1881 Heritage. It was located on Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, near the Ferry Terminal towards the Hong Kong Island and just opposite my hotel and I decided to have a look at it..
This mall is special because it is an open area where you feel that you are just walking in the old part of Hong Kong, but a very British influenced part. There is no doubt that this is a fashionable part of the Kowloon side of Hong Kong but it is open to everyone and I found it to be a calm place to walk because everyone else were seeking to comfort of the more traditional mall in the cold winter Hong Kong.
The1881 Heritage is covering a quite large area with a total area of 130,000 square feet but it is an open mall and it features much more than just a shopping mall; there is also a heritage hotel, and an exhibition hall. The original site of 1881 Heritage was the headquarters of the Hong Kong Marine Police from the 1880s to 1996 and it is the beautiful restoration of the area that is the best part of this mall.
The buildings' unique Victorian architecture epitomizes its rich colonial background and it is not hard to picture the British heritage walking the ground; The Former Marine Police Headquarters Main Building, Former Stable Block, and the former Time Ball Tower were declared monuments by the Antiquities and Monuments Office in 1994, as proof of their historical significance to Hong Kong.
One funny thing I read was that The Former Marine Police Headquarters Main Building actually was build in 1884 and not 1881 but the Chinese pronunciation of 1884 reminded too much of something connected with death, so they decided to change the year.
In the middle of the area there were a flower decoration that attracted lots of couples from photo shooting sessions in front of the colorful flowers that were artificial by the way. On the ground floor there were also a huge carriage many families also managed to supplement their family albums with portraits. I walked upstairs by the stairs, and just on top of the stairs the former Time Ball Tower was situated.
The former Time Ball Tower was declared monument by the Antiquities and Monuments Office in 1994, as proof of it historical significance to Hong Kong.
Before 1907, the Ball Tower, also known as the Signal Tower, in the former Marine Police Headquarters was used to provide time signals to ships in Victoria Harbor 1. The existing time ball mounted on the pole above the domed roof of the Time Ball Tower is similar to time balls in Britain, New Zealand and Australia. The tradition of dropping the time ball at 1pm every day is now alive at 1881 Heritage.
In 2009 the Time Ball Tower was renovated and had the Time Ball mechanism replaced. As the original time ball was removed without a trace several decades ago, they had to create a new design based on surviving time balls in other parts of the world.
Next to the Time Ball Tower was a typhoon mast where signals were raised manually during typhoons. The opening hours are from 10am - 10pm daily. I walked to whole area before I decided that I would return towards Canton Road and therefore headed back the Ferry Terminal.
I followed the Pier towards the huge mall named Harbor City. During my walk I really liked the views that I was looking at and it reminded me a bit about Shanghai and walking along the waterfront there. One of the things that I really had looked forward to in my week in Hong Kong was the Hong Kong Skyline. Unfortunately there was not one single day or evening without fog or clouds; it was a week with cold damp weather but there is only one cure for this and that is to come back.
Along the Pier I smiled at the huge Cruise ship that was docked next to the Harbor City Mall an I could only smile on how convenient it was to have the cruise passengers convert to customers by steeping out directly into a mall.
Inside the mall I immediately found out where all the people were! They were all out shopping the last bargains of the sale that had been running since end of December, while they were hiding from the cold weather outside. The clothing shops were fairly full but the electronic shops were completely packed and especially the section with phones. The quest for next generation of Smart-phones would never end. There was only one thing that I found really interesting and that was the pocket-Wi-Fi but it was sold out everywhere. I found that to be a brilliant idea for travellers in a big city.
I was longing for a cup of coffee and a small bite of something but I could not find any places to visit but after a quick enquiry at the info desk I was told that the third floor would fulfill my needs.
I left the mall after having visited some electronic shops and headed to the hotel, where I needed to pick up jacket because the weather turned to the worse; it was getting colder and the wind was picking up.
I had no idea or plan on where to go after this, I was just having a first look & feel of the magnificent place, a place that I had dream about visiting since many years. I walked by the Cultural Centre and passed both the Space Center and the Hong Kong Art Museum, with the majestic Peninsula Hotel on the other side, a place that I had to visit as well later.
I went down to the water and the one of the best places to have a view towards the Hong Kong Island Skyline: the Avenue of Stars. The avenue is inspired of the Hollywood Walk of Fame and honors celebrities of the Hong Kong film industry. There is not much action happening on the avenue as such but it has the must spectacular views overlooking the skyline on the opposite side of the river and the action going on at the river itself. The river is quite busy so there is much activity going on to watch; loads of small boats are passing, ferries, tankers and cruise-ships are all passing there.
The Avenue of Stars is located along the Victoria Harbour waterfront in Tsim Sha Tsui, but you can hardly avoid it if you walk along the Kowloon coastline from the Ferry Terminal and towards the Intercontinental Hotel.
It was okay weather while I was walking the stretch but the view towards Hong Kong Island was unfortunately not clear that day or I should say that week. Even so it was a great calm walk and hundreds of other tourist had the same opinion as me, because most of the people I met were smiling and looked like they had a good time. It was a great place.
As I entered from the Salisbury Garden, a 4.5-metre-tall replica of the statuette given to winners at the Hong Kong Film Awards greeted me; I had no idea at the time what it was but it looked like something from the Olympic Games. The promenade that is only 440-meter brings you through the story of Hong Kong's one hundred years of cinematic history and it is told through inscriptions printed on nine red pillars facing the water.
Like at the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood there are plaques honoring the movie celebrities. Some plaques contain prints of the celebrities’ hands and autographs set in cement, but most of the plaques only contain the celebrities' names as they are now deceased. A 2.5 meter bronze statue of Bruce Lee was erected along the Avenue of Stars in 2005 and was a really popular photo object to be shot together with; there was a long queue of tourist getting ready to pose.
At the end of the avenue I was looking for a place where I could have a beer and get some warmth back in my body.
Due to the strong wind and the lack of sunshine I decided to have a beer inside hanging in the bar even though I have to say that it was not much warmer inside as the bar had huge open glass doors. The bar had 3 guys working there; all of them nice and service minded and also carrying large black framed glasses and the same hairdo; almost like clones.
The bar had a good selection of different beers and I ended up tasting a beer that I had not tasted before; the Yebisu. I ended up talking to an American pilot that also was hanging in the bar; he was flying cargo around the world and were heading for Russia and Alaska the following day; we had a great talk and one beer took another. On a warm day or just a sunny day I am sure that this place would be packed, because there was a great view over the water and the Avenue of Stars.
I crossed the Salisbury Road via the pedestrian bridge that provided me with a stunning view of the bay and the bar where I just had spend a couple of hours.
I followed the park along Salisbury Road and ended up in Middle Road Children's Playground that is located on the shore side of Signal Hill Garden. The playground was as many other places a small park with some colorful figures for the children to crawl on. Surrounding the playground there were nice benches from where you could enjoy your lunch away from the hectic roads.
The flowers and plants were all kept very nicely and it was very neat. There were even though we were in the wintertime still flowers blooming and I could only imagine how busy a park like this would be in the summertime or at least when it would be a bit warmer.
The playground park had a nice system of paths, all well kept with a load of benches. The whole area was situated on first or second floor level and had lifts system to help people to get up there along with stairs. Looking from outside this park must have been pretty costly to establish and maintain.
I walked further on towards the 1881 Heritage when it started to rain and everybody tried to find shelter. I ended up in the metro entrance together with loads of other people. The only ones that kept on moving onwards were the ones with umbrellas.
A hot shower later I went out from the hotel ready to face Hong Kong by night or at least in the evening. I headed for the harbor because I wanted the see the Skyline in the dark. There were still many people on the streets and I followed the crowd heading for the Ferry Terminal and especially the Rice Lamp display celebrating the Chinese New Year. In the evening these figures were even more impressive.
I went up on the plateau next to The Clock Tower and had there an excellent view of Hong Kong Island and the colorful figures next to the Cultural Centre. I had again hoped that the weather would clear up but there were no change in the weather.
I left towards the inner city on the Kowloon side that was lit up like a better Las Vegas with commercials everywhere; most of the shops were in this part of the city still open during the evening.
When I finally decided for sushi, it was only due to the fact that was choosing between the availability at the doors of Itacho Sushi and Mes Amis both in Ashley Road. I entered at narrow hall that lead to a blocked door of Itacho Sushi. Without being able to read any of the instructions on the wall next to the entrance I pushed a bell button and the wall slid to the side. Mr. Bond was back in town.
A waiter greeted me and I was directed to a table where I was seated. There was no instruction in order to make the ordering process work. I looked into a large stack of papers in a plastic holder on table without getting the system right away.
Finally I understood that I needed to get a menu from one of the other tables. Opening this I found pictures of different kinds of food with numbers on. There were 5 different ordering papers that went for an interval of the menu. In making my order I had to deliver 4 different colored papers to the waiter in order to make my complete order but I had also stretched it because there were so much great food.
I started with a crab miso soup and edamame or soya beans. After this I had some wagyu beef tataki with ponzu sauce, followed by some fat tuna. After that I went for salmon eggs in salmon, fly fish eggs, squid, salmon eggs and a small sashimi plate. For drinks I had a couple of Japanese beers and some hot sake; is there a need to say that I was full after this.
The food was exquisite and I could eat this every day for a very long time. The restaurant interior was a bit boring but that was also the only flaw I could identify. Having paid 400 HK$ for the fabulous meal I was feeling to good to go back to the hotel, I guess that the hot sake that I had together with my dinner was making a difference.
I decided to go to Mes Amis in order to see what they could offer. Inside the bar the light was almost entirely red from the Chines red rice lamps. The bar was pretty fun and the music was ear catching with RUN DMC, AC/DC and other old classics. I ordered a Carlsberg and found a bar chair in the back of the room with a great view of the bar.
There was a great ambiance inside and after my second beer I went for a chair in the bar and I actually ended up having so much fun that I was there when the bar closed at 3 am.
After the bar had closed I walked home along the empty streets and I was back at the hotel around 3.30 am and I was pretty tired again.