The morning of day two found us getting on a Star Ferry to cross Victoria Harbour. Due to land reclamation, the crossing to Hong Kong island now only takes 8 minutes.
As soon as we got off, we started craning our neck and looking up at the famous skyscrapers – neither of us had seen anything like this before. Skyscrapers, connected by covered walkways, biggest companies in the world side by side with luxurious designer shops. My head was spinning from all the splendour.
We took a cable car to Victoria Peak.Victoria Peak is a mountain in Hong Kong. It is also known as Mount Austin, and locally as The Peak. The mountain is located in the western half of Hong Kong Island. With an altitude of 552 m (1,811 ft), it is the highest mountain on the island proper, but not in the entirety of Hong Kong.The actual summit of Victoria Peak is occupied by a radio telecommunications facility and is closed to the public. However, the surrounding area of public parks and high-value residential land is the area that is normally meant by the name The Peak. It is a major tourist attraction which offers views over Central, Victoria Harbour, Lamma Island and the surrounding islands. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victoria_Peak)
Before we went on Cable Car, we had to queue for close to 40 minutes, but the almost vertical ride with spectacular views was worth it.
Once there, we headed for a restaurant we read about in quite a few internet reviews (the funniest reviews said that the famous bowls of prawn wontons and noodle soup were so small, the person writing the review could eat a few bowl and her boyfriend could eat 10). The portions were indeed quite small, but that apparently is the old way unlike the giant bowls we get nowadays. Anthony Bourdain ate here! I kept saying, while waiting for our bowls to be served.
Suitably fortified, we could now enjoy the spectacular views. As I was gazing over the harbour, I was thinking that this was exactly how I imagined Hong Kong.
We walked around the Peak Plaza, got interviewed by schoolchildren who spoke amazing English and finally decided to take the cable car down. The ride was once again almost vertical, but the cable car hadn`t turned around – we were going backwards!
Once we stepped on the firm and reassuringly horizontal ground, we felt much better – well enough to visit the Botanical Gardens and Zoo – combined and both free of charge. It wasn`t very big and my favourite things were an enormous orangutang with dreadlocks all over his body and very noisy frogs whose necks bulged when they croaked.
We took the ferry back to the mainland as we wanted to see the Symphony of Lights, which takes place at 8 pm. Meanwhile, we still had a taxi to sort out. The day before we asked the hostel owner, Kitty to call us a taxi for 3 am the following night and she said she would (or so she thought as her English wasn’t great). In the morning, mostly with gestured, she conveyed that there were so many taxis we would be able to easily hail one on the street. While there were heaps of taxis outside, we had our doubts whether it was true for middle of the night, so we decided to call the taxi ourselves. Should be easy, right? Well, first I had to find a WiFi (we were already on the Peak Plaza), look up the taxi companies’ numbers and then try and fail to call them as our international Sim card wasn`t working properly. As we were going down to the MRT we spotted a phone box and a solution to our problem. We finally ordered a taxi and could now go eat knowing there would be a taxi waiting (Boy did we feel silly in the end, when we went outside at 3 am to wait for our taxi and discovered that indeed there were more taxis than people outside and we could have gotten cabs for both of us and all our bags to travel separately).
We found a restaurant not far from the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront and I then had the bets bowl of ramen noodles ever. So simple and yet so flavourful. Some liquid heaven. We also had chicken gizzards (still don`t know what it is) recommended to us by a local who heard us dithering over the starter section of the menu.
After our lovely dinner we headed back to the waterfront to find good spots for the Symphony of Lights, which is a synchronised building exterior decorative light and laser multimedia display, featuring 44 buildings on both sides of the Victoria Harbour of Hong Kong accompanied by music. The technology was developed by Australian firm Laservision and cost approximately 44 million HK dollars. It has attracted over 4 million visitors and locals so far, and is held every night for ten minutes. Guinness World Records has named A Symphony of Lights the world’s largest permanent light and sound show.
Our camera didn`t do the justice to the show – it was quite stunning and the accompanying music turned it into a whole performance.
As we walked to our hostel, we were once again amazed at how many more people were out at night than during the day – and most of them were shopping! There were queues outside most shops. I’d only ever seen something similar on Boxing Day sales in London where people queued in front of designer shops to get their bargains.
We couldnt resist eating things on a stick one more time. Mike tried curry fish ball which are sold on every corner and seemed to be very popular with the locals.
We went back to the hostel, packed our bags and got some sleep. Once were safely inside the taxi, the driver said something that sounded like ‘password’. So we thought that getting a taxi in Hong Kong was even more complicated than we thought – you need a password? When he repeated the word, we realized he was saying ‘passports’ which still meant that the ride was rather complicated if you had to show your passport! But turns out he was just being nice and making sure we had our passports and our tickets on us.
The airport was surprisingly empty – and customs weren’t open until 6 am! Our flight was delayed by about 2 hours, for which reason the lovely Chinese representatives of the Russian S7 airline waved excess luggage fees to our utter relief (we had approximately 4 kilos of books in one of our suitcases). We killed the time by watching our airplane being refueled, loaded with bags and otherwise serviced. After 6.45 hours we landed in Siberia – more on this in our next post!