Sunday, 12 August 2012

Hong Kong: Day 1

So, here we were, just settled on a property which we had spent over two years turning from the ugliest ducking in the farmyard to the most beautiful swan on the lake, and it had paid off for us very well. We needed a holiday, but we needed something which would be quick and easy to book, which would not involve months of planning or pouring over websites, somewhere offering a bit of excitement and a good deal of comfort. Well, where else but that place 22.3 north, Hong Kong.

I picked up a few travel brochures, booked our airfares, and selected a hotel, the Harbour Plaza Kowloon (since renamed the Harbour Grand Kowloon . The date was set, 7th of October, and we were revved up for a great holiday.

The flight up to Hong Kong with Qantas was fantastic. The food was great, the service from the cabin crew first class even if we were in economy, and before we knew it, having watched a couple of movies and had a few vinos, we were landing in Hong Kong, alas no longer at the famous airport that gave so many tourists some anxious moments but at the superb, super-efficient new airport on Lantau Island.

By the time we had cleared immigration, our luggage was through on the fascinating-to-watch luggage carousel, and so we were soon through customs and out into the arrivals lounge where we quickly spotted our pre-arranged transport to the Harbour Plaza. Driving in from the airport the excitement mounts as you begin to see high-rise after high-rise after high-rise. Actually, Hong Kong looks like a place made up of differently coloured domino pieces all standing on end, all bumping against each other, each one vying for attention. The skyline itself is just such a feature.

Our hotel, situated in the Hunghom area of Kowloon, far exceeded any advertising brochures. The staff at reception were delightful, coming across as genuinely welcoming, and check-in was completed in no time at all and with big smiles. Before we knew it we were opening the door into our room and rushing over to the window to take it the fantastic harbour views. Everything was lovely – the d├ęcor, the bathroom, the location.  Great choice of hotel, Beejay! Our suitcases were soon delivered, and I unpacked them quickly, sorted out the toiletries for the bathroom, put our reading material etc etc out where we wanted them, had a quick shower, and we were ready to head downstairs and out.

Outside our hotel. Who doesn't love dolphins, even gold ones?
First port of call was a quick stroll around the Hunghom area just to familiarise ourselves with our surroundings. As I said, the hotel is in a perfect location, overlooking the harbour, and it is just a very short walk from there to the Hunghom ferry terminal. While we would have loved to just jump on a ferry and head over to Hong Kong Island or along to Tsim Sha Tsui, a supermarket was needed so that we could get some goodies to fill our fridge. We had asked that the contents of the mini-bar in our room be taken away and we wanted to make good use of the small fridge and ensure that the gin and rum had their correct drinking buddies, tonic and coke.

Within a few short blocks of the hotel we found a fantastic shopping centre which contained everything you could possibly want – clothing shops, shoe shops, eateries, newsagents, and of course a supermarket. We absolutely love supermarket shopping in the places we visit, taking ages to check out every shelf to see what products we have in common, what strange goodies we can ponder over, and what amazing new gadgets we can enthuse over. In somewhere like Hong Kong you can add to that list what incredible smells your nostrils can be assailed by in the natural health section, or indeed in the food section. It was fantastic! 
Well supplied with mixers, munchies, chocolates, tea, coffee, milk and sugar, we headed back to our room, organised our supplies, and then once more made our way out onto the street. This time we did indeed head down to the ferry terminal. It was getting dark, which was just lovely. We boarded one of those famous Hong Kong Star Ferries to Tsim Sha Tsui, the busy, busy bit of Kowloon which everybody who has ever been there is so familiar with – think Nathan Road, Indian tailors, shops galore, the Peninsula Hotel, the Hong Kong cruise terminal. Ah, it was so alive, so buzzing with vitality, so colourful and wonderful.

We then took the opportunity to head out for a special evening cruise on one of the non-ferry ferries. There are a couple of these beautifully maintained ferries which take people on harbour cruises as opposed to being just a method of transport between Hong Kong and the mainland or the myrial islands scattered around. 

The name of the vessel we cruised on is Shining Star, and she is indeed beautiful. It's a while ago now, but  the memory of the delightful cruise is still there, and it is indeed magical cruising those waters and seeing a giant fairyland on either side of you as the lights of Hong Kong and the lights of Kowloon via for your attention.

What better place to sip a drink, unless it's on the outside deck, of course.

After that cruise we wandered around for a while, taking another ferry across the water to Hong Kong Island, and then back again to Hunghum and the Harbour Grand for a great meal in the restaurant overlooking the harbour surrounded by those glittering lights.

Oh, imagine our delight on walking back into the hotel lobby to discover it had been set up for a wedding. Wow, things here are certainly not done in half measures.  Check out these photographs. Stunning, I'm sure you will agree.

It had been quite a big day, and that big, incredibly comfortable bed was just heaven to sink into, and a great night’s sleep was waiting.

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