Thankfully the jet lag kept at bay during our short visit to Hong Kong, and early rising was no problem after a good night’s sleep. It being my birthday, I told Monkey that I would get to choose all our activities for the day. First stop, a ride on the Peak Tram to check out the 360 views of Hong Kong and Kowloon.
The best time of day to avoid the long lines is first thing in the morning – the tram starts before 8am. Octopus cards in hand, (load up your card to use it on all public transport and even pay for goods in stores like 7 Eleven), we donned our running shoes and jogged through Lan Kwai Fong and over to the Peak terminal building.
Rooted in Colonial history, riding the tram—which opened in 1926— is one of the few experiences that give you a sense of Hong Kong’s yesteryear.
When we arrived at the top, it was windy and chilly, but clear. Needing to keep warm and wanting to get the blood flowing through my veins post-travel, we elbowed our way through the busload of chattering mainland tourists who had just disembarked, and headed out on the trail towards Plantation Road.
We found a wonderful quiet enclave I haven’t spotted before called Pollocks Path with amazing views. Apparently it was named the world’s priciest street in 2013, which explains why I found myself wanting to live there. Within about 35-40 minutes of jogging and walking, we found ourselves back at Peak Lookout Café. (You can also do a 90-minute hike that takes you the full 360 around the Peak).
The Peak Lookout Café has lots of special memories for me—it was my granny’s favorite, and a place she’d bring us for fried rice and Coke floats—so we stopped for a warming breakfast of congee (rice porridge) and a side of bacon. Yep, weird, but that’s what it is to be Eurasian, and it was my birthday.
After all that walking, I wanted to squeeze in a quick foot massage. My sister pointed us to an affordable option in Central, Gao’s Foot Massage. Monkey and I each had 30 minutes, for just $15 US dollars each, which put the bounce back in our step. I will be doing this more when we get back home.
Next stop, a ride on the Star Ferry – you can also use your Octopus card for this journey. A visit to Hong Kong just isn’t complete without sailing on these workhorses, which look to be about 100 years old. The service itself, is reputed to have started around 1880. With the reclamation of land, the Ferry terminal in Central was moved in 2006 and the journey is now quite short, but long enough to enjoy the harbor view.
One of my lovely aunts had invited us to a birthday lunch at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kowloon. A quick word about hotel restaurants in Hong Kong. They offer some of the best dining experiences there are to be had. I realize this is counterintuitive to anyone coming from the West where hotel restaurants are a mixed bag, so trust me on this one.
We sat in the huge Lobby Lounge with its 180 degree view of the harbor. Knowing we also had a dinner planned, I opted for what I thought might be something light: Laksa, but when it arrived, it was enough for about three people.
Everyone else’s plates were similarly loaded, and the general consensus was that the food was great. We were with family, so of course, there was the usual proffering of food to each other and rearranging of items on your plate by the person across the table.
We managed to accomplish all of this by around 2pm, at which point, I decided I’d like a birthday cocktail over on Hong Kong side. A quick ferry trip later, we were outside on the 4th floor of the IFC mall, just as the March sun was starting to go down.
Feeling pleasantly warm, I left Monkey to hang out with his auntie, while I wandered off to get my haircut by Yoko at Sozo Hair Design in Lan Kwai Fong – a place recommended to me by cousin who has the exact same type of hair as me. I got a great do, and the price was pretty comparable with San Francisco – if you find yourself in need of a trim, definitely head to this salon.
By now, it was past 6pm, and I had just enough time for a quick change before heading out to dinner with my godfather/uncle and his wife, my cousin and her hubbie, my sister, and of course, Monkey. We went to SoHo Fama located in a renovated government building (which is rare, they usually tear these places down) just off Hollywood Road.
A hip, but low key, Chinese restaurant, traditional dishes have a twist and there’s a commitment to using organic produce where possible (also pretty rare in Hong Kong). This is a great place to come and get away from the hordes of tourists. Giant cocktails and lots of yummy spicy food later, the birthday buns appeared, which, as my uncle remarked: look a bit like a bottom. True enough.
Not ready to call it a night, we bundled into taxis, complete with a sleeping Monkey who was hit by jet lag and slept through most of dinner, and sped off to the mid-levels for a night cap with my aunt and uncle.
So ended a delightful day, which may sound exhausting to some of you, but fuelled me up with the love of my family, treats and urban beauty in one of my favorite cities in the world.
While you may not get to experience family love if you visit, you can enjoy all this and more in just over 48 hours. Bon voyage!
We booked an apartment to stay through AirBnB, which was just over $500 for 3 nights and give us a lot more space than a hotel room + a washing machine and kitchenette.
Transfer from the airport on the Airport Express train – it only takes 24 minutes to get to Central and you can take a taxi from there. Buy a roundtrip ticket as it’s cheaper than using an Octopus card.
And my favorite thing of all, is that on your trip home, you can check your bags in Central and Kowloon at the Airport Express stations. There are usually zero lines and you can then travel unencumbered to the airport.