Sunday, March 23, 2014

Hong Kong impressions

Like any world-class international city, Hong Kong is an amalgamation of nationalities, cultures and people that is constantly coalescing with everything that touches it.

In my mind, the city reflects the vivacious personality of our own city – Mumbai – albeit a little more well-groomed, a tad more savvy, and with a lot more skyscrapers!

I was taken aback by the sheer volume of towering building in the city. It’s impressive. It is also necessary since land is at a premium. Unfortunately, air pollution in Hong Kong is a serious problem and the towers don’t help. They trap the polluted air that floats towards it from China, compounding the problem.
Towering inferno
Nevertheless, it’s an exciting city to visit and even to live in. It’s always buzzing; it is high on culture, night life is thrilling and the food is to indulge in. But mostly for non-vegetarians. As a vegetarian, I had a difficult time trying to savor the local cuisine. And the language hurdle doesn't make it easier.    

Vegetarian food isn't very easy to find. But there are a lot of Indian (read Punjabi) cuisine restaurants around.

Do the locomotive
Getting around is easy. MTR (underground trains) and double-decker buses are available everywhere – even from the airport going directly into the city. And tickets can be purchased from kiosks at the airport itself.
Ticket kiosk at the Hong Kong airport
If you’re travelling in a group of more than three, then taking a taxi is better and more economical.

Where to shack up
Kowloon, more specifically the Tsim Sha Tsui area, is the place where you want to be. It is fun, it’s exciting and it’s cheap(er). Park Hotel has a great location and is pretty decently priced. Alternately, one of the youth hostels is good too and it is where your Hong Kong dollar (currently at Rs 8) will go further. Check the Hong Kong Youth Hostels Association website for more.

A look back at Kowloon reminds me of our own city from the Bandra-Worli sealink
Things to see
It’s a bit clich├ęd but you can’t miss Hong Kong Disneyland, even if you're not traveling with kids! Keep an entire day for this. 

The Peak Tram is also a must-do; it has the best view and will give you a little perspective on the city. You can give the floating restaurants a miss but do visit Victoria Harbour to witness the Symphony of Lights show. It’s breathtaking!
View from the top
You can also make a day trip to Macau, which will take you around 60-75 minutes by ferry. Check this helpful link for detailed information on the ferries. 

Macau has tons of casinos and has earned the moniker of ‘Las Vegas of the East’ for a reason! But it’s an expensive destination to stay so you might want to return to Hong Kong the same day if you're on a budget. Read my article on Macau here.

For more information on the city, visit the Hong Kong tourism board website. It’s very user-friendly.

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