Travel: Hong Kong and Macau

Maximum travel and minimum leave, the upcoming spring holidays are the perfect time to visit Hong Kong and Macau. You can cover a lot within a few days using the MTR system that puts Japan’s train network to shame. Food, culture, architecture, shopping, and gambling make China’s two ‘Special Administrative Regions’ very exciting and international destinations. At this time of year this region provides a very welcome break from the unrelenting Japanese winter with its perfect balmy, humid weather. For me, that’s reason enough to jump right on it; for other reasons see below!

Amongst the sprawling streets and endless apartment buildings, there is no lack for cheap and cheerful accommodation. YES INN is one of these. Yes Inn included, many of the hostels have a main building and front desk on one floor, with apartments on other floors in the same building, or sometimes even in adjacent building blocks. Based a short walk from Fortress Hill MTR station, Yes Inn is surrounded by many choices for Yum Cha breakfasts, bubble tea, and supermarkets.

Yum Cha is one of the types of food that must be experienced whilst in Hong Kong. Steamed buns, fried chicken feet, and birds nest pudding, there are many different foods to be sampled; some are very tasty while others prove challenging. Peking Duck is also a must and get into those egg tarts! For a novelty dining experience, check out ‘Modern Toilet’ situated close to Times Square Station. Modern Toilet has many restaurants throughout Asia. Sitting in padded toilet seat chairs and surrounded by tiles and shower fixtures, it’s all pretty unique. Drinks come served in urinal shaped containers, while meals and desserts can come served in ceramic plates and bowls in western style toilet, squatter style toilet or hand basin styles. If only for a laugh, it’s well worth checking out.

Hong Kong is quite well known for its cheap shopping and markets. Leather faux designer bags and luggage, quirky Engrish items, and local crafts can be found in many of the market places throughout the city. My top pick is the Mong Kok markets as they have the best variety of goods, spanning over 4 blocks. Close to the Mong Kok markets, check out Flower Market Road, Gold Fish Market, Yuen Po Street Bird Garden.

In Tsim Sha Tsui head to the Avenue of Stars to watch the ‘Symphony of Lights’; lasers and lights spill across the river from Hong Kong Central in a nightly choreographed display. Nearby you can find endless local eateries spilling out into the streets, massage parlours, and the night markets.

Architecture buffs will want to make it over to Central Station. At the Bank of China, you can check out the observation platform on the 43rd floor for free; all you have to do is bring your passport to register at the front desk to receive your pass. The observation platform offers almost uninterrupted panoramic views so this platform has the perfect place to take it all in. From here you may also wish to head on up Victoria Peak. Day time or night (weather and smog permitting) here you can see out across the city and harbour, enjoy the gardens, and check out the surroundings of Hong Kong’s most affluent residents.

Out near Diamond Hill MTR you can check out the Nan Lian Gardens and the Chi Lin Nunnery. The Gardens are beautiful. It’s quite amazing to find such a serene garden inside the crazy metropolis of Hong Kong. Be careful not lose track of time, as Chi Lin Nunnery closes to the public at 4pm. From here is a short trip down the line to Wong Tai Sin Temple which closes at around 5pm.

Out on Lantau Island, you can check out Ngong Ping to see the Giant Buddha and Po Lin Monastery. The long cable car ride is quite amazing, especially if there is fog hanging in the valleys; it seems you are floating through the air in your little capsule before coming upon the giant Buddha on the hillside. Back at Tung Chung station, you can check out the outlet mall for bit more shopping.

You may also wish to check out Hong Kong’s Disney Land. Friends and family of mine both agree that the queues are much more palatable than their Japanese counterpart, and entry fees are much cheaper. An adult ticket will set you back 399HKD or 3994JPY.

Lan Kwai Fong, is the nightlife district of Hong Kong. Expats, tourists and locals alike converge on LKF to drink at one of the many bars, including sports bars, ice bars, and just plain swanky bars. My pick is Azure Club, on the 29th Floor of Hotel LKF. Needless to say the views are stunning. The drinks, although considered pricey, were comparable to drinking out in Australia, and there is great range of delicious cocktails. When the DJ kicks off his set around 10:30pm, the dancing and debauchery begins.

After a few nights on the budget side of things, why not indulge a little in Macau? Between 7am and 23:50, ferries run every fifteen minutes, with additional ferries departing throughout the night. You can take the ferry from Sheung Wan MTR station.

For those who do not know, Macau is famous for its casinos, flashing lights, and dash of Portuguese culture. As the first and last European Colony of China, Portuguese traders settled Macau in the 16th century, and held administration until the hand over on 20 December 1999. The economy relies heavily on the tourism and gambling industries, for which there is no lack of choice.

The hotel choices are also pretty mad; not wanting to be outdone, my travel companions and I lived it up at the Venetian Macau. Luxury is the word, and although you’ll spend a pretty penny to stay there, the experience is well worth it. Everything you would want is within the resort complex (including a fishy feet spa).

If gambling is not your thing, you can try the delicious cocktails on offer, or head on into the nightclub adjacent to the casino floor. I quite enjoyed looking in on the more experienced gamblers, whom you can back if you should so wish.

Besides the casino floor, the Venetian has a resident Cirque du Soliel show, many bars, restaurants, and designer shopping. The shopping plaza, designed after the style of the canals of Venice, makes it difficult to distinguish day from night. Take a seat at a lounge bar and ask for a lighter for your cigar; my travel companions and I were given no less than a small blowtorch. Be sure to check out the 5 pools, some of which are ‘Adults only’ … Ballin!

Using the free inter-casino buses, head on into the main town and walk around to take in the lights, boutiques, and food. Whilst wandering through the Portuguese centre I stumbled upon an amazing little Portuguese restaurant, O Porto Interior. Ordering one thing simply isn’t an option, so get a few dishes and share it between your companions (or just spoil yourself ;) ).

So, that’s Hong Kong and Macau in a nutshell! Go on and check it for yourself!

Transportation Tips: To get into the city from the airport you can either use the bus system, or the Airport Express and MTR. The buses are very very very cheap at around only 40HKD, and take approximately 10 minutes longer than the trains, depending on your destination. To train it will cost you around 100HKD.

For ease of commutation, I highly recommend grabbing an ‘Octopus’ card at your local MTR station. Similar to our ‘Icoca,’ the octopus card initially costs 150HKD with 80HKD worth of spending value, you can surrender the card to your last MTR stop when you’re done and get back your deposit.

If you plan to take the ferry from Macau straight to Hong Kong Airport, be sure to leave plenty of time to check in for your ferry as you have to check in your airport luggage and go through immigration for your flight in Macau before departing. Also there is not much in the way of food at the port, so make sure you eat or grab something before heading there.

The Prices:

– Return Flights with Cathay Pacific start from 42,490 JPY
– Yes Inn Hostel in Hong Kong offers basic, clean, brightly coloured and comfortable rooms; 8 bed mixed dorm at 138HKD per night per bed; double rooms at 338HKD per night per room; and a 5 Bed Room at 595HKD per night per room
– On the swanky end of things, The Venetian Macau has 2 Bed suites for 2459HKD per night per room
– The ferry from Hong Kong to Macau costs 151HKD per person while the ferry from Macau to Hong Kong Airport costs a little bit more.

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