One Friday morning, I met my friend, Rebecca, for our weekly Pound gym class. She asked me if I had plans for the upcoming 9-day term break and I realised that I actually didn’t. When I have holidays, I always like to try and go away for a couple of days and be back in time for the weekend so that Carlos and I can spend some time together. Rebecca invited me to Hong Kong and I think we were both surprised when I agreed!
After class, I went home and had a look at flights. Hong Kong is a direct 4-hour flight from Singapore and the prices were reasonable. In total, it cost me around $270 (£150) to fly on the Monday morning and comeback on the Thursday afternoon. So I booked it! I had no clue about Hong Kong before I went, other than there was a Disneyland and a really high peak from which you could see tremendous views of the island.
Rebecca and I spent a little while looking for hotels and deciding on the best place to stay. Hong Kong is made up of 261 islands, but we chose to stay on Hong Kong island itself as it seemed a good base for the things we wanted to see and do. We chose a hotel named Butterfly on Waterfront Boutique as it was close to a train station and they had the best facilities.
So, on the Monday morning, I set off to meet Rebecca at the airport. As usual, seeing as I was in a rush, I couldn’t seem to find a Grab driver who was free to take me there! Thankfully, Rebecca and I are similarly-minded travellers who like to be at the airport with plenty of time to spare before the flight so, although I felt awful knowing Rebecca was waiting for me, I still made it in plenty of time.
Rebecca was sensible, she had already printed off her boarding pass. I hadn’t been as organised and so made my way to the boarding pass printing machine (I’m sure it has a more formal name than that!). However, upon scanning my passport, the machine told me that there was a problem and I needed to go to the check-in desk to resolve it. When I got to the front of the queue, she told me I had been upgraded to an emergency exit seat. Is this really an upgrade though?! Yes, you get more leg room, but you are responsible for making sure the emergency exit door opens and people can get out safely if needs be! Oh, and you can’t have your bag under the seat in front of you (which meant I had to disturb the man next to me to retrieve the doughnut that I had snuck on the plane out of my holdall!). Anyway, I got my boarding pass and we made our way towards the document-check area as Rebecca’s documents needed checking.
Documents all checked, we finally made our way towards immigration, only to be pounced upon by a man from JetStar, the airline we were travelling with. For the first time ever for both of us, he made us weigh our luggage and to no-one’s surprise, we were very overweight. Rebecca duly check-in her suitcase with much grumbling from the pair of us and we set off for immigration, for the second time.
With immigration being super straight-forward, we were through in no time and had some breakfast. After a quick stop at 7/11 and Dunkin’ Donuts for some snacks for the plane, we were making our way to the gate and through security.
Unfortunately for Rebecca, we were not seated together. I know she missed my wonderful chat during the 4-hour flight. Instead, I was sitting next to a Chinese man and an Australian man going to Hong Kong on business. It was a good flight, I managed to nap a little, read my book for a while and have a wee chat with my Aussie neighbour. Before I knew it, we were descending over HK and the view was spectacular.
Having completed our landing cards during the flight, we had a quick and painless immigration experience- having only once tried to detour to the “Macau/ China mainland” part of the airport! Safely through, we picked up Rebecca’s bag and made our way to the train services desk to catch the train from the airport to Central station on HK Island. It was cheap, around HK$80 (£8) per person, to reach the centre. We paid and noticed there was a train waiting to leave… Cue crazy girls running the length of the airport to hop on the train! We made it but as we sat down and the train started moving, I realised I had left my phone on the train ticket man’s desk. Pure panic ensued. However, upon proper inspection of my belongings, I found my phone tucked away in an inside pocket! Haha. All good.
Central Station is really well signposted and the routes are easy to follow. It is also super easy to buy a ticket on the machine- all you have to do is tap your destination and it tells you the price and details. Our hotel was only 2 stops from Central and the station was called Sai Ying Pun. It took us about 4 minutes to reach the station, and after a million steps, we made our way to the hotel. Booking.com said the hotel was 450m from the station which could be correct- I have no idea about metres! It took us about 5 minutes to walk there once we found the best route.
Check-in at the hotel was super easy and the receptionist was so helpful. She gave us recommendations on places to eat that were nearby and the hotel provided a smartphone and a whole host of other products free of charge. Amazing.
So, once checked in and freshened up, we headed out to begin our adventures. We tried to go to a dim sum place nearby, but they were only doing a-la-carte meals so we decided to go back the following day for a more traditional experience.
We ended up in a generic rice restaurant which did the job of filling my very hungry tummy and we continued on our way down to the pier to take an evening cruise and catch the light show. Anyone who has been to Singapore will know that there is a light show down at Marina Bay Sands every evening. For me, it’s ok and nice to see but I haven’t been back since I saw it the first time. I was very intrigued to see the HK light show.
After much confusion about boat tickets, we were finally booked on a boat to take us around Victoria harbour and see the light show. It was really interesting to hear the history and stories of the harbour which connects HK Island to the mainland. That part of town seemed to be mostly skyscrapers and high-rise buildings, much like the Central Business District (CBD) in Singapore.
When it was time for the light show, I was quite excited. The audio on the boat told us that the HK light show is in the Guinness Book of World Records but I can’t imagine why. I can’t remember the last time I was that disappointed! Haha! It was terrible. If you have the chance, take a trip round the harbour but don’t worry if you miss the light show.
After the boat trip, we popped over to the fairground area next to the pier. There’s a helter skelter and a ferris wheel and some food and drink stalls. We paid HK$20 (£2) and waited in the enormous queue to hop on. It was in the queue that we realised that I was one of only a handful of white people. This really surprised me as I had always thought that HK was an expat hub. We finally reached the front of the queue and hopped in a pod. The views really were amazing, and had it not been for the annoying couple next to us who kept smooching and snuggling, it would have been really lovely. Haha! Anyways, we went round on the ferris wheel a few times and when we got off, we decided to make our way back to the hotel and get some much-needed rest.
Disneylaaaaaand! Day two dawned bright and sunny which was not what my weather app had suggested. We got ready for my first ever and Rebecca’s 4th trip to Disneyland. Wearing our Disney-themed T-shirts and comfy shoes, we headed out for breakfast. We decided to go back to the dim sum place from the previous day as it was a Michelin-starred place with the traditional dim sum trolleys. It was an amazing experience. People of all walks of life were there, quietly reading newspapers or chatting with their table neighbours. We were seated at a table, a kettle of Jasmine green tea was placed in front of us and we were given a piece of paper that wouldn’t have looked out of place at a bingo hall- it was all boxes and numbers. The trolley ladies walked up and down the aisles between the tables and you choose whatever you want before handing over your slip of paper to be stamped. I left Rebecca in charge of the dim sum and she made her Cantonese dad proud by choosing an amazing variety of dishes. We left very full but amazingly it had only cost us HK$120 (£12) each!
From there, we headed to the train station, bought our tickets for the train and headed off to Disneyland. It is very cute that all of the signs for Disneyland in the stations have the Mickey Mouse head on them. We made our way to a connecting station and then hopped on the Disneyland train. It was brilliant! All the handrails were Mickey heads as were the windows.
We arrived around 10.30am and after a few obligatory selfies at the gates, we headed into the park. We were a little worried about queues as previous theme park experiences had shown us that sometimes you can queue for hours to get on rides. Having said that, I think the longest we had to wait for a ride over the course of the day was about 5 minutes! We couldn’t have been luckier.
Disney really is a magical place. We hopped on Space Mountain, then the Iron Man Experience and slowly but surely made our way around every ride in the park. Every single ride! Once Rebecca realised that my screaming was happy screaming and not I-want-to-get-off-this-ride screaming, we both had a fantastic time. The weather was amazing! Super hot and sunny- so hot that at one point, Rebecca had to tip a bottle of water over my head as I worried I might get heatstroke! My favourite ride was probably the Gold Mine one which involved being in a little cart like a gold mining cart, which started off fast like a regular rollercoaster. However, not long into the ride, it stopped suddenly and started going backwards for a good while. It was madness!
After we had been on all the rides, seen all the shows we wanted, had some snacks and did some gift shopping, we found a spot to watch the night parade. It was really awesome. You can see the amount of effort that goes into everything to make it so special. I thoroughly enjoyed my first trip to Disney and I hope it won’t be my last. 🙂
Our last full day again dawned bright and sunny. We headed back down to the pier to buy our tickets for a hop on/ hop off bus. Anyone who knows me, knows I love a ho/ho bus! I think they’re the best way to see the area you’re visiting and let you see parts you might not have seen otherwise. Plus, I love hearing the commentary about the different sights- you can learn so much!
We spent the whole day on the bus! We took the boat across the harbour to start on the mainland blue line but we didn’t get off as there wasn’t much to see at that time. The commentary told us about how Kowloon is one of the most densely populated areas on the planet with 2.1 million people living in that area alone. It was fascinating- much older than the other parts of HK we’d seen and much dirtier than I’d been expecting.
After the blue line, we zipped back across the harbour and hopped on the red line (or maybe it was yellow?). This took us around the city and let us see skyscrapers that towered above street-level and also narrow, steep streets that are more traditionally Hong Kong.
After a stop at the beach (I didn’t even realise HK had such lovely beaches!), a leisurely lunch of fish and chips, we hopped back on a bus with the intention of heading up to Victoria Peak.
The traffic was crazy. Like, actually crazy. We spent over an hour sitting in traffic and trying to reach the entrance for the Peak. I’ve never lived anywhere that has bad traffic, like London or Paris or Madrid, and having experienced it, I don’t particularly want to move somewhere that does! We finally reached the Peak, redeemed our tickets and joined the exceptionally long queue for the tram. The tram takes you up an impossibly steep hill, I actually felt like we were vertical at one point, and up to the top of Victoria Peak. I was surprised that at the top, there is a mall of sorts with lots of restaurants and cute little gift shops. We made our way to the top of the mall and out onto the observation deck. I’m not sure I was prepared for such a sight. It was around 7.45pm when we got there, so it was already dark and the land below was lit up and twinkling. It really is a beautiful sight to see the harbour and the CBD and across to the mainland. We took some lovely photos and videos and made our way back down to grab some dinner before heading back to the hotel.
The following day, it was time to leave. Rebecca continued on her term-break adventures to Taiwan for a few days and I headed back to Singapore to spend the weekend with my beau.
All in all, I had a wonderful time exploring a new place with a fabulous travel buddy. Hong Kong is such an interesting mixture of people, buildings, food and history. I would love to go back and visit again someday, but I’m not sure it’s on my list of places to live! 😉