It happened that I traveled to Honk Kong over the Memorial Day (combined wit a stop in Singapore) on a solo trip and also for the Labor Day holiday to play tour guide for a friend. So the write-up here is a combination of the two trips.
Arriving into Hong Kong, it's great to have the e-gate access. It speeds up the whole arrival process. My friend tried to apply, however, and was told that he had to demonstrate more frequent visits to Hong Kong (although the stated qualifications say you can also just be a member of a participating frequent flyer program).
It is now possible to purchase before arrival the Airport Express Tourist transit pass. They only take two types of credit cards online, while on site, they will take additional ones. It's an easy way to get set up for free subway rides for three days and have an Octopus stored-value card to use for other transport means (like the Star Ferry) and for purchases. I used mine for the ferry, to purchase food, and to cover entrance fees at museums and attractions.
My hotel for both stays was the Shangri-La Kowloon, which does have a Victoria Harbour view.
There is a breakfast buffet in the lounge. But you also can order up to two hot items from the breakfast menu (both Western and Asian choices). Also, if you book via the website, you are offed the use of a portable wifi hotspot for the duration of your stay (very hand!).
For a new visitor to Hong Kong, one nice way to start off is to take the Star Ferry for the short (7-minute) ride from Kowloon across the harbor to Central on Hong Kong Island. Most of the locals buy a ticket for the cheaper lower deck. Most tourists pay for passage (it's not a lot more) to ride on the upper deck for better views. Once off the boat and out of the terminal, head diagonally right to bus stop 15C. This shuttle bus will take you to the Victoria Peak Tram station. I think it used to be free, but now has a nominal fee (Octopus Card works). The bus is modern and air-conditioned. Given that it was a very warm and humid day, it was a nice way to go.
Arriving at the tram terminal, the line looked a bit daunting. But it looked like it was moving and it was a decently clear day, so it was a good time to do the tram. The line did move along, but it is expedited if you are going to pay for your ticket with the Octopus Card. There is only one line to a point. but once you get about 20 people away from the ticket window, if you pay with the card, they will direct you to the turnstiles instead. And the card will automatically give you the equivalent of buying a round-trip fare when you tap the card on your return trip down.
I also used the card to purchase the entrance ticket to the top-deck observation platform, where the view was spectacular.
After returning down wit the tram, it's an easy walk down to catch one of the double-decker street trams (very Hong Kong) -- pay when you get off with the Octopus card -- eastward for a few stops to the start of the Mid-level escalators. The long series of escalators take you up the hill. Exiting at Hollywood Road puts you on a main commercial street populated by bars, restaurants and antique shops. On this street is Man Mo Temple, the oldest one in Hong Kong. The temple is very much in use and the incense smoke inside was very heavy. I couldn't stay inside for very long.
There are other interesting temple complexes to visit. One is called Wong Tai Sin. It is located on the Kowloon side north and east of the central harbor area. It has its own named stop on the Kwun Tong Line. The temple complex is adjacent to the station plaza and consists of several buildings and a garden area.
Another temple complex to visit is the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery in the New Territories. To get there, take the East Rail Line to the Sha Tin station. At the exit, head down the bus ramp, walk past the park, cross the street and go up and turn right down a street that ends at the edge of a wooded area. Towards the left there is a trail that follows some fencing (as well as a sign). It's quite a hike up some steps or a concrete path.
It is definitely worth the effort of the hike up.
It is also worth the time to pay a visit to the Hong Kong History Museum. It provides an easy and visual way to understand the history of the area, the natural history of the region, as well as how the city came about. It wasn't until the British were ceded the island that Hong Kong started its development towards a major port and settlement. At the time of my visit, there was a special exhibition at the museum that displayed many artifacts from the Han Dynasty, which was a major force in uniting the northern and southern tribes in China 260 B.C. to 220 A.D.).
|Jade suit with gold thread|
Hong Kong has also transformed a former military command post into a luxury shopping complex. While the expensive watch shops may not be in interest inside, the outside is a nice example of British colonial architecture. It's called 1881 Heritage.
|"Fragrant harbor" amuse bouche|
|Smoked quail egg, taro nest, caviar|
|Tomato, tomato, tomato|