Wednesday, July 24, 2019

7 Days' Itinerary to Hong Kong in 2019 - Plus A Day Trip to Shenzhen #sevendaysinhongkong #travelitinerary

I first visited Hong Kong (the fragrant harbour) with my elder sister and her friend in Year 1997, before its grand handover to China. The hiatus of over 20 years means it's about time i should check out the now special administrative region.

This time, i would be staying for a week, with a day trip to the nearby Chinese city of Shenzhen as Alex was worried he would gamble his life away should we go to Macau!

Anyway, it's my usual layout style when it comes to travel itineraries; a summary in chronological order follows by a detailed breakdown in time to come. Do bookmark this post and check back periodically!

Day 5
- Tim Ho Wan (Michelin One Star) @ Sham Shui Po
- Victoria Peak (The Peak)
- 3D Madness Adventure @ Peak Tower
- Central-Mid-Levels Escalator
- Tsui Wah Restaurant
- PMQ; Retail with Unique Products
- Hong Kong Tramways - Ding Ding
- Villain Hitting at Wan Chai
- Lei Yue Mun Market 鯉魚門街市
- Kai Zai Beng (鸡仔饼) from 瑞香園餅家.
- Ladies Market
- Herbal Tortoise Jelly (龟苓膏) at 恭和堂

Day 6
- Chau Kee Dim Sum Restaurant
- Ocean Park Hong Kong
- Yung Kee Restaurant (鏞記)
- Sugarbird Desserts (天糖鸟)
- Temple Street Night Market
- Fortune Telling Street
- Mammy Pancake - Michelin Egg Waffle

Day 7
- Dragon Court Dim Sum Restaurant
- Tai Kok Tsui Wet Market

Singapore - Hong Kong
[8.00 am] Took a cab from Yishun to Changi International Airport Terminal 1 where i continued to be in awe of the world's tallest indoor waterfall (Rain Vortex) at Jewel. I actually went for its preview with my family but am too lazy to edit the photos for publication in this blog.

[10.15 am] Departed about 15 minutes late from the official timing of 10.00 am. As we were assigned seats next to the all-important exits, our bags (including my new DSLR) have to be stowed away! Strangely, i didn't seem to have taken the time-lapsed video of the plane shooting off the runway, which i usually would do.

[2.00 pm] Arrival at Chek Lap Kok International Airport in Hongkong! In 1997, we actually landed at the amazing Kai Tak Airport which was surrounded by crazily tall buildings, signature of Hong Kong's cityscape.

Cleared immigration and it's time to board the airport express to our hotel! Okay, technically not directly as we needed to transfer two subway lines; first at Tsing Yi of Tung Chung Line and then Lai King of Tsuen Wan Line. It's only a few days later that we realized there's a direct bus service from the airport to almost the door stop of our accommodation.

[4.00 pm] Caught sight of our accommodation for the next three nights; the four-star Panda Hotel. From Tai Wo Hau station of Tsuen Wan Line, the walk is about 10 minutes; half of which is unsheltered.

Despite its distance from the hive of activity in the city centre, the hotel was good in quite a few aspects; cheaper rate, bigger room, blessed with a decent gym and pool, WiFi was fast and the lower levels had shopping and dining options! More would be shared in my official review!

[5.00 pm] Can you imagine that we have yet to have lunch at this time?! Hence, the brain didn't want to waste its energy further to think; resulting in KFC being our first meal in Hong Kong! Well, at least we have something different; the Grilled Japanese Salt Chicken that Singapore doesn't have.

Roamed around the neighborhood after our lunch cum dinner and saw a branch of Wing Wah bakery. You know what i was tasked to bring back by my mom? The Jin Hua ham and nuts mooncakes from the bakery! It's a good time to buy now though, as it's not the peak mooncake festival and there were hefty discounts!

Alex grabbing a sea salt soft serve ice cream from McDonald's! It's mind-blowing that here we were in Hong Kong, the food paradise, yet we had been having fast food. As exhaustion hit us, we proceeded back to the hotel where our heads hit the pillows at an insanely early 7.30 pm!

Hong Kong
[8.30 am] Full energy after sleeping for close to 12 hours; we decided to start the day with exercises at the gym for about 30 minutes before going for an authentic Hong Kong breakfast at this local cha chaan teng (漢都茶餐廳) near the hotel. Did it wow me? Not really although i took comfort in having it, just like i would in the comfort of my own house.

[9.40 am] Train ride again and back to the international airport! Nope, the ongoing protests didn't make us cut short our trip; instead, we were looking forward to our first, official tourist destination.

Which was, taking the cable car at Ngong Ping 360! Tickets were pre-purchased from Klook for a crystal cabin but collecting the tickets still took us about 15 minutes with almost another hour spent on queuing to board the cable car!

Nowadays, the see-through bottom glass cable car doesn't excite Alex and i anymore. It's getting increasingly common in most cable car systems (think Maokong and Langkawi) and even though i have a height phobia; i actually know how to somewhat manage my fear once i am in such a cable car.

Appearance of the famous Tian Tan Buddha; it was featured so often on my Facebook feed that i knew climbing up to be nearer to Buddhism's founder is a must-do activity for overseas tourists!

[11.52 am] In all, the cable car ride took about 20 minutes across the ropeway and welcoming us was a purpose-built themed arena; the Ngong Ping Village with its tourist-targeted dining and retail outlets housed in dwellings built in traditional, Chinese architecture.

[12.21 pm] Climbed up the 286 steps to be closer to the 34-meter tall Tian Tan Buddha! Easily the icon of Lantau Island, i totally enjoyed the windy yet tranquil environment once i reached the foot of the bronze statue. For a fee, you can even access an internal chamber that displayed the Buddha's relic; as photo taking was disallowed, i decided to save my money.

[1.19 pm] Weather was warm and after the walk down; it's a necessity to pamper the body by having a bowl of cold beancurd that's ground using natural, spring water! We had ours at 德記山水豆腐花 alongside the Ngong Ping Piazza; click here for my review!

You can literally spend the whole day at Lantau Island because it's the largest in Hong Kong! Another place of interest that i have penciled for this trip was Tai O Fishing Village; located on the far western side of the island, it's reachable via a 10-15 minutes' bus ride from Ngong Ping Village.

[1.47 pm] Known affectionately as the Venice of Hong Kong, it's a place where my mom would likely go bonkers over its many stores offering dried seafood like salted fish, fish maw etc and their specialty prawn paste that you can buy back to Singapore! Thankfully, i only like to bake.

Lunch at Fook Moon Lam restaurant! While Singaporeans are used to deep fried prawn paste chicken wings, i bet many of you have yet to try prawn paste fried rice, prawn paste sotong and prawn paste pork; which we had by the way!

Showroom by the Tai O Rural Committee with background information on the fishing village and historical artifacts on display. Pity we didn't spend enough time there as we were rushing to catch the bus back to Ngong Ping Village.

[3.30 pm] Our return trip on the crystal cabin of Ngong Ping 360 was with strangers and the quiet awkwardness was obvious for the 20-minute ride. Many would not believe me but i am, truthfully, not a sociable person. 

After the terrific outlet shopping at Mitsui Outlet Park in Sapporo, Alex and i were gunning to be overwhelmed once again at Hong Kong's Citygate Outlets. Conveniently built next to Ngong Ping 360, it turned out to be quite a disappointing experience for both of us even though our other travel mates felt otherwise.

[7.00 pm] Back in Panda Hotel and after a good shower, we took the 7.00 pm free shuttle from the hotel to Tsim Sha Tsui (DFS Galleria); where we will catch the "world's largest permanent light and sound show"!

[8.00 pm] With 42 participating buildings (down from the initial 47); the 14-minute "A Symphony of Lights" show, spread along the spectacular Victoria harbour that's often featured in movies was worth my time and in fact better than the pathetic one in Singapore.

[8.46 pm] Awaiting the egg waffle from 么么Da! There were a few memorable takeaways from my trip in 1997 and one of them was egg waffle. I was supposed to check out Mammy Pancake (recommended by Michelin) and assumed 么么Da was the one, given the queue at its counter!

[9.17 pm] While on our way to Jordan MRT station, we chanced upon the Avenue of Comic Stars! Although i am more into Japanese and Taiwanese comics when i was a teenage, i do recognize a few characters in this lesser known attraction; like the above statue that's based on the Bu Jing Yun character from Fung Wan (风云)!

Hong Kong - Shenzhen (China) - Hong Kong
[9.19 am] Not wanting to navigate the bus services in Hong Kong means walking and it took us about fifteen minutes to reach Gala Cafe (嘉樂冰廳); where we had satisfying thick egg toast and tasty prawn noodles!

[11.25 am] Arrival at the border between Hong Kong and China; where we forged forward to Shenzhen! The ride took us about an hour from Tsuen Wan West station of Tseung Kwan O Line, with a transfer at Hung Hom station of East Rail Line to Lo Wu station.

[12.40 pm] Immigration would be required and i was asked a few questions by the official since it would be my second visit to China this year. Once i crossed over, we decided to take the local subway to Laojie station which was crowded with youngsters! To think that the fare (two stations apart) only cost S$0.40 each person! 

Things were cheaper in Shenzhen and i got myself a new privacy screen protector (about S$4), handphone cover (about S$4), chargers! Binged ourselves crazy with smelly tofu, chicken stuffed with rice (天美汇鸡翅包饭) and the amazingly delicious takoyaki (新月船章鱼小丸子)!

Fancy some deep fried insect banquet? Menu was even more extensive compared to what i had in Bangkok; included were silkworms, bamboo worms, seahorses, centipedes, lizards, snakes etc.

[6.02 pm] Back in Hong Kong where we transferred at Kowloon Tong MTR station of East Rail Line to Prince Edward station along Kwun Tung Line. Noted that it's already day three yet we had yet to expose ourselves to Hong Kong's signature culinary experience; the dim sum!

[6.26 pm] Hence, here we are at One Dim Sum! We enjoyed the true authenticity of Hong Kong dim sum and it didn't burn a hole in our pocket as pricing was somewhere similar to Singapore's dim sum restaurants. Guess we must have shagged from our day expedition to Shenzhen as we returned to Panda Hotel straight after this meal.

Hong Kong
[9.30 am] Combo instant noodles and polo bun with butter for breakfast at another cha chaan teng 楼下冰室 that's right across from Panda Hotel. Got ourselves acquainted with two local aunties who kindly told us it's much faster to take the bus (A31), instead of train to the airport!

[11.27 am] News we would need to share with the rest of our travel mates who would be going back to Singapore in the early afternoon! Took a group photo for the whole lot of them! Alex's boss was missing from the picture as he's late and the rest can't wait as time was running short; guess we would have to photoshop him into the picture eventually.

[12.21 pm] Taking a cab from Panda Hotel to our next accommodation; one that's nearer to the city centre. I honestly can't remember how much i paid for taxi; maybe about S$30 for about a 25-minute ride.

Anyway, here's our stay for the next three days; Dorsett Mongkok! Room was smaller yet nicer than Panda Hotel and it's about 6 to 8-minute walk to Olympic station of Tung Chung Line!

[1.36 pm] Lunch at Tai Hing Roast Restaurant; recommended by a friend, i was impressed with the roast pork although not so much with the char siew. More in my upcoming review (which would be a few months away since i have the habit of blogging in chronological order)!

[3.00 pm] A visit to Sky100 - an "observation deck on the 100th floor of the International Commerce Centre"! Opened in Year 2011, the view at 393 metres above sea level was spectacular!

Check out the beautiful skyline of Hong Kong Island which stretched from end to end; contrary to popular belief, Lantau Island is actually bigger than Hong Kong Island.

Having fun with the sky100 app where there's an AR Fun Photos feature! The sky100 building appeared using the app although in real life; it's just a round board on the ground.

It's the day of the protest (against the extradition law) and you can see protesters on the street walking towards the building we were at. That could have explained why the crowd at Sky100 was so thin even though it's a Sunday. 

[5.13 pm] Lennon Wall movement in Hong Kong; at this point, we were actually super close to the protests but it was rather peaceful. It's sad to see the escalating situation and the unprovoked violence by a white-shirt mob last Sunday was downright shocking.

[5.26 pm] Boarding the symbolic star ferry; traversing across Victoria Harbour, this is another touristy must-do when one is in Hong Kong, especially when it honestly doesn't cost much for a boat ride and it's also a different way to enjoy the city's skyline.

Impossibly high buildings that's aplenty on Hong Kong Island! I can imagine how wide my mouth would open if i were to come straight from a village!

[6.38 pm] Taking the express bus near Admiralty MTR station to Victoria Peak (otherwise known as The Peak) as the tram service was undergoing servicing. Ride up was pretty fast at about 20-25 minutes and for a harrowing, heart-in-your-mouth experience, do sit on the left.

Unfortunately, visibility was bad on The Peak and photo taking was a torture! The elevation of 552 meters didn't result in significantly cooler temperature and we hopped, shortly, into the nearby Peak Tower for air-conditioning instead.

Finally got to have a picture taken with a Hollywood star! Okay, i admit it's a wax replica of Nicole Kidman but that's the only one where i didn't have to fork out money. If taking photos with stars are your kind of thing, online ticket price for Madame Tussauds (Hong Kong) is HKD $250 (about S$40).

[8.45 pm] Delicious claypot rice from Kwan Kee (坤記煲仔小菜); with a Michelin Bib Gourmand classification, we totally relished the meal with preserved pork sausages and white eel with spare ribs! No good for the tummy to have such late dinner, and with so much rice (however tasty they were)!

[9.42 pm] Ending the day with traditional Hong Kong sweet treats at Yuen Kee Dessert where i had a cold bowl of nutritional soup made of mulberry tea, lotus seeds and topped with a tea-leaf-infused hard boiled egg! Yum Yum. Cost us a hefty S$7.00 though...

Day 5 (Monday, 08 July 2019)
Hong Kong
[9.37 am] Started the morning with a 17-minute walk for dim sum at a one-Michelin star restaurant. Could you guess which one from the picture above? It's Tim Ho Wan at its original store at Sham Shui Po! One sentence to describe our experience; best meal we had in Hong Kong!

[11.42 am] Back at The Peak as i simply couldn't stomach the fact that i didn't manage to catch much of the view the night before! Frankly, i didn't regret making this second trip!

Having fun at the 3D madness adventure; it's free entry but obviously, there were ways for the operator to make money; like specific artwork where they would take picture for you and you pay like S$30 for one 6R photograph. It's a fair trade though since you can choose not to purchase and the staff members were not pushy.

[1.54 pm] Wasted 17 minutes of my precious time going up the central-mid-levels escalator! Spanning about 800 meters, it's not one, singular escalator; there were numerous although they were all covered. Don't go between 6.00 am and 10.20 am if your intention is to go up as the escalators' direction during the aforementioned timing is downhill.

[2.44 pm] Tea at Tsui Wah where i had their signature crispy bun with sweet condensed milk. Alex went for the chicken curry with rice; apparently, the restaurant is famous for their curry offerings.

Chanced upon one of Hong Kong's most instagrammable wall mural along Graham Street at Hong Kong Island. People seemed to blatantly ignore the fact that the road belongs to motor vehicles.

[3.32 pm] Those looking for a unique shopping experience should check out the nearby PMQ; stands for police married quarters, it's converted from a historical building and housed many pop-up retail stores set up by local entrepreneurs.

[4.39 pm] Ticked off another item on the touristy must-dos; the Hong Kong Tramways! Called 'Ding Ding' by the local populace, it's a nostalgic ride on the double-decker tram that appeared narrow from outside but was actually pretty spacious once you are in it!

[5.03 pm] Stopped at Wan Chai where i finally found the popular place where locals would 'da siu yan'; translated as villain hitting, it's an interesting custom where old ladies would help you to get rid of the curses by your enemy! They did it by hitting a paper human cut-out with his/her name and boy were they violent!

[5.55 pm] Alex and i went our separate ways as he can't keep up with my tortuous pace (minimally 20,000 steps a day) and i had planned to visit Lei Yue Mun (鯉魚門); a place near Yau Tong MTR station.

Main purpose: to buy Kai Zai Beng (Chicken Biscuits) from this traditional bakery known as 瑞香園餅家. The Kai Zai Beng (鸡仔饼) in Hong Kong / Guandong is vastly different from the ones we have in Singapore and Malaysia; meatier and way tastier!

Lei Yue Mun (鯉魚門) is well known for its seafood market and it's an extraordinary experience with so many live seafood on display! I am glad i am alone since i would likely persuade Alex to have a meal there if he's with me!

The place has more than just live seafood and kai zai beng; once you pass the long stretch of market, you would come to an area where you can see the buildings from both sides of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon! It's also a great place to catch the sunset (which i didn't have the patience for).

[8.23 pm] Waited for Alex to finish his haircut at Mongkok and we proceeded to Ladies Market. Once you have been to the night markets in Bangkok, you wouldn't really enjoy the ones in Hong Kong.

Taking a break at 恭和堂 where we had traditional herbal tortoise jelly! In 1997, we had this on a nightly basis and back then, i didn't know one of the ingredients is literally tortoise shell!

[8.55 pm] Ending the night at Sneaker's Street; well, the prices were not like very cheap and the discounts of mostly 10% failed to entice us to make any purchase.

Day 6 (Tuesday, 09 July 2019)
Hong Kong
[9.44 am] It's my third, straight day to Hong Kong Island and this time, we traveled to Sai Ying Pun; the western side of the island where the oozing golden lava french toast, at Chau Kee Dim Sum restaurant, beckoned!

[10.44 am] Ocean Park, here we come! I had a hard time deciding between Ocean Park and Disneyland Hong Kong as i only had bandwidth for either one! The former won as i guess i could always explore other Disneyland in Asia; like Japan.

We stayed until closing so you can imagine how many posts i would generate just for Ocean Park! It's huge with two separate regions (the summit and the waterfront) connected either by the cable car or train (known as Ocean Express).

To make sure there's sufficient time for us to check out as many rides (like the Hair Raiser) / attractions as possible, we splurged on the Ocean FasTrack (Grand) which cost a whopping S$90 per person. I must be crazy!

With over 8 sections (namely, whiskers harbour, amazing asian animals, aqua city, polar adventure, rainforest, thrill mountain, adventure land and marine world), it's a comprehensive destination comprising of "marine mammal park, oceanarium, animal theme park and amusement park".

For thrill seekers like Alex and I, we didn't quite enjoy Ocean Park as the VR Space Voyage was under maintenance and the rest were pretty meh. 

Even the highly marketed first VR coaster in Hong Kong was an immense disappointment; the ride might be more exciting without the VR headset!

In the hot Hong Kong summer, the best place to be at in Ocean Park would be the Giant Panda enclosure; where we were tickled by the cuteness of Ying Ying and Le Le!

Overall, i think Ocean Park would be a fantastic place for families with young children as there were so many different, varied things to do! For people of our age, however, we might find it a bit too old school and maybe, boring.

[6.45 pm] Our last dinner in Hong Kong must be remarkable and i finally managed to persuade Alex (who didn't fancy roasted stuff) to dine at Yung Kee (鏞記); most famous for its roast goose, i can only say at this moment (in this summarized itinerary) that i am most impressed with the century egg!

[8.00 pm] Desserts at Sugarbird (天糖鸟); midway between Olympic MTR station and Dorsett Mongkok, it's actually our second patronage! Even though there were many other desserts on the menu, i would always go with the local staple; the cheng tng like soup with hard boiled eggs!

[9.11 pm] Took a badly needed shower back in our hotel room at Dorsett Mongkok and we hit the street again by taking the 9.00 am free shuttle provided by the hotel; to Temple Street night market!

Nearby would be the fortune telling street where you can get a professional to advise your future path in life; regardless of whether it's family, marriage, love, wealth. I am actually not interested to know my future; the lesser we know, the better it is.

[9.39 pm] There's a Mammy Pancake branch at the end of the night market and i knew i had to buy an egg waffle! Extreme crispness and super addictive; well worth its reputation!

[11.06 pm] A walk back to Dorsett Mongkok from Yau Ma Tei MTR station would take us about 20-25 minutes but i cajoled Alex to take the bus instead. It failed to stop at the bus stop we needed to alight and it was a long way to Yuen Long where we eventually took the train back to Olympic station. p.s. Yuen Long is the same station where a white-shirt mob beat up innocent citizens last Sunday.

Day 7 (Wednesday, 10 July 2019)
Hong Kong - Singapore
[8.42 am] For someone who was complaining he didn't have dim sum on the first three days of his Hong Kong trip, i had been indulging in dim sum every morning from Day 5! This time, the restaurant would be Dragon Court near Mongkok E2 exit.

Last-minute shopping at Wing Wah and Kee Wah bakeries! Frankly, i spent much more on food than anything else in Hong Kong and it didn't help that the prices were not as depressed as Malaysia or even Singapore.

[10.57 am] With a bit of time left for me, i went up to the Tai Kok Tsui wet market that's right across Dorsett Mongkok! As mentioned on my instagram, it's common to have their butcheries hanging the raw meat in the open!

[11.42 am] Last look of the view outside my hotel room. Despite the expressway next to us, sound proofing was done really well as we weren't disturbed by any traffic noise in the last three nights (unlike the Kritthai Residence in Bangkok) although i can hear my "neighbours" when they passed by our room.

[12.06 pm] Cabbed to Terminal 2, Chek Lap Kok International Airport in Hongkong as i am too lazy to take the airport express. The eventual fare was HKD $270 for a 25-minute ride which included basic fare, toll fees, booking charge and luggage fee (HKD $5 apiece).

You can still do last minute shopping at the terminal; Wing Wah bakery was there and you can also find Disney shop, PMQ (with selected merchandise), Aji Ichiban etc.

[2.12 pm] Our flight was scheduled to take off at 2.50 pm but it was pouring! We were quite lucky in that the weather in Hong Kong over the past 7 days was quite amicable; not super hot and didn't rain much until we were at the airport, waiting for our plane to bring us back home.

[3.52 pm] The plane delayed in departing (likely due to the rain and heavy air traffic) and left at only 3.39 pm. No picture of cloud or view outside as we were given seats on the aisle. :( Arrived safely in Singapore at 6.56 pm.

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