Trip Report: A Different Side of Hong Kong

This is the fifteenth in a series of posts documenting my January 2019 trip around the world, which took me to Victoria Falls, Cape Town, Chiang Mai, and Hong Kong.  You can read my last post, which reviewed the Intercontinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong, here.

I had only two full days in Hong Kong, a city I had been to six years ago and hadn’t fallen in love with.  One thing about my last visit is I hadn’t gotten the opportunity to get out of the bustling center city, seeing mostly stuff in Kowloon and Central Hong Kong.  So this time around, I made a point to get farther afield, and I was really glad I did. Unfortunately, making the trip to farther out places means more travel time, but it was worth it and I got to see some really beautiful parts of Hong Kong.  I’m just going to highlight a few things I did in this post.  (Also, I strongly support the protesters in Hong Kong right now, who are working to save autonomy and civil rights as they remain a part of China.)

Stanley

I’d heard great things about the southern part of Hong Kong Island. It seems there are a lot of places one can visit, but without a car can be a bit tricky.  So I decided to make a trip down to Stanley, a fishing village slash yuppie community.  Getting there from the Intercontinental Grand Stanford was a bit of a schlep.  At first I couldn’t find the bus stop for the cross-harbour bus. When I did, the wait for the bus which was supposed to be every four minutes turned out much longer.  But once on that large, double-decker bus, it was only about six minutes til I got off at the next stop, on Hong Kong Island.  I got a little lost again trying to find my next bus stop, which was right next to the Happy Valley Racecourse. That bus was a Green Minibus, and the first one that came by was full.  About five minutes later, I was on a second one.  These are quite different than the standard MTR buses, and are very small and not very high-tech, but totally safe and fine.  It was about a 30 minute ride down to Stanley, including a really pretty segment along Repulse Bay – and the ride was actually one of the best parts of the day.

From the minibus ride to Stanley

In Stanley, my first stop was the Stanley Market, which wasn’t really special – though less tourist schlock then the markets in Kowloon. Still a lot of clothes and art.I walked along the Stanley Promenade for a bit and it really felt like an entirely different world than I had left behind in Kowloon.  There was a small mall with some over-priced stores, chain food stands, and an H&M. I wandered a bit and just relaxed. 

Stanley Promenade
Stanley Harbour

For lunch, I went to “The Boathouse,”  which supposedly has great views. There were no tables available in the upstairs though, so I sat on the lower level in the bar area where I was able to do a bar-only, fish and chips special. No view, but it was fine – and a lot cheaper.  After lunch, I wandered down to the beach before the long busrides back—there was a ton of traffic crossing the tunnel this time and that leg took 30 minutes.

Fish and Chips at the Boathouse
Stanley Beach

If I were to go back, I’d spend more time exploring the southern part of Hong Kong Island.  There are some great trails and hikes, but I was super-tired from my late arrival into town the night before and wrong-hotel situation that morning.

Tian Tan Buddha / Ngong Ping

Lantau Island is actually the largest island in Hong Kong- bigger than Hong Kong Island itself.  The only part of it I’d been to is the airport, but, it remains fairly undeveloped and remains fairly open with a lot of green space. One of the big tourist draws on the island (other than Disneyland) is the Tian Tan Buddha, a giant 85-foot bronze Buddha statue you can see from all over.  While people think it is old and of historical significance, it is not – completed in 1993.  But I figured I’d still take the Ngong Ping Cable Car out there and take in the views.

The Ngong Ping Cable Car starts in Tung Chung, a short walk from the Tung Chung MTR train. It was a bit of a long ride from Kowloon, with one change, but it was a pretty ride.

Pretty MTR Ride

I had bought my ticket for the Cable Car ahead of time on Klook, an app with discounted activity and other tickets for lots of places in Asia, which ended up being a great move. The best part was there was a special Klook line for the ticket booths, which allowed me to skip what otherwise was a very long line on a Saturday morning. There also was a bit of a discount on the ticket – I got a ticket that had one-way on the “Crystal” car, which is the premium car and has a glass bottom, and one-way on a Standard cabin.  On Klook, that was $30 instead of $37. The regular price for standard both ways is $30, so it basically was a free upgrade one-way.

Even with the Klook line, it still took awhile, as I first had to exchange my voucher for a ticket and wristband, and then wait on a second line for the actual car.  In all, it took about 20 minutes.  At 25 minutes, the ride itself was much longer than I’d expected and was quite pretty, with three huge spans.  For #avgeeks, it allows great views of the Hong Kong International Airport.  The cabins weren’t that full, and there was plenty of room to maneuver, although photos aren’t great necessarily due to reflections.

Views from Ngong Ping Cable Car
Hong Kong International Airport from Ngong Ping Cable Car
Looking down from the Crystal Cabin

I put together a brief video from both rides.  If I’d had more time, I would have considered hiking back down to Tung Chung, as there were some really nice-looking trails.

Views from Ngong Ping Cable Car
Hills of Lantau as seen from Ngong Ping Cable Car

Between the Cable Car station and the Big Buddha statue is a fake “village,” which is just fast food and souvenir shops you have to pass through slow-walking crowds.  As you get closer to the monastery, there’s a clearing with a few cheaper snack/souvenir stands, and the Big Buddha on the right, and the monastery straight ahead. 

Ngong Ping “Village”
Plaza outside Monastery
Approaching Buddha

I explored the Po Lin Monastery for a few minutes, which was interesting, and actually has some historic significance, having been there since 1906.

Monastery and Buddha
Po Lin Monastery
Po Lin Monastery

Then I did the climb up the 268 steps to the top of the Buddha, which didn’t take very long but would have been bad after leg day.  There wasn’t much to see up there, but there’s a 360-degree circular platform allowing for a range of views.  After a few photos, I headed back down, making my way to the Cable Car station, where there was no wait for my Standard cabin ride – though there was a long line for the Crystal cabin. Go figure.

All the steps
Climbing Big Buddha
Scenes from atop Big Buddha
View from Big Buddha
View from Big Buddha

It was actually quite a peaceful few hours, but not something I would do if I only had a few days and it was my first visit to Hong Kong.  But at the end of a long busy trip around the world, it was a nice way to spend part of the day.

Returning to Tung Chung

Mid-Levels Night Life

Lastly, I spent two nights out and about at bars in the mid-levels of Hong Kong, which was also something I had not had a chance to do on my last trip. The streets and bars were packed, with mostly ex-pats and tourists, but it was very vibrant.  I liked one gay bar, T:me, in particular since people just stood outside in a little plaza with their drinks, which is something I’m a sucker for.  I don’t have much more to say about this, but it was fun, and something I’m glad I did.  The bus from Kowloon was pretty easy, both coming and going.

Nighttime in the Mid-levels
Out and about

Next up: the conclusion to my January trip (yeah this has taken awhile)- Cathay Pacific First from Hong Kong to Chicago, and a crappy AA experience Chicago to DC (though a nice stop at the Flagship Lounge).

One thought on “Trip Report: A Different Side of Hong Kong

  1. Pingback: Returning Home: Cathay Pacific First Class HKG to ORD, ORD Flagship Lounge, and American Sucks – You Went Where???

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