Christmas in Hong Kong

Christmas is a wonderful time to visit Hong Kong. There is so much to see and do and most of it is free, easy to get to via public transport and great with or without the kids!

Most of the streets, malls and major hotels have fantastic decorations as can be seen below.

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The European Carnival is held on the Central Harbour-front on Hong Kong Island. It’s packed with rides, carnival games and loads of different food. It’s located right next to the Observation Wheel which is a great way to view both the carnival and harbour or take some romantic selfies.

About an hour from Central and easily accessible by the bus, Stanley plaza is transformed at Christmas time inspired by traditional German Christmas markets. There are authentic German snacks, a life-sized candy house, mulled wine and lots of unique market stalls.

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The Landmark is a huge multi level shopping centre and at Christmas it hosts the Landmark Christmas Circus. An elaborate puppet show that comes to life every half an hour it’s very popular so best to avoid around lunch time if possible. Each level of the centre provides a different view of the ‘circus’ and many have a cafe with a good vantage point.

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Located on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong are the Hullet House Christmas Markets at 1881 Heritage. Whilst traditionally the markets are only on for three days, the decorations are around for a lot longer and definitely a highlight.

The Pulse Light Show is a 3D audiovisual light show located next to the historical Tsim Sha Tsui clock tower on the Kowloon harbourfront. It’s free and narrated in english, cantonese and mandarin at different times throughout the night.

The most spectacular celebration is the Harbour itself. Many of the buildings by the Harbour are decorated with Christmas lights and it’s definitely not to be missed. Even though views of the harbour are good at any time of the year, it’s especially impressive at Christmas.

Destination: China Hong Kong

Shenzhen, China

Historically Shenzhen was a market town with a population of just 30,000 people. In 1979 Shenzhen was assigned as China’s first Special Economic Zone. It was developed rapidly and in only 38 years the population estimate of Shenzhen grew to 18 million people. Shenzhen is now one of the five largest and wealthiest cities of China.

We decided to explore this fast growing city and joined an organised day tour. One of the benefits of joining a tour is that they sorted out our visas to enter into Mainland China.

Our journey started at Hung Hom Station on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong where we boarded our train. We were told the likelihood of getting a seat for the hour-long journey was more ‘probable’ in First Class. Tickets in these carriages are a bit more expensive but to be honest it wasn’t anything amazing. After an interesting trip through the New Territories we arrived at Lo Wu Station. Lo Wu is the Northern Terminus of the East Rail Line, serving as a primary checkpoint for rail passengers between Hong Kong and mainland China.

Our first stop was Litchi (or Lychee) Park. It was absolutely beautiful and really quite large (apparently around 29 hectares!) It was great to see so many people out exercising and participating in Tai Chi.

From the park, we made our way to the Shenzhen Meridian View Centre. It’s located on the 69th floor of the Diwang Building and the views are incredible.

The Sham Chun River (aka Shenzhen River) serves as the natural border between Hong Kong and Mainland China and can be seen clearly in the picture below.

After enjoying a cup of tea our next stop was the Kuang Yi Cultural Exhibition Centre where we were only allowed to take photos in the foyer. The Centre had loads of historical artefacts including a terracotta warrior and his horse as well as lots and lots of jade.

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We saw some interesting street art along the way to the restaurant where we were having lunch.

The rest of our afternoon was spent at the Luohu Commercial City, commonly known as Lo Wu Shopping Centre. This place is huge – five stories high with over 200 shops per floor. It’s a shoppers paradise with loads of replica items that are of a high standard but still not genuine. There are plenty of tailors that will re-create shoes and clothing or those that will attempt an original if you have a design and the ability to return in a couple of days… if you’re game.

We enjoyed our trip to Shenzhen and would love to return to explore more of this amazing city.

Destination: China Shenzhen

Tai Po, Hong Kong

Tai Po is an area within the New Territories of Hong Kong, once a substantial forest it is now densely populated with a mixture of public housing complexes and many expensive high-end private properties in the sparsely populated area surrounding Tai Po.

Like most areas of Hong Kong Tai Po is easily accessible via public transport, a little over an hour and 3 or 4 train line swaps on the MTR depending on your departure point.

Despite being highly populated Tai Po is lucky to have a large amount of green area and subsequently is the second lowest polluted district in Hong Kong. The main road did appear to have a cycling lane and we observed more bicycles in this area than usual.

From the MTR it’s an easy walk to the Tai Wong Yeh Temple. The temple was originally a stone tablet which was erected by villagers in the mid-Qing Dynasty. Later fishermen raised funds to build the temple for worship. In 1960, a formal launching ceremony for dragon boats was first held at the Temple as part of the popular Dragon Boat Festival. The ceremony has remained a tradition since then.

Right alongside the Temple is Tsai Park, it has stunning views across the harbour and is an incredibly beautiful, peaceful and quiet part of Tai Po. A great spot to enjoy the simplicity of sitting on one of the many benches along the harbour to soak in the view, a contrast to the usual busy, noisy streets of Hong Kong.

Tai Po is divided by the Lam Tsuen River, it’s a lovely walk across the Bridge on Yuen Shin Road to the Yuen Shin Park. This park is huge, and is Hong Kong’s largest and arguably most beautiful public park. There are many tree-fringed lawns for picnics and kite-flying, an amphitheatre with white sail-canopies, a cycling track along Tolo Harbour from where you can watch dragon boat races during the Dragon Boat Festival, and an Insect House. There are a number of vendors where you can hire bikes of all types.

Located in the park is the Lookout Tower, a large-scale landmark established for the commemoration of the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong to China in 1997.

It’s important to note that during our visit the restaurant at the base of the Lookout was closed. In fact strangely uncharacteristic for Hong Kong, there was nowhere in the park nor along the harbour to get a meal or beverage.

A perfect location to recharge and enjoy a picnic it’s worth the hour commute!

Destination: China Hong Kong

Cheung Chau, Hong Kong

Cheung Chau is an island 10 kilometres southwest of Hong Kong Island. It is nicknamed the ‘dumbbell island’ due to its shape. Getting to the island is easy enough via ferry (pier no 5 at Central) either via fast ferry which takes approximately 40 minutes or the slow ferry which takes an hour.

The view from the arriving ferry pier across the promenade shows a harbour full of activity with fishing vessels, trawlers, junks and sampans. The waterfront is lined with cafes, predominately seafood restaurants and a number of souvenir shops.

There are also a number of bikes lined up on the foreshore, this is the most common mode of transportation other than walking on the island, as motorised vehicles are not allowed – the only exception being garbage ‘trucks’.

A favourite well-known local desert is the mochi – a traditional desert originating from Japan. Essentially it’s a rice cake made of mochigome, a short-grain japonica glutinous rice, filled with fresh fruit. The picture below is a mango mochi.

Yuk Hui Temple or commonly known as Pak Tai Temple, is said to have been built about 200 years ago to honour Pak Tai, the Taoist god of the sea. It is also home to the famous Cheung Chau Bun Festival which takes place in May.

Cheung Chau is a popular spot for hikers and the walk around the island up to the North Lookout Pavilion is spectacular. The views across the ocean show other islands and a busy ferry route. There are no drinking stations, nor small shops along the way, so it’s important to make sure you are well prepared with supplies.

Tung Wan Beach is the most popular spot for a swim, it’s netted and a lifeguard can be seen on duty.

It’s best to enjoy Cheung Chau in the morning because by lunch time the streets are packed! One especially busy area is not far from the ferry pier – a town square on the Cheung Chau Family Walk. There you will find a long line of people, under the shade of a massive tree, waiting to be served at the Gan Yongtai fishball shop. These fishballs are eaten from a stick, while leaning forward and taking care to not drip sauce on your shoes – truly a recommended Hong Kong experience. People watching here is almost an art form and you will find many different characters.

Not far from the square is the Lock of Love on Tung Wan Rd. It is a wooden house with an iron fence which allows lovers to hang locks with wishes written on them.

Cheung Chau is a lovely island well worth the day trip, just keep an eye on the weather forecast as ferries can be cancelled from time to time in inclement weather.

Destination: China Hong Kong

Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Gardens, Kowloon Hong Kong

The Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Gardens are easily accessible from both Kowloon and Hong Kong Island by MTR. Both are only an 8-10 minute walk from the Diamond Hill Station.

Chi Lin Nunnery is a large buddhist temple constructed using traditional architecture entirely with cypress wood, without the use of any nails, and is currently the world’s largest hand-made wooden building.

The surrounding sculptured gardens, ponds and large bonsai are incredible, it’s a beautiful location with the skyscrapers of this busy city creating a surreal backdrop.

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Nan Lian Gardens is located opposite Chi Lin Nunnery and is a scenic garden covering an area of 35,000 square metres. To say the gardens are spectacular is an understatement as they are so well maintained and incredibly beautiful.

 

Whilst there is a restaurant on premises, there is a lovely tree-lined area with tables and chairs where you can enjoy a packed lunch if you wish.

Free admission into the spectacular Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Gardens, they really are a must see whilst in Hong Kong.

Destination: China Hong Kong
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Aberdeen Harbour, Hong Kong

Aberdeen is located on the South West side of Hong Kong Island. Famous for its boat village and floating seafood restaurants located in the Harbour, it is perfect to spend a few hours walking around.

The Tanka people, who used to live on boats in the Aberdeen Harbour, are generally associated with the fishing industry. In fact, there are still several dozens of them living on boats in the harbour.

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The foreshore is a hub of activity with many statues and monuments dedicated to the lifestyle of the local people. The walk is only a short one, but a great way to glimpse their past lives under the shadow of the skyscrapers of modern life.

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The city itself is only small, but bustling. There are many shops and malls under the high-rise apartment building. Below is the entrance to Aberdeen Square in Aberdeen Centre.

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Although probably not a day trip in itself, Aberdeen is a great place to look around just on sunset to take in a different side of Hong Kong.

Destination: China Hong Kong

Repulse Bay, Hong Kong

Repulse Bay is located in the Southern District of Hong Kong Island. It is a popular beach and arguably the most beautiful on Hong Kong Island. There is a shark netted area to swim and there are often life guards on duty. It’s a great spot to relax, unwind and get away from the busy city.

There are a number of bus routes on Hong Kong Island that travel to Repulse Bay via Island Road. We’d suggest taking the Deep Water Bay Beach stop to access the Seaview Promenade, the small temple below is a convenient landmark! Cross the road and begin to enjoy the delightful walk along the bay which continues on to Repulse Bay.

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Deepwater Bay Beach is quieter than Repulse Bay, it doesn’t have the facilities, shopping and restaurants nearby, but it is a gorgeous spot nevertheless.

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The Seaview Promenade is a beautiful way to not just take in the sea views, there are so many different plants and flowers to enjoy along the way. The promenade is well maintained, perfect for going for a walk with the family (dogs are allowed), or riding the bike with the kids. It’s not a challenging walk and is mostly flat the entire way however, there are no drinking stations along they way, so make sure you’re prepared if it’s a typical hot and humid Hong Kong day.

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The bay is a popular spot for locals to go fishing (we watched these guys for ages), take the boat out or practise dragon boat racing skills.

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As mentioned the promenade takes you all the way to Repulse Bay. The Bay is super clean and has plenty of trees providing some lovely shade not so far from the water’s edge. There is a great children’s playground, lots of restaurant options and plenty of shops to explore.

At the very southern end of Repulse Bay Beach prominently on display overlooking the sea, are two statues of Kwun Yam (Goddess of Mercy) and Tin Hau (Goddess of Sea) which stand 10 metres high. There are also many other colourful deities representing many folk gods.

Beautiful and very accessible by affordable public transport, loads to keep all members of the family occupied and very happy, Repulse Bay is definitely a great spot to put on your itinerary whilst in Hong Kong.

Destination: China Hong Kong

Macau, China

We decided an organised day trip with a tour group was the best way to explore Macau from Hong Kong. Macau, like Hong Kong is an autonomous territory or Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, and whilst having its own currency Hong Kong dollars are widely accepted in most places.

Our day started with a fast ferry from Hong Kong to Macau, the ferry was actually really comfortable and the trip only took an hour. Once we got through customs and immigration in Macau we boarded our coach and commenced our day trip.

As this was a day trip, our itinerary and the places of interest we stopped at were pre-organised for us, our experience and this blog of our time in Macau is limited. We found Macau to be a strange mix of both tradition and the outrageous opulence it’s most known for.

Here are photos of The Kun Lam Statue and Macau Tower. While we had a look around the tower, watching people bungy jumping from the top – it is the highest commercial bungy jump in the world!

The Grand Lisboa Casino and Studio City, James Packer’s Casino. Those circles you can see in the middle of Studio City is a figure 8 ferris wheel!

The Venetian Macao is an incredible hotel, shopping mall and casino. The sky that you can see is actually the ceiling with painted clouds and special lighting. The effect is mind blowing!

 

A-Ma Temple (Ma Kok Miu). Our tour guide told us a story of how Macau was named. Apparently when a lost Portuguese sailing ship landed here by accident they tried to get help. Not having a common language, the sailors tried to find out their location from some Monks at this temple and mistook what they were saying not as “Ma Kok Miu” but as “Macau”.

The amazing ruins of St Paul’s Cathedral. This church has burned down but the facade has remained as a free standing structure. A great testament to building things properly. Interestingly enough there is a small local temple next to the church ruins that is dedicated to a god that burns everything around them!

The Grand Emperor Hotel is partially owned by Jacky Chan, it has gold bars on the floor at its entrance. Of course the gold bars are encased in unbreakable resin. There is also a Feng Shui mirror on the column in the photo below which is rumoured to have cost a million US dollars!  Strangely you are not allowed to take photos of the mirror front on, only from the side.

It was a fabulous day and we’d highly recommend checking out Macau if visiting Hong Kong.

Destination: China Macau

The Peak, Hong Kong – During the Day

As mentioned in our previous post being able to pick the right day to visit the Peak is a luxury we’ve had whilst based in Hong Kong for a bit. The Fog and smog coming across from mainland China can often mean the view from The Peak is disappointing. This handy link to a webcam that streams live footage from The Peak makes it easy to identify whether it’s the right time to visit. The Peak Webcam.

We decided to explore The Peak area a little more extensively by taking a taxi to the top of Victoria Peak Gardens via Mount Austin Road. It is possible to walk up to the Gardens, however if you’re short of time, short of fitness or just want to enjoy a leisurely walk down to The Peak Galleria then the taxi option is a good one.

It’s a beautiful spot, the gardens are well maintained and the view from here is lovely.

The Mount Austin Playground is lovely and a great spot for a picnic or to take a rest before making the rest of the way down to The Peak Galleria.

Across the road from the The Peak Galleria is a great cafe called The Peak Lookout. It gets very busy so you’d be lucky to get a table without reservation unless visiting early. We can recommend the Tiramisu!

There are lots of other food options across the road in the main Galleria/Tower buildings, it’s a nice place to spend a few hours when visiting the Peak.

Whilst there is a free viewing platform the Sky Terrace is, we believe, the best vantage point. It costs $50HK per person and the 360 degree views make it value for money.

A fun way back down from the Peak to Central is via the Peak Tram. You can use your MTR Octopus card to pay for your trip and it’s quite the experience going down – backwards!

This is a popular tourist activity, both going up to the Peak and back down, and our advice is to be early, especially if you plan to use it to go to the Peak from Central. As the photos below indicate, the line up around lunch time on a Saturday were incredible – we were pleased not to be stuck waiting!

Update: Another great reason to visit the peak – Gordon Ramsay has now moved his restaurant, Bread Street Kitchen, from the Lan Kwai Fong hotel to The Peak Galleria!

Destination: China Hong Kong

The Peak, Hong Kong – At Night

For months now we’ve been waiting and hoping with fingers crossed for a perfect fog and smog free night, to get some great pictures from The Peak at sunset and night.

This incredibly handy link to a webcam that streams live footage from The Peak has made it super easy to do so The Peak Webcam.

A quick check of the webcam confirmed our suspicions that after a stunning day it was indeed the perfect evening to dash up to The Peak. We were incredibly lucky as the number 15 bus that travels along Queens Road East in Wan Chai all the way to the Peak Galleria is only a 5 minute walk from our apartment.

The sequence of four photos below were taken from Bec’s iPhone. The view is from the Peak Sky Terrace, entry is $50HK each and whilst there is a free public viewing platform, we believe the Terrace is the best option to see the view.

The next group of photos Keith took from our Cannon Camera as the sun was setting, looking across Hong Kong Island toward Kowloon.

And finally after sunset, the lights and skyline of Hong Kong come alive.  

It’s worth the jostling crowd on a perfect night to experience such an incredible transformation of this beautiful city.

Destination: China Hong Kong