Ah. Christmas Eve. In contrast to Taiwan, where Christmas is non-existent with no vacation time, Hong Kong pseudo-celebrates it as a former British Colony. Christmas Day is a day off as with other western countries, but the big difference is that the 26th is a day off and not the 24th. Aunt Chieng had to work this morning, so in effort to play host to Ashley and me for breakfast she took us to Super Sandwich at Festival Walk mall in Kowloon Tong. It is less than a five minute walk away from her flat, and directly across the street (and adjoined by walking tunnel) from City University of Hong Kong where she teaches. As Chieng splits her week between Taiwan and Hong Kong going back and forth, Super Sandwich is a staple breakfast diet for her as is for many other CUHK faculty.
Following breakfast, we were left to explore the mall until Chieng was finished with what work she had to do for the day. I immediately took interest to an itty bitty road bicycle on display at a store. Walking the mall revealed the extent of western influence – food, shops, Christmas decoration, and later on we even saw a choir singing carols. Outside of the mall, was something I had always wanted to see in person — bamboo scaffolding. They were actually building one right in front of us at the university. We also stopped at the Apple Store to see what kind of pricing they had there; I’m always hearing about how cheap Apple products are in HK. Upon inspection I discovered that prices were largely similar — you just don’t have to pay any tax. Chieng explained to me, later, that the Apple Stores hold free-entry raffles that allow you to buy heavily discounted items in the mornings.
Lunch time on this work day proved to show us just how busy Hong Kong would be for the rest of the trip. We waited nearly an hour to get into a Bakery Cafe called Simplylife. Ashley ordered the Grilled Black Cod, and I ordered Australian Lamb Chops. Filled and ready to go exploring, we took the MTR (subway) out toward Central Pier, where we walked around and then boarded a bus to the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. HKCEC is where the ceremonies of China taking sovereignty of Hong Kong took place; at it’s side is a Golden Bauhinia which to people in Hong Kong plays importance as a symbol of the handover.
From HKCEC, we walked over to board the Star Ferry docks to take part in crossing Victoria Harbour on one of the ferries. In the 1920s, ferries such as this were used to cross the harbour between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. To this day taking part of the ferry tradition is still hailed as one of the top 50 things to do in the world. Travelling back and forth without turning around, each ferry has seats with a back that flips to the other side with a loud clap as passengers board and re-position them.
As we crossed the harbour and back into Kowloon, we took in the scenery and navigated swarming crowds of the streets, shops, & museums. At one point we even stopped at The Peninsula to look around. It is a luxury hotel that is heavily favored by the British… each shop inside of it had it’s own security guard at the door. Wow. We then found a shop to stop at for some fruit treats and fresh squeezed juices before making it to Temple Street for some proper street/night market shopping.
We found ourselves in a taxi, soon after, zipping toward the cable car station that would take us up to Victoria Peak. On arriving, the line was more than 2 hours long. We opted to stay in the taxi and continued to take it all the way up. The top revealed beautiful views of the harbours and city. Being 55 degrees and humid, most HK residents tend to walk around in what I consider overkill dress — down coat, gloves, hats, etc. The peak was windy and even colder but I braved the temperature, loving every moment of it (having come from smelting 70s and humid Taiwan). My humor of the day came when a group of girls came up to me asking for help with a photo. One asked, “Are you from Canada?” I asked why and ended up realizing that the girl herself was from Canada and was also in naught more than a t-shirt. We had a good laugh at how the down coats seemed a bit much.
After we took plenty of pretty pictures, we spent the next hour looking for a reasonably priced restaurant. As a note and a warning — Victoria Peak is a high tourist area and most places wanted $600-800 HKD per person for a meal. One place we saw had $200 HKD plates, but had a $500 HKD per person minimum … that’s ~$65 USD! We eventually found a place that was more reasonably priced. Ashley and Chieng both ordered a NY steak that wasn’t the greatest (this place didn’t ask how well done they wanted it). I ordered a peppered steak that came out sizzling and more edible than the NYs. We left to head home after the meal, and ended our long day around 11pm.
Image Gallery. Click on photos to view: