One day a few years back, my Assistant was booking a business trip for me to Europe and then to Africa. Usually she did that on her own and I just got my itinerary when all was set. But this time she asked me if I wanted to fly British Airways all the way. She said that if I’d fly them intercontinental in this particular 2 week period, I’d be entered in a promotion that would give me two round trip tickets anywhere they fly. Yeah, right…I was very busy and had never received anything from any promotion so I just said whatever, why not or something similar, and then forgot all about it.
A couple of months later, opening my mail one evening, I found a letter from BA. It simply asked where in the world I’d like to go, and who would travel with me! No cost, no miles needed…had to decide within a month and travel within a year. No problem! As my more regular readers know, I’ve had a travelling life, but there was one very interesting city that I had only visited at the airport for transit – Hong Kong. So that’s where my husband and I would go for our winter vacation about half a year later, flying for free and getting an excellent deal through BA for a hotel in the city center. So thank you Linda, thank you BA and hello Hong Kong, here we come!
Everything I knew about Hong Kong as the bustling global business metropolis, where west meets east, was true. There were many fantastic malls with all imaginable designer boutiques, where I discovered that I was actually a giant, not even close to tiny there! And of course there was a huge variety of Chinese shops, all kinds of restaurants from the really high-end to fast food, and then there were the street vendors calling out to you with brutally honest marketing, something like fake Rolex anyone?
The skyscrapers were shiny, proudly reaching for the skies in thousands of varieties as to designs, materials and colors, and the streets were packed with both cars and people. The same hectic pulse day and night. But there was so much more! A totally different side of this big city, full of life, history, culture, religion and natural beauty of the over 200 islands that make up Hong Kong. And that was the side we really wanted to explore.
We witnessed fantastic decorations for the Spring Lantern Festival close to the historic clock tower, vivid colors one brighter than the other! An unexpected highlight met us at the Hong Kong Museum of Art: an exhibition of the treasures of the Qin and Han Dynasties (221BC-AD220)! I had always been intrigued by that era in history. So now we could see some of the huge terracotta soldiers, painted and glazed pottery, jade figurines and other treasures from that fascinating time period.
And the museum itself was impressive with art and sculptures. It was a wonderful day of history exploration, art and culture.
To enjoy the fantastic views of HK, the skyscrapers and the harbor, we visited the Victoria peak, which is a must for anyone visiting the city – and for a good reason! Unfortunately our visit was on a cloudy day with on-off drizzle so we couldn’t see as far as one would on a sunny day. You can see fantastic pictures from the peak in a recent post of one of my blogging friends, a wonderful photographer Michael Lai. But we also enjoyed the views of Hong Kong skyline from the water during several boat trips around the islands.
One of these trips took us to Lantau Island which is the home of the beautiful Po Lin Monastery and the largest sitting bronze Buddha statue in the world, the Big Buddha. We enjoyed visiting the monastery, rich with colourful Buddhist iconography, and its peaceful gardens. We also had a tasty vegetarian lunch in its restaurant.
Strengthened by the healthy eats, we managed to climb the 268 steps up to the base of the Big Buddha. I almost matched my climbs at the pyramids. Up there we could learn more about this magnificent statue, see the elaborate and beautiful statues and decorations that surround the base. And of course got an opportunity to enjoy the wonderful views of the mountains and valleys of this lush island!
On the west side of the island we also visited the over 300 years old Tai O fishing village where the houses of the Tanka people are built on stilts and form a tight community where people are literally living on the water. It is a lively village famous for its dried fish and sea food. It has plenty of shops for souvenir hunters and even more street food vendors offering tasty treats to visitors. We also got an opportunity to visit a few of these unusual homes! Definitely worth a visit.
We took a couple of other boat tours just to see the sights and also visited the floating restaurant, Jumbo, which is a nice and different dining experience on the water for brunch, lunch or dinner.
We did some shopping too, of course, including some nice jewelery directly from a diamond factory we visited. I still wear my tiny gold and diamond rabbit which represents my sign in the Chinese horoscope. All-in-all we had a very enjoyable vacation week in Hong Kong, no adventurous escapades, but plenty of wonderful experiences. The visit left a taste for more as there is so much more to see and experience….Thank you HK and so long until the next time!
Arriving back home to Maryland that mid February evening has also etched into my mind. We couldn’t get into our driveway…over two feet of snow had fallen overnight and that morning. So fresh from the plane straight to shoveling. The world is indeed full of contrasts, much like Hong Kong itself.