The Squeaky Robot is one of my favourite blogs. The Robot has some of the best essays on travel and life experiences. I just love wafting through the smooth and quirky prose of the Squeaky Robot. I was more than happy to read the Robot’s initial impressions of a visit to Hong Kong.
If there ever was a nice tourist trap, I think Stanley in Hong Kong would count. This tiny little area on the hilly south side of Hong Kong Island is a magnet for tourists and locals alike. The famed Stanley Market attracts travellers looking for the quintessential Hong Kong souvenir. The waterfront attracts locals looking to enjoy some southern exposure on a sunny January afternoon. Expats love to travel here for a feel of something back home they might miss. This is Stanley.
Over a half dozen trips to Hong Kong and I hadn’t been back to Stanley since 1988 when I was just wee pre-teen lad. My only memory of Stanley was getting this cheap little fuzzy caterpillar toy that would move around almost magically via strings attached to my hands. It was a long windy bus ride on the upper deck. Riding along all the tight turns along the rocky edge of Hong Kong Island is an experience on its own.
Yuen Long is a large district in the northwest section of the territory. It was one of the largest town centres in the New Territories outside of the urban core of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. I had been meaning to visit this part of Hong Kong on many occasions. I actually got there this time with my sister, parents, and mother-in-law in tow.
First off, you should know about the special day pass for the Yuen Long and Tuen Mun areas of Hong Kong. This pass is not very well advertised on the MTR website. There are only two stations from which you can buy such passes – Nam Cheong and Mei Foo. The pass allows for unlimited travel on the West Rail, the Yuen Long/Tuen Mun LRT, and MTR-run buses in the area.
This was also the first time I ever rode the West Rail. This line was the last of all the Hong Kong rail lines for me to travel upon. I could finally check it off my list.
In continuing with the free museum days on Wednesdays in Hong Kong, my sister and I made our way to the Hong Kong Museum of History in Kowloon on Chatham Road. In terms of rail transport, the museum is within easy walking distance of the Hung Hom Railway Station. However, most tourists may actually find themselves walking due east from the busier Nathan Road.
This is the second time I’ve been to this museum. There aren’t many temporary exhibits here. The one temporary exhibit I wanted to see was an extra cost on top of the usual admission. So much of what I saw was the same as before. However, it is still worth walking through this very extensive museum.
Wednesdays in Hong Kong are free admission days to the public museums and art galleries. My sister and I are big into museums. So our last Wednesday in Hong Kong was a perfect opportunity to hit up a couple of museums. The first on the list was the Hong Kong Cultural Museum in Sha Tin.
Along the shores of the Shing Mun River, you can find the HK Cultural Museum about a 10 minute walk away from Sha Tin MTR station. We had to walk through the mall to reach the river and then walk along the river to the museum.
In my trip to Hong Kong in January, I wanted to make sure I hit up a few places that I had never been to. The urban cores of Hong Kong offer up an electric and fast-paced experience, but sometimes I just want something a little slower and less commercial. Sai Kung was one of these places that offered something less common place for Hong Kong.
To get to Sai Kung from the rest of Hong Kong, you have to get yourself to Choi Hung MTR station. It’s on the green Kwun Tong Line in Kowloon. From there, you have to find the #1A or #92 minibus. The minibus ride itself is its own adventure. These buses are like minivans outfitted with 16 seats. Once all 16 seats are filled with paying bums, the bus doesn’t take any more passengers. Remember not to take the seat with the wheel-well. You’ll have to sit scrunched up for the whole 40 minute ride if you do. Oh, and hold on tight when the minibus turns.
Apart from all the street markets, there are different types of food shops in Hong Kong. There are plenty of different stores showcasing all sorts of strange edibles.
If you’ve ever visited your local Chinatown, then you may have come across stores like these. This is a dried food shop. Sometimes it’s a Chinese herb, medicine and dried food store in some places. There are walls filled with glass containers of all sorts of ingredients. It’s almost as if these items were appropriate for a witch’s brew. The more exotic things I’ve seen over the years include seahorse and snake.
Being a North American, the traditional food and produce market is a mostly foreign concept. Most of us in North America drive once a week to the supermarket for our food. In Vancouver, I guess we’re lucky enough to have places like the Granville Island Public Market and various farmers markets that introduce supermarket shoppers to the traditional market.
Hong Kong is full of old street markets. Although most of them are no longer truly on the street. Most of them have been moved into large multi-story buildings. The name street market still adorns most of the entrances, but it’s a “vertical street of sorts”
Hong Kong Island is one very hilly place. Most visitors and tourists would only venture up the hillside to visit The Peak. Even then, most people would likely take The Peak Tram (which in itself is a tourist attraction). If you have an extended period of time, then it may be worthwhile to explore off the beaten path into non-touristy Hong Kong.
On this January Sunday, I was meeting up with an old high school classmate. I don’t think I had seen him since my university days in Vancouver. So it was a great chance to meet up with him and his wife. We had set a time to meet at the Starbucks at Park Road and Bonham Road. Okay. I’ve heard these street names, but I had no idea where it was. Thank goodness for Nokia Maps and their downloadable city maps.
On my map, I found the intersection and ran a straight line down from there to the tram line along Des Voeux Road. It happened to follow along a street called Eastern Street. This street would be the subject of my pre-meeting exploration.