Monday, December 27, 2010

My FREE trip to Hong Kong Highlights and Lowlights

Well I promised a post about my 7 days in Hong Kong so here it is my lovelies!

Highlights - All the things I loved about Hong Kong

Victoria Peak
I highly recommend a trip to the top of Victoria Peak. We took a ferry across to Central and then rode what felt like the worlds longest escalator. From there we walked across a free zoo and biological garden which had all sorts of animals including monkeys and racoons. From there we caught the tram up to the peak. The tram is a little freaky because it goes up an incredibly steep hill and its a fun experience in itself.

The view from the Peak is stunning. Great photo opportunity! We payed the extra fee to go up to the viewing platform. It was only a few bucks with the exchange rate for us but to be frugal I should tell you that you can still see a pretty awesome view from inside the shopping area but I think its much nicer to go to the top where you can be outside. Pick a nice day to do this otherwise the smog can ruin it. We went on a cold day so we only went outside for 20 minutes and once you go back inside you can't go out again which is lame. We only saw the view during the day but a friend told me later the view at night is spectacular. Maybe next time.

Junk Boat Harbour Tour

BF somehow learned that the visitor info center offers a tourist discount on Junk Boat Harbour tours. Its an authentic boat too. We toured on this boat for $100HKD each when its usually $500. Afterward we found an ad for $50 but no biggie. You just have to show your passport to get the deal. This was so much fun!!! Once you get on board they put up the sails and off you go. They drive you around the harbour and the city skyline view is amazing. There was probably only 8 other people on the boat so its not crowded at all. It picks you up on one side of the harbour and drops you off on the other. I really enjoyed this and was super impressed with BF for finding it for us. :)

*Note* The visitor center offers a few good deals. There was a Chinese cake cooking class but it was already full when I tried to book. Get there early on in your trip to book ahead. The class would have been $30HKD. I was sad to miss out.

Po Lin Monastery

This is a great place to visit because not only do you get to visit a temple but its within walking distance to the Big Buddha which I feel is a must do for sure. We bought a bus ticket that was $35 each which was good all day for bus tours around Lantau Island. I felt a sense of calm here. There are a lot of tourists but its not overly crazy. We bought tickets to go the belly of the buddha which was interesting but not really necessary. Again, as things were cheap we were ready to try a lot of things.

Tai-O Fishing Village

While your on Lantau Island use your bus pass to check out Tai-O. This was a place I really wanted to visit and wasn't disappointed. There were hardly any tourists and it was beautiful. You can take a dolphin boat tour for cheap, check out the market, take a long walk along the waters edge and see the homes on stilts in the water. We spent a few hours walking from end to end. Everyone uses bikes here for transportation. It was super quiet and peaceful. We stayed until sunset before heading back. It was nice to get away from the big cities and see this tiny fishing village.

Temple of 10,000 Buddhas

This temple was another stunner. You climb a big long winding path to the temple. Along the path on both sides are hundreds of Buddhas. Lots of picture opportunities. Once you get to the top there are great views and a temple with literally 10,000 Buddhas along the wall. Its amazing.

Symphony of Lights

You have to do this. Its free and its fun. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday the commentary is in English. We did it just before Christmas so there was a lot of extra lights for the holidays. We wanted to go a second time (its nightly at 8pm) but didnt find the time.

Markets

I really loved the Temple Street Night Market. It was super close to where we were staying and it was a great place to haggle on prices to get a good deal. The electric buzz of the night market is awesome. There is everything you could want foodwise and people are having a great time all around you. It was the best market I went to. Don't be afraid to make low ball offers here as they expect it and they price a little high.

*Note* I visited other markets such as Stanley and I give the rest a thumbs down in comparision

Museums

It rained all day Wednesday while we were there. Luckily the museums are free on Wednesday. Score! We only had time to visit the Hong Kong Museum of History. We paid $10HKD to rent audio tour headsets. Waste of money! Everything was bilingual and the audio tour sucked so after listening to it for 10 minutes I just took it off. The museum was great though. Lots of videos and displays.

Transportation

Hong Kong is super easy to get around using public transit. Always have smaller cash on hand for boarding buses. The subway you can buy tickets for no sweat. The ferry tokens are super cheap too. Everything is very accessible and English is everywhere. Very convienent.

Food

Only the best and most important topic of all. The food was delicious. We tried a ton of new foods and dishes. We looked for cheap places and then chose a lot of items. I cannot tell you how much my tummy enjoyed the experience.


The Lowlights

Ok. Hong Kong was great but there were some things that really annoyed us.

1) Fake Monks! BF got had twice by fake monks. (sigh). Once we were going into the underground subway tunnel and a monk stopped us and gave us each a golden piece of paper. He acted like he wanted us to sign a book that wanted just our name and where we were from. BF did this and then the monk lifted his finger from the last column which asked you to state your financial contribution. Red flags for me! BF however has the biggest heart in the world and so he offered the man $100HKD (you should have seen the amounts other people offered - crazy). The man took it and smiled. Then in the book beside BF's name he wrote $200 and looked at him sadly and then pointed to me.

BF reached in his pocket. I was already pissed about this and so I stepped in and said "NO" in a loud voice. I tried to give back the paper but the monk refused. BF was like a deer in the headlights. The monk then put a bracelet on BF's arm and touched his heart and then BF's and pointed again to the $2oo written in his book. I grabbed BF and said "we're going". Then I gave BF a long lecture about how fake that situation was. To me it was obviously a scam but to gentle BF he was just trying to help out. :( I promised not to lecture him anymore if he promised not to hand out anymore money.

At the temple of $10,000 Buddhas as we were climbing the hill we came along two monks. Both with bowls that they put out to us. BF looked at me and asked if I had any small bills. I looked at him and said "No, I dont" and gave him a look. He didnt catch it and put $20HKD in the mans bowl. Immediately the second monk jumped forward and put his bowl into BF's face. Again I said "NO", grabbed BF and took off up the hill.

Once we were at the top a big sign was posted warning tourists not to give to the fake monks. Monks can only beg for food and not money. If you see people doing this please report it to the police. BF was heartbroken. I was annoyed. I was mad that it took him getting scammed twice and having to see the sign to realize it was wrong. We still donated to the temple though. No reason to let them suffer because of those jerks. On the way down they were gone of course.

2) Overcharge!

When you go to restaurant be careful with pricing. There seems to be two different price lists going on if you know what I mean. One for tourists. One for locals. That is annoying in itself but then they overcharge you later. BF let people get away with this too many times and finally I put a stop to that. He didnt want to fight with people in a foreign country with language barriers but I felt that we had to stand our ground and not get walked on. So keep an eye on the price of your food for when the bill arrives in the end.

3) Hawkers

They are pretty aggresive. Everywhere you go there is a man pushing a flyer at you or shouting out he can sell you a pretty knock off designer bag. BF took a flyer once and then 4 men leaped out of nowhere and started following him for like 20 feet trying to convince him to take theirs too. It made me nervous at first but the I learned to put on my unfriendly face and shake my head before they got a word out. Once I got used to it and learned to ignore them it wasn't so bad.



Well there you have it. Overall I loved it and would love to go back a second time and see more. I take home with me some great gifts for family but even better a lot of great experiences and beautiful photos of BF and I.

Oh.... did I mention this trip was free? Yes well we fly with Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong is their main hub. We always do a quick layover there so we asked if we could do a seven day layover instead. No problem! Yay! Of course we had to pay for accomodation and food but it was so worth it. I should note that we had to pay $120HKD each when leaving. Not a big deal for a weeks stay in a beautiful, exciting place. Cathay rocks!

Any questions or comments?

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