Rachel Quilligan went to Hong Kong for a long weekend and discovered its unique charm.
Hong Kong is a city of contradictions. A British Colony until 1997, its blended history has left a permanent impact. Billboards and signs are plastered in both English and Cantonese while European mega-brands like Chanel and Burberry line streets and malls, towering over traditional markets and food stalls. Hong Kong has the strangeness of the exotic but still offers familiarity.
On our first day we visited the Tian Tan Buddha (also known as Big Buddha) temple, floating up to the summit in a glass-bottomed cable car, the mist and lush forest below setting the tranquil mood. The deep spiritualism of the temple was undeniable after climbing the 268 steps to the giant monument and seeing the serene bronze statue shrouded in mist and light rain.
That evening we took the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) into Hong Kong Central and enjoyed cocktails and dinner at LUX Bar & Tapas on the edge of Lan Kwai Fong, the city’s premier nightclub district. I was quickly learning that the chaotic fusion of East and West, old and new, gleaming luxury and tired grubbiness was integral to Hong Kong’s character.
Spotting Mickey Mouse ears on the MTR maps meant the next day was spent at a very rained-out Hong Kong Disneyland. Visiting Sleeping Beauty’s castle and Toy Story Land was essential for the inner child and braving Space Mountain is a must for any thrill-seekers — we went twice.
Day three saw us venture across to Macau via a ferry ride that made me feel more ill than Space Mountain. After immigration and a bus ride through Chinese Las Vegas, we arrived at City of Dreams casino for the House of Dancing Water stage show — simply the best and most surprising production I’ve ever seen. The purpose-built theatre contains an eight-metre deep pool that can be transformed into a dry stage by 11 hydraulic stage lifts in less than a minute. The show was a mad and brilliant mix of Alice in Wonderland, Pirates of the Caribbean, Cirque du Soleil and Evel Knievel (yes, there were motorbike stunts).
Our last day was spent touring Kowloon and Hong Kong Island by bus and foot, exploring the extensive mid-levels escalator system that scales the city’s hills and journeying to the most historic spots across town.
Some cities just have a good feel about them; they charm their way into your heart and stick there. Hong Kong, with its commercialism, couture and crowds, is one such city.