Thursday, 4 September 2014

Hong Kong - the Perfect Transfer Location

This post does not really have much to do with wine, except for the fact that I am recounting it whilst travelling to a wine region. But I thought it would be worth sharing the experience, as I am sure many people will find the information useful during a future international long-haul flight.

If you do get the opportunity to transfer via an extended stopover in Hong Kong, see it as an opportunity. From my experience, I found nothing inconvenient about it at all. Most reputable airlines will hold your checked luggage for up to 48 hours, so you don't have to worry about that and there is a 'Left Luggage' facility where they will securely store your other bits and pieces (eg. laptops that you don't want to lug around) at a small fee of HK$12 per hour. Customs will allow you to stay in Hong Kong for up to 24 hours without a visa or an entry/exit fees, so there really is no reason not to.

Once you have cleared the efficient customs area, the train is right there waiting for you. It takes 24 minutes in airconditioned comfort to make it into Central station at HK$100 return. The trip into town is quite scenic as you pass by the beautiful green mountains and look out at the port area. Once off the train, I headed straight down to central pier and jumped on the Star Ferry for HK$2 which takes you accross to Tsim Sha Tsui. Again, for a newbie to the city it is great just to view the expanse of highrises on either side of the water as you cross. 

To really stretch out the legs after sitting on a plane, I loved the stroll along the Avenue of the Stars, which has many famous Asian actors and actresses stars and handprints in the pavement, just like in Hollywood. You can get a heap of touristy happy-snaps with some of the statues and read about the history of Hong Kong's film industry. The only downside was that it was very hot and I didn't have a hat or umbrella - recommend taking one or the other to avoid getting frazzled as there is absolutely no shade available.

After my walk, I ventured into the warren of streets that is Tsim Sha Tsui. It was very clean and I loved seeing all the quirky little shops, restaurants and bars tucked away - you never knew what was waiting around the next corner. After a while, I had worked up an appetite for lunch and headed to Din Tai Fung, which is a Michelin-starred dumpling house on the top floor of one of the many shopping centres on Canton Road. The pork and green dumplings and the spicy prawn wontons I had were full of flavour and spice, definitely worth seeking out. If you are interested to try this place, I recommend getting there about 10 minutes before opening time (11.30am) as a lineup forms pretty quickly and, due to popularity, it is not possible to book ahead.

After lunch I could have done with a nap, but as that was not possible, I thought I should walk off my dumpling feast. I caught the ferry back to central and then enjoyed joining the throngs of office workers and locals travelling through the Mid-Levels Escalator that runs above the busy city streets and up into the trendy suburb of SoHo. I earmarked quite a few bars and cafes that I would love to visit next time. The inner city is very vibrant with some wonderful street art and everything is very well signed to the point where a map is not really necessary.

Overall, I spent just under HK$400 for an excellent day out and about stretching my legs and taking in the sights. The only real downside was getting a bit hot and sweaty from the humidity, but a quick wipe down with a few facial wipes was enough to freshen up before my next flight. If you are desperate for a shower before the next leg of your trip, they are available at the International Airport for HK$200 a pop.

The thriving city of Hong Kong had so much to offer and my taste of it was only just a snapshot. I am very glad that my husband and I will spending two nights there on our return journey later this year.