A Day In Hong Kong

Stop overs. How do you spend them – holed up in the airport, or out and about? Recently, I had 14 hours in Hong Kong, on our return from the Imagery II Christening Cruise, which offered an opportunity to explore. My friend and I, both newbies to the city decided that we would get out and see what we could find to do for a few hours.

We had been assured that it was incredibly easy to get around, and worth the look. Having come off a long flight (albeit very comfortably), and chilly temperatures in Europe, we were very keen to stretch our legs and move around a bit. The humidity struck us straight away – the contrast between 7 degrees and 29 is rather marked, even after some hours on a plane.

hk1From Hong Kong airport, we took a train into the city, a very simple 20 minute ride. Once outside, we took a map and started walking. Again the humidity struck us, and it certainly looked like rain, but we were happy to press on. The noise and aromas were vastly different to those in Europe, but fascinating to walk around.

The sheer volume of people walking around was interesting, as were how many seemed to be simply passing the time of day sitting camped out on flattened cardboard. There seemed to be no reason for this, other than to gather, and they didn’t appear to be homeless.

To cross the main streets, we found various overpasses and flights of stairs. In some of the lobbies, officials were setting out signs, with an amber alert for rain and to use umbrella wraps indoors. We conferred, and assumed the Hong Kong officials are very conservative when it comes to weather…

We had heard about the Stanley Markets, but were slightly foxed searching for them on the map – there were certainly market stalls being set up in Stanley St, but they were nothing like what was advertised. They were a mass of tarpaulins and cardboard boxes, underneath which looked like the most motley garage sale we could ever have imagined. We found a cafe where we could speak english, and established these Stanley Markets were not the Stanley Markets, which were actually on the other side of the city.

As we left the cafe, the first drops of rain began to fall. We didn’t have umbrellas or jackets, but it was 29 degrees, so we agreed that a bit of moisture might make the walk more comfortable, as we searched for the best bus to take us across the city.

Five minutes later, the amber alert made a lot of sense – this was a full tropical downpour, the kind of rain we never get in New Zealand, hot and heavy and intense. The locals scattered, and made use of the umbrella wraps (presumably to prevent slipping hazards on highly polished lobby floors). Meanwhile, us tourists dissolved in giggles and pondered how likely we were to drown in a rainstorm.

hk2By the time we got on a bus, we were soaked to the skin, and still laughing. From there, we had a 50 minute bus ride around the coast, which was intensely loud (why was everyone shouting at the person next to them?!) and really interesting. Hong Kong, despite all the high rise buildings is surprisingly green.

The rain hadn’t let up by the once time we arrived at the markets, so we definitely had some puddle jumping and rain dodging to do – the flimsy guttering couldn’t possibly deal with the sheer volume of water. While they weren’t as large or impressive as we thought they might be, it was fun to haggle and make yourself understood, and look over the items on display. While the goods weren’t really to our taste, I’m sure there was lots that was interesting for many people.

The buses were clean and cheap and ran regularly, so it was simple to find our way back to the central station, then onto the airport train. We felt grimy and bedraggled, but pretty happy to have found our way across such a busy city – it was quite an adventure.

By the time we got back to the airport, we were delighted to have lounge passes, thanks to Cathay Pacific, to make ourselves comfortable before the flight home, so we checked in early and bid farewell to the crazy, hot, saturated city of Hong Kong. What a great way to spend a few hours. What’s your favourite stopover memory? Please share in the comments below!

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