My flight from Manchester to Bangkok had a handy little stop off in Hong Kong as a I was flying with Cathay Pacific. The usual stops were for around two hours, so just enough time to get off one plane, stretch your legs and get on the next one. I decided to make the most of it and swap my connecting flight for one 12 hours later.
It didn’t leave me much time, and it didn’t give me much chance to sleep but running on adrenaline and excited to see my friend Natalie, who recently moved to Hong Kong and had taken the day off work, I headed out of the airport and caught a train to central Hong Kong to begin my day!
06:30 – ‘We are coming in to land in Hong Kong, the local time is 6:30am and the temperature is 29 degrees!’
Jesus, 29 degrees at 6:30am! This is going to be a long and sweaty day!!
07:00 – Touch Down in Hong Kong
So my body thinks its midnight, Hong Kong thinks it’s 7am, and I’m thinking that if I’m ever sat next to a small child again I’m asking to move seats!
I tried my best to be patient as two of my best friends are very close to giving birth and live in Canada and South Africa, which means long haul flights are going to be unavoidable for them! I put on my giant headphones and turned up the volume to drown out any moaning and screaming, to the point I gave myself a headache, then it finally fell asleep … peace at last! Until it spread out with it’s head on its mums lap and its feet coming under the arm rest and taking up my seat … great!
07:30 – Immigration sorted!
I was off that plane as fast as I physically could, mainly to escape the annoying child who’s feet I had been bonding with for about 5 hours. Immigration was so fast, just fill out the Landing Cards provided on the plane and once I reached the desks every single one was open and queues were tiny! Straight through with a new stamp in my passport – luckily I didn’t have to worry about my insanely big bag because that was being taken by the airline to be transferred to my plane that night – the beauty of the layover!
After immigration I popped into the toilets to freshen up and get changed, teeth clean, face washed and a change of underwear later I was back out and ready to get in to the city.
08:00 – All aboard the Airport Express
Once out the terminal you follow really clear signs leading you to the ‘Airport Express’, it means getting a little shuttle train to the next terminal but its really simple and quick. The first two places I saw were Pret and McDonald’s … not exactly the welcome I expected but I’ll let it go.
The airport express was so easy, there were huge signs so it was impossible not to see, a same day return was only 115 Hong Kong Dollars which is about £10. They leave about every 10 minutes and get you to Hong Kong central in 25 mins!
08:45 – Tiredness is kicking in
I came out the station and was ready to start trying to find the tram station which would take me up Victoria Peak but I was starting to feel knackered, so I went in the first coffee shop I saw and got an iced coffee and a croissant. Now I hate to admit it, but this is a real blog, not a fancy schmancy look how amazing and fake I am pretending my trip is blog, but the first place I saw was a Starbucks, and after pulling a face at Pret and McDonalds I headed inside anyway – fail!
More awake though I was ready to walk to the peak tram, I had saved everything in Google Maps before I left as it works offline if you download specific parts you want which I predict will be a lifesaver for me on this trip.
Now even with Google Maps my sense of direction is literally a joke, and after walking around the same block about 4 times I spotted a bus with ‘The Peak’ on the front. I headed to the bus station which is under the train station and spotted the no 15 to the Peak. I got in the queue, thinking this would take me to the tram, or at least close!
09:15 – Mystery Bus Tour
The bus arrived and I asked the driver if he went to the tram for the Peak, he smiled and nodded so I paid my 10 dollars and got on. Phew, no more walking in loops! I checked the location dot on Google maps and it looked like I was heading the right way. I zoned out after that, looking out the window at all the shops and signs, everything looked so chaotic and exciting! When I zoned back in I realised we were now on really thin roads and going up really steep hills … I was not anywhere near a tram!
Checking my Google map again it seemed there were two peaks and I was well on my way up one of them, too late now I just needed to carry on and hope for the best!
10:00 – The Moment of Truth
I got to the bus station at the top of the mystery peak and walked around the corner … there it was! The Peak viewing tower! Luckily I had made it, I paid my 50 HKD to go up to the viewing platform in the tower, this is only about £5 so well worth it if you’re in a rush. The view was amazing, I stayed for a little while taking photos and doing my favourite hobby … watching people take selfies … endless entertainment in my book!
There are also some amazing hikes you can do if you have more time, but as I was in a rush to get back down to the city and see as much as I could I didn’t risk trying one of those!
10:45 – Finally on the Tram
The tram to get back down was easy to find, there were signs everywhere! I bought my ticket which was 35 HKD one way, and got in the queue. The tram was a tiny thing, two little carriages and felt very old and retro. Once it arrived and we set off it was one hell of a steep track!!! It only took about 10 minutes so much quicker than the bus I had got up to the top.
The perks of getting the bus one way though is that you are right there once you leave the train station, it was much cheaper, and apparently the queue to get on the tram is huge at all times of day. With the bus I was straight on, no messing!
11:00 – Wifi Hunt
I knew my friend, Natalie, would be almost ready to meet around now after having a meeting in the morning so at the bottom of the tram I found a coffee shop, Pacific Coffee, and went in for a drink and the wifi code. They had seats outside in the shade (not that that helps the humidity) so I plonked myself there and got online. I arranged to meet Natalie on the other side of town on Hollywood Road, essentially the Shoreditch of Hong Kong, ‘Head over there in a taxi and meet me under the escalators, you can’t miss them!’ she said.
Right … so I’m looking for some escalators … challenge accepted!
12:00 – Hollywood Road Here I Am!
I got dropped at one end of Hollywood Road, seeing as my Chinese is non existent and I just kept saying ‘Escalators’ I think my driver just wanted me out! It was bloody boiling at this point and I was weighed down by my hand luggage bag, which didn’t fit my big hoodie in so that was trailing off me on one side, camera bag on the other – I looked mental!
I found the escalators, literally these huge escalators just to get you up the street as Hong Kong has some serious hills which I never realised before! It is the longest outdoor escalator in the world and is sort of like the tube, you can jump off at various hot spots going up the city!
I eventually spotted Natalie looking fabulous and fanning herself with a little hand fan, after big hugs she presented me with the best present of all time in that moment … a fan for myself and a little pack of tissues! She assured me that there was no shame in dabbing your sweaty upper lip with a tissue and looking around everyone was doing it! Phew!
So armed with my new fan and my friend acting as tour guide we wandered down Hollywood Road and looked at some of the most famous graffiti, peeked in some quirky little shops and ended at the bottom of the hill at Man Mo Temple.
12:45 – Man Mo Temple
The oldest temple in the city. There were renovations being done on it so my photos aren’t great, but it had the usual incense wafting into the streets.
In the temple, two idols are worshiped, the God of Literature and the God of War. People go to the Man Mo temples in China to pray for success in exams or in their or literary related bits … seems a good place for me to hit up as I start out on my blogging path! Fingers crossed the Literary God took a look a liking to me and is about to give me some good vibes!
We had a little shimmy around there and were starting to get hungry so next up was a veggie place for lunch.
13:15 – Grassroots Pantry
Lunch time was literally the best! We went to Grassroots Pantry which is on Hollywood Road, a few minutes up from the Temple. I don’t eat much meat so Natalie had chosen this place for the fact it was all veggie and vegan food. It was Instagram heaven! So clean and white inside, with pots of green leaves hanging down from the shelves and in the windows.
The food was incredible, I had a bowl of pickled heaven! ‘Macro Tsukemondo Donburi’ which was brown rice, black beans, sautéed greens and all kinds of pickled bits and bats – looked great, tasted great, but was ridiculously big!
I could only eat half, that along with an Immune Booster Juice, because with RA and Lupus I can do with as much immune boosting as possible!
14:00 – Ahoy There Sailor!
Star Ferry here we come! The cutest old ferry where the staff running it still wear traditional sailor uniforms with pride, they’d give you a run for a money Jack Gallon! The ferry goes from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon and back and has been doing since 1888.
You could actually drive or take a train now, but its such a sweet little ferry I see why people still use it. The National Geographic actually still rates the Star Ferry crossing as one of 50 ‘places of a lifetime’. So that’s one ticked off the list … just need to find out what the other 49 are now!
14:10 – Landing in Kowloon
Once we got on to Kowloon we headed towards the Avenue of Stars, it is Hong Kong’s version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame and is on Victoria Harbour. Unfortunately when we got there it was closed for refurbishments, so sadly no photos of the Bruce Lee statue!
Buy this point we were bloody boiling alive! No amount of fanning or dabbing with a tissue was helping me so we headed into the shopping centre where the air con is blasting out!
After we cooled off we hopped back on the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island. We had nailed the sightseeing so deserved a drink … or two!
15:30 – Ce La Vi
A quick cab ride from the harbour and we were at the bottom of a huge tower … obviously, this is Hong Kong after all! On the top floor was a rooftop bar called Ce La Vi which not only was in a great setting, it also had Happy Hour on! Who doesn’t love buy one get one free?!
It was the perfect end to a brilliant day, and so nice to finally sit down, cool off and properly catch up!
18:00 – Time to Leave
6pm came too quickly and it was time to contend with the trains again, but this time in rush hour! Eeeeek! Luckily once I was in the central station there were really clear signposts, it also look LITERALLY ages! So leave plenty of time to negotiate through the station before you even get to the train. Back on the airport express and it was starting to go dark so I at least got a glimpse of the skyline with all the lights on!
19:00 – Bye Hong Kong!
I got to the airport, straight through security and had time to get a quick drink and change back into my leggings and hoodie, planes are always so cold!!! I was absolutely knackered and praying not to be next to a child again so I could sleep until Bangkok.
When they scanned my boarding pass at the gate it flashed up ‘Seating Error’ and it was not what I wanted to see, seconds later though the lovely flight attendant was like, ‘Ahh Miss Helen, we have a new seat for you’. He handed it over and there it was … PREMIUM ECONOMY!!! The two best words I have ever seen on a plane ticket, the perfect end to my first day of adventures!
Needless to say I slept like a baby the whole 3 hours to Thailand, sadly I’m not cool and stuck out like a sore thumb when the meals came, couldn’t for the life of me find my table! After poking and prodding every possible option around me the nice man next to me took pity and showed me it was in my arm rest … so its fair to say even in Premium Economy I remained a Basic Bitch!
So there you have it, how to hit as many of Hong Kong’s hot spots in 12 hours, I hope this helps you to make the most of your layovers in the future!
What’s the best place you’ve stopped off for a layover? I never knew you could leave the airport before so this is a whole new world for me now!