Flying to the end of the world for the second time this year was always going to be a drawn out affair, made even worse by departing England instead of the US. Flight prices seemed lower than flying from the US which surprised me, so much in fact that I allowed my dad to fly Business whilst I took a bench in Cattle class. We, or should I say I, took the decision to fly Cathay Pacific with a hefty layover in Hong Kong, a place I had never been and around fifty years since my dad had cruised through in the Merchant Navy.
We actually had fourteen hours in transit, in hindsight far too long without a hotel room, especially when your traveling companion struggles to walk and stay awake for long periods of time. At almost four times the price at least Cathay Business Class provided invitations to Premium lounges, truly a blessing at times like these – if only access would apply to the guest too!
I knew as soon as dad found comfort in a relaxing chair he would be out for the count leaving me to head out for an adventure amongst the high rises of Hong Kong Island and Victoria Harbour. My assumption was that I safely had around 5-6 hours before dad woke and went on walkabout, hopefully allowing plenty of time to hit some of the cities hot spots.
Although away from the downtown area Hong Kong’s international airport is located on the island of Chek Lap Kok, conveniently reached via a regular 30 minute train ride on the Airport Express. The cost for a day return to Hong Kong Island was HK$100, less than $13 USD, and HK$90 to Kowloon.
I arrived in the center of the downtown shopping and business district with no map, no idea which direction to head, hungry, tired, complete with jeans and hiking shoes on a very humid morning! My initial plan was to eat, take the tram up to Victoria Peak for the amazing city views, eat some more, then head out on a harbor cruise across to the touristy Tsim Sha Tsui area of southern Kowloon. Instead I meandered around aimlessly, wasting at least an hour before eventually stumbling across the various piers that protrude out into Victoria Harbour, most with unseaworthy looking ferries zipping in and out to different stops across the water.
With the Star Ferry being the only touristy thing I’d heard of in Hong Kong that’s the terminal I was headed for, eventually finding it at Central Pier 7. I could have hopped on and arrived in Kowloon in no time but decided that there was zero desire to become lost on another of Hong Kong’s heavily populated islands. The hour cruise around Victoria Harbour sounded a little more appealing, costing HK$95, or a little over $12 USD, including drops at a few of the harbour piers and commentary. The first departure of the day was at 12.15pm, then on the hour until the evenings A Symphony of Lights departure.
In the meantime there was enough time to try and find the tram up to the Hong Kong highpoint of Victoria Peak, including the Sky Terrace and its 360-degree panoramic view across the islands. There was part of me that couldn’t care less whether or not I made it to the summit, mostly due to the haze ruining the lighting, followed by discovering that the line of tourists stretched around the tram station – evening time is probably worse but definitely a far better time to capture the illuminated concrete jungle down below.
More wasted time, a quick Subway for lunch and I was back at Pier 7 for an uneventful hour long jaunt around the waters separating Hong Kong Island from Kowloon. Another thing worth doing in the evening!
Next time a layover is scheduled in Hong Kong I’ll definitely be making sure that it involves at least a full 24 hours with a night in a hotel. It was great to escape the airport for five or so hours but I totally failed to accomplish anything, and that includes eating delicious looking food from the countless street vendors.
At least dad was sitting exactly where I had left him!
October 31st 2016