We arrived in Kowloon as scheduled early on Saturday morning. To say it was foggy would be an understatement! There is nothing wrong with my camera. It is like pea soup - you can hardly see a thing. This is what it looked like from our balcony around 6:00 am.
|Very hard to see across the harbor in the early morning|
Fortunately an hour after this photo was taken it looked much better!
|We can now see Central from our balcony|
Due to my cold and being kind of out of it, we are going to take it easy today and try not to make our sightseeing a marathon sport. Our agenda is to visit a garden, do some shopping and see some of the iconic sites around the city. We will have dinner off the ship too.
Hong Kong, China
This is my first visit to Hong Kong. My mother was here 30 years ago at the tail end of her mainland China and Yangtze River tour. Hong Kong is designated a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China and has a population of 7 million people. It is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. After the first Opium War of 1839 - 1942 Hong Kong became a colony of the British Empire. In 1997 China resumed sovereignty after the lease expired.
Hong Kong is currently governed under the principle of "one country, two systems". Hong Kong has a high degree of autonomy in all areas except foreign relations and military defense. However there was a recent brouhaha over school textbooks. Soon Hong Kong children will be required to use textbooks from mainland China and read about events that may be contradictory.
As a leading financial center, Hong Kong enjoys great wealth and its citizens have their choice among a plethora of the best of high-end shops. The local economy is dominated by the service sector and accounts for over 90% of GDP.
Known as a vertical city, 36 of the World's tallest residential buildings are in Hong Kong. It is said that more people live above the 14th floor here than anywhere else on Earth. Framed by the surrounding mountains and Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong's Skyline is arguably regarded as one of the most beautiful.
|Hong Kong in Chinese|
The literal translation of Hong Kong is "fragrant harbor".
We went to breakfast on the ship around 8:00 am. I had hoped to be getting an earlier start but as I am under the weather I am also not moving too quickly. I just had tea and a little croissant.
We walked down the gangway and into the Harborfront Mall which is connected to the Ocean Terminal. You actually have to enter the shopping mall and walk through it to get outside. This area of the mall has very nice children's clothing and accessory stores.
|Ocean Terminal Harbour City Shopping Mall|
The mall was not open yet and there was also no one from Celebrity to direct us to the exit.
|Silver Cross store in the mall|
We emerged outside and made our way to the nearest MTR station to take the train to Diamond Hill. Not being a "city girl" I decided to start our day with the peace and tranquility of the Nan Lian Garden and the Chi Lin Nunnery. We had some difficulty finding the entrance to the MTR station. Once inside we bought tickets from one of the machines. I considered purchasing an Octopus card to save money but we could not find where they were sold. The train tickets are cheap enough so we didn't waste any more time looking. There was also a Hang Seng ATM in the station and I withdrew some local currency.
We boarded the train at Tsim Sha Tsui heading toward Mong Kok and then we will change trains.
We changed trains at Mong Kok which was so simple. We just walked across to the other side of the track. It is very easy to tell what station is next and if you are heading in the right direction with the lighted diagram on the train.
The MTR (Mass Transit Railway) has 10 lines and is the easiest and cheapest means of transportation around Hong Kong. My mother is not a huge believer in public transport but the fact that it is so convenient and inexpensive required little encouragement.
|Very clean Subway train and not busy on a Saturday morning|
It only took about 15 minutes for the entire subway trip. There were signs when we exited the station and we just turned left and walked past Hollywood Plaza and then about 3 minutes to get to the garden entrance.
Nan Lian Garden & Chi Lin Nunnery
The Nan Lian Garden is located at 60 Fung Tak Road in Diamond Hill, Kowloon.
The Nan Lian Garden is built in the classical style of the Tang Dynasty. There are hills, rocks, plants, water features and timber structures built in the area of 35,000 square meters. The garden was built by the Chi Lin Nunnery and opened to the public in 2006.
The ancient philosopher Laozi said "that man learns from the Earth and that the Earth learns from the heavens, the heavens from the Way and the Way from Nature". Man in harmony with nature is a central concept of Chinese philosophy and this is incorporated into Chinese garden design. The Buddhists religion also seeks enlightenment through nature. These ideas have influenced traditional Chinese landscape gardening.
We spent about 40 minutes walking in the garden before arriving at the Nunnery. The Buddhist pines frame the area with the high rise buildings in the distance. On entering the garden we passed through the Black Lintel Gate.
|Nan Lian Garden|
It is a beautiful garden and also so peaceful. The Pavilion of Absolute Perfection stands in the middle of a pond. The structure is described as a symbol of absolute perfection and fulfillment in all aspects of life.
|Pavilion of Absolute Perfection stands in the middle of octagonal lotus pond|
|Walking along the Pine Path South|
|Pavilion of Absolute Perfection|
The plants looked very nice and some looked familiar to what I had seen in Japan. This is the the Pavilion of Chinese Pagoda below. It sits in the Blue Pond and is flanked by cedar and elm trees.
|Pavilion of Chinese Pagoda|
Below is another view of the Blue Pond and the pavilions. The garden closes early on Saturday so we were lucky we came early. Admission is free.
|Beautiful Pine Trees|
Classical Chinese gardens incorporate rocks as the basis of the structure. They represent mountains and it also said the rocks also inspire thoughts on antiquity and time. The flow of the water in the pond inspires a sense of change and space.
|Garden workers walking by a rockery|
This photo looks down at the gold pavilion, the wood trees, timber structure, the water of the pond and the vermilion of the Zi Wu Bridges and the impressive rocks. These are the five elements of traditional Chinese culture.
|Six pairs of miniature bronze lions sit atop the balustrades looking inwards and guarding outward|
This area below is known as Spring Hill. There is a rustic cottage and a watermill. The mill is reminiscent of a traditional Chinese farmhouse.
|Area known as Spring Hill|
At the eastern edge of the Blue Pond is the Pavilion Bridge. The double roofed pavilion serves as a bridge and also provides a shady area to enjoy the view. A phoenix adorns to top of the roof.
This watermill wheel was historically used to produce grains.
This area of the garden is framed by Sago and Buddhist pines.
After exiting the garden we arrived at the Chi Lin Nunnery
Chi Lin Nunnery
The Chi Lin Nunnery is a large temple complex which was established in 1934 and renovated in Tang dynasty style in 1990. It consists of elegant wooden buildings and treasured Buddhist relics. The complex also includes a series of beautiful temples, some with gold, clay or wooden statues representing Sakyamuni Buddha and Bodhisattva's. As photos were not permitted inside the temple halls you will have to take my word for it that they were quite beautiful.
|Chi Lin Nunnery|
After walking through the first structure we came to main temple buildings.
|Chi Lin Nunnery complex|
The buildings are constructed in the traditional style without the use of a single nail.
|Stunning Lotus Pond|
The lotus ponds were very beautiful and enhanced the peaceful surroundings.
We very much enjoyed our serene visit and we were lucky that it was not crowded.
I was able to take a few photos as long as I did not look at the Buddhas in the temples.
It was a very impressive complex even though it was not old.
|Chi Lin Nunnery|
Before departing we stopped to use the public restroom. It was squat style but also immaculate. One of the nicest squat toilets I have seen.
The complex has a vegetarian restaurant and next to that a large gift shop. The shop was very nice. I purchased some silk fold up boxes as gifts. They came in 3 different sizes. The also sold some nice looking tea sets.
|Silk folding box|
We departed the area for the MTR and our next stop.
|Leaving the garden|
|Shopping in Kowloon|
I read about some stores in the shopping arcade so we went to have a look. The shopping arcade is in the basement of the hotel but you can access it from the outside too. It is on two levels and is much larger and nicer than I imagined. My mother liked a store called Kinji that was Japanese and sold very beautiful silk and cashmere scarves and clothing. She took a card but did not make a purchase. They also have a store at the Hong Kong airport.
I fell immediately in love with the Peninsula chocolate store! It sparkled and looked more like a jewelry store. It was so nicely setup.
|Peninsula Chocolate Shop|
I love chocolate so this was a little bit of heaven to me! I think the chocolates here are more expensive than the ones we had in Brussels.
|Elegant Chocolate Display|
I would have loved to purchase a big box but we each made the more sensible decision and selected 3 each of the individual chocolates in the large glass case in the front. I had 3 different kinds: lavender, passion fruit and kumquat. They were all delicious!
Wish I could have purchased this box!
|Box of 36 chocolate pieces is 1,250 HKD. That is equivalent to $250.00 USD!|
Instead I also purchased a small box of chocolates and a little Peninsula bear. It must be my cold because I really didn't need the bear. It was cute but I should have just bought more chocolate!
My box of chocolates is a lot smaller!
|Small box of chocolates and Peninsula Bear|
My expectation was that the hotel would be very stuffy and also quite busy with lots of security. It actually was a lot more relaxed and inviting than one would have thought. The lobby was busy with people having tea but I did not feel like we were intruding or being interlopers. I think the hotel has their fair share of visitors so they are used to it.
|Beautiful lobby with musicians|
The ceiling was very intricate and interesting.
|"Psy" getting his photo with the bear|
Hard to believe all these people want their photos taken.
|Gangman Style at Heritage 1881|
There were a couple of stores I wanted to see in Kowloon. We first went to Chow Tai Fook which was established in Mainland China in 1929. They currently have over 1700 locations. We first looked in the window. Then we ventured inside.
They also sell Jade. There was a sign that they were having a sale so we decided to have a look.
|Jade or Jadeite?|
|Mother admiring the Chow Tai Fook merchandise|
Our next stop was just down the street and right near the Star Ferry at the corner of Salisbury Road.
Chinese Arts & Crafts
Chinese Arts & Crafts was established in 1959 and specializes in jadeite and other high quality handicrafts. The jadeite carvings in the window were very impressive! The name of the store is so basic and does not do justice to the amazing items found inside. Some of the jewelry was especially stunning.
The merchandise is not cheap. Photos are not allowed but I used my phone for a few. This necklace was very beautiful.
They had a good selection of jadeite jewelry...with prices!
|Jadeite on display|
Surprisingly we walked away from Kowloon bag free except for my little items from the Nan Lian Garden and the Peninsula chocolates + bear. The Star Ferry was just in front of us.
|Near the Star Ferry|
|Not too many people willing to quite the Chinese Communist Party|
|Entering the Star Ferry|
|Star Ferry Ticket Machine|
|On the Star Ferry crossing to Central|
|Leaving Kowloon on the Star Ferry. View of Kowloon and the Millennium.|
I was able to get some nice photos of Central as we crossed Victoria Harbor.
|Arriving on Hong Kong Island|
|2 IFC Building|
|2 IFC and the I.M. Pei Bank of China building in the background|
|Wonder what they are building?|
The IFC (International Finance Centre) consists of two towers, One IFC (39 stories) and Two IFC (88 stories). The 4 story mall at Two IFC also contains a Four Seasons Hotel. Two IFC is the second tallest building in Hong Kong and the 8th tallest in the world.
|Atrium of the mall has reindeer|
|Heading to Lane Crawford in the IFC Mall|
Lane Crawford was huge and did not disappoint. The shoe department was quite impressive. We looked around for about 20 minutes but unfortunately our stomachs were grumbling by now so we planned to return after we had something to eat.
|Inside Lane Crawford|
|Isola at IFC Mall|
|Sad tasteless pizza|
|Construction site in front of IFC and looking at Kowloon|
Hollywood Road is home to numerous trinket and antiques shops. It was the second road to be built when the colony was originally founded. More than 100 years ago Hollywood Road was very close to the coastline. In those days, merchants and sailors would unload the antiques and artifacts they collected from China for sale here on their way back to Europe.
Although known primarily for its antique shops, there are now many contemporary galleries opened on Hollywood Road.
The taxi ride took only about 10 minutes. I asked to be dropped at the top at 1 Hollywood Road and then we would work our way back. This area is near the mid level escalators.
|You can see us in the window getting ready for a photo|
|Paisano's Pizza from NY|
We were still a little hungry and as good as the pizza looked decided to keep walking. The contemporary wave seems to also be popular in Hong Kong.
|Contemporary gallery among the antiques|
|Very cute dog|
We looked in some stores as well as enjoying the window shopping. Everything looked authentic but it was also hard to tell.
The items were all displayed so nicely. We appreciated their merchandising.
At the middle of Hollywood Road is the Man Mo Temple.
|Outside of the Man Mo Temple|
The Man Mo Temple is one of the oldest and busiest temples in the city. It is dedicated to the God of War and the God of Literature. We just walked by as we have seen quite a few temples on this trip.
|Lots of antique shops on busy Hollywood Road|
|I liked everything in this window!|
|Lots of carved Jadeite|
|Items small enough to fit in my luggage!|
During our walk we also passed by the Press Room restaurant. I had glanced at it in one of my guidebooks. They serve an all day brunch on the weekend. I wish we would have gone there instead of Isola. I am usually much better at planning so I am blaming my cold for my poor judgement and decision making.
We had a great time looking in the beautiful stores on Hollywood Road. We also were seeing more of the "real Hong Kong" so to speak.
After about 90 minutes of browsing we took a taxi back to the Star Ferry to return to Kowloon and the ship.
|Star Ferry Entrance|
|Leaving Central on the Star Ferry|
|Leaving Central and returning to Kowloon on the Star Ferry|
We arrived back in Kowloon and the ferry is right next door to the Ocean Terminal so it was quite convenient. The curved building on the right with the Zegna sign is where we will be having dinner tonight.
|Arriving back in Kowloon|
|Walking back to the Ocean Terminal|
By trial and error we finally found our way back but it took a good 20 minutes.
My mother was really tired from our day and disgruntled from trying to find the ship. Except for wandering aimlessly in the mall, I didn't think it was all that strenuous. I had made dinner reservations in advance online at a restaurant called Aqua Tokyo / Aqua Roma. It is located at 1 Peking Road and just a five minute walk from the cruise terminal. However, getting out of the terminal is not so easy so we needed to add 10 more minutes to that.
Due to the difficulty of getting through the mall and to the ship, mother was saying she did not want to go out to dinner. I had to show her a map and convince her that it was worth it. When I told her she could eat in Blu if she wanted to but I was going out she finally acquiesced.
We bundled up for our little walk as it was getting cold. It was very easy to get to the restaurant even though it was hard to see the building from the sidewalk. It was just up Canton road and then an immediate right. There were so many people out shopping.
|Lots of shoppers out at night|
|Line in front of Cartier|
The young people in Hong Kong definitely have money to burn.
My mother was trudging along beside me and puffed a sign of relief when we entered the building for 1 Peking Road. You take an escalator up and then an elevator to the 29th Floor.
|Escalator and then the elevator to the 29th floor|
|Arriving at Aqua Tokyo|
|Dramatic high ceiling, low lights and lots of glass|
The restaurant noise level was very nice. I was a little worried it would be noisy but that was not the case.
|Our table by the window|
|View of Heritage 1881 directly below|
|Kowloon below looking over to Central|
|Mother's seabass looked absolutely delicious!|
My main course was the beef. It was cooked perfectly and was very tender. The sauce that accompanied it also enhanced the flavor.
I am not usually a big beef eater but the description with the daikon sounded too good to pass up. It was fabulous!
Hong Kong has a light show on many nights. It was not a requirement for us to be sitting where we could view the light show but we had a great view anyway. We enjoyed the beautiful skyline view of Central. The light show was kind of silly though.
|Light show on Victoria Harbor|
The show went on for a good 15 - 20 minutes.
I took a few more photos before we departed. If I turned sideways I could see our ship to the right and Hong Kong Island in the distance. You can tell we did not have to walk far to get to the restaurant!
|Lobby of Aqua Tokyo|
I remembered to make a note of the Thai restaurant in the Harborcity shopping mall at the Ocean Terminal so we could find our way home. Once near the Toys R Us it was just a quick walk to the Thai restaurant and then the gangway. Why it is not marked with a sign for the cruise ship or why there are no Celebrity people helping was disappointing but by now, not surprising.
|Landmark near the Celebrity gangway|
|At night from our balcony|
We had a great day in Hong Kong despite some setbacks. Tomorrow we will disembark and then spend the day in Macau.