May 21 to 25
We left Singapore on May 21st Wednesday, and took out flight to Hong Kong in Singapore air lines. We booked all our flights on 380 s to make sure we have comfortable flights on all planes. Singapore Air lines does not charge extra for Economy class seats on the upper floor. We managed to book seats on the upper floor. The plane was half empty and there were many free seats near windows. The seats near the locked door, do not have any seats in front of them and have more leg room. If you go to on-line booking and try to reserve them, you have to pay $50 extra for each seat. We found some of these window seats unoccupied and moved to the closest window seats after the plane took off. The food and the service on the plane was quite good. We had a very comfortable plane ride and we arrived in Hong Kong around 5:30PM.
We had two options for transport. One easy way was to take a taxi. The other option was to take an MTR train. Mala talked to a lady at the Tourist Information desk to get more information. Her advice was to take the MTR. We could take a taxi, but due to the rush hour traffic, we would take nearly two hours to reach the hotel. On he train, it is only 25 minutes to reach the Kowloon station. From the station, there are free shuttles to all the hotels. We changed some money to Hong Kong dollars and then went to the train ticket counter. We were told that a return ticket to the hotel is HK$300 per person. You can use that ticket for three days for unlimited travel on the MTR and later use for the return trip to the airport within 30 days. We went for that option though we were not sure whether we would use it for our return trip.
We managed to find our way to the hotel without any problems. It was very easy to use the MTR for your transport. Later we used these tickets to travel around and visit most of the places. The Icon Hotel is supposed to be the second best hotel in Hong Kong according to Trip Advisor reviews. We have paid a premium price to book a room with breakfast and harbour view. We got a very good room on the 26th club floor with a good harbor view. The additional features of this room are the unlimited use of phone for local and international calls, free usage of the Internet, free usage of the minibar which is replenished every day.
The daily buffet breakfast on the second floor was excellent. After checking in, we came out of the hotel to make ourselves become familiar with the area. We walked around looking for a good restaurant to have dinner. The hotel is in a tourist area and we found many bus loads of tourists getting down from the buses and walking around. These tourists are not European, but mainly from main land China. Long ago, in 1983, I spent nearly three months in Hong Kong . External appearance wise, Hong Kong has not changed much, but I could see the cultural transformation it has undergone after becoming part of China.
Those days, every one we met could speak English. Now only a handful of people speak English. If you talk to a local person on the road to ask a question or find directions, they will just make a gesture to show they do not understand you. We found all the hotel staff can speak good English and we talked to them to get information about places to visit.
On our second day in Hong Kong, we decided to visit some shopping malls and become familiar with the area. There is a free shuttle at the hotel which takes you to some of the shopping areas and major MTR stations. We talked to the hotel reception and on their advice, took the shuttle to the Harbour City which is supposed to be one of the biggest shopping malls in Hong Kong. This place is a very upmarket shopping area, mainly for tourists. You can find all the major designer cloth shops and shops where they sell camera, watches, expensive perfumes, jewelry etc. We bought a few items of interest, but found nothing that captured our imagination.
In the late afternoon we took the free shuttle and got down near Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station. We then took the MTR to Mong Kok. We checked on the internet and found out about Ladies market and the Langham Place mall in Mong Kok . Ladies Market is more like a Flea market, full of cheap bargains. Again, we found a few items of interest to buy.
The next day happened to be a rainy day. We were planning to visit a few places, but realized it was difficult to engage in any outdoor activities. The History Museum and the Science Museum of Hong Kong are right next door to our hotel and we decided to visit the History Museum.
It helped us to understand how Hong Kong became a British colony and later merged again with the main land China. In one place, there were figures of prehistoric people who lived in Hong Kong.
The Wishing tree was another feature that was in the museum. You make a wish at the wishing tree and the believed it to come true. Mala wrote her wish and attached it to the tree.
On the fourth day, we went to visit Stanley Village. There is no train to go there. We had to take the Bus number 973 to get to Stanley Village. This is a well known beach resort in Hong Kong and there is a market which is full of small retail stores. Mainly tourists come here to buy things and it is a good place to spend some time and then have lunch at one of the restaurants.
Long ago when Hong Kong was manufacturing garments for export, this place used to be a factory outlet. I came here with my colleagues and bought some denim garments such as Levi. Now the factory outlets have changed into small shops selling cheap clothes and souvenirs.
Mala found some clothes which were comparatively cheap and later we had lunch at one of the restaurants. We came back to the hotel using a different route and then had dinner in one of the restaurants near the hotel.
Our next part of the trip is to visit Macau. We had to do some planning on how we get to Macau using the ferry and then come back to Hong Kong to take the flight back. We will be spending three days in Macau. We found we could take the ferry from Kowloon or Hong Kong. Taking all the luggage with us is going to be a problem.