Our flight from Bali left at 11 pm and arrived in Kuala Lumpur at 2 am, we had to change airports but with a 5-hour layover we still had plenty of time to be exhausted before our next flight at 7 am! I did try to pep up with Starbucks and was hoping for a Pumpkin Spice Latte but all they had was ‘Autumn’ flavor – I’m starting to miss home! We finally arrived in Hong Kong at 11 am and thankfully immigration, customs, and baggage pickup was a breeze! The airport is a couple of islands away and we actually decided to stay in Kowloon, which is across the bay from Hong Kong proper. Since we spent the evening traveling we crashed as soon as we found our Airbnb but not before we saw an awesome sign in the stairwell saying not to pee in the stairwell because there are cameras – the next morning we saw why the sign was necessary.
The last time I was in Hong Kong was about 10 years ago and it has already changed a bit. In fact Kowloon was much more like China than the Hong Kong I remember. Hong Kong is owned by China. However, it was a British territory until about 20 years ago and to this day it has a different currency, language, and immigration policy. The following morning we decided to trek back towards the airport to Lantau Island where we boarded the Ngong Ping 360, an over 3-mile cable car! We decided to splurge and bought the Crystal Carriage and it was well worth it to see all the amazing views of the bay and forest on our way out to the Ngong Ping Village.
The Ngong Ping Village is pretty commercial and touristy – it even has a Starbucks! However as you leave the village you start to transition to more of a monastery feel. In fact we saw cattle hanging out around the walkway and even one in a small store!
We decided to head into the Po Lin Monastery first to the Grand Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas. We were able to see lots of different Buddha Statues but definitely not Ten Thousand since visitors are not able to visit all of the monastery.
For lunch we wanted a unique experience so we went to the monastery restaurant for lunch. It is a set menu and of course because Buddhists’ runs it it is vegetarian. After paying we were escorted to a table and waited for our feast to arrive, which included egg rolls, soup, and some other great dishes!
After lunch we headed up to the Tian Tan Buddha or the Big Buddha, a very large statue that overlooks mainland China and was completed almost 25 years ago. It is up over 250 stairs and in the afternoon heat it was quite a feat! However the view from the top was astounding and there were other great Buddha statues.
We decided to trek out to the Wisdom Path, a trail with 38 wooden monuments, that have verse from the Heart Sutra – one of the best known prayers enjoyed by Confucians. Then we headed back to the Ngong Ping Village and back on the cable car for another exciting trek down the mountain!
Once back in Kowloon I wanted to experience a Hot Pot dinner since that wasn’t something I was able to do the last two times I went to China. We went to a really highly rated hot pot place a short walk away called Drunken Pot. We ordered a set menu and were brought several different appetizers, 4 different broths, different slices of beef, some different dumplings, tons of vegetables, and lots of various seafood! It was an amazing experience and they even made cuttlefish look like adorable black bears!
After dinner we headed to the Intercontinental to watch the Hong Kong Bay Light Show – it wasn’t as great as the last time I saw it (there are a lot fewer buildings involved now) but it was still a great view and the cocktails were spectacular!
The next morning we ventured to a street known for selling mostly fish but they also sold animals and reptiles. There were a lot of small fish and other lifeforms in small bags hanging everywhere. We were impressed by all of the tiny turtles as well. We did feel bad for some of the confined spaces some of these creatures were limited to.
After that we decided on a high speed ferry day trip out of Hong Kong to Macau, another territory that is now owned by China but previously owned by the European country Portugal – again we had to go through immigration. We headed to Senado Square, a large Portuguese square and honestly due to the building architecture we weren’t sure if we were in Europe or Asia! We headed through the streets that reminded us of Portugal – especially with all of the Pastel de Nata bakeries!
Eventually the streets led us to the Ruins of Saint Paul’s Cathedral a pretty astounding site to see. The ruins are next to Monte Forte, which used to be a Portuguese fort but is now mostly a museum about Macau except for the roof, which is still an old fort and has an awesome view of Macau!
While Drew took photos I enjoyed a Pastel de Nata and then we headed to the Venetian Hotel and Casino and it literally looks the exact same as it does in Las Vegas! While the décor is the same there are a few key differences: there are barriers and security guards before the casino floor (dress codes are enforced), there are a lot fewer bars and people, and this leads to a lot fewer drunk people!
We decided to have a full casino experience and bet 200 Hong Kong Dollars on roulette – black AND lost….so then we decided to head home but it was still a great experience!
On our final day we headed to Hong Kong proper and took the famous Peak Tram up to Victoria’s Peak! Although I had done it before it was still a thrilling experience since it seems like the tram takes you vertically up the peak. Once you get to the peak you still have to take several escalators up to see the amazing views of Hong Kong.
Before heading back down we decided to have pizza for lunch at Wildfire and enjoyed some great views. When we finally got to the airport we realized we had airline lounge access and it was great to relax, upload photos (that’s Drew speaking), and enjoy some delicious snacks!