Having grown up in England and living in Australia, I spend a significant amount of time annually flying to the other side of the world and back visiting my loved ones “back home”. It’s a long trip on two planes and the flying time can get pretty tedious so, wherever possible, I love to have a few days layover in the city where my flights connect. Depending on the airline, the main stopover options are Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Travelling alone on one particular trip, I found myself lost in the streets of Hong Kong during a one-night flying stopover.
My philosophy is when you’re only in town for a couple of nights and you’re flying solo, you should absolutely treat yourself to the best accommodation you can afford. You know, #yolo and all that? I was lucky enough to stay at the 5-star Sheraton Hong Kong Hotel & Towers, supremely located along Victoria Harbour in the heart of Kowloon’s business, shopping, and entertainment district. I arrived pretty late in the evening and so made my way up to the in-house Sky Lounge bar to sit back with a delectable cocktail in hand and take in the spectacular views across the Harbour. I found myself thinking of Bill Murray in the film “Lost in Translation” as I absorbed the colossal sky rises, the laser lights on the Harbour and thought about the sheer size of the population here.
Breakfast was brought to my vintage-glam suite on a linen-covered trolley cart. It was a pretty standard hotel breakfast, though it did the job and set me up for a day of sightseeing! After a casual morning stroll around the Harbour’s edge, and absorbing the sites and sounds of the bustling streets in the Kowloon district, I caught the Peak Tram from Central district up to Victoria Peak – a steep ascent of just under 400 metres (1,312 ft). I wondered around the Peak Tower shopping centre and leisure complex at Victoria Gap and wined and dined for one in the al-fresco courtyard of the, very quaint and up-market, Peak Lookout restaurant.
After trying out the subway and deciding it wasn’t worth the hassle for a 1-day whistle stop tour, I caught a taxi to take me on my mission to see one of the many temples in Hong Kong before I had to go back to the airport for my connection flight to England. My taxi driver was a legend, knew exactly where to take me and even left his cab in the car park and walked me to the temple to ensure that I got in safely.
The temple he took me to was the Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple, which he chose due to the popular belief that the temple can ‘make every wish come true upon request’. The grounds encompassed beautifully ornate buildings, each constructed of a different geometric element in keeping with Feng Shui (metal, wood, water, fire, earth), as well as intricately-kept Chinese gardens – a tranquil haven surrounded by the towering concrete jungle of the city. Home to three religions (Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism), the Wong Tai Sin Temple is where worshippers pray for good fortune through offerings, divine guidance and fortune telling.
The Good Wish Garden, with is vibrant colour, manicured foliage and still ponds full of water lilies and koi carp was a serene place to wander around and get lost in. I’d stop every now and again at a bench or under a pagoda and just absorb the soothing sounds of water fountains and comforting scents of incense around me, and let the city buzz outside the garden’s walls fade into white noise.
I was very sad to leave the gardens, and whilst it was bittersweet that I didn’t have longer in Hong Kong to further explore the city and surrounds, I was more than content just to have had the opportunity to look over the city with my own eyes, absorb it’s smells and sounds, and get a feel for a tiny little snippet of life here.
What did I miss? What are your “Must-Do’s” for a short break or layover in Hong Kong?