Hong Kong high life
The city is an Oriental melting pot of adventure, culture and amazing cuisine that never fails to entice, says Lubna Salim
A 25-minute ride in a glass-bottomed cable car takes tourists to Ngong Ping village that's famous for its 112ft bronze Big Buddha statue
Oh yes, I was eagerly looking forward to glitzy skyscrapers, Buddhist monasteries that sit cheek-by-jowl with luxury malls and above all that amazing Hong Kong landing (surely the aircraft would land plonk in the waters of the South China Sea)! But I wasn't prepared for bumping into Bruce Lee quite so immediately.
When in Hong Kong, I reckoned, you have to hit the road running. And within minutes of checking-in and zipping through lunch we set off on the 1.8km-long Cross-Harbour Tunnel (CHT) — the first underwater tunnel in Hong Kong that links Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Just for the record, Hong Kong is made up of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, New Territories and more than 200 outlying islands.
Our first stop was the Avenue of Stars, Tsim Sha Tsui, in Kowloon, where we joined the jostling Bruce Lee fans (in hundreds) posing for pictures by his statue and his hand-print frozen on a cement plaque on the ground. The spot is ideal for an amazing view of the city's skyline too.
The performance by the dolphins is the highlight of a visit to Ocean Park's Ocean Theatre
Everybody heads for sky100 Hong Kong Observation Deck, and so did we. Located on the 100th floor of the 118-storey ICC OR International Commerce Centre in Kowloon, it offers a 360 panoramic view of Hong Kong. What we found super cool was its double-deck elevators that got us to the 100th floor in 60 seconds flat.
Hong Kong is abuzz and one of the best ways to take in the city is by hopping on to a Big Bus tour. So, on Day 2 we headed for the Central Star Ferry Pier No.7 where we boarded an open-topped bus to drive around Hong Kong Island. An hour later we hopped off at Stanley Waterfront Mart that's popular with tourists for its vibrant market that sells everything you might want to take back from Hong Kong.
Since the Hong Kong Book Fair 2013 was on we decided to visit the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre where a gaggle of 560 exhibitors from over 30 countries had gathered. We joined a seminar on Reading Amongst Young People where (surprise, surprise) the speaker was the young Indian author, Durjoy Datta, whose latest book Hold My Hand is set in Hong Kong.
Map by Nilratan Maity
No visit to Hong Kong can be complete without visiting Ocean Park, an amusement park that doubles up as an 'oceanarium' and animal theme park. Its two top attractions — Waterfront and Summit — are connected to each other by both cable car as well as Ocean Express, the world's first and only funicular system within a theme park. The funicular railway, by the way, is a cable railway, that's operated by a cable that's attached to tram-like vehicles on rails that helps them move up and down steep inclines. The 1.3km tunnel funicular system at the Ocean Park travels between the two themed sites in just three minutes.
At Waterfront, we toured Aqua City with its Grand Aquarium that's home to some 5,000 fish. We were told that the park's viewing dome was the world's largest! Back in Ocean Express we zipped off to the Summit where our first stop was the Polar Adventure, an icy recreation of the polar region. I must confess that it was wildly exciting to come within touching distance of polar creatures — king penguins, southern rockhopper and gentoo penguins apart from Pacific walruses, spotted seals, northern sea lions — right there in sub-tropical Hong Kong.
The jewel in the Ocean Park crown however, I decided, was Ocean Theatre, a world class dolphin show. The dolphins have been wowing a non-stop stream of tourists in an hour-long show called Sea Dreams!.
Bruce Lee's statue on the Avenue of Stars is a daily pilgrimage site for thousands of fans
After this adventure it was time to say hello to Herms, LV, Versace and more at Harbour City — the biggest shopping mall in Tsim Sha Tsui. Hong Kong — positioned on the south coast of China — attracts people from mainland China mainly for shopping, due to its low tax policy.
In a city of complete contrasts, within a few hours we found ourselves in the Ngong Ping area on Lantau — Hong Kong's largest island situated on the mouth of the Pearl River. Ngong Ping 360 is a unique showcase that flings in a 25-minute cable car journey in glass-bottomed cabins and a tour of Ngong Ping village. A stone's throw from here and up 268 steps is the famed Hong Kong landmark — the 112-ft tall bronze statue of Tian Tan Buddha also called Big Buddha. A delicious vegetarian Cantonese lunch at the nearby Po Lin Monastery, was a befitting end to the afternoon.
Enjoy a 360º panoramic view of Hong Kong from sky100 Hong Kong Observation Deck that's located on the 100th floor of the 118-storey International Commerce Centre
At the end of it, Hong Kong for me — as for anyone who visits — was a melting pot of adventure, culture and amazing cuisine that's sure to persuade me to return soon.
Getting there: There are direct Dragonair flights from Calcutta to Hong Kong.
Where to stay: Hotel Indigo in the charming Wan Chai area makes for a nice boutique accommodation. For details visit http://www.ihg.com/hotelindigo/hotels/us/en/hong-kong/hkgin/hoteldetail