Saturday, January 21

The Wonderful World of Hong Kong

Regular readers of this blog will know that I've visited Hong Kong many times over the last 15 years. Its been a regular destination for business trips and a convenient stopover for numerous long haul flights between Europe and Australia.  Over the years its become harder and harder to find anything new to enjoy in the city whenever I find myself stuck in a hotel room for days on end.

I recently flew to Hong Kong for three nights to attend the annual Hong Kong Toy Fair. It was literally a flying visit to catch up with several key suppliers and search for new products.  I flew to Hong Kong via Melbourne on Saturday morning.  This rather unusual route let me to take advantage of a discount Premium Economy airfare and save the company several hundred dollars.

I use to fly to Hong Kong via Melbourne regularly for business. For many years this route offered the only night flight into Hong Kong with Qantas. However, it was never a very pleasant trip. The Qantas lounge in Melbourne is the worst of any capital city in Australia. This meant that the late night transfer was never much fun regardless of whether you sat it out in lounge or at the departure gate.

I had originally planned to have dinner on the Sunday evening with one of our suppliers.  However, the meeting was rescheduled shortly after I booked my ticket. As a result, I found myself in Hong Kong with a day to spare.  After a few hours of pounding the laptop in the name of customer service I finally ventured out to explore two local venues I'd never visited.

My itinerary for the day included Lamma Island followed by an evening at Hong Kong Disneyland. These are probably two of Hong Kong's most well known tourist traps so its probably not surprising its taken me so long to finally visit them.  Lamma Island is famous for its seafood restaurants.  The island has two clusters of dining establishments; located on opposite sides of the island.

The smaller of these two locations is Sok Kwu Wan. Boats from Hong Kong island dock here less frequently which means its often a quieter, less crowded place to dine.  I decided to give it a try rather than head for the crowds at Shue Wan. However, upon arrival I must admit I wasn't overly impressed by any of the dining venues. On a whim I decided to walk across the island and try my luck in Shue Wan.  

The cross island walk takes about 1.5 hours and covers a distance of about 8km. Unlike most "bush walks" the track is actually a concrete paved trail for most of its length. Much of the track is shaded which makes it a less arduous trek in Hong Kong's often steamy climate.  It also offers plenty of scenic vantage points which by Hong Kong standards are relatively free of humanity's visual clutter.

As I reached Shue Wan I found myself equally unimpressed by the dining options available.  I'm sure if you're a local you know which restaurants offer the best seafood.  However, for the uninitiated its main street filled with ramshackle venues simply felt like the perfect breeding ground for a nasty dose of botulism.  I decided to skip a late lunch and try my luck with an early dinner at Disneyland.

They say Hong Kong Disneyland is the Disney Corporation's smallest theme park.  However, my visit seemed to be perfectly timed as the crowds were relatively light.  Waiting times for rides were generally less than ten minutes and I never felt jostled by the surrounding crowd.  I had a wonderful evening reliving some of my favourite Disneyland rides. The only disappointment?  It's A Small World was closed for a private function. I simply love this uber kitsch ride with its stereotype cultural figurines and clunky robotic icons. 

I stayed in the park until the night time parade down Main Street, followed by the popular firework's display over Sleeping Beauty's castle. It was an iconic experience that left me with a childish grin from ear to ear. I still remember watching the opening credits for the Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday evenings. Tinkerbell use to fly around the castle setting off fireworks with a wave of her magic wand. Disneyland's display does a pretty decent job of bringing this cartoon overlay to life.

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