Our plan for our Saturday in Hong Kong was to head back to Hong Kong Park and see the awesome free bird aviary. We were then hoping to ride the iconic Star Ferry across to Kowloon and finish the day off with the nightly 8pm laser show that lights up the city skyline.
Despite a huge day at Disneyland the previous day, the kids were still somehow up before 6.30am! It was going to be a long day…….
Day 3 of the Marriott buffet breakfast and we were still working our way through the pancakes, Indian, Asian soups and of course ice cream. I pretty much stuck to the various vegetarian curries (you can never have enough curry for breakfast) followed by the awesome selection of fresh berries, pastries and Häagen-Dazs ice cream ……. because you know, holidays!
As usual it was already hot out, but the day was only going to get hotter, so we figured we might as well head out before the hottest part of the day. The first item on the agenda, was a revisit to Hong Kong Park. We’d had a brief walk around a couple of days earlier, on our way to the Peak Tram, but hadn’t had a chance to have a proper explore or visit the bird aviary.
The Hong Kong Park is a public park next to Cotton Tree Drive in Central, Hong Kong. Built at a cost of HK$398 million, it opened in May 1991.The park covers an area of 80,000 m2 and is designed to be a natural oasis in the middle of city of skyscrapers and shopping malls.
The park is full of beautiful plants and waterways. We had promised the kids a walk through one of the fountains on our previous visit, so had to make good on our promise. Much to the amusement of some locals.
While you are walking around the park it’s easy to forget your are surrounded by massive buildings. Until you see them poking over the tops of the trees.
The park has waterfalls, bridges, orchids and ponds full of beautiful water lilies. The terrapins were also a favourite of the kids!
The next stop was the bird aviary. The Edward Youde Aviary is a 3,000-square-metre aviary built over a natural valley at the southern corner of Hong Kong Park. The highest point of the aviary is 46.5m. The aviary is filled with walkways that take you through the tree tops and let you view the birds as they fly around. The birds fly freely throughout the main aviary space, however there is also an exhibit of birds in separate cages before entry to the main aviary.
The walk-though aviary features a collection of 600 birds representing 80 species indigenous to Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and New Guinea. Many of the birds were quite cheeky and happily flew over to the railings to say hello.
You could also chat with them while they feasted on their fresh fruit, or hung out in their nests.
The aviary was thoroughly enjoyable and worth a visit if you anywhere near the park. In usual Hong Kong style it was well-maintained and very clean. There were signs everywhere noting that all the railings were sanitised 3 times a day. No need to fear those pesky bird-poo germs!
It was already getting oppressively hot, so it was onto our next activity of the day. We decided to walk down to central pier to catch the Star Ferry across to Kowloon. It was only 1.7km from the park down to the pier but there were so many large roads in the way that we probably walked twice that and climbed up and down many stairs to get over the footbridges to safely cross the roads. It was rather frustrating as we could see the Ferries the whole walk, we just took forever to get to them! After several big days, with minimal sleep, Soren was tired and insisted being carried in the ergo all day. That added to us being rather hot.
We finally arrived at central pier and used our octopus cards to purchase tickets for the Star Ferry (which was the equivalent of all of a couple of Aussie Dollars for all of us).
The Star Ferry, or The “Star” Ferry Company, is a passenger ferry service operator and also one of the major tourist attractions in Hong Kong. Its principal routes carry passengers across Victoria Harbour, between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. It was founded in 1888 as the Kowloon Ferry Company, adopting its present name in 1898.
The fleet of twelve ferries currently operates two routes across the harbour, carrying over 70,000 passengers a day, or 26 million a year. Even though the harbour is crossed by railway and road tunnels, the Star Ferry provides an inexpensive (and rather scenic) mode of harbour crossing. The iconic route we were taking runs between Central and Tsim Sha Tsui (in Kowloon).The ferry over to Kowloon was pretty empty, despite it being late Saturday morning, and the handful of people onboard appeared to mostly be tourists. It did mean we got seats near the windows and enjoyed the views of the harbour. On the way over we looked over towards Kowloon, which is arguably the less scenic side, but we still got pretty good views.
Once at Kowloon we had a wander along the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade. From here there are excellent views back across to Central at the line of impressive skyscrapers gracing the edge of the harbour.
The promenade is a popular spot to view the nightly laser show and we were thinking of returning to this spot later that night. We noticed that the promenade was also the spot they were running a special ‘laser pulse’ show after the regular laser show, so we thought that also might be a good option for the night.
The promenade was rather warm in the almost midday sun and Soren was starting to get a little tired, OK so he was totally losing the plot! He did not want to participate in photos. The rest of us did our obligatory posing in front of Victoria harbour shots. Yes, this is the view you see in all the advertising for Hong Kong, and a spectacular view it is!
We decided it was time to board the next Ferry as Soren was desperately in need of a rest, so we shelved our plans of venturing further afield and decided to head back to the hotel for a rest and a swim before a lateish night out for the kids.
The return trip we sat on the side that gave us views back towards Hong Kong Island, and even spied a helicopter doing laps, and finally the iconic Duk Ling.
The Duk Ling, meaning “Clever Duck”, is the very famous Chinese Junk ship operating in Victoria Harbour. That ship with the red sails you always see associated with Hong Kong, well here it finally was, our first official sighting. It wasn’t a great sighting, but we’d do better later that night.
The Star Ferry crossing of the harbour is only around 10 minutes and in no time we were wandering back from the pier and towards the MTR station. Once you leave the shaded covering of the pier you can walk through shopping malls all the way to station and then it was a short hop back to our station and no need to leave the air conditioning as we popped back through another shopping centre to our hotel. After several hours wandering out in the midday heat, air conditioning was a welcome relief.
All still pretty full from breakfast we decided to skip lunch and attempted to convince the kids that a rest would earn them an afternoon trip out for cake. They eventually gave in, which was a good thing given the late night ahead.
After several days in Hong Kong we hadn’t yet been on a double-decker trams, despite seeing them everywhere. Astrid ever the tram and bus fanatic, had been asking for a ride so it was on the agenda for the afternoon.
We hadn’t managed to get Anto any cake for his actual birthday, 2 days prior (the fact that he was too full from buffet breakfast, 3 round of Häagen-Dazs ice cream and a 6 course dinner, might have had something to do with it)! So we thought we’d better rectify the absence of birthday cake with a visit to the famous Mandarin Oriental cake shop.
After many years of British rule, Hong Kong has a strong tradition of afternoon tea and cake. The Mandarin Oriental cake shop was well-known as one of the best places to get cake in Hong Kong. Being cake aficionados we thought it only right to try Mandarin Oriental cake. The Mandarin Oriental hotel is only a few blocks from our hotel, but again there were many busy roads in the way. We solved this problem by a short walk and a very quick ride on one of those double-decker trams.
Astrid was rather excited but equally annoyed that we wouldn’t let her on the top-deck. Mostly because we only needed to be on the tram for about 2 minutes and didn’t have time. Our tram ride also meant that we avoided the brief but heavy rain storm. The first time we had actually had rain during our Hong Kong stay…..
Once off the tram we had become the masters of avoiding being outside and finding our way through air conditioned buildings, so also managed to stay dry while we located the hotel and cake shop.
Of course as we hadn’t booked a table at the cake shop, there was a very long wait to get one, so we were more than happy to get takeaway. Given our state of grubbiness and our slightly tired children, it was best we weren’t disturbing the patrons indulging in Saturday afternoon high tea. Astrid and Soren were mesmerised by all the amazing cakes on display but we decided on a raspberry and chocolate mousse; a chestnut mousse layer cake; and, a raspberry tart. With our very delicious looking cakes extremely well packaged up (we had become accustomed to this while in Paris), we were on our way back to our hotel to consume them.
We decided to MTR back to the hotel as it was still raining and our craftiness got us all the way back from the cake shop, without going outside once. It was also a super-quick trip back so we could get stuck into that cake!
After cake we worked off the calories with a swim in the hotel pool. The rain had now stopped and it was back to being stinking hot, so an afternoon relax and swim was in order.
Post- swimming we visited the bar for our nightly cocktails and the kids chance to eat all the free spicy bar snacks as they were apparently starving (despite all the cake). After Italian the night before we had decided on Mexican for tonight’s dinner. Anto had spied many Mexican restaurants near our hotel and one with good reviews was near the place we were getting our washing done, so it seemed like a good and easy choice for dinner before heading to the light show.
The first few days we had been walking down to this area outside, which frankly is rather hot and involved lots of busy intersections. Anto had now found a way that got us down there with only the last 50 metres outside and the rest of the way was via escalator and air conditioning. Much more pleasant!
The Mexican was basically a take-away place you can order and eat at, but was about the level of formalness we felt like given how tired we were. I decided on a bean quesadilla. Astrid and Soren shared a beef nachos and Anto had a beef burrito bowl. They all smelt and looked pretty good, and despite not feeling that hungry before starting (and Soren being over-tired and not wanting dinner at all), we all managed to demolish our food, which was rather tasty.
As the kids were both tired, we debated the wise-ness of going to the light show, but in the end we figured we were already out late so we might as well keep going and see the light show so we didn’t have to go out late the following night.
We decided to go with the quicker and easier (but less scenic) plan to catch the MTR over to Kowloon rather than a repeat of the Star Ferry trip from this morning. The Ferry is supposed to be pretty impressive at night, but was going to involve more walking and time. With the MTR we managed to get over to Kowloon with zero outside time until we hit Tsim Shui station.
Being a Saturday night it was very crowded, which we had anticipated. We had decided we would prefer not to be there too early, just to get a good spot, and judging by the crowds we would have had to have been there rather early to get spot right on the water. By the time we arrived the crowds were several people deep. We had an excellent view of lots of people’s heads! You could actually see the buildings and lights quite well, it just wasn’t ideal for taking decent photos.
As a result of the throng of people the kids weren’t going to be able to see much, so Astrid requested going on Anto’s shoulders and Soren wanted to be on mine. Photography just became even more difficult with a kid balancing on our shoulders. Luckily Anto is significantly taller than most of the locals (and other tourists) and the articulating LCD screen and live view meant that we could get a few decent shots.
The nightly light show ‘A symphony of lights’ is the world’s largest permanent light and sound show. The show is organised by the Hong Kong Tourism Board and is displayed every night with good weather at 8 pm. The show contains music, decoration lights, laser light displays, and pyrotechnic fireworks. The show lasts for around 14 minutes.
It was fun seeing the buildings all lit up and the lasers moving around. We could see our hotel (we were now on the opposite side of the harbour to it) and while it wasn’t part of the light show, some of the adjacent buildings were. We realised that some of the flashing lights we’d been seeing nightly from our window were actually part of the light show.
The harbour looked lovely all lit up and we had another (more impressive) Duk Ling sighting.
Despite being dark it was still over 30 degrees and rather humid, and with all the people milling around we were all dripping in sweat again. The kids enjoyed the show but once it was over they both asked to go back to the hotel rather than waiting another 20 minutes for the laser pulse show. As the crowd thinned out we did manage to get a better view of the harbour.
It was extremely crowded walking back to the station so it took quite awhile to finally get across the roads. The taxis and buses were getting a little annoyed with having to stop for large groups of people and would eventually just try to drive through people!
Once we reached the station it was a quick (and cool) trip back to the hotel, and both kids survived and were in bed by 9.15pm. Of course most people were just heading out for the night, but we were well and truly done after another long and hot day.
Daily statistics for Saturday the 27th of August 2016, in Hong Kong – the temperature range for the day was 27 to 33 degrees celsius, with humidity of 94%. The heat index reached 41 degrees. Our total walking for the day was 13.0km.
Next up, a Sunday hike of the ‘Dragon’s Back’ and some more delicious food!