After hopping on a local bus to the station and negotiating the massive immigration lines around Luohu train station in Shenzhen, we got on the short distance train to Hong Kong which is only about 30 – 45 minutes long. Foggy mountainscapes slowly evaporated into Skyscraper cityscapes as we approached downtown Hong Kong.As soon as we walked out of the station we were mesmerized by the sheer mass of people, infinite towers and multicolored huge signs. We were so disoriented by all this that it took us several attempts to find the building where our guesthouse was even though it was less then 100 meters from the station exit and well sign posted.
We had done a bit of research to figure out where to stay and had not come across almost any budget places except for several guesthouses that were in 1 specific building in central Kowloon district called the Chungking mansions. Chungking mansions has 2 floors of shops and 80 Guesthouses, several restaurants and many other small companies are a housed in its remaining 14 floors.
There are several lift blocks spread out over the different areas of the ground floor which would lead to specific areas on each of the other floors. The reports online had been mixed and several travellers had reported that they had felt a bit unsafe as there were many Indian hawkers trying to get business in to their restaurants or guesthouse as you made your way up to the elevator and the place looks very run down.
However we soon found out that we had come to the right place as all people we met here were all very nice and interesting and some of the best Indian food and cheapest drink could be found inside the building. We went out up in one of the lifts and got out at some random floors before finding a nicely clean place called Apple Hostel where a very bubbly and feisty Chinese woman called May showed us to a very small but comfortable room.
After getting our accommodation sorted we set out for the harbour to get a night view of the skyline of Hong Kong Island and soak ourselves in the the colorful bustle of the nightlife. The harbour is very nicely landscaped to give you plenty of sit down options with nice views and bustling with people until late. We walked through several malls which all seem to go on endlessly and are never quiet even well past midnight.
The next day we set out to Hong Kong island and took the peak tram up to the top of the hill. The tram was the first public transport unit build in 1902 but even feels like a modern gadget today. On its way to the top you pass between the skyscrapers at around 45 degree angles which feels quite surreal. At the top we went for a walk around the various viewpoint overlooking the skyline of Hong Kong island and central Kowloon.
We then discovered a small entrance mentioning pok fu lam country park. We headed down the path just over the top of the hill which instantly descended into lush jungly parkland, where you heard no traffic and saw nothing but greens, flowers and small streams. It was almost as if central Hong Kong that literally lies just over the hill didn’t exist.
After our hill top run we set out to explorer the trendy mid levels and Soho neighbourhoods that are build up against the steep slopes. One quirky way to get there was to take the public escalator which runs all the way up to the mid levels from the bottom of the hill between the buildings, passing close by first and 2nd story windows of the apartment blocks.
We could see several trendy bars as we were rolling up the hill some of which were filled with expats. The area felt strangely New York/European like but the Chinese/Asian touches were never far. After some drinks which were extremely expensive we tried to find budget food which seemed pretty impossible as we passed from one trendy restaurant to another. We decided that these were definitely neighbourhoods best avoided while on a budget although the are very cool.
We spent the next couple of days wondering down the various night and day markets, temples and we even found very nice beaches just over the hill which were beautiful and had very well kept facilities.
In the evenings we often sampled the different hidden areas around the Chung King mansions were we ended up finding some great hidden restaurants and bars, including a Pakistani place on the fourth floor of block B that was like entering a Pakistani community with a great food and a very talkative owner.
We also found a tiny Nepalese bar in the far corner of the ground floor – where cheap drink kept flowing as long as you wanted it and there was always a bit of fun to be head. One night we ended up in a discussion with 3 Nepalese Sherpas who were close friends, of which one was a Tibetan Buddhist, one Hindu and another Christian. A heated but friendly debate and many subsequent toasts later the night ended with exchanging email address and stumbling back to the lift of our block.
After about 4 days we decided to leave for our next destination of Yangshuo back in mainland china.