A 9-Hour Stopover in Hong Kong
Flying Cathay Pacific means stopping in Hong Kong, and we picked one that gave a 9-hour stopover. Time constraint did not allow us the chance to explore more. I would have loved to get the chance to know the place where my parents spent a considerable chunk of their younger years in. But nine hours is better than skipping Hong Kong entirely.
When one thinks of Hong Kong it inspires images of skyscrapers, crowd, multiculturalism, compact spaces, junk boats with red sails, and noodles. Despite its compact size, it would take weeks for anyone to explore Hong Kong. What to do when one only has a few hours?
Thanks to the Friendly Airport Staff for Suggesting The Airport Express Roundtrip Ticket
The HK Airport Express is an extremely convenient, direct, and fastest way to travel between Hong Kong International Airport and the city, taking you to the city in under 25 minutes! The city is 35.3 km away from the airport and taxi isn’t cheap. And when you don’t have the luxury of time it’s better to avoid public buses. A return ticket costs HK$ 100 (USD 13).
The trains are punctual, clean, and efficient. English is written everywhere so there’s no problem of getting lost. The seats are comfortable. There is space for luggage. There’s free WiFi.
What I also noticed during the 25-minute ride was how strong and unabashed the selfie culture here is. As compared to the UAE, that is. Women and men both took countless pictures of themselves—in various states of pout—to while away time. They don’t care if people are looking and only stopped when it’s time to alight the train.
Hong Kong Seemed Like A Compact, Asian Version of San Francisco.
The roads are either going up and winding down hills. There’s water. There are buildings. There’s an efficient public transportation system in place.
We took a taxi from the train station and headed up a hill to see the views. I noticed a LOT of shiny luxury cars such as BMW, Mercedes Benz, and Audi. Only the taxi we were traveling in was the old thing on the road.
Jet lag and exhaustion were taking over me as I tried hard to stay alert and focus on the scenery we were driving past. We flew overnight from Dubai, and it seemed to take more than the usual energy to explore a city right after landing.
It’s highly suggested that you get the Octopus card when you’re planning on taking the public transportation during your stay in Hong Kong. It comes with a refundable HK$50 deposit which covers the card cost and ensures uninterrupted Octopus service in case of negative value for up to HK$35 on a single occasion. I’m told you can also use it to pay when you purchase at 7-Eleven stores, which you’ll likely find in every street corner.
Food is Mostly Expensive and the Portions are Sized Like Kiddie Meals.
A quick search online informed us about a halal restaurant nearby. And in this case nearby meant a 15-20 minute drive. The tiny restaurant is located at Lan Kwai Fong. It seats about 20 people all cramped in a space good for 10. The front portion is completely open.
“I’ll have a chicken biryani, please.” ordered Masood. “Is the serving good for two?” The young man behind the counter blinked and looked at Masood and me. He told us that a single serving might not be enough for us. And he was right! Just look at that biryani? It’s quarter of what we get here in the U.A.E for the same price.
In fairness to Ebeneezer’s, their chicken tikka biryani was good. The mango lassi, however, was a different story altogether. It tasted like it had Sprite or 7-Up in it. But why would anyone add soda in their lassi? “Maybe the yoghurt has gone sour,” I told Masood. It tasted off. So Masood went to the counter and told them. The guy apologised and made us a fresh glass of mango lassi. It tasted the same. And no, they don’t add soda. Are they adding sparkling water, then? We didn’t ask. But yes, they need to fix their lassi.
An Impressive Old Masjid with So Much History and a Free Guided Tour.
Jamia Mosque is located at 30 Shelley Street in Mid-Levels, Hong Kong. Built in 1890 on a piece of land leased by the British Hong Kong government, it was originally named Mohammedan Mosque and is considered the oldest mosque in Hong Kong. It was later expanded in 1915 to accommodate the growing number of worshippers.
It was renamed Jamia Mosque after World War II. The neighboring streets, Mosque Street and Mosque Junction, are named after this mosque. Read about its history in detail here.
The building is known for its Indo-Islamic architecture, Arabic-style arched windows and ornate ironwork. It can accommodate 400 people and welcomes visitors of all faiths outside prayer times. Visitors are requested to be modestly attired when entering the mosque.
A well-dressed Chinese gentleman was ready to welcome visitors. I could hear his kind voice eagerly telling a visitor in fluent English about Islam and the history of the masjid as he led his guest inside the building.
Surrounding the mosque are houses with low roofs. A couple of young boys holding books headed toward the masjid. It must be time for their Arabic lessons. An elderly woman with a scarf draped on her head was busy hanging laundry on the second floor of an apartment building across the masjid. This place felt serene and calm amidst the chaotic city below it.
Hong Kong is an Interesting Mix of Old and New, City and Nature.
The picture of Hong Kong I had in mind was that of a busy city filled with vehicles and tall concrete buildings. What surprised and amazed me is that Hong Kong is lined with greenery and forest, surrounded by beaches with vast mountain landscapes behind it. The sun glistened on the water as sailboats cruised by. Hong Kong is beautiful.
Almost everyone in Hong Kong spoke perfect English. Did you know that most people speak Cantonese (not Mandarin)?
Did you also know that you can experience one of the highest bungee jumps in the world here? At 233 meters you will free fall from Sky Tower for a whopping 8 seconds before feeling any resistance. The price is just as high as the jump at USD $500!
Did you get the chance to truly explore Hong Kong? What’s your favorite thing to do there?