A trip to Hong Kong is never complete without having a dim sum meal. My friends chose City Hall Maxim’s Palace as Maxim’s is one of the few remaining restaurants still serve dim sum in the traditional way. I was told that nowadays dim sum in most restaurants are served on a long table – buffet style – where diners walk over to the buffet, select the dish and return to their tables.
At Maxim’s, plates and bamboo steamer baskets of dim sum – fresh and hot from the oven – are served on a trolley. The waitresses push the trolley around the restaurant, call out the names of the dishes and stop by at every other table for diners to pick the dishes they fancy. The trolleys have descriptions of the dishes in Cantonese and English, making it easy for foreigners like us to know and able to choose the dishes that we want.
Maxim’s gets filled up very quickly. We saw the restaurant became very busy by noon, and by 1pm, customers were queuing outside the restaurant to get in. If you like to have dim sum at Maxim’s, the best time to go is at brunch. You will definitely get a table especially next to the window with a fantastic view of the harbour.
After brunch, we walked over to Central Pier to catch the Star Ferry boat across Victoria Harbour to Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront. The attraction is the Avenue of Stars based on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame to pay tribute to the stars of HK film industry. Hence, there are the usual commemorative plagues and celebrities’ handprints set in cement.
I hardly watch HK Cantonese films, therefore I don’t know any of the stars except the popular ones who are now known in Hollywood such as Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Chow Yun Fatt, just to name a few. Chris, on the other hand, watches a number of Chinese films, so he was able to point who’s who at the promenade. I laughingly said to him that if we were at a Bollywood Avenue of Stars, I would recognise their names rightaway and point out who’s who, aside from Amitabh Bachchan!
But there’s one star who the entire world knows, that is, the infamous Bruce Lee. It was so difficult to get a good shot of the life-sized statue of Bruce Lee in kungfu action because so many tourists got in line in front of the statue mimicking that pose for the camera. I had to wait for quite some time and finally, this is the best I have.
It’s obvious that the Avenue of Stars was designed for tourists (and I, unashamedly admit, that I’m indeed a tourist!) but the promenade and sunny weather, though a little hazy, provide a panoramic view across Victoria Harbour to HK Island. I believe this is also a good spot in the evening to capture sunset pictures and the glittering lights of the harbour at night.
One more “touristy” activity to do was to go up to Victoria Peak, or simply known as The Peak. The Peak is the highest mountain on HK island at only 552 metres or 1,811 ft. This is THE place to have spectacular views of the city’s skyline and harbours, and the views are more impressive at night when the high-rise buildings are lit. There are a couple of ways to go up to the Peak: walk, bus, taxi or tram. My friends asked which option I prefer, and knowing their outdoor-sy nature, I chose the tram option to go up and the walking option to come down from the Peak.
The Peak Tram is a funicular railway which brings visitors up to the Peak, so obviously this is a popular option but one has to endure a number of queues at the Lower Teminus. The first queue was for tickets. There was confusion about queues to buy single tickets or Peak Tram Sky Pass or Madame Tussauds Hong Kong + Peak Tram. We wanted to buy single tickets using our Octopus card but there was no separate lane for us to bypass others who were queuing to buy tickets or passes with cash/credit cards from the ticketing booth. Instead we had to queue with others but only when we showed our Octopus cards at the ticketing booth, they asked us to move on and queue (the second queue) in front of turnstiles to flash our cards to enter. As soon as we got through the turnstiles, we had to join the third, but thankfully, the last queue – the queue to board the tram. This was where I felt that all the queueing before didn’t seem to matter anymore because the platform was narrow which created a bottleneck and visitors pushed their way at the platform to board the tram in order to secure a seat.
The tram departs at every 10-15 minute intervals, so sometimes the wait can be interminable when there are huge crowds. The ride on the tram takes only 8 minutes, and the view gets better and better as it climbs up 373 metres to the top of HK Island.
Majority of visitors opt to purchase the Peak Tram Sky Pass which offers you the tram ride and the chance to view HK from the Sky Terrace 428, the highest 360-degree viewing platform on the island. And why 428? Because it’s 428 metres above sea level. I had been up the Sky Terrace in 2011, so this time, my friends introduced the Peak Circle Walk – an alternate viewing point where no additional money is needed but just a good pair of walking shoes.
The Peak Circle Walk is a 3.5km walking trail, a tree-shaded path which starts at Lugard Road near the Peak Tower and brings you back to its starting point. It’s basically a 45-minute loop around the Peak (or might be less, depending how fast you walk), and I reckon it’s the best way to experience the Peak scenery and lush greenery.
Once the sun set and the skycrapers of HK were lit at dusk, the views were just magnificent.
We left the Peak at nearly 7pm. Unfortunately, we could not walk down from the Peak as planned because the path was not lit at night. Instead, we took the bus and headed to Wan Chai for dinner. Dinner was at 369 Shanghai Restaurant on O’Brien Road. It’s a small restaurant, crowded and noisy – it adds to the atmosphere and that’s what I like. It was my last night in HK, and probably the last time I shall see Chris and Jane before they left Asia for good. They would be moving to Brazil, and Chris had already said to me, “Kath, start saving money now coz you’d better come visit us in Brazil!” We celebrated over simple but delicious Chinese food and more beer (of course!).
After we said our goodbyes on the MTR, and as I walked from Tin Hau MTR station to my flat, I reflected with happiness about this second-time trip to HK. Firstly, I was relatively more organised this time with my plans. With that, I had a better and positive experience enjoying the sights and food, and observing the daily going-ons of the people of HK (locals and expats). Secondly, I got to see my friends again who would be moving on to another continent, another adventure (though they are going to miss Chinese food terribly!). I’m glad that I was part of their good memories of living in Asia (we met in Malaysia) and likewise, they were part of my good memories of travelling in HK, and hopefully, in Brazil some day.
*Update: Chris & Jane didn’t relocate to Brazil after all. Their new residence is now Mexico City 🙂