We did not plan to visit Hong Kong. But …
… getting a tourist visa for China is quite easy, but for a working visa and residence permit, you need a bit of time, patience and help from local agent, once you are in the country.
The Chinese visa laws are complicated and obscure even for the local specialists in the feild. Foreign employers have to leave China, cross the border just for couple of days, receive Z visa, then they can return back to mainland and get work permit. It's easier to cross border to Hong Kong. (Despite the fact that Hong Kong now is special administrative region (SAR) of China (PRC), border still exists).
Hong Kong (HK) is located on China's south coast, and it borders on the north with Shenzhen city of Guangdong province. If you want to be better oriented, you need to understand that the HK area consist of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon Peninsula, and the New Territories and over 200 islands. The largest of them is Lantau Island. The northern part of Hong Kong Island together with Kowloon forms the core urban area of Hong Kong.
We had been (had to go to) in Hong Kong twice and spent there about 7 days in total. Our impression was different on each of this visits. Of course it depended on a hotel that we've stayed in and places we've visited. Honk Kong is known as expensive city. A price of hotels and hostels inappropriately high, but it quite depends on location.
When I did a research in internet sites, I saw many terrible comments about hostels and inexpensive hotels in the center of the city. I decided to reserve one remote hotel far from the center of interests and our visa agency (Tsim Sha Tsui area). The hotel was in the area called Tsuen Wan (new territories). The internet sites shown, that it is good level hotel with relatively low price. It appeared to be a good decision: spacious room, swimming pool and sauna after long trip inside and outside the city can improve any damaged impression. But it required additional expense for road to the center of the city. Hong Kong's transportation network is highly developed. To avoid traffic jam, it is better to use subway (MTR). A big plus is a complimentary shuttle bus, that runs between the hotel and Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station.
On our second arrival, we wanted to be closer to the visa agency, so we reserved room in a hostel in Kowloon. I think it was worst room that we saw in our life. Kowloon is one of the most densely populated places on the planet. The streets in that area were so overcrowded that we could move only in same direction with other people. We advise you not to try to move against the flow, because if you do, then in one minute you will stumble on 1000 people.
The room was like small carton box, without windows, that reminded a terrible movie … The funny thing is, that inclusive of the fact that the room size was just quarter of the Royal View hotel room, it did not save much money . Location – this is wat we were paying for here.
During our stays in Hong Kong, we've managed to visit Hong Kong park, Flagstaff House Tea Ware Museum and Ocean Park. In Kowloon we've visited seafront, Avenue of Stars and Ladies Market. Two days we spent in Sai Kung district and one on Lamma Island. Both Sai Kung and Lamma made a big impression on us, and they both worth a separate post to be written about them.
Hong Kong Park
Hong Kong Park is like small beautiful island of nature, a breath of freash air inside the urban area of Hong Kong. In the park you can find a number of old garrison buildings built between 1842 and 1910. They are the remains of mighty Great British Empire rule.
At the center of the Park is located an artificial lake and a waterfall. There's a flowing water running through the park, which has been employed as a thematic motif to link the different features of the park by waterfalls, streams, ponds and cliffs from artificial rocks.
The Museum of Tea Ware is located within the park. The museum includes samples of the teapots from different provinces and other different tea ware as they evolved with time. More interesting for us were examples of different kind of tea and explanations about history and ways of making tea. If you are a fan of Chinese Tea, you must visit the Tea Ware Museum in Hong Kong.
Note: You can get to the park by MTR, Admiralty station exit C1.
On the next day we've visited the Ocean Park. It is located on the southern side of Hong Kong Island and you will need to reserve a full day for visiting it. You can buy the tickets in many places, including "Seven Eleven" and other small stores, but the prices may be different – from 250 to 350HK $. It is better to buy the tickets at metro stations, because there they are cheaper. Transportation to the park is very well organized. From Admiralty metro station you need to follow to signs and take a bus number 629. Price of the bus is about 10 HG $ per person.
The park is separated by a large mountain into two areas, The Summit (Headland) and The Waterfront (Lowland) respectively. The areas can be reached by cable car with spectacular views of the nearby islands and the sea. The great aquarium was good, the dolphin / sea-lion show was great too and we only tried some of the rides, because the queues to them seamed endless.
Avenue of Stars
The sea-front Avenue of Stars is like Hollywood's Walk of Fame. The stars with names and handprints of Hong Kong's actors and singers are embedded in the sidewalks of Kowloon's promenade: Jackie Chan and Jet Li, Andy Lau, Maggie Cheung and many many others. They are all a famous people, but I admit, there were a lot of Chinese names, that we saw for the first time in our life. At the beginning of the Avenue stands life-size statue of kung fu action legend Bruce Lee. We could not resist to take a photo there.
On the other side of Victoria Harbor we saw the famous skyscrapers of Hong Kong Island, it's probably best scenic spot in the city. Each night all the skyscrapers come to life with an incredible lase and light show.
Oh yes, and do not forget to visit the Starbucks, which is nicely located on the promenade with view on the harbor.
Almost every travel guide advises you to visit the Ladies' Market for cheap shopping. It may be indeed an interesting experience. It is a long street full of many things, sometimes, if not to say "mostly", of a very low quality. But here you can find very beautiful traditional Chinese souvenirs and test your bargain muscles. On the sides of the street behind a market stalls we've found many good small restaurants of different kinds of food (Japanese, Korean, Chinese etc.). They are cheap and really delicious. So if you are tired of shopping, you allays can escape to one of them.
The culture shock … again.
When we crossed the border again, back to mainland, our friend – "culture shock" waited for us there. It is hard to describe this feeling. It felt like we left the organized, clean, silent house and stepped right into the noisy market, full of smells of bad cigarettes, toilets and dust. At this moment we felt how strong is still the difference between life in Hong Kong and mainland China.