One day I received a call from Hong Kong Tourism Board and it immediately got me excited as I was heading to Hong Kong soon! The avid traveller in me wanted to make the most of this trip. I had every hour planned – shopping, sightseeing, yummy Chinese dining, theme parks and everything. During my visit to Hong Kong I was set to experience major attractions like Hong Kong Disneyland, Ocean Park Hong Kong, Madame Tussauds Hong Kong, Victoria Peak, Sky 100 Hong Kong Observation Deck and Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car, and the Big Buddha at the Po Lin Monastery at Lantau Island. I had an early Monday morning Cathay Pacific flight from Mumbai. Asia’s World City, Hong Kong was waiting for me!
After a satisfyingly delicious meal on my flight, I caught up on sleep as I had a rigorous journey ahead. The plane landed in Hong Kong in six hours. The immigration, which I thought would take long, was surprisingly quick due to their easy visa-on-arrival policy.
After a 35-minute drive from the Hong Kong International Airport along the magnificent 2.2 kilometre-long Tsing Ma Bridge and highways, I checked into Marco Polo Hong Kong Hotel situated by the waterfront overlooking the Victoria Harbour. My room faced the Victoria Harbour and my jaw dropped when I saw the beautiful panoramic waterfront view with skyscrapers far away. It was just the way I wanted it.
My morning began with a buffet breakfast at the hotel, which was as elaborate as a Kings breakfast – just the way I like it. There were varieties of cheese, breads, fresh fruit juices, eggs, exotic fruits to choose from. For lunch there was an array of multiple cuisines ranging from Indian, Indonesian, Chinese, and Continental, etc. The Chinese food was unbelievably scrumptious.
After getting refreshed at the hotel, I started my tour with a visit to the Sky 100 Hong Kong Observation Deck, which is the highest indoor observation deck in Hong Kong – all the way up on the 100th floor of the International Commerce Centre (ICC), the tallest building in Hong Kong! It was a great experience with the breathtaking, 360-degree bird's-eye view along with great hospitality from the staff. Placed above the Sky 100 Hong Kong Observation Deck is the world’s tallest hotel – the Ritz Carlton – where I enjoyed a South Italian meal at a restaurant named Tosca on the 102nd floor of the ICC.Next I went on the Big Bus Night Tour, which showcased the vibrant night life of Kowloon, the neon spectacle of Nathan Road, and the fantastic Symphony of Lights show over the Victoria Harbour. The tour provided a personal recorded commentary available in a choice of ten languages. The Big Bus Sightseeing Tour is a safe and relaxing way to experience this great city. It was a perfect introduction to Hong Kong and a fun night out. We then wrapped up for the day with dinner at a 1-Michelin Star Restaurant.
The next morning I spend my first half shopping, thanks to Marco Polo Hong Kong Hotel being centrally located; it was extremely easy for me to commute to other parts of Hong Kong like Harbour City. The hotel is in the middle of a shopping paradise with top-notch brands like Hermès, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, etc at Canton Road. Hong Kong is a shopper's paradise! Designer shops and exclusive labels are dime-a-dozen here. I loved the Mall experience at Harbour City, where I bought some make-up for myself and a watch for a friend from Prince Jewellery & Watch Company. They were never-ending malls and they housed my favourite brands around the world.
Next, I went to Repulse Bay located in the southern part of Hong Kong Island. It’s the most spectacular beach in the region. Repulse Bay is a luxurious residential area for dining, relaxation, and aquatic activities. I then strolled through the famous Stanley Market, Tin Hau Temple and Murray House. I was amazed to see the number of Indian visitors there. I interacted with the Fortune Teller at a traditional Tin Hau temple in Stanley, which added a hint of mystery to my trip. I was then headed for a Chinese Tea Appreciation session. Authentic Chinese tea has some amazing health benefits. More than an appreciation session, it taught me a lot about tea and its varieties along with its health benefits.
Next, I went to Madame Tussauds Hong Kong, which exhibits over 100 incredibly life-like wax figures. My favourite ones were Albert Einstein and Johnny Depp, since they looked like clones to the original. I also saw our Bollywood star collection of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan, Shah Rukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan. It was a proud feeling to see Bollywood shine in other countries too. Dinner was at the Tim Ho Wan restaurant at Shum Shui Po where I relished a wide selection of dumplings and other finger-licking good food items like spring rolls, pan-fried radish cake and barbecued pork crispy bun.
I went to Harbour City and happened to meet a sweet Indian family who had settled in Hong Kong many years ago. It was great to hear their experiences as HK citizens. After that I headed to the Ocean Terminal, which is a cruise terminal and shopping centre located on Canton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong.
In the second half of the day I planned for Ocean Park Hong Kong, which is a marine mammal park, oceanarium, animal theme park and amusement park, situated in the Southern District of Hong Kong. I thoroughly enjoyed “The Flash”, a ride that spins you up to 22 metres into the air and 360 degrees around. The Dancing Fountain and the refreshing spray made The Lagoon picturesque in the dark. At night this display is transformed into a stage for the world’s first 360-degree water screen show, which was a visual delight. The ‘Amazing Asian Animals' exhibit has some of Asia's rarest and precious native animals like giant pandas, red pandas, Chinese giant salamanders and Chinese alligators. One can find cute baby panda showpieces and soft toys at the 'Panda Kingdom Shop' souvenirs shop.
We called it a night at the Intercontinental Hotel Grand Stanford Hotel, called Hoi King Heen, where I was taught how to make steamed shrimp dim-sum and got to eat them too.
The highlight of my trip and my personal favourite place at Hong Kong was the Ngong Ping 360, a breathtaking 30-minute scenic cable car ride to the tallest outdoor seated bronze Buddha in bronze at Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island. I entered the crystal cabin cable car, which had a transparent bottom. I was spellbound with the view but I didn’t know whether to look below or outside the window – it was all so perfect. I could see the Giant Buddha from my cable car and I immediately related to it since I personally follow Buddhism. I read a lot about Buddhism and I had goose-bumps when I reached the foot of the idol. I bought miniature jade Buddhas, three Gods of prosperity, fortune and health and a few laughing Buddhas for my friends.
Every kid loves Hong Kong Disneyland and I think there is still a little bit of the child in me that made me jump at the sight of this colourful place. ‘Eeyore the donkey’ used to be my favorite Disney character and I finally got the opportunity to meet him at the Flights of Fantasy Parade that happens every evening. He looked cute and adorable in his pink bow as always. The Space Mountain Adventure Roller coaster was a thrilling experience. I really thought I was out of space. Then I hopped on the Disneyland Railroad for a relaxing fun journey around the park. At night I saw a spectacle of ‘Disney in the Stars Fireworks at night’. There were fireworks and pyrotechnics coordinated to orchestrated classic Disney music such as "A Whole New World".
On my fifth day I decided to spend some time at the hotel and then went for a Rolls Royce drive to meet Hong Kong’s renowned Sam’s Tailor boss Mr Melwani over English High Tea at The Peninsula Hong Kong hotel. He is an Indian tailor known for his A-list clientele. The shop was founded by Sam Melwani in 1957 and is still run by his sons, Manu and Sham, as well as his grandson Roshan.
I then went on the famous Star Ferry ride to experience Victoria Habour and enjoyed the cool breeze and the fantastic views of the skyscrapers that cover the bay.
In the afternoon I met with Aarif Lee from Hong Kong, also known as Aarif Rahman, an actor and popular Cantopop singer. He serenaded me with some beautiful melodious songs he had composed, which were very romantic.
It was now time to experience the night life of Hong Kong. To what I have heard about Hong Kong’s night life, Lang Kwai Fong, HK’s most happening hub, is true to its reputation – brilliant music and great ambience. I visited to Hard Rock Café and Tazmania Ballroom. Tazmania Ballroom has gold-plated pool tables, which are a major draw. They are also magically raised to the ceiling, revealing a dance floor and making room for one of Hong Kong’s largest dance floors. I also met a Nepali waiter who introduced me as Manisha Koirala to his colleague. I chuckled at his humor. He insisted on buying me shots and I obliged.
From wow moments to magical surprises, my trip to Hong Kong was indeed an adventurous and pampering experience. I feel great to have discovered Hong Kong!
Sandhya Mridul is an Indian Bollywood and television actress known for her roles in films like Saathiya (2002) and Page 3 (2005) and Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd (2007). She was nominated for the Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award for her role in the movie Page 3. In 2008, she served as a member of the jury in the 14th Television Festival held in Shanghai, the youngest and lone Indian represented at the festival. Lately she has been acting in a few stage plays. She vacationed in Hong Kong, courtesy of Hong Kong Tourism Board.
Courtesy - Hong Kong Tourism Board