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TAKING A BREATHER ON LANTAU ISLAND

HONG KONG INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

I alight at Hong Kong International Airport (Chek Lap Kok Airport) which is actually landing on an artificial land mass formed by leveling and redistributing the islands of Chek Lap and Lam Chau. It is connected to Lantau Island.

After the long flight from Chicago I’m too exhausted to indulge in shopping, even though Shanghai Tang, my favorite Hong Kong store, offers multiple outlets in both terminals. Besides, I have time this trip to hit their stores when I explore Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. I love the brand’s slightly kitschy, colorful take on Chinese chic clothing, accessories and housewares.

I’ve spent transit nights in Hong Kong at the Hong Kong SkyCity Marriott Hotel on Lantau Island in the past, so staying at the property for this trip is a no-brainer. It’s a five-minute (complimentary) shuttle ride from the airport (Hall B, doors 29/30), which departs every 30 minutes.

LANTAU ISLAND

As always, the SkyCity Marriott is a surprisingly sophisticated property for being an airport hotel (read: captive audience with little choice). The decor is modern and the service impeccable (they once allowed me use the spa to shower for a late flight hours after I had checked-out). Marriott Gold and Platinum members  are pampered with a first-rate concierge lounge and unrivaled breakfast buffet. Half the hotel shows for the happy hour in the lounge, where I’ve met fun fellow road warriors in the past.

Sky City Marriott Lobby View

Rested, I take the complimentary shuttle to the Tung Chung MTR station. The station is linked to the premium outlet shopping center Citygate, home to luxury stores: Kate Spade, Burberry, Escada, Lancel, Bally, Vivienne Tam, etc. Although the prices aren’t exactly inexpensive, the clothing *is* discounted (somewhat). Again, instead of shopping (there will be time for that later), I ride the Ngong Ping 360 cable car up to the Ngong Ping Plateau. The ride offers a stunning view of Lantau Island.

Ngong Ping 360 Hong Kong Cable Car

The Big Buddha (Tian Tan Buddha) (shot here from the cable car) and the Po Lin Monastery await me at the end of my 20-minute ascension.

Big Buddha Hong Kong

I walk in and around the monastery and monument, playing around with my trusty Canon PowerShot and the dramatic images surrounding me.

Statue on Lantau Island

A few hours suffice for exploring Ngong Ping.

Tomorrow I’ll return to the Tung Chung station and take the Tung Chung MTR line to Hong Kong island. The Airport Express from Hong Kong International Airport is faster, but I don’t want to deal with the airport again. Catching on to Hong Kong’s MTR train system takes no time: it’s intuitive, well-marked and signs are printed in English.

Lantau MTR Route

 

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FUNNY PHOTO: HONG KONG TAXI DRIVER

This month’s Funny Photo from the Road is brought to you by…

Hong Kong Taxi Driver

A Hong Kong taxi driver.

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JAM-PACKED DAY on HONG KONG ISLAND

HONG KONG ISLAND

Today I’m exploring several neighborhoods in Hong Kong Island, the heart of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Central Map

GRAND HYATT | CHAN WAI

I disembark at Central Station on Hong Kong Island, and catch the complimentary hotel shuttle. It doesn’t stop at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong hotel, but it *does* stop at the hotel right around the corner.

I booked two nights at the Grand Hyatt (“the Asian flagship of Hyatt International”), which cost me only a $75 annual fee as the rooms were part of the inducement to open a Chase Hyatt credit card and meet the spending minimum. It’s a primo deal, as even the highest-end properties are included in the promotion. The Grand Hyatt is obviously a luxury hotel, but I find it soulless. Not that I’m complaining — the price is right — but I connect with some hotels better than others. The SkyCity Marriott is likely considered lower-tier lodging to this Grand Hyatt, but it resonates with me more.

WAN CHAI, ADMIRALTY & CENTRAL

The morning walk west from the Wan Chai neighborhood, through Admiralty and Central towards Sheung Wan exhilirates me: energy radiates from Hong Kong Island and the city pulses. The light is pure and clear, reflecting off the windows of iconic skyscrapers (Lippo Centre below) like they’re composed of crystal. I am revved-up right now, standing so close to these masterpiece buildings I’ve seen in countless photos.

Lippos Centre Hong Kong

Of course I stop at Shanghai Tang (but in my defense, I bypass many stores much, much more epensive along the way).

SHEUNG WAN

Central is all glass, concrete and steel. It’s exciting, but I prefer the more atmospheric, intimate alleyways of Sheung Wan. I arrive at the dark, smokey (incense) Man Mo Temple before the throng of locals and tourists descend upon it.

Tin Hau Temple Hong Kong

Tin Hau Temple Hong Kong 2

I’d love to take more time here, but I’m on a tight schedule. Hong Kong Island deserves greater than one day, but that’s all the time I have to spend. This trip.

THE PEAK

The Peak tram is an easy walk from Man Mo. The view from the top, over Hong Kong Island, to Kowloon and spanning Victoria Harbor should not be missed. No photo — no collage or montage of photos — can do Hong Kong justice: it’s a 360-degree experience. The density of the structures, multiplied by the obscene heights of the buildings, can only be truly appreciated by standing right here, atop The Peak.

View from Victoria Peak

I walk the Victoria Peak Trail for an hour then return to Hong Kong Island Central by foot via Findlay Road, an easy and enjoyable hike that requires no standing in line.

Victoria Peak Trail Map

BO INNOVATION | WAN CHAI

I booked my late lunch reservation at Bo Innovation ages ago. The Michelin two-star restaurant — ranked #15 among Asian restaurants on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list — features “X-treme Chinese Cuisine”. The maitre’d is confident and professional, falling just this side of superciliousness. He politely appears not to notice my dusty, practical walking sandals.

I’m in good company — surrounded by fellow foodies — I can tell because everyone is photographing their food. How tacky of them!

Photos of my food:

Bo Innovation Entree

Bo Innovation Dessert

My lunch is definitely unique — what I expect from molecular gastronomy — and memorable more for the experience than the tastiness of the dishes themselves. I credit Bo Innovation with making high-high-end dining available at a reasonable price to less deep-pocketed afficionados and fans at mid-day.

DRAGON’S BACK | WAM CHAM SAN & SHEK O PEAK

Full and having walked several miles of Hong Kong Island, the prospect of a nap tempts me, but I can’t spare the time. I take the MTR to Shau Kei Wan Station, and exit at A3. I’m a little anxious about catching the bus from here, but the station is immediately within view and the #9 bus is not difficult to find. The entrance to Dragon’s Back Trail, a path along the ridge connecting the Wam Cham San and Shek O peaks, is only a short ride away.

Dragon’s Back is the perfect hike: easy to moderate difficulty level, a little longer than an hour in duration, with just enough fellow walkers to feel safe but not crowded.  It offers spectacular views from all sides of me.

View from Dragons Back

At the trail’s end I have the option of taking the bus down to the scenic Shek O Village — which I’d like to explore as I’ve read that it’s quaint — but the daylight is fading. Instead, I ride it back to Shay Kei Wan and peruse the street market before returning to the Grand Hyatt.

Hong Kong Island Wet Market

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