Travel: Hong Kong, a City of Contrasts
Hong Kong is somewhere I had always wanted to visit. The setting for many movies it's probably aesthetically best known for its huge imposing skyscrapers. Unattractive and industrial looking during the day, many of the more built up areas really come alive at night with busy night markets and street after street of glowing neon signs.
Mong Kok was one of my favourite areas of HK and a real mix of department stores, market stalls, street vendors, chain restaurants and back street eateries serving mystery food (well a mystery to a tourist if you can't read Cantonese). Being visually overloaded and slightly confused is my favourite state to be in when I'm exploring a new city, and Mong Kok ticked all the boxes.
If you take the tram to Victoria Peak you'll be greeted by one of HK's most famous views over the city. It's crowded up there and you'll be sharing your visit with hundreds of other tourists (a lot of them wielding selfie sticks) but the views are spectacular.
Tian Tan Buddha (or Big Buddha as it's often called) on Lantau Island is a prime example of tourist overload, but it's well worth the trip. You can get there via the Ngong Ping Cable Car but we did the trip by coach which was enjoyable in it's own way (if a little hair-raising around the bends). If you take a detour away from the Big Buddha itself you'll come to the Wisdom Path with it's famous totem poles, as well as the Po Lin Monastery where you can burn incense and explore the ornate interiors. There are many wonderful hikes to be had through the mountains too.
The 10,000 Buddhas Monastery was also on my hit list - it's a steep climb to the top but well worth it. It's also a little quieter than the Big Buddha, perhaps it's not on as many people's radars? And yes, there really are 10,000 Buddhas!
Away from the bright lights and crowded temples Hong Kong's tranquil parks and gardens are full of leafy foliage and quiet resting spots where you can escape the hoards and take some time to soak up the sunshine. Although you'll find that you're never too far away from a skyscraper (or 10...)
Nan Lian Gardens were built in 2006 and have some spectacular Chinese classical buildings, a waterfall and bonsai trees (plus the obligatory gift shop) and although it's not ancient architecture it's still beautiful to look at.
Kowloon Walled City Park is another peaceful haven which I can highly recommend if you want to while away some time away from the crowds.
Hong Park Park is another great place for chilling out and I particularly enjoyed the indoor/outdoor aviary - great for a spot of urban bird-watching!
After Hong Kong it was time to visit Macau which was even more diverse than Hong Kong. Macau, also known as the 'Vegas of China' now rakes in more money than Sin City itself. But alongside the huge casino hotels and glitzy shopping malls there are parts which retain their Portuguese heritage, so it has a really eclectic mix of culture and architecture. Pics coming soon!