Day 01 - 21st December 2014
This long day started at 12:00 AM. We left home at around 10:30PM and reached the airport by 11:30PM. Check-in, security checks and immigration formalities happened in no time. Sitting and waiting for our flight, I thought of how this idea of visiting Hong Kong occurred to me. Perhaps, it all started when Stefan and Yulia told me about how cool Hong Kong was and since our October trip to Kerala was ruined because of my operation, I decided on this quick alternative for December. I booked the flights two months in advance so things weren’t very expensive. I think thats about the right time to make your reservations. I then took sometime to figure out where I had to stay. There are several budget options and some of the guest houses can give you a good deal. But they are cramped and there is hardly any space. The hotels are very expensive. I finally settled in for YHA Mei Ho house, youth hostel; A community building built for the resettlement of the Hong Kong fire victims of 1953 is now converted into a beautiful youth hostel. Even though its a little far from the harbour and HK island, i thought it was my best option. They have dormitory that are cheaper but also private rooms that are decently priced. They have a common kitchen if you want to cook.Here is the Website for more details.
Our flight was around 40 minutes delayed. It took off at around 2:10AM and we reached Hong Kong at 10:15AM. Our immigration went by smoothly and we were granted a 14 day stay. For Indians and many other nationalities, one has the privilege of visa free visit for 14 days. We were asked for our passports, return tickets and hotel reservations. As soon as we collected our bags, we walked to the ATM and I withdrew some cash. For some reason my SBI Visa card would not work so I had to rely on my Citibank card. My friend Sushanth had told me that ATM transaction was the best way to get the exchange. I am yet to find out how much they charged. I next went to the Metro station that is just outside of the airport where I verified if the octopus card given to me by Sushanth was still working. It was and it had 11 HK$. I added HK$ 950 as the limit on the card could not exceed 1000.
Now, an octopus card is something really cool. Its basically a replacement to your cash. You don’t have to carry coins and cash anymore. Buses, shops and many places accept the card and deducts the exact change from it. These cards can be recharged in any 7/11 shops of which there are millions. Stefan had briefed me about it. We then walked to the bus station. We had to take E21 and the next bus timing was 12:20 PM which was still 30 mins away. But as we walked to the Bus stop, we saw the bus already there. We boarded the bus and I showed my Octopus card. HK$ 14 was deducted. But I could not swipe the card twice for Preethi. I had to pay it in cash. The system only allows you to use one card for one ride. So if you are traveling in groups each one has to have a card. But thats no pain at all.
We had a good 40 minutes drive from airport to Kowloon. The vegetation is very similar to that of India. However, the difference comes in the infrastructure. Wide roads, fast trains and tall buildings. The city is very clean. We got down at Yen Chow Street and then walked up to Tai Po Road. If you stand at the dead end of the Yen Chow street you shall see the orange coloured hostel. But we had to ask several people for direction until we noticed that. But what was amazing is that everyone is helpful and kind.
We checked in to the hotel. I must say that this youth hostel has one of the best accommodations. The rooms are big and with several cabinets and is equipped with all the facilities that you might need. It seemed value for money for HK$ 730. However, if you book in advance you might find a better deal.
We freshened up and went down to checkout the restaurant within he hostel premises. They have very less vegetarian option. We tried some spaghetti with mushroom and french toast. Both were not that great. I somehow dislike the smell of the cooking oil that they use.
I got access to free wifi that the hostel provides and activated the SIM card I had bought. Stefan had suggested this card and they are available in any 7/11 store - PCCW HKT (3G Rechargeable Sim Card- $48). Now this too has free wifi that you might need on the go. I am yet to explore the tariffs.
After a short nap we walked to the Ap Liu street flea market. It is walkable distance from the hostel and the streets are filled electronic gadgets and accessories.
After a good walk around and buying some stuff we headed back to the hostel. On our way back we stopped at the MTR station to buy an octopus card. Having eaten bread all day it was required to eat some plain rice and curd. So we cooked rice in the hostel kitchen and I bought some yogurt from a nearby store.
A long day seems to have come to an end but more is expected from the days to come.
Continued Here - Lantau Island, Hong Kong