As many of you may know Hong Kong Airport is on the busiest passengers airport in the world and serves major connectivity to Mainland china and rest of Asia. Due to this, most of the tourist traveling on and off to these Asian destination usually have a transit route through Hong Kong and most of common question which originates in most of our minds is whether can you reap the benefits of the small layover in Hong Kong to explore & experience this beautiful destination. Well recently I made it possible and I would like to share my experience.
My original flying route was from New Delhi to Manila and was planned in a way that I departed Delhi late night around 12am and reached morning Hong Kong between 9:30am- 10am. Since my next departure to Manila from Hong Kong was schedule at 5:30pm, I had around in total around 7 hours of layover. The only twist was that I had booked the same airlines Cathay Pacific flight because of which my main luggage was directly transferred to Manila and with only one hand luggage it was perfect hold for exploring the city.
Since it was Sunday which is usually crowded tourist day I decided to pick only one main sightseeing attraction which was “Hong Kong Peak tram and Victoria peak”. Victoria peak is basically a mountain which is situated on the western part of Hong Kong Island and being also the highest point, its one of the hot tourist attraction among travelers. Being fond of traveling, the only thing I always recall about Hong Kong were the huge panoramic photographs spanning over the city and its waterfront and always made me dream about experiencing it myself one day. And finally I had the opportunity to make it real even if it was for a small time.
As soon as my flight reached Hong Kong, my main focus was on my time which I needed to utilize it efficiently. After getting freshen up at airport, I exchanged some Hong Kong dollars and headed towards immigration. Since there was a separate line for Indian visitors, I was able to clear the immigration with an half an hour or so. (Usually because of rush it even takes more time). Just soon after immigration I bought the ticket for MTR Express train which connect directly from Airport to Hong Kong Central station. Before heading to Airport station, I picked up a coffee and a cinnamon roll from Mc cafe to have my mini breakfast!
The MTR express train ride took about half an hour to reach Hong Kong Central Station. It was a decent comfortable ride with only handful of travelers. There was a feeling of nervousness and excitement at the same time as it was my first of solo layover experience. On the train journey I could have a mild glimpse of surrounding neighborhoods which was pretty interesting till the time it went underground. When the train finally stopped and I stepped out of the metro, to me it seems a little complicated to actually locate the exact exit as it was 3-4 storey upwards from where I was actually standing, but people there are quite friendly to ask and you can find plenty of guards on duty who can direct you the way out. On exit, I thought to walk down my way to Peak Tram rather than taking a taxi, it was little hot and humid, but it worth the fun in the end.
On the way I found saw some amazing high rise skyscrapers and shopping streets which were filled with vendors who were preparing to open their stalls but the best part was a nice cool bus ride I stumbled upon. (It was a little blurry pic I could click) but I thought it could be great to share it here. I was a bit lost in the beginning but the little help of google maps in my phone, I was finally able to locate the Peak tram entrance which actually surrounded by a nice symbolic water fountain.
Since it was Sunday, the entrance was pack with long entrance queue whose tail actually ended along the periphery of the water fountain. I had to wait till 45min-1 hours to buy the tickets and enter into the peak tram, but I believe this is pretty normal waiting time required among all the iconic buildings you must have seen around the world. Although the funicular tram journey to the peak top was a quick journey but the route designed was made pretty steep and I could literally feel as if my entire body weight was hanging on the top of the seat while it moved upwards which for a small instance look little scary but it was a fun experience. The top terminus of the peak which is also known as peak tower looks more like a shopping mall in-tself with full range of various tourist shops, restaurants, cafe and entertainment venues. On one side of inside this peak tower you will find the famous “Madam Tussauds” celebrity inspired theme attraction where you will find wax figures of famous celebrities. Most of the people usually visit them to have some cool snaps for their Facebook pictures! But the most eager part of this peak tower was its terrace top which is also know as Sky terrace. When you reach there, they will give you some auto-guided handset with headphones which act like an Audio guide while you enjoy the super amazing panoramic views of the grand Hong kong on the top.
Indeed the views were breathtaking! From Hong Kong highest financial tower, to famous IM Pie building and canvasing its edge from auspicious convention Centre… It was all just mesmerizing.!! I waited there for a hour or so, listening to my audio guide while watching these amazing views I was having one of the best moments of my life. After a little while, I walk around the rear side of the terrace where I could see the beautiful view of the Hong Kong waterfront. To my surprise it was more like a jackpot for me, to have grand look of Hong kong modernistic skyscrapers skyline on one side and on the other the real beauty of the grand nature like a perfect landscape image filled with small islands and foggy skyline (reminded me of some similar view I had seen in Santorini, Greece this year)
After spending a good time, I finally hopped down towards the shops and restaurants, grabbed some coffee and snacks and headed towards the peak tram for my return journey down. It was comparatively less crowded as compare to the way up. I guess a lot of people pay for one-way journey and then decide to go down by another route down the hill mostly by trekking down.
The downwards quick journey was also pretty interesting as it gives you a quick steep side look of those panoramic skyscrapers views making it a ending note of your visit there. By now I only got 2.5 hours left before my boarding starts for my flight at the airport, so I though of picking up a Uber ride from here. There were a lot of general taxi’s available but since I have never used Uber in Hong Kong before, I wanted to give a try. Well it turn out to be an expensive experiment as by mistake I ended up booking the highest price option for luxurious car with almost 3 times surcharge. But you know everything in life is an experience, and to my surprise what came was I could never imagine – a high class long volvo with a grand entry to pick me up at the stop. For me it was like a dream come true. I mean its not like I have never ride in a volvo car before, but to have a special ride in a destination like a Hong Kong was super cool experience. While sitting back in the car enjoying my last ride to the airport I was feeling relax and with a feeling of content-fullness of the fact that this 6-7 hours layover was one of the first and best layover experience I ever had in my life.
Next time, If you are flying through Hong Kong and If you have at least 5 hours time gap, don’t think twice, hop out and explore the city. Believe me its the best adventure bargain you can ever get! 🙂 Hope you enjoyed reading…feel free if you wish to leave any comments!