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Friday, February 27, 2015

Lantau Island, Hong Kong

Where to stay in Hong Kong
First Day

People often travel to escape reality but for me its different i want more than that. I love to explore the authenticity and wonders of another country. The next country on my vacation checklist is Hong Kong, the name is derived from two Chinese characters which means "fragrant harbour", I bet they got that name because of the aromatic smell of their noodles and dumplings along the port during those times. 
Our Hong Kong trip was planned months ahead by my college friends. Yet it turns out that they're not coming along at all. Too bad for them because we had so much fun. Good thing my mum never backs out on any travel plans. And it was way more easier for me to plan out the budget, book the hostel and decide on the activities

We arrived at Hong Kong International Airport in the morning . The country is divided into two parts: the airport is located in the mainland of Hong Kong where it's connected to a smaller island. It is linked by a bridge and a underwater subway and that island is redundantly called Hong Kong Island, this is also the place where are Hostel is situated. Once we arrived in the airport I've noticed all the signs were properly placed for everyone to follow, this is not just in the airport but also in the MTR  stations. Read the signs, follow it and you will never get lost in HK. That's why I'll always be pointing out my HK motto in all my post. Inside the airport we followed the signs leading to the Bus Interchange, on the way you'll passed by the Train ticket station where you'll purchase your octopus card- this is a must-have! This is quite important for your transportation all around Hong Kong. 

MTR means Mass Transport Railway which is Hong Kong's rapid train service.

Adult Octopus Card for MTR ride around the city: HKD150 / S$25 / $20
(Inclusive of refundable HKD 50 load)

There's also an Airport Express train, the first train leaves at 5:54 Am. It cost more so better yet take the bus, you're on a holiday you've got all the time you need. At the bus interchange, we took Bus # A21 that goes to Tsim Sha Tsui . The bus station is located just outside the airport. If you have a midnight flight then you can take the night bus N21 to TST at the same location. I'm pointing out this bus service because majority of all the cheap hostels are around this area too. 

I've done my research, asked a lot of my friends whose been to HK and most of them advised me to book our accommodation at the Chunking Mansions. This place is not really hundred percent safe, clean and friendly, and that would even be your first impression when you get there but it's really not that bad. The ground floor holds a variety of shops managed by Indians, Arabs and more. However its really not that bad when you get to your room whichever floor it is. Make sure to read tripadvisor and  travel forums about your hostel. We landed in a very clean room, with everyday housekeeping and new towels. The management even gave us the family room but we only stayed for a night. Don't stay higher that fifth floor because the elevator there is a torture. I requested for the room I've booked and the precise floor that was stated in my booking. It was a smaller room but the accessibility to get to the elevator fast had bigger chances. This place is great for backpackers whose looking for a budget friendly accommodation. I saw different nationalities booked their rooms in Chunking Mansion, you are not alone even the people who can surely afford a hotel stays in this place. Join the craze and just have fun with it. Thinking too much on a holiday is not good for you and your companions. 

We arrive at the hostel an hour before lunch time. 
Checked in Shanghai Hostel, Chunking Mansion (5 mins. away from Tsim Sha Tsui MTR, Exit N1)
Accommodation: 4 Nights 5 Days HKD2300 /S$350 /$300

There are two ways to get to the TST station in our place. One was across the street in front of the hostel and the next one is just around the corner nearby 7"11. We noticed this second option after 2 days roaming around the area. On our first day we crossed the street outside of the hostel, passed by different kinds of shop and found another train station East Tsim Sha Tsui MTR. We came to a stop in Fairfood for lunch. Food prices ranges below HKD 250-125 / S$20. It was a few steps away from East Tsim Sha Tsui MTR. 

The first thing on our list for the day was to visit Lantau Island. 
How to get there: Lantau Island
Tung Chung Cable Car Terminal is 2-minute walk from Exit B of MTR's Tung Chung Station.

We took the green line MTR and change to the yellow line station. From Tung Chung MTR exit, proceed outside, walk pass the mall and look for the bus terminal. Unfortunately, the cable car going to the island was under construction. So we took the longer path by New Lantau Bus Line 23 which took around 45 minutes to an hour to get to the island. Still it was a pleasant ride because we got to see the mountains up close and the body of water surrounding the island. Bus Fare: HKD 17- HKD 30 

The renovation should be done by now so if you're planning to take the cable car then here are some information about it. Ngong Ping 360 is a 5.7 km cable car ride which stretches from Tung Chung  to Ngong Ping Plateau. The 25-minute cable car ride features great views of Lantau Island, the Giant Buddah, Hong Kong International Airport and Ngong Ping Village. Tickets: Ngong Ping 360, adult/child HKD 60-150 Round trip journey

You don't need to book any tour going to Lantau Island, its better to just wander around and see the different side of Hong Kong. We went to the gigantic Buddha named Tian Tan Buddha where in you have to take 256 steps in order to reach the top. The sight above was pretty nice, you can see the mountains and it makes you feel closer to the higher being above. I guess this is one of the reasons why monasteries and temples were built on mountains. Afterwards we went sightseeing in the Po Lin Monastery, Fisherman's wharf , window shop in the fancy market place and had an ice cream at their European inspired garden park. 

We took the bus again back to the MTR station. Try to leave the island before 5 pm, the place is jam-packed with tourist and the queue gets really crazy. After spending the whole day in Lantau Island we went for a relaxing late afternoon stroll in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Sightseeing Victoria Harbor and Avenue of Stars
Nearest MTR: Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station Exit J and follow the signs.
Watch Symphony of Lights in Victoria Harbor. It holds the Guinness World Records as the world's largest permanent light and sound show.

We were planning to go to Disneyland the next day. There are Two options to purchase the tickets: 
1. Along Avenue of the Stars there's a stall where you can by the ticket and get a free gift. Buy them before 10 pm. 
2. Or buy discounted ticket in the hostel. I chose option two. Normally the ticket is around HKD 450 in our hostel they sell  it a bit cheaper for  HKD 420.

It was still early to get back to the hostel so we drop by the Night Market in Temple Street. Nearest MTR: Jordan or Yau Ma Tei. We choose Jordan MTR , there the market is just 3 blocks away from Temple Street. 

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