Taking the shuttle service to Sha Tin was a nice experience. There were only one other passenger besides me on the shuttle bus and it was a leisurely across the heart of Kowloon, passing through tunnels and highways before entering Sha Tin Town Centre. Leaving the dense and packed atmosphere of Tsim Sha Tsui, Sha Tin feels very spacious and green. The Hyatt Regency at Sha Tin is located beside the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the shuttle bus makes one stop at the Sha Tin Town Centre which connects to the Sha Tin MTR, before heading direct to the hotel lobby.
Upon reaching the hotel, I was warmly greeted at the reception and brought to the Club Floor for check-in since I had booked a Club King Room. With only one receptionist at work, I took a seat and took a walk around the lounge before getting attended to. Upon getting served, it took a while for the receptionist to assign a room for me and due to some slight technical difficulties and the fact that the room is still being cleaned, I was asked to take a seat and help myself to some snacks at the lounge. I helped myself to cookies and a bottle of still water while admiring the view from the Club Lounge. Unlike my arrival at Hyatt Regency Tsim Sha Tsui which was uneventful and fast, the experience here is on another level with extended lounge service on arrival and guests being able to relax while waiting for their room. The best thing is the view from the Regency Club Lounge which provided a nice harbour view.
Just right on cue after I finished my cookies, the receptionist walked over to my table and passed me my room key and wished me a pleasant stay. I think I am beginning to like this hotel already even though it was a bit out of the way from town. I stayed at the lounge for a while more to admire the views and finish my bottle of water before taking the elevator one floor down to my assigned room. Suprisingly I was provided a Corner King Room which had a view of the mountain area and the Sha Tin Racecourse in the distance. The room was also amazingly spacious, and perhaps twice the size of my assigned room the previous night at Hyatt Regency Tsim Sha Tsui. Another outstanding experience was the thick carpeting outside on the corridor to the room which was supremely comfortable to walk on. With my room being on the end of the corridor, I did enjoy the walk to and from the room.
Being a corner room, there was a large bathroom with oversized windows looking out into the room. A privacy screen could be lowered from the bathroom and a large bathtub could be found in the room with a separate shower cubicle. The bedroom itself is furnished with one large king bed, and there is a 2-seater sofa facing towards the TV Console which has a large LCD TV. On the corner lies a work desk and a comfortable armchair while the other end has a dressing table and wardrobe. Staying at the Hyatt Regency Club Floor also meant I got complimentary wi-fi from the room and was able to send my e-mails for work as well as check up on the news. Like the Club Rooms in Fairmont Yangcheng Lake, I was also able to borrow some DVDs from the Business Centre which I could enjoy with the DVD player set up to the LCD TV in the room. I would have preferred that the DVD library was kept with the Club Lounge at the top though since it would be more convenient for Club Room Guests.
The hotel’s location, while in a suburban area, is conveniently beside a large bus interchange as well as the University MTR Station. I took the MTR southbound to Tai Wai MTR Station before changing another train to head to Che Kung Temple. As expected, I came here to visit some of the places of interest in Sha Tin which includes the Che Kung Temple 車公廟 and the Tsang Tai Uk 曾大屋. There was good directions provided from the MTR towards Che Kung Temple and I had a leisurely walk along the canal towards the temple. There were locals jogging and cycling along this route at this time of the day, and I can really see why. With little traffic along the area, and lots of trees and a cool weather, it was a nice sunny afternoon for a walk. Che Kung Temple looks ordinary from the outside with high walls and had little crowds that afternoon. Entering via the side entrance, I passed by a row of fortune tellers who have set up stalls lined along the corridor facing the main courtyard. Along the main entrance, devotees could purchase incense and windmills to be offered to the deities, and I purchased one pack of incense with the prices transparently displayed on the stall. A booth at the courtyard would help to light up the incense and I was ready to make my prayers at the temple. The large temple lies in the middle of the of the courtyard and is a large structure designed in a more contemporary fashion, with less intricate carvings. Inside the temple lies a central altar and separate halls on the left and right. The hall on the left had statues of deities related to the annual Chinese zodiacs. In my opinion, the most interesting feature of the temple were the colourful windmills that devotees place on the temple. It makes for an interesting sight and would have been wonderful on a windy day.
From the temple, I made my way back to the MTR and past it to walk towards the Tsang Tai Uk or translated literally as the Big House of the Tsang. Built by an immigrant clan, the house is styled after the Hakka style fortress-house in China, though it is rectangular in shape rather than round. Consisting of a several rows and columns of courtyards, it is still a private residence till today. There is a large recreational park just adjacent to the site, though the signs towards the places that were open to visitors were nowhere to be seen. It is thus not a very tourist-friendly attraction, and really a site for architectural buffs only. With the initial plan to return to the hotel via MTR again, I made a change of plans after walking in the nice weather at Sha Tin. The network of pathways with clear signs was great allowing pedestrians to bypass traffic lights through underground tunnels. With the directional signs, I decided to walk towards Sha Tin Town Centre, where I surmised I could take a shorter MTR route from Sha Tin MTR. The walk was great and made my day out exploring Sha Tin as it allowed me to mingle with locals walking, jogging and fishing by the walkway along the Sha Tin Canal. I did notice that it was mainly older folks living in this area or being a weekday, the young ones are working in the city. The nice weather and cool air made me miss East Coast Park in Singapore and I do think that Sha Tin is one of the nicer neighbourhood to stay in Hong Kong.
The canal cutting across Sha Tin also sort of bisects the commercial and residential district and multiple bridges across this canal provides pedestrians with a convenient route of getting to this huge shopping complex called New Town Plaza. These bridges also provides casual fishers with locations to lay wait for their catch. Brick-laid pathways along the canals acts as venues for entertainment, a game of chess or even playgrounds. This peaceful residential feel was a nice break from the packed residential feel at Tsim Sha Tsui. Across from New Town Plaza was also the Royal Park Hotel, so this could also be an alternative for tourists keen on visiting Sha Tin while in Hong Kong. The first place I looked for in the mall was an eatery as I was hungry after the exploration and have not had lunch (no matter since I had a relatively heavy breakfast). I found this Japanese-themed section which had a food court selling all kinds of Japanese foods, a supermarket loaded with candies and crackers from Japan and even a MUJI boutique. The food court was where I spent money on getting a plate of omu-noodles set with takoyaki. Fried noodles with omlette and takoyaki is always nice for an afternoon snack and it provided me with a nice meal for a relatively cheap cost. I spent the rest of my afternoon in the mall shopping as I was looking to buy an additional memory card for my camera. Amongst the store I visited in the mall was the Burberry Black Label Store, as it is one of those brands that couldn’t be found in Singapore or Indonesia. The Burberry Black Label, as I found out is a Japan-franchised brand of Burberry which caters to Asian-size fit and this was where I got some of my new year’s clothings. From there, I returned to the hotel via the Sha Tin MTR which is connected to the mall and thus it was a great idea to walk back to Sha Tin Town Centre after exploring the sights in the area. Shoppers need to beware though as the huge mall would perhaps take a whole day to fully explore all the shops in the mall.
Upon returning to the hotel, I took a short break before heading once again to the Regency Club Lounge which has a small terrace from where I managed to get wonderful photographs of the sunset and sundown scenes at the Sha Tin waterfront. As the Lounge was also serving evening snacks at this time, I gave it a try. Having had the opportunity to try some Hotel Lounges (one in Fairmont Calgary Palliser, Fairmont Yangcheng Lake, and the Hotel Indonesia Kempinski) I would have to say the Regency Club Lounge at Sha Tin beats them in terms of view, and lounge offerings. There was a nice menu which was changed daily where guests at the lounge could order from. I remembered ordering a skewer of grilled prawns that day, and was able to help myself on the buffet counter which had crackers, duck foie gras pate (yes, foie gras), small tapas platters, a salad bar, cheese counter and desserts of apple crumble with vanilla sauce. I tried a little bit of the food and ended the meal with 2 bowls of fruit cocktail which was chilled in the cooler along with a wide selection of beverages. Overall, the lounge access for breakfast, evening snacks and the views made it worthwhile getting a Club room over the normal ones in this property!
The food at the lounge just refilled my stomach and I thought of heading to to Tsim Sha Tsui for a full dinner was crossed out, but I still took the late evening shuttle service to Tsim Sha Tsui since I had nothing on for that night and I could take this opportunity to soak in the sights of Victoria Harbour at night. The skyline of Hong Kong seen from the Avenue of Stars to the Star Ferry Pier at Tsim Sha Tsui is something that I never tire of, even after visiting it at least once in all the time I’ve been to Hong Kong. The evening shuttle service from Sha Tin is more packed and already had a couple of people seated when I boarded the bus. After being dropped off at Hyatt Regency TST where I stayed the previous night, I walked over to Nathan Road and noticed the large group of foreign immigrants selling their wares which would make this stretch a real tourist trap for people. With no interest in their wares whatsoever, I continued on to the Avenue of Stars, a waterfront promenade outside the InterContinental Hotel in Hong Kong. I started my sightseeing of the skyline of Hong Kong from this point, ending it at the Star Ferry Pier in Tsim Sha Tsui before more shopping at Harbour City. This little detour also allowed me to visit another place of interest I was keen to visit: Heritage 1881. This large colonial-style building right in the centre of bustling Tsim Sha Tsui was renovated to become an upscale leisure and shopping destination with a cool outdoor terrace and central courtyard looking into Salisbury Road. At that night it was also crowded due to the beautiful christmas decorations attracting crowds outdoors, even when the luxury watch boutiques which makes up the majority of the tenants in the small mall has closed. Interestingly this building which used to be the headquarters for the marine police is also fitted with a small luxury boutique hotel which might be worth checking out. By this time, I decided to call it a day and walked back to the Hyatt in TST, but not before getting another helping of curried fish balls which I enjoy in Hong Kong. Fortunately I was still on time for the last bus that departs Tsim Sha Tsui for Sha Tin and even took the last row seats on the bus since it was quite packed with many guests staying at Sha Tin boarding this bus back to the hotel.
This day spent in Hong Kong has been great for me and even with the stay in Hyatt Regency at Sha Tin, I was still able to get a taste of how some of the people live in suburbia Hong Kong, but also got to enjoy the city for what it is meant for tourists including the waterfront promenade view as well as the great variety of shopping in the city. With the much cheaper rates of the Hyatt Regency Sha Tin and the all-inclusive lounge access, I would definitely place this stay in Sha Tin as one of the most worthwhile in the year of 2010!