My room rate at the W Hong Kong includes breakfast and this morning I would thus be having a nice meal at the Kitchen Restaurant on the lobby level. Entering the restaurant, I was greeted with the bohemian decor of the place with dark vintage cupboards and interesting restaurant decors all around. I was provided with a seat by the window which is perhaps the best seat in the house with the harbour view. It is then one of the reasons why the harbour view rooms aren’t necessary if one is intending it for the view since it can be had from the restaurant. I ordered a cup of latte to go along with my breakfast before heading to the buffet counter which is in a separate area on its own. There was a bread and pastry section, a Chinese food counter, western selections, salads, egg station and an amazing fruit, juices and smoothie counter. Overall it was perhaps one of the best breakfast experience I had in any hotel breakfast.
Staying at the W have other benefits and there was a complimentary guest shuttle to Tsim Sha Tsui from the hotel departing every half hourly. Though by the time I was due to leave, I had missed the shuttle. Thus I decided to venture around the mall and got myself a pair of new Onitsukas and a luggage lock. I also decided to have lunch here at the mall, and settled down at this restaurant called Wang Jia Sha located within the Elements mall. In fact, their menu looks a lot like the one at Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao in Singapore. By just having an order of steamed xiao long baos and soup dumplings, I was satisfied for lunch as I had another heavy breakfast earlier in the day. After lunch I returned to the room with my shopping bags and headed to the concierge for the shuttle service. Unlike the Hyatt at Sha Tin which uses a minibus that could seat more people, the W uses sleek and uber-comfortable Toyota Alphards which offers first class seating for up to 6 passengers. Speaking of Alphards, these van-like vehicles is extremely popular in Hong Kong, and they even look cool in white and black! At that time I was the only passenger in the car and it was an awkward trip all the way to Tsim Sha Tsui besides the driver enquiring with me on where I would like to be dropped off. I chose to stop at Harbour City and after bypassing a small traffic jam, it took us some time to reach this near destination. I was dropped off at the northern end of the shopping mall beside the entrance to the Marco Polo Prince Hotel where I stayed during my first visit to Hong Kong several years back. It was nice to revisit some of those old memories. Inside the mall, I had more time that day to explore the various Christmas decorations within the mall and was amused by the cute Santa decor which was painted in various patterns and colour schemes as part of a donation by corporations and companies for charity. Christmas shopping was also in high gear that Thursday afternoon as queues formed outside luxury boutiques like Louis Vuitton, Prada and Cartier. I suspect a lot of these queues got to do with the fact that Chinese tourists are in town visiting, since the branches of these stores at Elements mall was pretty quiet earlier in the day.
From Harbour City, I made my way along Canton Road towards Heritage 1881 before going to the Star Ferry Terminal. Hong Kong is one of those cities with excellent public transport. The MTR network is supplemented by double decker public buses and smaller minibuses, and this is on top of the affordable taxi service around the town. And visitors in Hong Kong could always get the Octopus travel card in Hong Kong, making it even more convenient for cashless payment. Where does the Star Ferry come in here then? The answer is that it probably is the most value-for-money transport and tourist ride in Hong Kong. Plying the waters of Victoria Harbour, the Star Ferry has routes between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon with terminals at Central, Wan Chai, Tsim Sha Tsui and Hung Hom. Due to the low cost of the fare of between HK$ 2.50 to 6.30 for a one way ride on the ferry, it makes it worthwhile to take the ferry between the various stops to soak in the sights of the Hong Kong harbour front skyline. Couple that with the setting sun that day, it was also a great opportunity for photo taking. In fact I took the Star Ferry thrice that afternoon, taking the routes from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central, Central to Hung Hom and Hung Hom to Wan Chai.
These three routes provide me with various perspectives of Hong Kong’s massive conglomeration of skyscrapers. From the Central Pier, I also got to capture some nice views of the International Commerce Centre (ICC) which forms the second tower along with 2 International Finance Centre (IFC) as two columns standing by the gateway to Hong Kong’s Harbour. Taking the Star Ferry also allowed me to take some shots of the ferry with the city skyline in the backdrop. The cool weather with the bright sunny skies make the cruise more pleasant than ever as I ended the ferry ride by stopping at the Wan Chai Pier, and walked with the peak hour crowds heading home on the MTR from Wan Chai to Central. Being a Friday evening, the crowds were much more eager to get back home or spend their weekend with their loved ones and it was always nice to experience the energy of the people living in this city.
I reached Kowloon MTR close to sundown and got to see the last few rays of light of the day from the room before I went into the shower to get ready for another meet up with a university friend who is living in Hong Kong. Since I wouldn’t be meeting him for dinner, I had diner first at the Elements mall again and this time round, I chose a fast option of Japanese Ramen at a Ramen and Sake Bar called Ippei-an. Though it was packed, I managed to snag a seat by the bar since I was alone. Besides a bowl of Shio Ramen, I also ordered some kushi or grilled skewers as starters, and managed to fill myself up before heading once again to Hong Kong Island side as I would meet my friend at Causeway Bay MTR.
The trip back to Hong Kong Island meant I had to cross the walkway between Hong Kong and Central MTR once again considering I passed by it yesterday and earlier on in the day when I took the MTR to return to the hotel. This just goes to show how useful the pathway is for someone taking the MTR. I was slightly late for my appointment with my friend and there was a large crowd outside Times Square too where I was supposed to meet him. But it was all good as we made our way to the Jockey Club on foot, as I was due to follow my friend to watch the horse race in Hong Kong – a virgin experience for me!
On my way to Sha Tin from Tsim Sha Tsui during my first day in Hong Kong, I passed by the larger Hong Kong Jockey Club and even before meeting up with my friend in Hong Kong, had every intention of visiting the Jockey Club on a Race day. This desire arise from a TVB drama regarding horse racing which I watched some time ago. Horse racing has a history in Hong Kong’s development and the neighbourhood of Happy Valley or 跑馬地 Pao Ma Di (Race Horse Grounds in Chinese characters) got its name from this historical race course close to Causeway Bay MTR Station. It was a grand sight with the variety of spotlights shining from the grandstands, turning nighttime into day and making the course as clear as it was daylight. Needless to say with the day being a Thursday night, and close to Christmas time, the race course was packed. A few rounds of races and a mug of beer later, I was ready to call it a day (or night) and decided to part ways with my friend to make my way back to the hotel as I had an ultra long haul flight tomorrow and would want to preserve as much energy as possible.
Before taking the MTR back to Kowloon, I stopped by the large supermarket beneath Times Square, had some dessert from Honeymoon Dessert, one of my favourite dessert stall. The stall is located within a food court beside the supermarket and it was still packed with people at this time of the night. My main purpose of dropping by though is to purchase some Royce Chocolates and this time I was lucky enough to get the limited edition Cafe-flavoured Nama Chocolate Bar which I would bring with me to Vancouver. Perfect for spending a winter Christmas night!
The next day, I woke up early to do some exercise to perk myself up and burn some calories from all the food I had in Hong Kong. Heading to the Fitness Centre named ‘Sweat’ at W Hong Kong, I was again pleased to note that its location at the top of the hotel just one floor below the swimming pool ensured I got a nice view out into the harbour while doing the treadmill! It was relatively crowded in the morning with many people doing their regular workout for the day. The modern treadmills were also amazing to use and I was provided towels and earphones by the fitness consultant. Those earphones would be useful in watching TV channels from the touch screen monitor in front of the treadmill! These modern amenities in the W Hong Kong cemented its status as a favourite hotel for me! With me being sweaty and sticky after half an hour on the treadmill, I returned to shower before going to ‘Kitchen’ restaurant again for another round of amazing breakfast! My stay in Hong Kong has been worthwhile thus far as I met up with my friends and was able to experience stays at 2 amazing property (W Hong Kong and Hyatt Regency Sha Tin). Though I was reluctant to leave Hong Kong, it was time for the next phase of my Circle Pacific trip – the flight to Vancouver where I will spend Christmas, New Year and Lunar New Year at!