23 May 2014

HK Day 1: Finally made it

We landed in Hong Kong in the mid-afternoon on Friday, May 23.  Of course, we were very happy to finally arrive after the trials and tribulations of the prior couple days (a total of 37 hours travelling!), though Todd could have used another hour to wrap up watching the first season of Under the Dome (oh well, we’ll save that for the return flight; Gwen is rolling her eyes).  Getting through customs was a breeze.  One oddity that we noticed, however, is that Hong Kong passport control doesn’t give you a stamp in your passport.  Instead, they give you a little slip of paper indicating how long you’re allowed to stay in the country – best not to lose that!
As the Hong Kong airport is located on Lantau Island, we needed to catch a bus from the airport to our hotel, the Langham Place in Mong Kok on Kowloon peninsula.  Fortunately, while we were in Dubai, Gwen was able to correspond with the Langham Place and let them know about our delay.  When we walked up to the hotel’s desk at the airport, the folks there were expecting us.  After spending about half an hour waiting for the bus, surrounded by hilarious Chinese tour groups wearing matching hats or neon t-shirts, we were loaded onto a bus and got underway. While the bus ride took us through mostly industrial areas, the bus did take us past a few things of interest, including a gigantic shipping port and the cable cars on Lantau Island that you can ride up to the top of a mountain for great views and to see a large Buddha statute.
We got to the Langham Place around 5pm.  The hotel reminds us somewhat of the Hotel Akasaka Excel where we stayed in Tokyo.  Like the Akasaka, the entrance on the street level leads only to an elevator bay, which in turn takes you to the lobby one floor up. The rooms are similar in format too.  The check-in process was quite smooth, and our bags were delivered to our room by a zealous bell-hop who gave us an extensive tour of the amenities of the room.  Very nice over all! 
After washing up (very welcome after our most recent bout of travelling), we decided to explore the area around the hotel.  Mong Kok and the neighborhoods directly south along Nathan Road are extremely busy at night.  We walked about 20 minutes from Mong Kok to Jordan to find the Temple Street Night Market, a large, famous street market spanning a few blocks where folks sell a wide variety of items.  Over all, the market was very fun to see, but we did not stop to buy anything.  Many of the items for sale were touristy (e.g., I Heart Hong Kong t-shirts) and items started to repeat after a while (e.g., we saw several booths selling the same jade statutes, binoculars, and so on). 
Gate entrance to Temple Street Market
Nathan Road
After that, we walked back toward our hotel in search of dinner.  As mentioned, these neighborhoods were hopping at nighttime, and most every restaurant was packed even though it was now nearly 9:00pm.  Eventually, we ended up at Langham Place Mall, a gigantic and beautiful mall attached to our hotel, where we found a number of interesting restaurant options, including a restaurant serving various items on toast (such as meat floss on toast, and peanut butter toast), and a dessert restaurant focused exclusively on mochis.  We noticed that, though these restaurants were packed, they also were machines at getting customers seated, fed and out of their seats, and then cleaning up their tables in preparation for the next guests.  We settled on a raman restaurant, where we enjoyed the giant steaming bowls of noodles shown below.  So far, we haven’t had too much luck attempting to order in English, but the point at the menu and smile method seems to work fine!  All told, these giant bowls together were about $20 U.S.
Well-fed and ready for sleep, we ambled back to our hotel through the walk bridge connecting to the mall.  Gwen cranked out yesterday’s blog post before she conked out (Todd was already asleep).

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