A Vacation That Enlightened and Entertained – Thailand and Hong Kong Part 3
By Anthony Adler
Our Thai Airways nonstop flight from Phuket to Hong Kong took just 3-1/2 hours. Our hotel, InterContinental Hong Kong, had arranged for our transfers in a luxurious 7-seated Toyota Alpha at a cost of about US $125 each way. For a family of four or more, this is actually much more comfortable than a traditional limousine.
The InterContinental’s hotel lobby ranks among the world’s most visually stunning. The windows rise several stories tall and provide a seamless view onto the famous Hong Kong harbor. Our accommodations consisted of a deluxe junior suite and connecting superior harbor-view room. Although Hong Kong was pulling at us to come explore, it was difficult for our family to stop staring out our panoramic windows at the boats and cruise ships sailing by.
Our first stops were visits to the finest tailors in Hong Kong for custom-made shirts and suits. Ascot Chang shirt makers are located just across the street from the InterContinental at the Peninsula. The store’s manager, Nelson, and his competent staff showed us book after book of fine fabrics before I splurged and ordered a dozen shirts. At DP Plaza, located in the ritzy K-11 Art Mall, Tommy Hui is an artist in suit making. Tommy had me return to his shop for two extra fittings to make sure the suits were just right. They were tailored perfectly and delivered to our hotel the night before we departed for home.
We became quite familiar with Hong Kong’s transportation system. We rode on the famous Star Ferry many times across the harbor from Kowloon (where our hotel was located) to the Hong Kong side with its many tourist attractions and fine hotels. The price is still just about 30 cents per person. The subway trains were also inexpensive, efficient and clean. We used a few taxis too, but they were much more expensive and nowhere near as much fun.
We walked around Kowloon and were amazed at the amount of money being spent at the luxury brand stores. Hermes, Tiffany and Chanel seemed to have shops on every corner, and they all were busy. Many of the big spenders were coming from Mainland China, but there were also quite a few from Europe, Australia and the United States. We did more window shopping than buying and our boys were ready to go back to our hotel to check their Facebook accounts. My wife and I decided to have a massage at the Peninsula Spa. We could really get used to the lifestyle we were enjoying on this vacation.
The Symphony of Lights is a spectacular laser light and music show that plays out every evening at 8:00 PM on both sides of the harbor. This is a must-see while in Hong Kong. The best way to view the show is on an old junk boat called the Aqua Luna. The one hour ride costs just about US $30 per adult and US $25 per child. Bring your camera!
Macau is often referred to as the Las Vegas of Asia. The island, a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, is dotted with familiar names like the Venetian, Wynn and MGM Grand. One hour ferries from Hong Kong depart continuously throughout the day. We purchased our tickets from the concierge at the InterContinental and were on our way to another adventure. While the short ride was smooth and went by quickly, the half hour wait to clear customs at the pier in Macau seemed to take forever. We looked at a few casinos and were impressed by their large size. People love to gamble in China! While there was a frenetic energy inside, it was more serious than we typically find in Las Vegas. The mood was lightened by a delicious dinner at Belcancao at the Four Seasons, which adjoins the giant Venetian complex.
The casinos were very interesting, as was learning about the island’s Portuguese history, but it didn’t leave us wanting to rush back for another visit.
Back in Hong Kong for more sightseeing, we visited Stanley Park, Repulse Bay and The Peak. Stanley Park has beautiful views of the bay below. In the alleys and busy stalls at Stanley Market, we purchased gifts to bring home for some of our friends. Watching my sons choose silk robes for their girlfriends was really quite humorous. Repulse Bay is a coastal enclave with many of the most expensive homes in all of Hong Kong.
The Peak is one of Hong Kong’s most popular attractions. Guests board an historic funicular railway for a very steep ride up the mountain that rises to about 1,300 feet above sea level. Once at the top of The Peak, there are dining venues, souvenir stores and a 360 degree panoramic view of Hong Kong below. We only spent a short time at the top of The Peak, as we all found the ride up and down on the funicular to be the real highlight of this excursion.
In the evening, we met friends for another birthday celebration for my son. This time we were having dinner at Man Wah, the famous Chinese restaurant atop the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Hong Kong Island. Course after course of Chinese food was beautifully presented to us. The food and views were extraordinary. The hotel was impressive as well, with everything from a formal barber shop to bakeries and other fine restaurants. If we were staying on the Hong Kong side of the harbor, Mandarin Oriental would be a top choice.
We originally planned on visiting Hong Kong Disneyland, but it’s a smaller version of the California amusement park and geared more toward younger children. We instead decided to visit Hong Kong’s Ocean Park with its marine mammal exhibits, oceanarium and theme attractions. Ocean Park is built on the lower and upper sides of a mountain, connected by a funicular, sky ride and escalators. My wife and kids rode the thrill rides while I took in the animal shows. I think I’m a fun guy, but I’m just not a big roller coaster fan. Besides, the giant panda habitat was especially interesting, as was the Chinese Sturgeon Aquarium.
We had considered dining at Spoon by Alan Ducasse at the InterContinental, but we were exhausted and instead ended up eating at a familiar restaurant from back home, Shakey’s Pizza Parlor. We thought the food would be the same as it is in their Los Angeles branch. It wasn’t. The pizza was much more expensive in Hong Kong and our kids concluded that it failed the taste test. Oh well, we had to try.
We had a leisurely breakfast in the Club InterContinental Lounge on the second floor overlooking the harbor before departing for home. It gave us time to reflect on what we had seen and done over the prior 13 days. We were ready to see our cats and dog again, and resume our normal lives, but we were also sad to leave the Asian lands where we had been treated so well. Looking back, it seems like a whirlwind of exploration. A vacation where our smiles were simply reflections of the people we met along the way. It was a joyous time for our whole family. While this was our first trip to Asia with our children, we all agreed it would not be our last.
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