The Star Ferry to Central
One of the iconic images of Hong Kong is the Star Ferry, going backwards and forwards between Central (the main Hong Kong Island district) and Kowloon (the part of Hong Kong that joins mainland China if you cross the mountains). When you come to Hong Kong, you sort of have to go on the Star Ferry, even though the islands are actually linked by a very efficient underground train service.
We bought our tickets using the ticket machines on the pier. It costs the equivalent of 27p, and the ticket is a round plastic token, which you then use to open the turnstile. When the ferry is ready to board, there are signs and traffic lights, and you walk along walkways that rise and fall with the tide, and onto the boat. The crossing only takes a few minutes, and gives good photo opportunities of both sides of the water.
When you arrive at Central you are greeted with palm trees and Peruvian buskers. (I am guessing that the Peruvian buskers are not always there, but they were on this trip, and they were on my last visit about 6 years ago, so I am going to include them as a fixture.)
You leave the ferry terminal via walkways that cross the roads. These go through posh hotels and shopping malls full of designer shops, so you can walk a long way without leaving the walkways, through perfumed cool air. It’s not very real, but it’s more comfortable than the air outside.
We popped into the Mandarin Oriental while we were there—just because we’ve stayed there on previous visits and I love the smell of place, and the fancy chocolate shop and the comfy sofas in reception. It has an atmosphere of luxury (though again, not very real). Previously, I have always stayed in hotels in Central. However, I now much prefer staying on Kowloon, as it’s easier to find real life, and to glimpse real people bustling in real markets.
We saw old trams, which seem more high and more narrow than trams in other cities, and the old colonial buildings that cluster near to the where the water used to be (but they have now reclaimed so much land, that it has all shuffled back a bit from the water’s edge). We passed HSBC, which is guarded by two lions—they have very shiny paws because people rub them for luck.
The weather was dry, but humid and very hot—not at all comfortable; I don’t know how people managed to be wearing suits.
We returned to Kowloon, and paid 5p extra to sit on the top deck (can’t accuse my husband of being mean). It was dusk when we returned, and the junks had their big red sails illuminated, which was very pretty—they looked like giant red butterflies gliding over the water. The Star Ferry is slightly more prosaic, with hard seats and men who shout, but I prefer it.
We ate at The Night Market restaurant in Elements mall again. We’ve eaten here every evening so far, and the staff all laugh when they see us. But the food is really good, especially for me (am a very anxious eater when abroad because am so often ill)—it’s freshly cooked, comes quickly to the table so is piping hot, and everything is very clean and efficient. We are gradually working our way through the menu, and today I chose noodles, which were basically long spaghetti (no idea how you’re meant to eat that with chopsticks, I made a mess). The dim sum is my absolute favourite, you can’t beat a soup-filled dumpling!
Hope you eat well today. Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the bun festival.
Love, Anne x