The first 24 hours

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Escape - - 48 HOURS HONG KONG -

Kowloon Traf­fic in Hong Kong can be­come no­to­ri­ously con­gested but the con­ve­nient mass tran­sit rail sys­tem (MTR) makes nav­i­ga­tion a breeze.

A quick walk through the out­let mall brings you to Tung Chung MTR sta­tion.

The Nan Lian Gar­dens (MTR to Di­a­mond Hill Sta­tion, exit C2), with 3.5ha of metic­u­lously main­tained gar­dens, is my first stop. Ev­ery plant, pond, tim­ber struc­ture and rock has been placed ac­cord­ing to an­cient Tang Dy­nasty style.

Across the road, framed by lush for­est and sur­rounded by high­den­sity, high-rise build­ings is the Chi Lin Nun­nery. Mu­sic plays as I walk past the memo­rial tablets of an­cient Bud­dhist sages. There is a sep­a­rate prayer hall for nuns. This Bud­dhist nun­nery is un­de­ni­ably beau­ti­ful and very quiet.

At Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Tem­ple (MTR to Wong Tai Sin Sta­tion, exit B2) the colourful stalls sell­ing gar­ish red and gold reli­gious to­kens are a shock to my senses af­ter the morn­ing’s peace. The place was packed with lo­cals pray­ing.

Mong Kok (MTR to Prince Ed­ward Sta­tion) is a maze of side streets, full of life, colour and in­ter­est­ing smells. Proud song­bird own­ers walk through the Yuen Po Street Bird Gar­den with their birds in or­nate bam­boo cages. The flower mar­ket is a fra­grant ex­plo­sion of colour and the Gold­fish Mar­ket has to be seen to be be­lieved. The bot­toms of glass tanks are a car­pet of baby tur­tles, and plas­tic bags filled with fish hang out­side each shop lin­ing the street. The Chi­nese be­lieve the more fish they own, the luck­ier they will be.

Mong Kok is also home to the Jade, Ladies and Tem­ple St night mar­kets, which are best ex­plored late in the af­ter­noon. Hong Kong Is­land – Cen­tral The Star Ferry has been mak­ing the trip across Vic­to­ria Har­bour for more than 120 years. At about $HK2.50 (30¢) it’s good value and a great way to ap­pre­ci­ate how tightly packed is the city.

I ar­rived at the Penin­sula Ho­tel lobby just as af­ter­noon tea was be­gin­ning (2pm-6pm daily). As I sam­pled rib­bon sand­wiches, a le­mon tart with blue­ber­ries and cas­sis sher­bet, scones and del­i­cate wafers, it didn’t take much of a stretch of the imag­i­na­tion to pic­ture Hong Kong as a for­mer British colony.

Catch the MTR to Cen­tral and fol­low the signs to the Mid-Lev­els es­ca­la­tor. At 800m, it’s the long­est out­door es­ca­la­tor in the world and rid­ing all 20 to the top takes just un­der 20 min­utes.

If it’s a clear af­ter­noon, make haste to The Peak and the ver­tig­i­nous Peak Tram. If it’s a hazy day (there are plenty) there’s lit­tle point in go­ing up as the har­bour and sky­line just don’t pen­e­trate the smog. In­stead, fol­low the signs to the free zoo and botanic gar­dens or ex­plore the many nooks

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