Hong Kong hol­i­day

On a weekend get­away to the is­land, Mar­garet McKen­zie en­joys great food, Dis­ney magic and her own Bond Girl mo­ment.

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA -

Whether it’s a long lay­over be­tween flights or a two-day respite from day-to-day life, 48 hours in Hong Kong can put a spring back in one’s step — even if you’re step­ping up one of the city’s no­to­ri­ously steep in­clines.

If the weather gods are smil­ing, you’ll be able to scale moun­tains, en­joy a dip in the ocean, ride a wild roller-coaster and dine al fresco un­der the stars, all in the space of one short weekend.

As aUS­ex­patwho­has spent­mostof my life on one coast or an­other, I was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing se­ri­ous sea-breeze with­drawal af­ter six­monthsin Bei­jing.

Thus, step­ping out of Hong Kong’s air­port head­ing to the Le Meri­dien Cy­ber­port Ho­tel on the is­land, I am in­stantly back in my happy place, as the ver­dant hills, flower-be­decked trees and mois­tureair greetme warmly.

I’d been ad­vised to opt for the bus as op­posed to the air­port ex­press train on this, my first visit to the city: The A-10 of­fered tiers of seat­ing and breath­tak­ing views of the har­bors, is­lands and peaks that make Hong Kong so beau­ti­ful. Not only that, but at HK$42 ($5.42), the fare is less than half that of the train, though the bus takes a lit­tle longer.

I come armed with a wish list for the weekend, start­ing with dip­ping my toes in the wa­ters of Repulse Bay or Stan­ley Beach. So af­ter check-in I take an­other bus to Repulse Bay.

Though the life­guard sta­tions are re­as­sur­ingly sta­tioned ev­ery 10 me­ters or so, the only one wad­ing in the brac­ingly cold wa­ter is me. Every­where I look is a post­card-wor­thy vista, and the strand is dot­ted with sight­seers in street clothes cap­tur­ing the awe-in­spir­ing beauty with their cam­eras. Just south of the lux­ury high-rises en­cir­cling the bay are the red-and-yel­low pago­das and bridges of Tin Hau Tem­ple, whose stat­ues are ded­i­cated to pro­tect­ing the lo­cal fish­ing fleet.

Next I take the tram to Vic­to­ria Peak, which af­fords a panoramic though oc­ca­sion­ally hazy viewof the down­town. A quick cab ride later, I land in Cen­tral, where I drop coins in a to­ken ma­chine and soon climb aboard the fa­mous green-and-white Star Ferry, which in a mere 10 min­utes de­posits me at up­scale Kowloon and its glitzy malls.

Af­ter a stroll, I opt to dine at the Grey­hound Cafe near the har­bor, a trendy Thai chain with branches in Hong Kong, Shang­hai and Bei­jing. Its tasty Wa­ter­fall Grilled Lamb, served on skew­ers and washed down with an ice-cold Singha beer, hits the spot and gives me the en­ergy to findmy way back to the ho­tel. The next day dawns hot and clear. Al­though the lit­tle kid in me is lob­by­ing for an im­me­di­ate de­par­ture to Lan­tau Is­land (and Dis­ney­land), my grown-up self needs caf­feine. I ride up one of the mid-level es­ca­la­tors fromHong Kong’s Cen­tral district, where I find not only a pic­turesque cafe but also a street ded­i­cated to fresh pro­duce of all kinds. The fresh, crunchy ap­ple I pur­chase proves the per­fect fin­ish to my crois­sant-and-cof­fee break­fast, and the bustling, twisty streets are ex­actly as I have pic­tured ex­otic Hong Kong to be.

The ride to Lan­tau is fast and ef­fi­cient, and the Dis­ney train is a happy place in­deed: brim­ming with chil­dren of all ages and dec­o­rated with mouse-ear shaped win­dows and hand-holds. Al­though com­pact, HK Dis­ney of­fers bang for the buck in sev­eral ways: Its cel­e­brated fire­works go off nightly be­hind Cin­derella’s Cas­tle, and at $58, the tar­iff at the gate is about 40 per­cent cheaper than ticket prices in the US.

De­spite its smaller size, I find all of my old fa­vorites — Space Moun­tain, It’s a Small World, Dumbo the Fly­ing Ele­phant— along with a new one: Griz­zly Moun­tain Ru­n­away Mine Cars, an ex­cit­ing coaster that speeds for­wards and back­wards around “sand­stone” cliffs.

An­other pop­u­lar at­trac­tion on Lan­tau is the Tian Tan Buddha. At 250 tons and 34 me­ters high, it’s the world’s largest Buddha statue and reach­able on the same Tung Chung ex­press train that goes to Dis­ney.

By late af­ter­noon, I am back in Cen­tral district in pur­suit of a cool­ing bev­er­age at the icon­icMan­darin Ori­en­tal ho­tel. Us­ing the fu­tur­is­tic, en­closed walk­ways Hong Kong is fa­mous for, I head straight through the lobby to the el­e­gant bar, where — feel­ing like a Bond Girl in the swanky sur­round­ings — I am soon served a some­what pricey but very de­li­cious whiskey sour.

To make my fi­nal night in Hong Kong spe­cial, I snag a reser­va­tion at Quemo, a hap­pen­ing Span­ish tapas restau­rant I’ve read about on­line. As ad­ver­tised, the food is in­cred­i­ble and the small pent­house space is buzzing with con­ver­sa­tion as bot­tles of wine and siz­zling pans of paella whisk past. The staff is at­ten­tive and friendly. Af­ter din­ner, I en­joy a chat with blue-eyed Cat­alo­nian head chef An­gel Pas­cual, who shows me around the restau­rant, in­clud­ing a charm­ing rooftop drinks ter­race.

On the re­lax­ing cab ride back to the ho­tel, stirred by the flo­ral scents and happy chat­ter that sur­round me in HongKong, I am­busy plan­ning my re­turn to Xiang Gang — China’s Fra­grant Har­bor. Con­tact the writer at fea­tures@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

YU FANGPING / FOR CHINA DAILY

Dis­ney­land at­tracts both chil­dren and adults.

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