COURTESY THOMAS SUGITA
The Macau Mall is one of the inviting stops on a trip to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong taps man's ingenuity, nature's majesty
My trip to Hong Kong coincided with the 11th annual Hong Kong Marathon, which starts with a 10K race beginning at 5:30 a.m. in front of the Miramar Hotel on Nathan Road.
This race is followed by a half-marathon and finally the full marathon at 7:40 a.m., each offering the spectacular sight of a sea of runners. Just like our Honolulu Marathon, this is an international event, hosting hundreds of runners from Japan and other countries.
When several friends suggested staying at the YMCA, I had my doubts as to what kind of accommodations would be offered. My worries ceased when I got there. At HK$1,427 ($190) per night, our room with two beds overlooking the harbor was great, and the cost included the room service charge and daily breakfast for two. The hotel is also wonderfully situated on Salisbury Road overlooking Victoria Harbor, just a 25-minute ride from the airport.
The Y is also within a block of Hong Kong's Tsim Sha Tsui shopping and business district. Standing across from the hotel are the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Hong Kong Museum of Art and Hong Kong Space Museum, and to the right across the street are the bus and Star Ferry terminals. Trendy department stores in the area include DFS Galleria Plaza, Harbour City, Miramar Shopping Centre, New World Centre, SOGO and others. The main avenue of major malls and shops on Canton and Nathan roads are also just a block away from the YMCA.
Smoking ban: Just as in Hawaii, smoking is now prohibited in most public enclosed places including restaurants, malls and some bars. Some outdoor areas, such as public beaches and swimming pools, transport interchanges and outside escalators, also are covered by the ban.
Passport: For Americans, only a passport is required for stays varying from seven to 180 days. Travelers should check with the Hong Kong Government Immigration Department to ensure that they are in compliance.
The traveler steps into this throng at his own risk, as runners fill the streets. Once you get through this mob of elbows, legs and bobbing heads, Hong Kong is a place to experience fantastic views, great shopping, exciting night life, tasty cuisine and a bustling harbor.
Hong Kong is actually spread over Hong Kong Island, Kowloon Peninsula, New Territories and more than 260 outlying islands, with a total population of 7 million. It's considered one of the world's greatest destinations, with much to do and see.
Victoria Peak: A journey by tram takes you to Victoria Peak for a panoramic view from 1,400 feet above Victoria Harbor, looking over to Kowloon. My wife and I were fortunate that the weather was clear and sunny, having been told that the visibility is not good for viewing and photography two-thirds of the year. Even when the skies are not clear, a visit to the peak is a must and worth every minute spent shopping, eating or relaxing.
Aberdeen Fishing Village: The oldest traditional fishing village gives the modern traveler insight into the lives of the elders who make their home on the water, in rustic sampans. We pay a small fee to ride one of these sampans between rows of fishing boats of varying sizes.
The days of fishermen are nearing an end as their 21st-century progeny show no signs of adopting their elders' hand-to-mouth lifestyle. Many villagers now make a living escorting tourists around this area instead.
Located in this harbor is the largest floating restaurant in the world, the Jumbo Kingdom, where one can enjoy a sumptuous lunch or dinner. A 45-minute cruise package, including the harbor tour and lunch or dinner, can be arranged with any tour agency.
Repulse Bay: This is considered by the Chinese to be the most beautiful and popular summer escape for swimmers. Located in the southern part of Hong Kong, it is serene, with few hotels.
Stanley Market: Early in the evening, we arrive at this marketplace of countless vendors hawking souvenirs, garments and a wide variety of merchandise. When shopping in Hong Kong, it is recommended that one look for the sign with the logo and seal that reads, "A Quality Shop recognized by the Hong Kong Tourism Board." These signs signify that these shops have passed stringent annual assessments demonstrating that they provide genuine products and ensure superb customer service.
Macau, an hour away from Hong Kong by ferry, has a Las Vegas-like atmosphere.
This shopping complex on Canton Road and the waterfront is home to about 700 shops, 50 restaurants, two movie theaters and three hotels. It can be exhausting to try to see each shop, but there's no question that Hong Kong is a shopper's paradise for trendy clothing and accessories.
Victoria Harbor: After breakfast we walked the promenade along the waterfront, one of the busiest and most photographed harbors in the world. The view of the hotels across from our side of the peninsula was a view to behold. Many of the hotels are 40 to 50 stories high, double the height of a typical Honolulu high-rise. Evening brings an even better view, as at 8 p.m. each night thousands of people line the harbor promenade to view "A Symphony of Lights," a multimedia light-and-sound show involving 33 buildings and hotels on both sides of Victoria Harbor. The 15-minute spectacle can be seen and heard from any part of the waterfront promenade or from area hotels.
Macau: Next morning, walking down the main Canton Road, it took us several blocks and 10 minutes to reach the ferry terminal office -- located in the China Hong Kong City complex -- to catch a 10 a.m. ride to Macau. Called Asia's Las Vegas, more than 40 hotels and casinos make up this island paradise, influenced by the Portuguese, Indian, Malay and Chinese cultures -- as well as the native Macanese.
At the China Ferry Terminal, we paid HK$155 ($20) for a one-way ticket by ferry that was filled to capacity, at 200 to 300 per vessel. Seats are assigned so there is no need to rush on board.
The hourlong trip was smooth and comfortable, but air pollution prevented us from viewing the many islands on the way, although the skies turned clear upon our arrival at Macau. Casinos are a 10- to 15-minute walk from the ferry terminal. After clearing customs, we headed to the largest casino, the Sands.
There is no question that the Chinese like to gamble at this particular casino. At 11 a.m. it was full of gamblers. After some token gambling, we tried the buffet lunch, which was as good or better than Las Vegas but much more expensive.