An archipelago of attractions

An archipelago of attractions

It was a long wait at the airport with the flight to Hong Kong delayed by over three hours, thanks to bad weather. The recent typhoon in Taiwan has...

Ocean Park

Touted as the world city, Hong Kong has more to offer than what meets the eye

It was a long wait at the airport with the flight to Hong Kong delayed by over three hours, thanks to bad weather. The recent typhoon in Taiwan has affected Hong Kong flight, speculated a few students sitting near me.

And as happens during such situations, fellow passengers get chatty. "So, where are you going?" the couple sitting beside me wanted to know. "Hong Kong," I replied. "First time?" they asked. "No, it is my second visit," I said.

Ah, Hong Kong, the husband replied. "Those amazing skyscrapers...the glittering city lights..." His wife nodded and told me how she exhausted most of her memory cards shooting the skyline by day and night.

And then he and his wife began discussing, among themselves, their trip to the city years ago. Hong Kong’s tower-studded skyline is among the most photographed feature and best-known aspect of Hong Kong. It is also a global financial powerhouse, and a centre of international commerce.

But there is a Hong Kong beyond this and this is what we were setting out to visit...the family fun places, the children's attractions, the shopping, the monasteries, and lots more.

The Giant BuddhaHeading straight to Ocean Park from the airport even before we checked in at Holiday Inn hotel, we found ourselves caught in a bit of rainy weather. Our hosts apologised for the weather but I reassured them that this was my second visit to Hong Kong and Ocean Park.

The world-class aquarium and thrill rides have kept this place on top of Hong Kong's tourist draws. This multiple award winning marine-life theme park featuring animal exhibits like pandas, penguins, walruses, etc is a big hit with visitors and residents and adults and children alike.

Given the size of Ocean Park—it is spread over 9.15 lakh square metres—it will take several visits to exhaust all that is there to see and do. The next morning we visited Sky100, a 360-degree indoor (it is completely encased in glass) observation deck on the 100th floor of the International Commerce Centre.

Fortunately, the skies had cleared so we got the best of what the place has to offer –spectacular views of the city, Kowloon Peninsula and the scenic, bustling Victoria Harbour.

We also marvelled at the miniature representations of the Victoria Harbour and surrounds that we saw underfoot — below the glass floor that led to the deck.

However, there is a lesser-known side – an abundance of greenery, lakes, natural beauty, great food, countless shopping options, and lots of attractions for children.

In our crowded itinerary, Victoria Peak was next on the agenda. The breathtaking views of the stunning cityscape are what draw thousands of visitors every month.

Michael Jackson’s wax statue at Madame Tussauds, Hong KongThe panoramic view of the city from this famous vantage point is one of Hong Kong's most widely circulated images. A great time to visit is just before sunset so you can watch the city lights come alive – a dramatic sight.

You can drive up to this place or take the Peak Tram, the 120-year-old funicular railway, among the world’s oldest of its kind. We followed this up with the Trick Eye Museum touted as a big children's attraction.

They were wrong. Along with kids, there were lots of thrilled adults too at this 3-D museum. The gentle cable-car ride up to the Tian Tan Buddha statue, widely and informally known as the Big Buddha or Giant Buddha offered lovely views of this green side of Hong Kong that is so little written about.

If you get a glass-bottomed cable-car, as we did on the return journey, the scenic valley below is an added bonus. The 34-m-high bronze statue of a seated Buddha with hand raised in blessing is reached by a long and broad flight of steps.

Adjacent to this is the Po Lin Monastery where devout Buddhists were headed with their offerings. The monastery serves only vegetarian food, we were told.

Perfect for you, muttered our guide who had seen me checking at every restaurant, if the item, stock and all, was pure vegetarian or not. We noted the monastery's typical Buddhist architecture.

For want of time, however, I could not linger as I wanted, at the many stores that lined the road leading to the monastery, which showcased typical Chinese art and craft.

Both days left us exhausted by dinner time but we would not forego the night markets for anything especially the famed Temple Street Night Market.

The Night Markets of South-east Asian countries are legendary for the treasures of local art and craft they contain besides countless utility items, the bargaining they permit and of course the many counterfeit goods.

What we missed and which made it our to-do list, for the next visit were a trip to Victoria Harbour and the Edward Youde Aviary, which is built over a natural valley.

Besides hundreds of bird species it also houses a large collection of bird eggs at the entrance. For those who enjoy Madam Tussaud's, there is one in Hong Kong too.

The city has its own Disneyland. There is a pulsating night life too. With thousands of restaurants, a flourishing street-food culture and many food and tasting tours Hong Kong also draws foodies. Yes, there is a great deal to see and do in Asia's world city.

By:Aruna Chandaraju

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