All stories by KY Pung
Hong Kong needs no introduction to anyone wanting a good holiday.
So, when an invitation arrived to join a media fam trip to Hong Kong – China’s Special Administrative Region – I hesitated to accept.
But what piqued my interest to join this media trip was actually the itinerary itself, an opportunity to experience a multi-destination tour.
It involves taking in the sight and sound of Hong Kong with a walkabout and a tram ride, experiencing a ride on the high-speed rail between Hong Kong to Shenzhen, China, and joining 30 others on a bus trip on the Hong Kong / Zhuhai / Macau bridge, the world’s longest bridge and sea tunnel and staying over in Macau.
A record of sorts was attained, traversing three territories – Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Macau – within 24 hours for us 30 journalists from five countries; namely the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
This is made possible with excellent and superfast connectivity by China’s high-speed rail and the longest bridge – an engineering marvel – that will surely open up the tourist potentials of the greater Pearl Delta Bay area and generate more tourist arrivals in the near future.
Hong Kong breathes new life to old ward; embarking on initiatives that turn out well as new exciting tourist attractions are drawing crowds of tourists there.
Hong Kong TramOramic Tour
Hours after landing in Hong Kong, we were on board the Hong Kong TramOramic Tour that served as our introduction to this top tourist destination along a 120-year-old tram rail line.
This ride was a nostalgic journey for me having spent an hour or more on it a decade ago; soaking in the ambience of trading activities on the five-foot walkways on the streets below flanked on each side by a wall of commercial and residential high-rises.
Today, the TramOramic is a new thematic tourist product featuring a unique 1920’s style tramcar with an open top upper deck and a vintage cabin lower deck where you can listen to authentic tales of local life and tram history through personal headsets in eight languages (Mandarin, Cantonese, English, Korean, Japanese, French, Spanish, Russian).
The narration of the true Hong Kong stories and sites of interest was developed with the help of expert city guides, a Hong Kong historian and local tram enthusiasts.
A light drizzle did not dampen the spirits of enthusiastic media friends nor deterred them from snapping away with their cameras at the street scene and on-coming trams on the opposite track that is separated by a hand’s length away.
TramOramic (reads Tram Sightsee) is for private and corporate hire to celebrate and rejoice. There are six departures daily. Check here for details.
After an exhilarating encounter of Hong Kong on a tram, we adjourned to Hong Kong Ocean Park Marriot Hotel where we were staying and tucked in with relish the seafood spread and herbal soups and the most memorable were the sear-fried wagyu beef slices.
Marina Kitchen at the Marriot is an all-day dining and international buffet featuring live cooking stations and the Canton Bistro for Cantonese specialities. The buffet offers quality food that draws inspiration from all over the world, think of it as a fine-dining all-you-can-eat experience.
Sated, we retired on the soft and comfy bed for a dreamless sleep that allows us to rest our tired bodies.
High-speed rail between Hong Kong and Shenzhen
This high-speed rail is what I, or rather all the 30 journalists plus Martin Gwee, the Hong Kong Tourism Board marketing manager in Singapore, have been waiting for.
On board the high-speed train and its comfy chair, we travelled the 26km rail line between West Kowloon Station and Futian Station in Shenzhen in an awesome 14 minutes. It cuts travelling time by over an hour if done by a coach.
The easy convenience has given rise to this feeling that I could do a day trip to Shenzhen and be back in time for dinner in Hong Kong. And, that’s what our travel minders did and proved it convincingly.
Early in the morning we arrived at West Kowloon Station, one of the world’s largest underground high-speed railway stations and a new must-see landmark for visitors to the city, at about 9am and went past Chinese Immigration without any hassle.
Onboard and just as we began to enjoy the smooth quiet ride after settling down in our seat, we have arrived at Futian Station in Shenzhen. Shortly after, we were bussed to the LOFT OCT (Overseas Chinese Town), a hip leafy happening place. It is a success story of a unique makeover of old industrial buildings which in its place now stands F&B outlets, art gallery, pubs, galleries of artists in residence and open space.
Here’s where to sit down for lunch at the Chun Yu Tang restaurant. You may check out other food outlets and pubs. The facades seemed so ordinary but they are like ‘hidden bars’ whose interiors promise to surprise. LOFT OCT is touted as the Montparnasse of Shenzhen.
Hong Kong’s first high-speed railway – the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong High-Speed Rail (Hong Kong Section) – started operations in September last year. In particular, the new rail link that we travelled on puts Hong Kong with easy reach of nine neighbouring cities in Guangdong Province and absolutely will usher in a new era of multi-destination travel that will be a major boost to tourism in the Greater Bay Area.
This 26-km rail link connects Hong Kong for the first time to Mainland China’s vast 25,000km high-speed rail network, the world’s most extensive.
World’s longest Bridge an architecture icon
The next item on my bucket list after the high-speed train ride between Hong Kong and Shenzhen is embarking on another adventure, which is travelling on the world’s long bridge.
The Hong Kong/Zhuhai/Macau bridge is the first major combined road and tunnel sea-crossing in the Greater Pearl Bay Area. It spans the sea from an artificial island near Hong Kong International Airport to Macau and Zhuhai.
The 55-km bridge shortens the journey from Hong Kong International Airport to Zhuhai from four hours to just 45 minutes.
For a glimpse of how long it is, just imagine that it is 20 times longer than San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge while the tonnage of steel used can build 60 Eiffel Towers and is designed to last 120 years. The Guardian has named the bridge as one of the architectural Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
Our coach trip on the three-lane crossing of the bridge was shrouded in fog as it was raining – a disappointment for us – but the pleasant thought prevailed that after departing Hong Kong Port and we were in Macau barely an hour later.
This multi-destination journey involving Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Macau was accomplished in less that 10 hours within a day.
The un-mistakable sign that we are indeed in Macau is the sight of the majestic Grand Lisboa Casino, a Macau original before Las Vegas imports arrived. The top five casinos not in any order of ranking is Wynn, Venetian, City of Dreams, Grand Lisboa and Sands which is also prominent with its big red neon signboard seen from afar.
The adage “When in Rome, do the Romans do” popped up. So, for dinner, we headed to Miramar Restaurant that serves Portuguese cuisine by the ocean.
Miramar is highly recommended for its authentic dishes like the Chef Style Clams whose gravy goes well with bread crumbs and Spicy Fish. The wine selection is wide and what we were served paired well with the food on the table.
As the Sofitel Hotel has an in-house casino like most hotels do in Macau, I tried my luck with pulling jackpot for fun before I retired to bed. The stake is small so I slept well even without any winnings.
Macau walking tour is a must-do and staying at Sofitel Hotel is another convenience. Stepping out of the hotel, we walked into the old Chinese neighbourhoods; entering narrow lanes and shops with narrow façade but deep house length before proceeding to the European Old City.
Macau wakes up at 11 am when shops begin to open for business. At a biscuit shop that we walked past, I bought several ‘chicken biscuits’ that are tasted no difference from our own in Bidor, Perak, except that theirs are more aromatic and softer.
We walked towards Senado Square, also known as the Senate Square, which is the most identifiable open space in Macau. It is full of shops, heritage sites, and street snack stalls.
Surrounding the square are multi-coloured Portuguese-styled period buildings and a fountain in the centre.
A stone’s throw away is the Ruins of St. Paul’s, a UNESCO world heritage site on top of a hillock. The must-do at this church façade that is the only ruins that are still standing is snapping a selfie’ or wefie’; smart phones easily outnumbered compact camera or a DSLR.
Further up is the Macau Museum at Monte Fortress where vintage cannons are still on display in their original position primed to fire all pointing out towards the sea.
Descending the fortress, we entered a restaurant for a Macanese lunch that was topped off with an international buffet dinner at Fontana Restaurant in Wynn Palace Resort.
The next day we were shuttled to Studio City where we watched the Elekron show that features a dramatic, dangerous and dare-devil circus skills; crazy parkour acrobatics; wild fire and pyrotechnics; a flying biplane of wing-walkers; thrilling to the core. For more information on Macau, check here.
Heading back to Hong Kong after two nights in Macau, we tried out dim sum lunch at Moon Luk Chiu Chow inside Citygate Square in Tung Chung, a city on Lantau Island. This restaurant serves three styles of Chiu Chow cuisine – Street style, Hong Kong-inspired & Southeast Asian style. Self-style is as the meaning suggests is centered around street comforts and local delicacies served in a casual setting.
The Hong Kong Style uses more refined ingredients and hand-crafted dishes which are meticulously prepared for hours to create complex and well-balanced gourmets. The last style, is the Southeast Asian take on traditional Chiu Chow cuisine and fusion dishes, such as Bak Kuh Teh, Noodles in Soy-marinated Goose Broth and Chow Kway Teo (read our Penang’s famous Char Koay Teow).
An hour later, we checked in at Ocean Park Marriot Hotel in Hong Kong again and went out for an evening of entertainment at the Xuqi Centre for traditional Chinese Opera that has the potential to rekindle the interest of Gen X towards Chinese culture.
The dinner at China Tang restaurant at Harbour City, West Kowloon, serves Chinese cuisine in an elegant setting with harbor views. Here’s where we, the invited media, took our group photograph for the memory.
Indeed, this fine-dining treat epitomizes the care and efforts taken by the Hong Kong Tourism Board as she ushered so many of us from the media during this Southeast Asia multi-destination fam trip. Xie Xie (thank you)