Hong Kong is somewhere that’s always fascinated me, its a tiny (by comparison) area off the South of China and I remember as a kid toys were always stamped ‘Made In Hong Kong’. I used to look at my atlas for photographs and dream one day of visiting this toy heaven…
However, Hong Kong today is less about manufacturing and more about financial services. Although we gave it back many years ago it remains a wierd little colonial state with totally different rules to mainland China despite being owned by it. As an English person, I have a company and bank account in Hong Kong but wouldn’t be allowed to open a company or bank in China.
Hong Kong Border
We set off early to the border, only one of my guys had a visa so instead he brought his wife. I was collected at my hotel and we drove 10 minutes to an underground car park near Futian Checkpoint, the pedestrian Bridge into Hong Kong.
It was chaos and I would never have been able to negotiate the route without local eyes and ears!
I had to fill in an exit form for Chinese customs and an entry document for Hong Kong customs. Each asked what flight or train I left and arrived on. It made me feel slightly more fit and healthy to honestly write ‘walked’ in this space!
Aside from the form filling, leaving China and entering it’s neighbouring country was fairly easy, and fortunately I have a multiple access business visa for China so I’ll be able to get back too!
Once over the border, we met another friend, Ivy, who is a Hong Kong resident and our ‘guide’ for the day.
We got a train at the checkpoint to take us to Hong Kong Island. The island is much more beautiful than the city but will also give some spectacular vantage points for photos of the mainland.
Our first stop was Stanley… We exited the underground station and got a double decker bus which apparently was going via Aberdeen!
The bus was like a white knuckle ride. He sped through the tiny streets and out of the city climbing steep winding mountain roads. He avoided oncoming traffic by millimetres and I was almost thankful when we arrived at Stanley.
The sun was beating down and we found a restaurant overlooking the beach where I reluctantly settled for a Chinese buffet. Thankfully this was like no Chinese buffet back home… The food was stunning and I had more than my fair share of fresh salmon!
After lunch we strolled along the seafront, Hong Kong still takes UK bank Holidays and as today is Good Friday people were off work and there was a lovely vibe and atmosphere. We walked through markets and hustled with street games, and there were lots of buskers filling the air with Mandarin equivalents of Western pop songs.
Our next stop was a taxi ride away, my new friends wanted me to see the view of Victoria Harbour from the island’s highest point, on which a shopping mall had been convinently built upon, Galleria.
We bought tickets to ‘The Peak’ (about US$8 / £6) each and queued for the elevator up.
The sun had just set by the time we got to the front of the queue and into the elevator. The lights of the skyscrapers were starting to come on and if it wasn’t for the hundreds of other people up at the peak, the view might have taken my breath away.
I jostled and pushed my way to the front of the terrace and took a couple of photos of the vista, but it was quite frustrating as they’d obviously oversold tickets.
Ferry Across HK Bay
Leaving Galleria we headed for the Star Ferry terminal to get from the island to the mainland. It was much quicker than I expected and before I knew it we were docking at the terminal on the opposite side.
Locked In HK
At this point, although I often have stupid tendancies, I’d like to point out that I asked my friends if the border is open 24 hours. “no problem” they said and I happily followed them into a restaurant for our evening meal.
By the time we left it was 22h30 and we waved a cab. Taxis here are as expensive at the UK, about 10x the price across the border in China.
We dropped Ivy near her home and then got dropped at the Futian Checkpoint, the way we entered on the pedestrian footbridge. Now I would have expected the taxi driver to question why we were getting dropped at a border crossing with all lights off and gates locked at 01h00, but he didn’t.
Sure enough everything was locked up and upon searching I found out we’d missed the checkpoint not by minutes but by a rather spectacular 3 hours. We were actually locked in Hong Kong! I’ve got myself in some tricky situations over the years but I’d not been locked inside a country until now.
Upon advice from Louise, I checked availability at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, one of Hong King’s most famous. However at $4,100 a room it was a little out of my price range unless they were going to let me throw a telly in the pool.
The solution was to get another cab 12km to the only checkpoint still open. However you weren’t allowed to walk across and had to then pay a bus to carry you over the bridge.
Once over, our troubles weren’t over… Remember our car was parked in an underground car park near the other checkpoint? So, we had to get another cab on the China side to take us 12Km back the way we’d just gone!
All in all it took a couple of hours and I wearily stepped into my hotel reception and asked for a beer. Imagine my disappointment when I was bundled into another cab and taken 3 blocks to the nearest bar?! It was like winning Trivial Pursuit but then not being able to answer the final question; so near yet so far. Exhausted I couldn’t be bothered arguing so I let it take me then walked straight back without a beer.