Thursday 9 February 2017

Hong Kong - Trip Report

After a week of eating everything in Osaka, I travelled to Hong Kong with the intention of doing plenty of hiking to burn off those excess calories.

I'd visited Hong Kong several times before but was unable to take advantage of its excellent hiking trails as it was always raining. I hoped for better luck with the weather on this visit.

Just as I did between Bangkok and Osaka, I was able to book an excellent value miles redemption ticket between Osaka and Hong Kong. I travelled business class with Cathay Pacific, KIX-HKG direct, for just 20,000 Avios points + £26.90 GBP ($33.79 USD). The cash price of the same ticket was a ludicrous £1877 GBP ($2357 USD).

It was only a 4 hour and 25 minute flight but, just like my flight from Bangkok to Osaka, the airline uses a long haul aircraft for the route. This makes a big difference in terms of comfort as you get a fully flat bed in business class rather than just a wider seat.

This was a 10am flight so certainly no need for a sleep. I just lay back and watched The Secret Life of Pets.

The Secret Life of Pets

A photo posted by Dale Philip (@daleroxxu) on

The food was excellent and there was plenty of it. Starters of green tea soba noodles and a duck salad. A main of big juicy beef steak with mashed sweet potato. For dessert, cheese and crackers, followed by a fruit salad, followed by a small tub of Haagen Dazs ice cream. Cathay Pacific know how to make me happy.

I arrived in Hong Kong in the late afternoon, checking into the Shangri La owned 'Hotel Jen'.

Earlier in the year a photo I entered into Shangri La’s social media competition won me 20,000 loyalty points, which are worth $2,000 USD of hotel stay or food. I had been steadily trying to use up the points at the Shangri La buffet in Bangkok but still had plenty left.

There was a promotion running for 25% off hotel point redemptions so I was able to book 6 nights for 9,000 ($900) worth of points. Not bad considering that good hotels are insanely expensive in Hong Kong. It has the highest real estate values of any country in the world.


After settling into my room it was way too late to do a hike that day. Instead I started off my stay with a long jog along the promenade. A great way to admire how beautiful the city is at night.

A wee jog along the promenade. Hong Kong is so pretty at night. #HongKong

A photo posted by Dale Philip (@daleroxxu) on

Victoria Peak

After an hour of jogging I still had loads of energy. Not surprising given how much I’d been eating for the past week. I planned to hike up to Victoria Peak for some more exercise and another stunning view of Hong Kong at night.

However, Hong Kong isn't so easy to navigate by foot, even with the help of Google maps. It's the polar opposite of Osaka which is completely flat with grid block streets.

After wasting more than half an hour walking around in giant circle, I ended up upon the base station of the funicular tram that goes all the way to the top of Victoria Peak. Given that it was getting late I decided to spend my money and save my energy by purchasing a ticket.

I’d already been to the observation point of the peak in 2011 with my poker buddy Amatay Jones but that was during the daytime and the fog was really bad. This time I was there for the night time view. There was still a fair bit of fog but the view was slightly more than decent.

Up The Peak. #HongKong

A photo posted by Dale Philip (@daleroxxu) on

Dragon’s Back

The next day I was ready to go on my first Hong Kong hike, but when I opened the curtains I looked out to see black clouds and rain. Wow I really do have terrible luck with the weather in Hong Kong.

At around midday it was still raining but just a light drizzle. It looked like the rain may stop soon so I decided to gamble and began the hour long metro and bus ride to Dragon’s Back - a trail that's very popular with the locals.

It was a fairly easy hike and I passed plenty of old people and little kids on the route. It was a beautiful view from the top and it really does look like a dragon's back.

Out for a hike up the Dragon's Back #HongKong

A photo posted by Dale Philip (@daleroxxu) on

Thanks to the fresh air, beautiful scenery and exercise I remember thinking to myself “I feel absolutely amazing right now”.

I felt considerably less than amazing after getting caught in heavy rain on the last 3rd of the hike though. Oh well. Thankfully this was the last of the rain on my trip.

Lion Rock

The next day I was up early for another hike - MacLehose Trail section 5. The MacLehose trail is 100 Km long and split into 10 sections. It earns it's name from Sir Murray MacLehose, who was British Hong Kong's longest serving governor and responsible for the creation of the country parks.

It was a much more challenging hike than Dragon’s Back - not a child or old person in sight.
The more challenging a hike, the more rewarding it is and at the peak of the trail the prize were some incredible views of Kowloon.

Hiking MacLehose Trail section 5 #HongKong

A photo posted by Dale Philip (@daleroxxu) on

At that moment it felt like nothing else mattered. I thought “this is living”. I wondered “all those people down there and barely anyone up here. Why?”. If I lived in Hong Kong I’d be out hiking every chance that I got.

The trail is home to Lion Rock, a big rock that looks like a Lion’s head and needs to be climbed rather than hiked. I trusted my new £600 phone with a friendly young local and dragged myself up to the top for a photo opportunity that couldn’t be missed.

Climbed up Lion Rock. #HongKong

A photo posted by Dale Philip (@daleroxxu) on

After a 10.6 km hike, plus another 3 or 4 getting to and from the Metro station, I had earned myself a good Chinese meal.

More delicious and a lot healthier than the “Chinese” food that’s served in the UK.

Shang Palace

For dinner that night I treated myself to a visit to Michelin two-star restaurant Shang Palace. It’s in the Kowloon Shangri La which meant I could pay for the whole bill with my Shangri La loyalty points.

Eating some decent grub at Michelin two-star restaurant Shang Palace.

A photo posted by Dale Philip (@daleroxxu) on

I opted for the Barbecued Suckling Pig, Roasted Crispy Goose, Roasted Pork Loin combination ($468 HKD / £48.18 GBP / $60.32 USD) and Deep-fried Prawn Toast with Foie Gras ($128 HKD / £13.18 GBP / $16.50 USD).

For dessert - Chilled Mango Pudding ($48 HKD / £4.94 / $6.19 USD) and Walnut Cookies ($45 HKD / £4.63 GBP / $5.80 USD).

It was a beautiful restaurant and a delicious meal but I was happy that I wasn’t paying for it with real money. Especially considering that I was still hungry at the end of it. That’s why I’m not a good match for fancy restaurants, the portions are too small and my appetite is too huge.

Not to worry though, as I found a bakery open late that was selling Portuguese Egg Tarts. A few of those in my belly and I was right as rain.

Wong Lung Hang Stream

Another day, another hike. I planned to hike every day of my stay in Hong Kong.

This hike was along a Wong Lung Hang Stream. It’s a river leading to a waterfall and involved jumping from rock to rock the whole way. I tried my best not to get my feet wet but eventually slipped and had to spend the rest of the day with soggy shoes on.

When I made it to the waterfall it was time to get wet on purpose. I wasted no time to jump in for a swim.

Hiking along Wong Lung Hang Stream trail and taking a well deserved dip. #HongKong

A photo posted by Dale Philip (@daleroxxu) on

Somehow the ‘pick 'n mix’ sushi I bought from a stall at the metro station had survived a few hours in my backpack so I was able to sit by the waterfall and enjoy a tasty lunch, along with a bag of almonds and chocolate whey protein shake. Healthy living.

Lunch. Somehow the sushi I bought at the train station survived a few hours in my backpack. #HongKong

A photo posted by Dale Philip (@daleroxxu) on

I’d originally planned to hike to the waterfall and then return back on the same route. However, I met a friendly local couple there who told me that I could climb up over the waterfall for a great 'off the beaten path’ hike with wonderful views and come to a bus stop at the end.

It seemed like a good idea. There was a very faint path through the trees that I followed until a mean looking spider was blocking my way.

Had to get over my fear of spiders on this trek. #HongKong

A photo posted by Dale Philip (@daleroxxu) on

I decided to go around it rather than through its web, then got completely lost. No sign of any path.

I just kept hiking up the steep mountain, through the trees and plants with jaggy branches cutting my legs to shreds. I figured if I got to the top of the mountain I’d be able to find a clear path to continue my hike.

I was wrong. After an hour I made it near to the top and realised that I was well and truly lost. Not only that but there was less than two hours of daylight left. Panic!

I could at least see where civilisation was, but it was so far away and I knew that I couldn’t even retrace my steps to get back there.

I heard a stream and slid down to it on a steep muddy decline on my hands and arse. The stream I heard was basically a steep set of mini waterfalls all the way down. I knew if I followed it I’d end up back at the main river.

It was extremely dangerous and slippery but I had to move fast to beat dusk. I fell a few times. Just some bumps and bruises, until I had a really bad slip and fall with my ankle getting sprained and jammed in between two rocks.

I was already in trouble and now I’d have to get through the rest of the journey with an ankle sprain. I looked up to see the sun starting to dip below the mountain and I wasn’t even half way down.

I looked at my phone and it had 12% battery left. I just hoped it would be enough for me to use the flashlight on it if I didn’t make it back before dusk.

Many times it seemed like I hit a dead end, but I was eventually able to find an alternative route through while still trying to follow the water down. It was a slow process involving careful feet placement and grabbing on to rocks and branches.

I did eventually make it back to the main stream and then back to civilisation with just 10 minutes of daylight left. My ankle was throbbing and my legs had about 100 scratches, many of them bleeding, but I felt emotionally great. I guess from relief more than anything else.

I smelled terrible. A mix of sweat, river water, mud and blood isn’t a good aroma. The Metro train I took back to my hotel was full of people but nobody was standing within a meter of me.

Dim Sum Square

After having one of the best showers of my life I was ravenously hungry. It would have been easy for me to just lay in bed in my comfy hotel room and order room service, but I’d been looking forward to a highly recommended late night Dim Sum restaurant called Dim Sum Square. I hobbled my way there.

Like most Dim Sum restaurants you are given a piece of paper with all the menu items and you just tick the boxes of the ones you want. I ticked 11 of the boxes, about 40% of the menu, only for the waitress to try to convince me to order less. “This too much, TOO MUCH” she tried to warn me.

Dim Sum dinner. 4 more plates on the way. #HongKong

A photo posted by Dale Philip (@daleroxxu) on

I ordered 220 HKD (£22.65 GBP / $28.36 USD) of Dim Sum which was probably a larger bill than the table of 4 Chinese people sat next to me spent as a group.

That photo wasn’t all of it. There were 4 more dishes still to come after I’d eaten some to make more room on the table.

The food was delicious, especially those Baked Pastry BBQ Pork Buns which always go down a treat at a Dim Sum joint. The bill was 1/5th of the fancy Two-Michelin Star restaurant I ate at the previous night and I actually left feeling full and satisfied.

Hotel Gym

I had two more hikes planned for my stay in Hong Kong but with a sprained ankle it unfortunately wasn’t an option. Disappointing but I’m sure I’ll be back in Hong Kong many more times in my life and will eventually hike every trail there.

It’s important to keep active even when you’re injured so I visited to the hotel gym to do some upper body work.

The gym at the Hotel Jen is on the rooftop at the 29th floor with a great panoramic view. It was a nice environment for me to spend a Sunday afternoon working up an appetite for more delicious Dim Sum.

Decent view for a light Sunday afternoon workout. @HotelJenHK #HongKong

A photo posted by Dale Philip (@daleroxxu) on

Ding Dim

Another Dim Sum restaurant that was recommended to me was Ding Dim.

I went there alone and they tried to seat me at a small bar area. The restaurant was tiny but I insisted on being sat at one of their double tables. I knew I’d be needing the space for all the food I was going to order. The staff were reluctant as there were only two single tables and two double tables in the whole tiny restaurant. However, they weren’t so busy so did let me have a big table to myself.

This time I only ordered only 8 items and still I had the waitress, who herself must have weighed no more than 35 kg, try to convince me to order less. “Each one is three portions” she explained to me. “Yes, I know” I told her. “This too much for one person” she said. “Trust me, I will eat it all” I told her as she walked away shaking her head.

Another day, another dim sum dinner. #HongKong

A photo posted by Dale Philip (@daleroxxu) on

I ate the lot very quickly then asked for the menu to order some more, much to the waitress’s amazement.

The highlight at this joint were the glutinous rice balls with mango in the middle. Pure heaven.

Ho Lee Fook

The next evening I met up with a poker pal, Chihao Tsang, to eat at a posh and extremely popular restaurant called Ho Lee Fook. The name of the place seems like a joke but the food was seriously good.

We had originally planned to do a hike together, work up a large appetite, then reward ourselves with a big meal. I had to cancel the hike plans due to my ankle sprain, so it was just straight to the big meal.

Enjoying roast goose, chashu pork and ginger-soy chicken at Ho Lee Fook (lol) with @chihaotsang #HongKong

A photo posted by Dale Philip (@daleroxxu) on

We indulged in some Chashu Pork, Ginger-Soy Chicken and of course Roast Goose. A trip to Hong Kong has to include some delicious roast goose.

Chihao was full after that, but we were right across the road from Ding Dim where I’d eaten the previous night. I convinced him to go there with me to eat their incredible mango glutinous rice balls for dessert.

I couldn’t resist ordering a few BBQ Pork Buns as well.

I think he only ate two or three pieces which meant more for me. Sharing food with a skinny Asian guy is a great thing. I must do it more often.

Flight to Milan

After a wonderful stay in Hong Kong I headed back to Europe for the first time in a couple of years. I flew first class with Cathay Pacific to Milan - another excellent miles redemption - and I think that flight experience deserves a trip report all to itself. Stay tuned.

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