Christmas and Boxing Day in Hong Kong

Christmas morning dawned warm and cloudy. Never having previously visited Hong Kong, we had no real idea of what would be operating here on a public holiday. If it was anything like the UK, facilities of any sort would be few and far between. It turns out it’s nothing like the UK. As far as we could tell, everything was operating pretty much as normal.

We were awake early and, since the deal we got with the hotel did not include breakfast, I researched an appropriate venue nearby. We chose a place that offered diner-type food with a terrible punny name, The Flying Pan.

Refreshed after breakfast, we noticed that we had already walked halfway to the Peak Tram, so we decided to carry on and make the ascent. We arrived at the tram terminus before 10am and there was a queue of about 40-50 people. We joined the queue but were informed that we didn’t need to queue for tickets if we had an Octopus card (the equivalent of London’s Oyster cards). Luckily, we had acquired the cards the previous day so we were straight through the barriers and on to the next tram. The ride up is amazingly steep and it becomes obvious why all of the seats face up the slope.

At the top terminus, most of our fellow passengers headed for the Sky Terrace, but we decided to head further up the hill. The tram reaches an elevation of 396m and a series of escalators to the Sky Terrace ascend to 428m. Our hillside walk would take us to the top of Victoria Peak (which, confusingly, is also called Mount Austin) at an elevation of 552m so a good distance above the Sky Terrace.

IMG_0941The overcast weather made for hazy views down over the harbour. On the way up, we shared Christmas greetings with a family who were out to walk their dog. The father identified our accents. He was from Stirling. He insisted that we take a stairway, marked Private Property, and speak to the security guard, Mr. Wong, to say that Andrew sent us to get a photo from the terrace, which we duly did.

After the excursion to the peak, we headed back down to sea level and back to the hotel. By this time, we had walked quite a distance and done a lot of climbing so decided to rest up in advance of going out for Christmas dinner. We had managed to get a last minute booking for a tasting menu at a place called The Optimist, which was very nice. After dinner, we took the opportunity to call family back home to wish them a Merry Christmas.

Boxing Day started bright and sunny and we had set ourselves some tasks to accomplish for the day. We are due to travel to Jiangmen in China on the 28th, but hadn’t yet organised tickets and were struggling to achieve this through the ferry operator’s online booking engine. We decided to go across to Kowloon and visit them in person at the Hong Kong China Ferry Terminal. We were able to buy tickets very easily in person, so we strolled out on the pier at the terminal to get a look at the harbour from the Kowloon side.

IMG_3031 2Although much brighter than the previous day, there’s still a haze evident in the photos. After a wander through Kowloon Park, we took the subway back to Wan Chai and returned to the hotel.

Wednesday night in Hong Kong means “Happy Wednesdays“. The horse race meeting at Happy Valley Racecourse takes place every Wednesday evening with the first race at 7:15pm, so we decided we should experience that. We checked with the hotel concierge how we should set about getting tickets. He immediately provided us with vouchers for complimentary admission and a free beer each!

We ate dinner at a traditional Chinese restaurant. We knew it was traditional as the first four pages of the menu offered different preparations of shark fin. Ishbel had pork and I had chicken. After dinner, we walked round to Happy Valley and arrived in good time for the first race. And Ishbel picked the winner.

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That was a nice start to the evening. We had each bet HKD 50, and Ishbel won HKD 245, so we were immediately ahead. Neither of us won in the next two races so we were behind again but Ishbel again picked a winner in the fourth for a win of HKD 375 so overall we were HKD 200 ahead – about £20.

IMG_3032 Hapy Valley is enormous with multi-storey grandstands and plenty of action in the general admission section where we were. Hong Kong obviously loves its racing.

We left after the fourth race as Ishbel had agreed to indulge my desire to watch Celtic vs Aberdeen in a local sports bar. We took the tram along to Bar 109 in Lockhart Road and I was able to enjoy a 4-3 victory for Celtic. As the only Celtic supporter in the bar, I was grateful to them for putting it on to one of the TVs, especially when competing against a full card of English Premier League matches.

We have had a very different Christmas period to our usual experience, but have enjoyed it enormously.

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