A two floor Hong Kong Tram
(Thomas) After our first few days in Shanghai we found out that we had to leave the country again, to renew our visa. Since flying back to Germany was not an option, we took the chance and visited Hong Kong, to get new visa there.
We heard a lot about the new chinese railways and trains and so we decided, to take the train from Shanghai to Hong Kong. We booked our tickets three or four days ahead of the trip and were lucky. We got some of the last tickets because there was some chinese holiday on the weekend and so there was not much choice. We got the upper two “Hard sleeper” beds in a 6-bed cabin. There were also so called “Deluxe Soft sleeper” in two-bed cabins, but we were too late for that.
When we arrived at the train station, our small adventure started with a surprise: The starting terminal was changed and so, 20 minutes before departure, we had to leave the train hall to find the new departure location and do all the passport checks. Together with a few other running Chinese, we made it in time and when we entered the train, we were positively surprised: The hard sleepers were not as hard as they sounded. All in all, the sleeper wagon felt better than the ones of the Deutsche Bahn. I was also lucky, that we got the upper beds in our cabin which usually are considered the worst choice: Since behind the upper beds was some small space to store luggage, I could use this extra space and so even the chinese bed was big enough for me
After a tour of 19 hours, we finally arrived in Hong Kong and there at the train station we could clear up our visa problems immediately (and this on a Sunday!!). So, if you ever need a chinese visa, just go to Hong Kong first and you’ll get your visa in no time in most of the cases. After we cleared up the visa questions, we wanted to book our tickets for the trip to Shanghai but the tickets were sold out. We were surprised because we thought that chinese train tickets were only sold a week or 10 days before departure, but it turned out that for long distance trains they sell the tickets even earlier. So, we had to buy plane tickets online to go back to Shanghai
Afterwards, we took a taxi to our hotel and this was, when we noticed the first difference between Shanghai and Hong Kong: All the cars were using the left lane, which was one of the things left over from the British times of Hong Kong. Also, most of the people spoke English very well, which is not the case in Shanghai. The third big difference was the construction of the whole city. Shanghai, on the one hand, is surrounded by flat land and has as much space as nessecary. Hong Kong, on the other hand, is surrounded by mountains and the sea. So space is very rare and expensive there and almost all buildings are skyscrapers. In fact Hong Kong is the city with the most skyscrapers in the world!
Egg Tart, source Wikipedia
The next day we started to explore Hong Kong, mainly by foot and tram. Tsveti enjoyed the hundreds of shopping malls (even more than in Shanghai), and shopping is cheaper, because of the low taxes there. We also visited Shek O Beach, one of the smallest and most quiet beaches on Hong Kong Island, and we made a very important discovery: The Hong Kong Egg Tart, which came originally from the Portuguese in Macau. Yummee!!!
One of our most interesting tours was visiting the Peak, which is the highest mountain on the Hong Kong Island. From there, one has a wonderful view over Hong Kong and so it is recommended to go there at night to see the lights of the city. We took the famous old peak tram to go up and on top of the mountain there is a 360 degree tourist platform, of course bundled with shops, restaurants, and all the things, the typical tourist is looking for. After we had enough from the wonderful view (it was a little foggy, but still great), we wanted to take the peak tram down again, but then we saw all the other tourists waiting in a long line for the tram. After a few moments, we decided to make our way down by foot. There was a small walking way down, which was not so easy to find in the dark. Together with a couple from Hong Kong, who didn’t know the way either and by consulting the map a few times, we finally made the descend and after about one hour we arrived at the peak tram station again.
Alltogether, we had a great time in Hong Kong, but I still prefer to live in Shanghai. Hong Kong was a little too narrow and high for my taste, and the asian feeling is not as strong as in Shanghai because of the British influence. Still, if you think about visiting Hong Kong, do it, there is no other place like this.