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Hong Kong taxis
Ngong Ping cable car
Hong Kong smog
Big Buddha Hong Kong
Hong Kong Big Buddha
Hong Kong Big Buddha
Hong Kong Big Buddha
Hong Kong Big Buddha
Tian Tan buddha deva
Tian Tan buddha deva
tian tan buddha monk
tian tan buddha
Tian Tan buddha
Tian tan buddha dog
Ngong Ping cable car
Ngong Ping 360
Hong Kong high rise
Hong Kong traffic
Victoria Peak funicular
peak tram hong kong
peak tram hong kong
Hong Kong Victoria Peak
hong kong funicular
hong kong peak tower
Hong kong peak tower
Hong Kong Peak
hong Kong victoria peak
Hong Kong peak
hong kong peak dogs
Victoria Peak trails
Hong Kong bird park
Hong Kong bird park
Hong Kong park
Hong Kong Bugatti Veyron
Bruce Lee statue Hong Kong
Garrett popcorn
Garrett popcorn
Hong Kong flower market kowloon
hong kong flower market
Hong Kong orchid
Hong kong flower market
Hong Kong christmas ornaments
Hong Kong flower market
Hong Kong flower market nun
flower market, Hong Kong
flower market, Hong Kong
flower market dog, Hong Kong
flower market, Hong Kong
flower stall dog, Hong Kong
Fa Yuen street market
hong kong street market fire
Mong Kok fire
mong kok fire hong kong
Mong kok fire
Mong kok fire hong kong
Nathan Road, Hong Kong
Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong
Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong
Hard Rock band, Hong Kong
ice cream, Hong Kong
Repulse Bay, Hong Kong
Repulse Bay, Hong Kong
Repulse Bay, Hong Kong
Repulse Bay, Hong Kong
street sign, Hong Kong
street sign, Hong Kong
sign, Hong Kong
sign, Hong Kong
Obama, Hong Kong
Victoria harbor, Hong Kong
Cultural Centre, Hong Kong
bamboo scaffolding, Hong Kong
Kowloon signs, Hong Kong
market, Hong Kong
herbal remedies Fish, Hong Kong
Yuen Po Street Bird Garden
Yuen Po Street Bird Garden
Yuen Po Street Bird Garden
Yuen Po Street Bird Garden
Yuen Po Street Bird Garden crickets
Yuen Po Street Bird Garden

Hong Kong

Hong Kong skylineLooks like the third time in Hong Kong really is the charm.

We waded through the rain of an approaching tropical storm here in 2008. Rain bands from Tropical Storm Kammuri prevented us from wandering around outside for any length of time during our short stay. And as we headed to the airport for our flight to mainland China, wind gusts broadsided our shuttle van and threatened to knock it off a bridge as the storm closed in. We got to know the airport very well that day, as our midday flight was delayed, then canceled. We waited more than 13 hours until we got on a flight that left for Beijing after 1 a.m. the next day. Not fun.

A few years later, we sweltered through the sopping heat and humidity of early May for a day before moving on to Cambodia.

But in December, the weather is cooler and just right for exploring. So we found our way around by taxi, by ferry, and by rail to visit more out-of-the-way spots and revisit sights that had been washed out on a first go-around.

The priority was Victoria Peak for a spectacular view of the city skyline. It wasn’t so spectacular in 2008, when rain and low clouds largely obscured the buildings. Even on this trip, we had to hope for a good day — smog from mainland China often brings a haze that can dull the views with a grimy, grayish-brown filter.

But on this morning the sky was blue, and even though we could see the murk approaching, the views from the 360-degree Peak Tower viewing terrace were still pretty good.

Click on the link below for a quick ride on the Peak Tram, the funicular that takes visitors to the 1,300-foot perch above Hong Kong Island.

A tragedy

Fa Yuen Street marketStreet markets are common in Kowloon, with hawkers’ stalls crowded together in the shadow of cramped residential buildings with storefronts at street level. We had walked through the market on Fa Yuen Street in May 2011, dodging the occasional Hong Kong taxi as it eased past crowds shopping for food and clothing. Two days before our return, on Nov. 30, 2011, a suspected arsonist torched a dozen stalls. The pre-dawn fire spread to nearby buildings, killing nine people and injuring 34.

Mong Kok fireFa Yuen StreetThe arson probe was continuing as we visited this time. Investigators gathered along the central pathway, amid charred piles of clothing and other goods littering the stalls’ remains, and police cordon tape blocking access. Oscillating fans that were used for cooling were melted in place. High above the stalls’ corrugated-metal roofs, building facades were blackened with soot. Some windows were broken, and clothing that had been hung to dry from metal bars several stories up flapped in burned tatters.

Blocks away, though, life went on normally in other popular markets. We revisited two of our favorite spots: the Flower Market and the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden. The Flower Market was festooned with ornaments and holiday poinsettias just in time for Christmas, and the bird market was filled with singing. Take a tour in the video below.

Lantau Island

Big BuddhaWe boarded a train to Lantau Island for a ride on the Ngong Ping Cable Car to the 100-foot-tall Tian Tan Buddha statue. Sure, it’s a tourist trap, but the 25-minute, 3.5-mile ride over Tung Chung Bay alone is worth the trip for the spectacular, if smoggy, views of parks, hiking trails, and the Hong Kong International Airport. At the hilltop terminal is a small village of shops leading to the Big Buddha that sits serenely on a hilltop, high above the crowds circling the base. The week of this visit, one of the big stories from China was the thick smog in Beijing that forced hundreds of flight cancellations and even more complaints from citizens fed up with poor air quality. The smog didn’t stop flights in Hong Kong, but it made the airport almost invisible during our cable-car ride. Out in the New Territories, we climbed a steep hillside to visit the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery.


This visit was a couple of weeks before Christmas, and the skyscrapers of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon blink with colorful holiday lights at Victoria Harbor. The nights are cool — perfect for a walk along the waterfront or a ferry ride across the harbor. Check out the displays below.

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