I have two passions in life – cricket and travelling – and in March 2017, I got an opportunity to merge these two. I was going to cover my first-ever cricket tournament, which was played in Hong Kong, one of the busiest cities in Asia.
I was invited to cover the Hong Kong T20 Blitz, a T20 cricket tournament between March 8 and 13 at the Tin Kwong Recreation Ground in Mong Kok. Thanks to Tim Cutler, then CEO of Cricket Hong Kong, I was lucky enough to experience the fancy lifestyle of the Regal Residency Hotel, for seven days.
Since the hotel was about a kilometre from the ground, I chose to walk it down to the stadium, for most of the days.
This was my first-ever trip outside India and a couple of things that struck me was the city’s cleanliness and I was taken aback of how much people follow the traffic rule – Be it vehicles or pedestrians.
A quick recap to the day of my departure from Bengaluru, India.
Since it was my first international travel trip, my father went the extra mile in ensuring that I don’t miss the plane and got me to the airport four hours ahead of time. When I entered, the Air Asia staff told me that the check-in counters had not opened. [Facepalm moment.]
This is how killed the time at the airport:
Although my nervous energy levels were a bit high, everything went on smoothly and I boarded my connecting flight to Kuala Lumpur (KL) from the Bangalore International Aiport. It was a four-hour flight and it was a pleasant journey. I had about four hours to kill at the KL 2 Airport after which I boarded another four-hour flight to Hong Kong. It was late at night and I was barely awake.
Luckily, my sleep broke just before we landed and in no time I was wide awake. It was for a reason, that I will never forget. For a second I thought the runway was on the water! As the plane kept going down, to my relief, I could see the land and….. TOUCH DOWN! There was water all around before the plane landed and since I was sitting on the aisle, I could not take pictures of the beautiful scenery.
As I exited from the plane, I was on the lookout for the immigration desk. I followed directions, which led me to a train. A train inside an airport? Yes! I just reconfirmed with a staff before boarding asking if I have to board the train to get to immigration. He said, “2 stops, 2 stops.” So, I boarded what looked like an underground train and reached my destination in about 10 minutes.
The immigration went fine. After asking around, I figured that the best way to reach my hotel would be to take an MTR (Train) to Kowloon and a cab from there. The ticket to Kowloon cost me 100 HKD (INR 930 approx) and I took a cab from the Kowloon station to my hotel. The fare was 70 HKD (INR 650 approx). You need to remember that for every suitcase, you have to pay 5 HKD (INR 45 approx) when you take a red taxi in Hong Kong.
The taxi system in Hong Kong is easily one of the most systematic ones in the world. The cars are colour-coded for different areas. For example, it was red for Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. I never felt the need to book an Uber or any other cab because the Hong Kong taxis are in abundance, they are cheap and more importantly, the drivers are well dressed, behaved and always go by meters. In India, I can never imagine to just flag down a cab and sit inside without enquiring about the fare. But, Hong Kong gives you that freedom too.
The journey from Airport to Kowloon was a fun one.
There was free wifi and I got the first taste of how beautiful Hong Kong is. I couldn’t resist as I immediately took out my phone to click a couple of pictures.
Cricket is a very popular sport in India and it has not gripped all of Hong Kong yet. The Hong Kong cricket team is a mix of descendants mostly from India and Pakistan, who have stayed in the country for generations. In India, we have the Indian Premier League (IPL), which has some of the best cricketers in the world participating, however, away from the glamour, Hong Kong comparatively was a less high profile. Some of the big names in cricket like Kumar Sangakkara, Darren Sammy and Brian Lara did show up, which gave the tournament a huge lift in its second season.
Since I went to the ground early in the morning and returned to my hotel tired, I did not venture out most of the days.
However, on one particular day, I decided to look around the city.
While planning a day-out in Hong Kong, I had googled places to visit and the one attracted me the most was Observation centre also known as the Ferris Wheel as I felt that I would get a beautiful view of the entire city from the top.
I asked a colleague of mine as to how to get there. He suggested I take a cab till Ho Man Tin MTR station and from there take a train till Central, which was the last stop.
Once you exit the station, you take the skywalk and walk towards the Ferris Wheel. While walking, you can soak in all the brilliant skyscrapers that the city has to offer. It makes the walk all the more exciting. The 197-feet Ferris Wheel is just about a kilometre or so from the Central station. When you are a little closer to it, you can see it from a distance.
The ride’s fare is about $HK100 (INR. 930 approx)and only a maximum of five people could go in one cabin. You are allowed five to seven minutes or so in the cabin and you can enjoy the view of all the buildings and the sea next to it.
After soaking in the view, there are many food stalls nearby, where you can have a burger, coffee and also cold drinks. It’s a bit expensive, but trust me, it is totally worth it. I had a hamburger which cost me $HK 70. That’s close to INR 700. My then fiance was not happy when she heard about this, but it was so filling that I skipped dinner (Winning!).
It was already about 8.30 in the night but I wanted to go to the Madame Tussauds which was about 7 km or so from the Observation Wheel. My taxi ride that night was one hell to remember for a really long time. The Madame Tussauds was located on Peak Tower and to get there, there were many zig-zags roads, just like in the hill station.
I reached there at around 9.30 and I had just 30 minutes to explore before it shut for the day. The entrance fee was $HK 280 (INR 2600 approx). Yes yes, I know the price I paid for so little time was a bomb, but it was just worth it. I’ll let pictures do the talking. I just went to every statue clicked a quick selfie and moved on. From David Beckham to Maria Sharapova, from Amitabh Bachchan to Narendra Modi, the statues were indeed life-like and I enjoyed looking at each and every one.
I wish I had gotten there a bit earlier as there was a peak train there which would have given me a good view of the city, but that too was on the verge of closing when I got there.
From there, I headed back to the Central station by cab, took the train back to Ho Man Tin from where I once again took a cab to my hotel in Kowloon. A memorable day, but you will need at least 3-4 days to explore all of Hong Kong.
I easily missed out on a lot but fair to say, these memories will surely pull me back to Hong Kong someday and this time, I’ll make sure, I explore the beautiful city better.