Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Symphony of Lights, Discover Hong Kong, A Symphony of Lights

Prior to our trip to Hong Kong, the first thing that came to mind when one thought of Hong Kong, was tall sky scrapers. So Day 1 of the itinerary was planned to get a taste of the same.

Overnight flight into Hong Kong meant that the kids were tired and they slept out the entire morning. We had anyways planned a late start to the day as we knew that the Symphony of Lights show starts at 8:00 p.m.

First stop for the day was the sky100 observatory. This is an observatory on the 100th floor from where you get fantastic views of Hong Kong. If you are travelling by the MTR trains, then get off at Kowloon station. From there follow the signs to ICC building. We got ticket discount on showing our Cathay Pacific boarding passes. English audio guides are available for free in the observatory.

From here we went to the Avenue of Stars at Tsim Sha Sui to catch the Symphony of Lights show. The Symphony of Lights is said to be the biggest permanent light and sound show. The sound (narration) can be listened to from the Avenue of Stars. Nearly 50 building participate in this show with decorative lighting and lasers. The show can be seen from a number of places but, the Avenue of Stars is supposed to be the best location. The Avenue of Stars has been built on the lines of Hollywood Walk of Fame and honours stars in the Hong Kong film industry.

So a good option would be to reach the Avenue of Stars in the evening, see the place and enjoy your time there and catch a vantage point to see the Symphony of Lights. Star Ferry cruise is possible from Tsim Sha Sui which you can time in such a way that you can see the Symphony of Lights from the cruise.

After the show, we started to look around for an Indian restaurant for our Dinner. We had heard that Tsim Sha Sui has a number of quality Indian restaurants and had shortlisted a couple of restaurants. But the GPS on my prepaid SIM was not working and we were unable to locate them. We asked around and were guided to Palki which served some good Indian food.

Some more images below....
Discover Hongkong, Travel Tips,, sky100, A Symphony of LightsDiscover Hong Kong, Travel Tips, Sky100, A Symphony of Lights, thetravelinfo.netDiscover Hong Kong, Travel Tips, Sky100, A Symphony of Lights, thetravelinfo.netDiscover Hongkong, Travel Tips,, sky100, A Symphony of Lights
Discover Hongkong, Travel Tips,, sky100, A Symphony of LightsDiscover Hongkong, Travel Tips,, sky100, A Symphony of LightsDiscover Hongkong, Travel Tips,, sky100, A Symphony of Lights

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Discover Hong Kong, discover hong kong
Last minute change in plans meant that I was looking for a travel vacation during the summer vacations. We zeroed-in on Hong Kong, because we had heard that it was a "children-friendly" destination - lots of things /places that children would enjoy.

Had to book my flight tickets, hotel, decide the itinerary in a very short time. I started to look around on the net. I realized that there are huge number of sites/applications that can help you in planning your trip. Below are some useful sites/links.

Airline + Hotel booking: I checked the sites for agoda and expedia.My observation was that the rates at agoda were marginally lower. Room rates from Monday to Thursday are much lower than the rest of the week. Ditto for flights.

Look for a hotel with proximity to the MTR if you are planning to cover the destinations on your own, instead of joining group tours. We booked our room at L'Hotel Causeway Bay Harbour View. Review of the hotel can be found here. This hotel suited us well as the Tin Hau MTR station was across the road.

Itinerary: We started to look around the net to checkout the popular attractions, locations, travel route, etc. The following sites proved to be very helpful

The first one has an interactive itinerary planner where in you can plan your Hong Kong tour. It also has lists of "Must See" which can be used as a reference. has to be referred to for details. It covers minute details about various places, including ticketing, routes, timings, photos, etc.

Mobile Apps: There are a number of apps related to Hong Kong tourism that can be downloaded from Google Play. 
Hong Kong City Guide by TripAdvisor is a good app to install. It lists the various attractions by categories, allows you to search restaurants based on location, cuisine, etc. It lists the phone numbers of the restaurants and has reviews from various travelers. The phone numbers proved very useful when we were actually searching for the restaurant and were not able to find the way.
Hong Kong AR is an augmented reality application which along with camera and gps helps you when you are moving around in Hong Kong. Like TripAdvior app, it also has the ability to search for restaurants and attractions. Most useful is the information provided for the route to take for each of the attraction. 
Octopus Balance Reader is a NFC compliant application which reads the balance on the Octopus card. Just start the application and flash the card at the back of the mobile and the card balance is read. It also maintains a card-wise history of balances read.

Getting Around: Hong Kong has a good rail network and most of the destinations are well connected. We took Octopus charge cards which can be used for travel in buses and the MTR train network. Minimum charge amount is 50 HKD and an additional 50HKD is taken as deposit. Additionally, we were able to use the Octopus card at Mc Donalds, 7-11 provision stores and at the Sky100 observation deck to buy some potato wafers.

SIM Cards: SIM cards are easily available with no requirement for any documentation. I bought a PCCW pre-paid SIM card with a balance of 50HKD. Read the specs for SIM carefully before buying the same. When I bought my SIM, I realized that, it did not support data/3g. I bought another SIM which did support data, but I never got GPS on that.

Food: There are a number of restaurants which can be researched with the sites/apps mentioned above. Getting good Indian restaurants was never a problem. We thought that the Mc D menu for vegetarians was a bit limited. No veg burger. Salad, french fries and hot corn was what we had to settle for.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Birding at Elephanta Island, Incredible India, Birding, Elephanta Caves, BNHS

The Elephanta Island which is famous for the Elephanta Caves (designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site) is also a good spot for bird watching. Discovered this, thanks to BNHS, which organized a day trip there. 

We assembled at the Hornbill House and registered ourselves for the trek. We then proceeded to Gateway of India to catch the ferry to Elephanta Island. Inspite of the summers, the ferry trip to Elephanta Island was made peaceful by a continuous cool breeze. 

Once at the island, we started on the steps leading up to the caves. After you go past the rows of shops, there is a sign board by the archaeological department declaring that the site is protected. If you continue climbing straight up, you reach the caves. We turned left and started our trek through nature, away from the crowds that had come to see the caves.

Spotting of birds was really easy... even to untrained eyes like mine. Iora, Magpie Robin, Brahminy Kite, Coppersmith Barbet, Golden Oriole, etc were some of the birds that we spotted as we walked along the trail. There is a small lake that you come across, along the trail. Here, we spotted some Eagles, Spot Billed Ducks, Red Wattled Lapwings and Little Grebes. 

From here, we started our return journey. On the return journey we were lucky to spot a Kingfisher.

Overall, this is a very nice trail and makes for a good walk in nature. For me, spotting the birds was a bonus

More photos...