Archive | December, 2011

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Happy New Year from Hong Kong!

Posted on 31 December 2011 by onthegroundtravel

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Hundreds of thousands of people gathered along Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong to celebrate the arrival of 2012.  This year, the countdown started at 11pm with periodic fireworks shooting off from the iconic buildings along the Harbor every 15 minutes.  At midnight, a spectacular pyrotechnics display, with its center along the facade of Two International Finance Center, marked the beginning of a new year.

Tips for Your Travel:

1) We have recently blogged about the ideal location to watch The Symphony of Lights performance along Victoria Harbor.  The same rules apply for watching the New Year’s fireworks, including staying on the Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) side rather than anywhere else on the other side of the Harbor.

2) If you find the crowds along the Harbor is too unbearable, then sorry, for New Year’s Eve, the TST promenade is the best and only option you have if you want to watch the fireworks.  All viewpoints inside the Ocean Terminal are closed at 8pm to the general public.  For 2011, the Ocean Terminal had a shopping promotion, where  if you made more than $1000HKD in purchases at two different stores inside the Terminal and charged the purchases to a credit card, you would be able to redeem a VIP ticket to view the fireworks from the upper garage.  The promotion started around Christmas.  Next year if you use this option, please make sure that the store you make a purchase on is part of this promotion.  There are several shopping areas connected together to the Ocean Terminal so if you’re not careful you may accidentally walk out of the Ocean Terminal into another mall without realizing it.   Note that these tickets are very popular, so hurry and get your hands on them before they run out!

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3) Arrive early!   We mean Times Square on New Year’s Eve early.

We arrived at 7pm thinking that we’d be early enough to find a nice spot to view the fireworks.   Really, who would wait 5 hours for a few fireworks!?   Apparently thousands of people.   It turns out that the TST promenade is a great picnic area, and so by 7pm, many revelers already settled down with blankets, playing cards, and having dinner.   If we were to do it again, we would arrive by 4pm at the absolute latest to stake out a decent spot.

4) If you are like us who typically scope out the location the day before to identify the best photo spots, know that on New Year’s Eve, police typically create a 4-5ft buffer zone along the Harbor.  This buffer zone will become an issue for your photography, so if you want to capture a clear unobstructed view of the fireworks from all the buildings (such as the ceiling of the upper level on the promenade) at midnight make sure you plan for it.  Experiment with your camera by stepping back several feet from the edge of the Harbor and you’ll know what we mean.

5) Good luck and enjoy the show!  Hong Kong also celebrates Chinese New Year with a similar fireworks display, and we are certain that the tips above apply for that day also!    If you missed a good photo on New Year’s Eve and are around for Chinese New Year  you’ll have a second chance!

 

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Christmas in Hong Kong!

Posted on 24 December 2011 by Danica

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Few other cities celebrate Christmas like Hong Kong does.  Every year around Christmas time, buildings on both sides of the Victoria Harbor are lit up with Christmas lights.  The nightly Symphony of Lights performance is particularly attractive around this festive time when laser beams dance around the city, energized by the holiday lights.  The light and music show starts at 8pm but it only  lasts about 10 minutes so it’s essential to be at the harbor or other viewing points in advance or risk missing the show.

While people in other countries typically spend time with their families indoors on Christmas Eve, Hong Kong people take to the streets to watch the lights, shop, have dinner, and Sui Yeh (another meal after dinner) on that day.

Yesterday, we decided to participate in this Hong Kong tradition of viewing the festive lights on Christmas Eve.  We boarded the Star Ferry from Wanchai to Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) in early evening.  The lighting was perfect for pictures around this time, and we were able to get a few good shots of the Hong Kong skyline from the ferry.  We arrived at TST around 6pm, and the Harbor was already packed with crowds jostling for the best position to watch the Symphony of Lights performance at 8pm.  We had dinner as quickly as we could (almost all restaurants had queues stretching out the door!).  Fortunately, we still had time after dinner so we went to Ocean Center to window shop.

We then joined the crowd of tourists, locals, families and photographers (many equipped with tripods) to watch and photograph the Symphony of Lights.   From there we went along Salisbury Road and Nathan Road with the rest of the crowd to see the area Christmas Lights.  The roads were closed to traffic to accommodate the thousands of people in the area.   Despite the large crowd,  everyone progressed in a civilized and orderly fashion.  Around midnight, we headed back home via MTR.

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Tips for Your Travel:

1) Take the Star Ferry from Wanchai to TST.  You can take pictures of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center and the Golden Bauhinia Square before boarding the ferry, and you will be right in the middle of all the action when you arrive in TST

2) Catch the Symphony of Lights show at 8pm from TST.  Although you can watch the show from both sides of the Harbor, the view from TST is more impressive.  The soundtrack is broadcast is different languages: English on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; Putonghua on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday; and Cantonese on Sunday

3) If the harbor front area is packed and you find yourself looking for a quiet spot to take some pictures of the Harbor, try heading to the top level of the parking garage inside the Ocean Center.  It’s outdoors, the crowd is minimal, and the views are just as good.

4) Be prepared for road closures and traffic detours on Christmas Eve.  But don’t worry, the crowd is orderly, traffic signs are in English, and you should not have a problem finding someone who speak English to help you.

5) If taking the MTR, insure you have enough money loaded on your MTR ticket or Octupus card for your return trip.  The metro stations in the area will be packed and you will have to wait in long lines to recharge your card or ticket.

 

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