Weekend in Hong Kong

Afternoon tea at the Peninsula Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui

In every city around the world there are things one does as a tourist, things to see or do, to tick off the list. In London for example, you visit Buckingham Palace and you buy yourself one of those green Harrods branded shopping bags or a teddy bear in the Harrods uniform – very likely because they are just about the only things you are able to afford buying there. Paris is an easy one too: queuing for hours at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower, just to spend ten minutes on the top platform before you realise the wind is in fact ruining your coiffure and that you could really murder a café au lait and a pain au chocolat (that is so awfully parisien…), both of which you can’t get up there.

But please don’t get me wrong. In no way am I trying to make fun of these people, the tourists. After all, people who live in glass houses should not throw stones…

So what is a typically touristy thing to do at the weekend in Hong Kong? Well, I have an appointment with three lovely ladies to have afternoon tea at the Peninsula in Tsim Sha Tsui on the mainland.

There are various options to get from the Conrad on Hong Kong island to the Peninsula on the other side of Victoria harbour. I’ve decided to go for the classic approach, shall we say. I exit the Conrad and walk down to Hennessy Road. I turn left onto Hennessy and keep on walking in a westerly direction towards Central. Eventually Hennessy Road merges with Queensway just before the Bank of China building. From there it’s just a short walk to the IFC and the Star Ferry Terminal beyond.

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The fare for a one way ticket on the Star Ferry is HKD3.40. The crossing only takes a bit more than five minutes and lands you in Tsim Sha Tsui proper, on the southern tip of the Kowloon peninsula, hence the name of the hotel. From there it’s only another five minutes walk to the grand old Peninsula Hotel.

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Just a piece of advice, if I may. Afternoon tea in the Peninsula lobby starts at 14:00 and it is not possible to make reservations. The lobby is usually very busy with people just standing around taking in the grandeur of the building. And at the weekend it’s even worse and the queue for a table at the lobby tearoom is seemingly endless. If however, you’re able to arrive say half an hour earlier and don’t mind having a drink before the afternoon tea, you will be shown to a table immediately, bypassing the queue. And if you happen to still be sitting there when tea starts at 14:00, then obviously you’re very welcome to stay on.

The Peninsula has a large selection of teas and infusions to choose from. The food is served from an étagère. At the bottom are the raisin scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. The scones are fluffy and light. In the middle you have the savouries, a plate of very tasty cucumber sandwiches, ham sandwiches, mini Quiche Lorraines and small glasses of smoked salmon on a gazpacho. And then on top there are the sweet things, and lots of them too.

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It’s definitely a very pleasant and relaxing way to spend the afternoon – talking, drinking tea and eating. Of course the whole thing is a bit of a cliché, but even so it’s certainly worth it, especially if you’re in good company.

We leave at around 16h30 and I decide to return the same way I came, on the Star Ferry. The good thing about the buildings in Central is that many of them are connected via walkways above the street and many of them are air conditioned to offer some respite from the heat and the extraordinary humidity. From the Star Ferry Pier I walk past the IFC and the Mandarin Oriental into the Prince’s Building. From there I go down to ground and step outside to catch the tram just in front of the HSBC. It’s two or three stop from there to the Conrad. A single journey on the tramway will cost you HKD2.30.

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R., R. and J. thank you for the company. It was nice seeing you again.

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