August 29, 2012

Hong Kong, Mong Kok, Victoria Harbour, Avenue of Stars, Hung Hom FerryPier - From Bustling Streets to Scenic Promenades

Hong Kong. One of the most crowded cities in the world. Full of people, narrow streets, street junctions and hilly slopes. With pollution creeping back in and a hot humid summer, I would say that this could be one of the more unpleasant spot to run in the world. Oh boy, I was mistaken. There were parts, where the running is horrible, but once you hit the sweet spot, you will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the Hong Kong cityscape.

Workers setting up the Ladies' Market in the
morning. They have to tear it down and build
it back up everyday. Curious...

As usual, I did a google about potential running routes in hong kong. Most of the sites directed me to far away reaches of the island, or right on top of the hilly ridges doing runs on slopes and uneven grounds. There are also few pictures of the running routes. I guess most people don't jog and take pictures at the same time like me. Keke. In any case, I was having much problem motivating myself to wake up at 630am to run. Hong kong was the last leg of our Macau, Shenzhen, Hong Kong trip, and I was already exhausted by all the late nights of gambling, shopping, gambling, massaging, clubbing, pubbing and suppering. The lack of feasible running routes around my hotel area, Mong Kok and strong urging from my colleagues to "Relax! Why want to make yourself suffer? Just sleep!" gave me a couple more reasons not to wake up early for the run. Came the last morning in Hong Kong, I turned off my google search, put on my running attire and decided to just go where my feet takes me.

At 700am in the morning, while everyone were still sleeping off the effects of late night clubbing at Lan Kwai Fong, I dragged myself out my cool air-conditioned room, right into the hot humid polluted air of Hong Kong.

Looks like I am not the only one working out here!
Judging from my map, the most possible route will be southwards towards Victoria harbor and run eastwards along the coast. Hopefully, there will be a long straight coastal route with minimal traffic lights. The initial journey across Mong Kok along Nathan route was a strange one. Local salarymen in suits and working attire were staring at me as i jostled along the crowded pavements in my singlet, sunglasses and bandanna. The journey from Mong Kok to the Jordan MTR area was extremely unpleasant with multiple traffic junctions and crowded pavements, reducing my jog to a mere trot at times.

Admiring the cars while waiting to cross the road
at the many traffic junctions
Enroute along Nathan road to Victoria Harbor, I saw a sign directing me to Kowloon park. Well, that's the place where most people will work out in Hong Kong right? At least it will get me out of the strange looks people had been giving me. Kowloon park is a small strip of green zone right in the middle of the shopping, commercial hub of Tsim sha Zui, and frankly speaking, too small for any serious runners. Although I walked pass the entrance of Kowloon park many times during my previous trips to Hong Kong, I never bothered to explore the park. I was pleasantly surprised! It was like another world of its own, with a decent size public swimming pool, a pond full of flamingos and a McDonald kiosk, all nested in this small parcel of open space, with the sound of roaring vehicles muted in the background. 

Entrance to Kowloon Park. Nice wide open ground
A public pool right in the heart of city! It is crowded at 730am too!
McDonald Kiosk in case you are tired from walking in this small
Big flock of flamingos.. Can't believe my eyes!
A small bridge towards the westwards of the park will lead you to Harbor City, a mega commercial and retail development that is similar to Singapore's Vivocity. Once across the bridge, you will have a great view of the harbor and the commercial hub across the waterway. The only problem is that there isn't a staircase that leads from the viewing gallery to the ground floor level, other than running back to the park again, or cutting through the aircon mall of Harbor City. Unwilling to backtrack, I ran into the cool interior of the mall, in singlets and shorts, ran down the escalator, pass the well dressed tourists and working executives and felt totally like an idiot...... my advice to fellow joggers who are going to try out my route, avoid crossing the bridge to Harbor City. Just focus on jogging along Nathan road to Victoria harbor. Trying to find an exit at Harbor City is really takes an effort and makes you look silly...
The bridge from Kowloon Park to Harbor City

The view promenade at Harbor City
You can wave goodbye to your friends on a cruise vacation here...
Or just come here to take great pictures!
Running through the mall looking for an exit...
After weaving through the thickening morning working crowd and getting strange looks.. as usual, I reached Victoria Harbor at last. There, rows and rows of Doraemon greeted me. Being a great fan of Japanese manga and anime, I couldn't resist but to take a break from running and started snapping away with my iPhone.

The expensive boutiques of Harbor City. There is normally a
queue outside all the Hermes, Prada, Chanel, packed with
tourists from mainland China
Wow! Army of Doraemon!
Can't resist doing touristy stuff. Take pictures!!
I jogged past the crowded Victoria Harbor towards the Avenue of Stars. I have visited the Avenue of Stars thrice but always in the evenings with the Hong Kong Central business district in its blazing, lighted up glory. The Avenue of Stars has a different flavor in the morning, less glitzy but more calm and quiet with much fewer tourists around snapping photos of the handprints of their favorite Hong Kong stars. The Hong Kong air was full of polluted smog that morning, so visibility was not the best, creating a nice dreamy atmosphere... that is, if you do not mind the bad air.   

Is there even fishes in Victoria Harbor??
Early morning Taji Workout
Stars left their handprint. Me? I left my footprint..
Bruce Lee is always popular with tourists... no matter what time
of the day.

Running along the coast eastwards, I ventured into unfamiliar territories. One of the biggest uncertainty I faced was how far this nicely paved, running friendly, no traffic light, fantastic view promenade will end. Seems like I got my answer 5km later.

End of Avenue of Stars. Where will this bridge
lead to?
This stretch of the running route is probably made with runners in mind as I ran across bridges with friendly slopes across major expressways, rivers and canals. There are quite a number of small but pretty parks along the way, all linked together, with the magnificent Hong Kong coastline always bordering the track.
Great view from the top of the bridge!
Nice Wide pavement on the way to Hung
Hom Ferry Pier
Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, after the Hung Hom
Ferry Pier
I also started to see a bustle of activities of the local residents as I left the touristy zone behind. I encountered many local joggers, elderly folks having their Taji practice, dog walkers, kids on deadly wheels (seems like they exist almost everywhere in the world). It is the sight of the average hong Kong residents that you will normally not see in the tourist spots. Well, I will not say that these are representative of the average hong kong people as the sea side apartments I passes by seem to be pretty expensive, but just let me gush about nomalarcy after all the tourist spots I had been to, in the past few days.

Local Activity 1: Suntanning under brolly...
Local Activity 2: Working out while enjoying great view
Local Activity 3: Strolling and enjoying sights
Local Activity 4: Swimming in Kowloon Bay....
One curious phenomenon that I noticed was that there were a couple of local residents enjoying their swim in the middle of Kowloon bay. I guess they should be from a nearby apartment since there does not seem to have any bathing facilities around. Strangely, most of the apartments around the area are posh condominiums with nice swimming pools around.... I couldn't resist and took a video of this swimmer practicing his butterfly strokes.

The end of the track is marked by a large local mall with a distinctly shape dome. Opposite the mall sits a small park with the usual taji and fan dance , activities favored by the elderly folks of Hong Kong.

The dome building marks the end
The building is actually called Laguna Mall
Hutchison Park at Hung Hum district. Did my cool down there.
A very old and faded map of the layout of the park
I was exhilarated by the experience and was congratulating myself for creating a new Hong Kong experience. Now, the only problem now is to figure out where I am now and how to get myself back to Mong Kok by the local public transport. Found a nearby bus stop that will lead me to the nearest MTR station. Tapped my octopus card at the sensor and the machine beeped back angrily at me. The bus driver was shouting at me in incoherent cantonese and the passengers queuing behind me were muttering with impatience, while I was trying to figure out what was wrong.

Oops, insufficient value in my travel card!!!?!! Help!!!

Location: Hung Hom Bypass, Hung Hom, Hong Kong


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