So I spent almost 4 days in Hong Kong. I arrived Wednesday morning at 8:30am and left Saturday evening around 9pm. I think that was the perfect amount of time to explore the city. In hindsight, I’m happy that I started my travels in Hong Kong. First off, I knew someone that lived there (so it gave me a level of comfortableness starting off my solo travels). Secondly, since it was a British ruled country, it’s very easy for an English speaking person to get around. The city is also very clean and the metro system is very straightforward.
I started off my travels on Monday evening (technically Tuesday morning), and flew 16 hours from JFK to Taipei via EVA Airways. Then from Taipei to Hong Kong (quick 1.5 hour flight). I had never heard of this airline before, but I really enjoyed my flight. The flight attendants were very nice and constantly bringing water or tea. Sometimes, I think flights can be very stingy with keeping their patrons hydrated. Thankfully I’m a good sleeper and slept 90% of the trip. I sat next to two lovely ladies on the first leg of my trip. One woman was from Vietnam and the other from Philippines. It was comforting to have them on my journey, because they were so nice! Lynn is Philippine and has been living in the US for the past 6 years, brought up the great point of how people need to appreciate the privilege it is to have an American passport and GET ONE! So many people prioritize other crap over traveling, and traveling is such an eye opening experience that everyone needs to experience. It helps people become more well rounded and understanding of others. There’s so much culture and history to learn about that people are missing out on. She commended me for what I was doing and said she wished there were more people like me. Awww.
So my first day in Hong Kong I met my friend Megan at the IFC mall and ate dim sum at Crystal Jade. It was extremely delicious and I would definitely recommend it.
We ate shanghai dumplings, garlic spinach and fried rice. Megan so graciously gave me an Octopus (metro) card loaded with money and a SIM card. Literally so nice of her. We talked and ate for over an hour, but she needed to go back to work and I needed to start my exploration! I thankfully found my hostel (Yesinn @ Fortress Hill) after walking past it and looking for a sign that didn’t exist. Good thing I was thinking ahead and printed out directions (that I looked at after I missed it). Definitely a learning experience – always have the directions to your hostel/hotel and a contact number. This hostel was different than others I’ve been to – it’s on the 15th floor of a building and was pretty small. I’m used to stand alone hostels l, but I guess this makes sense since I was in a big city! I reluctantly changed my clothes ( I only say reluctant because my bag will never be so perfectly packed again this trip). From there I took the metro to the ferry and went across to Kowloon. I walked through a mall that had all the fanciest stores…who even buys that stuff?! I then went to the Hong Kong history museum (which is free), and learned a bunch about the city. Fun facts – Britain took over in 1938. Japan then took over in 1941 for 3 years and 8 months. Then Britain took it back over. In 1984 Britain signed an agreement to give China back the territory in 1997 under “One country, two systems” and this agreement is for 50 years. This museum definitely cleared up some questions, but also left me with questions unanswered. Good thing google exists and the wifi in my hostel was good.
That evening I tried to stay up and watch the light show, but couldn’t make it that late – my jet lag was hitting me hard. I did get to see the skyline at night which was very pretty, and even decorated for Christmas.
Thursday was the morning that I realized hostel life is going to be rough. That morning, I woke up to the ringing of two girls’ alarm clocks around 6:30am. Using an alarm clock to wake up is one thing, but snoozing it for an hour and a half is another. Americans [insert eye roll]. I ended up going to Lantau island and visited the Big Buddha. It was listed as a must see on all tourist sites so I figured, why not?! For those of you planning on going to see the Big Buddha, here are some tips of advice:
-Buy your ticket in advance if you decide to go on the cable car for Nnong King 360. If you go on a weekend or holiday DEFINITELY do this. I was told about people waiting 4 hours to go up the cable car during peak times!
-There are multiple ways to get to the big Buddha from the metro – bus, cable car (120$HK), or hike up! It seems the bus may have been the quicker option. The hike looked intense, but definitely a great source of exercise!
Anywho, I walked around the Big Buddha, and big is definitely a good word to describe it. Massive would be another. I then walked over to Po Lin Monastery which was very beautiful and ornate. I walked through the Hall of great hero and the Grand hall of ten thousand buddhas.
That day I decided to eat lunch at the vegetarian restaurant that was next to the Monastery (I had read about it too in one of the blogs). Food was pretty average. I accidentally ordered some weirdly textured curry dish. It resembled tripe and was the weirdest thing I’ve ever eaten. The thing is, is that it’s vegetarian so it couldn’t have been THAT weird. I had two bites of it and just couldn’t eat anymore. The texture was just chewy and spongy. Not knowing what you’re eating is definitely a weird feeling. Can anyone tell me what the food in the top right is?!?
I then took the bus to Tai-O fishing village. I would like to note that the signage in Hong Kong is great – it’s so easy getting around when you have no idea where to go. I was, however, very confused upon arrival wondering where the heck the so called “fishing village” was. I ended up following the other tourists and walking into town. Note – if fishy smells are not your thing, I would not advise visiting here. As you walk through the town there are little shops with dried out fish (shrimp, octopus, entire fish, and other miscellaneous items). I wasn’t exactly sure if you were supposed to eat them or not so I just looked around. I walked around the town for about an hour or so. The houses on the water are built on bamboo sticks and hover over the water. There are walkways made of bamboo and planks that go over the water, it reminded me of an Asian Venice. I was definitely happy I went as it was something I’ve never seen. They offer boat tours but I opted not to do it. I figured I can see most of their tour on foot anyway, minus the dolphins that they say you may spot.
I was super tired after all this touristy stuff that I hung out at Starbucks in the IFC mall until Megan was out of work. It was like a little bit of home was in my mouth. I then made my way to Megan’s apartment in Sai Ying Pun. This area is apparently the up and coming area – super cute and…lot of white people. Lots of cute restaurants and bars, similar to Greenwich village in NYC (take that with a grain of salt). We went to Craft Brew & Co and drank a craft beer from Hong Kong. It wasn’t too shabby. Megan’s boyfriend Alex met us up and we ate a late dinner at a Taiwanese place called Yuan is Here. It was very delicious. We opted for a low key night because we knew Friday was going to be long. It was great having my own room and still being with friends that evening!
Thankfully Megan’s apartment in Sai Ying Pun was in a perfect location for my Friday tourist activities! I woke up and walked to the Morning Trail that would bring me to the top of Victoria’s peak. Unfortunately Hong Kong is on a hill so I started walking the wrong way (downhill) to find the entrance and managed to get lost and walk for an extra 20 min up hill. Better workout I guess! Once I found it, I made my way up the peak. It was a beyond beautiful 70deg day for the 2800m walk. I made it up within 45 minutes, and I took some pictures of the breathtaking views.
Then I went to the top of a building and took pictures there. Absolutely beautiful and what a clear day as well. It’s funny that at the top there is a mall complex. Asians love their malls. Megan’s boyfriend Alex apparently lived on the peak and said it’s great for people who live there and don’t have to travel for 20+ minutes just to get to the supermarket.
I then met Alex in Central for lunch – we got dim sum at Loyal Dining. Alex ordered a massive amount of food, which we ended up eating 99% of it. We had xiao long bao, shrimp dumplings, shumai (which is apparently a CHINESE thing), spring rolls, this turnip tofu thing, beef balls with bean curd, and pork buns. It was quite yummy. He then took me to get coffee at an Australian coffee shop called Hazel & Hershey on Peel Street. I had a Flat White – which is an espresso drink but with milk (DIFFERENT FROM A LATTE).
Alex went back to work and I walked around SOHO which was super cute – filled with random cute shops, restaurants, bars, etc. I really liked this area and could have spent a lot of money there if I wasn’t on a travelers budget. I walked along Pottinger street for a little which has your typical Asian market hut things along it.
The Central–Mid-Levels escalator and walkway system in Hong Kong is the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world; so to kill time I rode it basically the entire way. It was super cool. You can just hop on and off to go to any sort of store.
I stumbled upon the Jamia Mosque which was beautiful. It’s the pretty architectural mosque surrounded by massive towers and also some cool trees. Naturally I killed time in a super market and compared the price of prosciutto to the cost in America. I then made my way to Man Mo Temple which was between SOHO and where Megan’s place is. Lots of incense in that temple. They had these spiral shaped incense that were hanging above your head. I need to learn the religious meaning of burning incense in these Buddhist temples…
I made my way back to Megan’s, cleaned up, booked some hostels, and chilled until she came home from work. We met up with some of her and Alex’s friends at the Royal Yacht Club that Alex belongs to. We had some drinks (…or bottles of alcohol), and then ate Indian food at the cafe on the water there. Everything was very delicious, and all of their friends were extremely nice and helpful. After dinner we made our way to Lan Kwai Fong – LKF. We started off down an alley way in this bar called Brick House. This bar was super awesome, had a live DJ playing great music, and was dark like a swanky bar in Manhattan. From there we went to Al’s diner. We ate the infamous Jell-O shots – which are the size of a golf ball…if not bigger. Apparently they are known for taking upside down Jell-O shots, however we weren’t drunk enough at that point. We then hopped to this bar called Le Jardin – one of those places that I don’t think I would have ever found if I wasn’t with locals. It was another packed bar but I don’t remember anything special about it. Our last stop of the evening was a Cuban bar called Havana; how original. It was a super funny bar because you have these Hong Kong people in Cuban hats making mojitos and trying to speak Spanish. Too funny. Mojitos were damn good though. We ended up calling it a night because we had an early hike, that casually it was slipped that it would be an extremely difficult 4 hour long hike. WHOOPS. Megan and Alex’s friends visiting from Singapore opted to drink more and not go on the hike with us. Probably a good decision by them ultimately :).
After 3 hours of sleep, I decide to get up and seize the day. I was wired the night before so didn’t fall asleep until 5:30am! Not too good right before a big grueling hike. Oh well. Slowly but surely we all got ready, grabbed coffees and breakfast, and made our way to Tai Mei Tuk one of the colonies in the north of Hong Kong. There was 4 of us that ended up mustering the courage to make the trek – Megan, Alex, their friend Luke, and myself.
Thankfully the coffee kicked in and once we arrived to the mountain, I was in “hiking mode”…hungover hiking mode. I wish I could put into words how beautiful / painful / terrible / amazing / breathtaking (literally and figuratively) the 4 hours of hiking was. It was hands down the most beautiful hike I’ve ever done – we’ll see if I still think that’s true after I go to NZ.
The hike involved going up and down at least 8 peaks and valleys which is why the hike is referred to as the 8 Disciples (at least that’s what my guides Alex and Megan told me). Googling this now, I guess it’s called Dragon’s back. I’m confused. Anyway, a majority of the hike included stairs that really kicked my butt. My legs have never burned that badly in my life. The rolling hills, lakes, and mountains in the distance were so divine (new British descriptive word). You could also see the border with China, which truly shows you how small Hong Kong really is.
The end destination was Fan ling to watch the UBS Hong Kong open. The best feeling that day was showering at the club there (that Alex is also a member of). Washing off all the dirt and hard work was a very satisfying feeling. Once we were all clean, we ate lunch at the Hong Kong golf club, saw a famous golfer Justin Rose from the window, and had another delicious Chinese meal (fried rice, sweet and sour chicken, dumplings, some hard/soft noodle dish, and bok Choy.
We then watched about an hours worth of golf before we went back so I could catch my flight to Phuket.
An interesting thing was at Airport Express (the train you take to the airport), they have this service that you can check in your luggage there and not bring it to the airport. They will handle all of that. I didn’t understand until I got there what Megan and Alex were talking about, however Air Asia is one of the few carriers that don’t have the service (to forewarn you). I’m pretty sure Air Asia is the Spirit Airlines of Asia…whoops. Good thing 75% of my flights have been booked through them.
All in all, I had an AMAZING time in Hong Kong. I can definitely see why people would live here. A couple of realizations I had were – all Asian cities are very similar. I think if you were to visit Asia for the first time and wanted a good “starter” city, Hong Kong would be great. A majority of the people speak English, the metro is easy to use and very clean, and it has the Asian city feel. The unique thing about this city is the water aspect. Hong Kong is made up of over 260 islands (technically). The water was also decently clear, which surprised me. OH the other thing I noticed and loled about is that it was a perfect low 70 degree day. I was wearing leggings and a tank top. Everyone else walking around me was in some sort of sweater or fall/winter attire. I’m really unsure why this happened because it’s not like they would get tan in that weather (asians like to stay as white as possible). Oh well. I will continue to be that white girl that sticks out like a sore thumb 👍🏼.
I was very happy with the activities I chose to do during my trip. I enjoyed them all and felt like I really got to see different sides of the city. I would definitely love to come back one day! We shall see :).