Ah, how relaxing to leave a cramped, 12-person dorm room, sharing 1 toilet, to arrive in a 3-bedroom apartment with 3 bathrooms, and just 3 people. Hong Kong was a serious break from our regular traveling. It was really nice, and the entire area was kind of like an Asian Manhattan. Most people spoke at least a little English, and in the SoHo area, there were definitely more expats than locals. Imagine a modern banking town, complete with perfectly dressed professionals and lively happy hours, right smack in the middle of Asia, and you’ve got Hong Kong down to a T.
Overall, it’s easy to like Hong Kong. My dad might hate all the stairs, and fighting through throngs of people to get anywhere, but that’s par for the course in many big cities. Personally, I wouldn’t choose to live in Hong Kong unless I was a baller (i.e. loaded) with the financial ability to enjoy the city, but visiting was a lot of fun! It’s definitely a bit of a break from the rest of Asia, and in some ways is kind of comparable to Singapore.
Zac and I were able to get in some much-needed exercise and vegetables. It was a little strange going grocery shopping for the first time in 2 months, especially when all of the products are different. We made dinner just about every night, and experienced a lot less of the local flavor than in the other places where we visited. Though it’s always nice to check out as much local food and street food as possible, we were ready to detox a little bit from our previous binges. We ate out a few times, but we were more interested in cooking dinner most nights. (Plus, Jayme really seemed to appreciate that!)
So Hong Kong is a city bordered by the bay in one direction, and the mountains in another. Most people live up in the hill areas, and restaurants and offices are down in the flatter parts, close to the water. (Flat is a relative term here.) Jayme’s apartment is right at the top of a set of escalators, so you can literally take the escalators from the hopping part of town directly to the driveway of her apartment building. That was nice. The escalators go down until 10am for all of the worker bees, and up until midnight.
First stop, The Peak! Everyone talks about Victoria’s Peak as a must-see part of HK, but nobody seems to love it as a hike. Luckily for us, the entrance was only a 10-minute walk from Jayme’s from door, so we hiked up a different path about every other day. We wanted to explore other hikes in the area, but a) they were far away, sometimes further away than the hiking path itself and b) it rained almost every day for a few hours, so getting stranded so far from home wasn’t very appealing.
On the first day we went up The Peak, and as soon as we got to the top, it started raining incredibly hard, and we were forced to take the Tram back down, which was a pretty cool experience in itself. This dropped us off way down in the city, and we had to figure out how to get back to the escalators.
On the second day, we decided to walk around the bay, and we found this secluded little stair path to a bay-front overlook. Again, it started pouring. This time it was a pretty intense storm, and we were a little scared. We ran back up to street level and jumped on the first bus we saw, where we relied on the kindness of strangers to help us get to the city. We had no clue where we were dropped, but were able to follow signs to the escalators again!
We got caught in the rain a couple more times, and then decided to do museums and the movies (I still hadn’t seen The Hunger Games) on Saturday, since apparently Mother Nature didn’t want us outside. Zac broke out his only pair of pants, I stole some jeans from my sister and we were ready to brave the weather. It turned out to be the sunniest and hottest day of the HK trip. Go figure.
We did a lot of wandering around the city, and explored some of the other districts such as Wan Chai and Sheung Wan. One day we took the MTR over to Kowloon Island where we checked out Tsim Sha Tsui, and walked along the bay walk. Here our view included the entire city of Hong Kong Island, looking like it was cut out of the Financial District of New York.
During the week, we were able to meet up with Jayme for lunch a few times, and on Friday we explored the bars and restaurants. After a delicious Moroccan meal, Jayme took us to the party block of Lan Kwai Fong just to say we’d been there. This town really knows how to cater to the people. LKF is about a two-block long roadway that’s blocked off from cars, and just loaded with bars and restaurants. I can imagine it being a great spot for Mardi Gras or St. Patrick’s Day, and it was packed with expats. Did I mention that you can drink in the streets in this city? That makes it even better.
On Saturday, we headed over to check out Deep Water Bay, which is a lesser-known version of Recluse Bay, the popular tourist spot, and we just kind of hung out for a bit until our afternoon festivities!
The afternoon consisted of a Wine Walk in Stanley, which was a ton of fun. It’s similar to the “Taste of…” series in San Diego and other cities; 16 restaurants offer a red or a white to try, and several offer some small bites of food as well. There were even a few frozen yogurt places in the mix, but they didn’t have wine. Apparently these restaurants don’t understand what a “taste” portion is, and poured us full glasses. We were in a group of about ten people, and it was definitely a lot of fun! Jayme’s neighbor brought her little nugget along as well, which was a form of entertainment in itself. Everyone had to take turns carrying the baby backpack. Afterwards we enjoyed some surprisingly delicious pizza, and I succeeded in throwing my (Greg’s) camera away (oops). We got it back though.
On our last full day, we headed over to Lantau Island, where we took the longest cable car of all time up to the top of a mountain to see another Big Buddha. The cable car ride was the best part.
It was really foggy up there, so we couldn’t see the Buddha very well anyway, but we still got some pictures. There was also a little touristy village area at the top, and some sort of a monastery.
After a quick lunch with Jayme on Monday afternoon, Zac and I lugged our belongings to the subway, and took a series of lines to the station for intercity travel, and boarded a 24-hour train to Beijing. It was definitely cleaner and nicer than our previous overnighter, but you know you’re in China when people are allowed to smoke on the train. After about 3 hours, the engine broke down, and we sat in one place for a while as they fixed it, but we eventually arrived safe and sound in Beijing. Here we are staying with Zac’s friend from high school for about a week, which should be lots of fun! There’s no Facebook in China, and lots of other random sites are blocked as well, but I’ll do my best to keep you updated here!