To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I touched down in Hong Kong’s beautiful Chep Lak Kok airport. I’m pretty sure that I didn’t expect to spend most of the week in the company of the Cantonese and rarely see a Caucasian (honestly – I’m not exaggerating – the British expat crowd hangs around in a decidedly small space). I also didn’t plan on feeling as if I was inside of a slot machine, watching the cherries and 7’s go rolling by so quickly that they all start looking the same. But that’s Hong Kong – a plain of sensory overload rising up from the South China Sea.
I wasn’t sure if Hong Kong would be a British version of China or a Chinese version of Britain. I am happy to report that, without doubt, it’s neither: it is just Hong Kong, Asia’s playground, a bustling hive of activity and (another) city that never sleeps.
There were a few things in Hong Kong that I REALLY enjoyed. A few of them are courtesy of my gracious hosts, Jolene & Linda – thank you my friends!
- Catching the Junk Boat at 7:45PM Why do you need to get the 7:45 boat? So you can have one of the best seats in town for the 8PM light show! Yes, it has tacky music, but if you can look past that and silly fact that each of the buildings ‘introduce’ themselves, it is a great show. Relax on board with your complimentary beverage and take in the expansive skyline – it is huge and seems as though as it disappears in the distance that it might stretch all the way around the earth.
- Bargain at the stalls at the Temple Street Night Market I couldn’t believe this market when I saw it – it is an endless lane of stuff, from clothes to electronics to household products to souvenirs and everything in between. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, the browsing is worth it. Don’t go until after 7PM, as most vendors aren’t really set up until then. And be sure to haggle – they’ll expect it and working for the sale is all part of the experience.
- Having drinks at a pub next to the Mid-Levels Escalator I know, it sounds pretty weird to recommend a place next to the escalator, but wait until you see this thing. It’s a gigantic escalator running through some of the busiest places in Hong Kong, and riding it feels like you’re on some strange version of an futuristic expressway, except the cars are people. Staunton’s is a happening place where you can enjoy a drink out on the steps while watching ride by. Trust me – it’s fab.
The Not-So-Nice HKG
Ok, so the city does have a few mild irritations. The primary one for me is the pollution. It can ruin those sweeping views and vistas, as well as making you feel pretty ill. I felt like I had just smoked a massive cigarette while I was poking about in the various parks and waterfronts – and in fact I still have a head cold from it (or at least that’s what I’m blaming). I understand why people walk around with those surgical masks; I’ll be bringing one next time.
The other major disappointment for me was The Peak. Now, don’t get me wrong – the views are stunning – but this was the point at which I finally said enough to the over-commercialisation of Hong Kong. Everywhere you go in the city you are basically in a shopping mall, and advertisements and billboards are plastered in any empty space. But here on Victoria Peak, I would have thought there might be a chance to escape some of that and get some fresh air (alas no fresh air – see previous point). But the Peak is just another endless stream of shopping, and in fact you have to really try to find an exit to get outside! Defeated, I tried to go for a walk on one of the walking trails and found that one of them was massively under construction; the other had couples in various states of undress. So I headed back into the ‘village’ for a drink, thinking I was perhaps just having a bad run of things. However, my drink ended up costing over £10 – and that’s robbery in Hong Kong, I wouldn’t even pay that here in the UK. I wouldn’t tell you not to go – the views are certainly one of a kind – but keep your expectations in check and don’t forget your wallet.
I must say that Hong Kong is a fantastic place to visit! The food is amazing, the nightlife seemingly endless, and the Asian-inspired cosmopolitan feel is unmatched elsewhere in the world. Rent an apartment on Hong Kong Island, mingle with the locals, and soak up the Hong Kong vibe – you’ll be more fabulous for it.
Have you been to Hong Kong? What’s your view? Likes / Dislikes?