I booked my roundtrip ticket to Bangkok for my Southeast Asian trip on Cathay Pacific, which meant I had a stop in Hong Kong on the way there. Originally I wasn't planning to spend any time there, but as I was getting closer to the trip, I decided to see if I could change the ticket to allow me a few days there -- after all, who knows when I'd be back on that side of the globe, and I'd always wanted to check out Hong Kong.
So, on my return from SE Asia, I landed in Hong Kong and had three days to take in the city before heading on back to San Francisco.
Impressions of Hong Kong: busy, immense, spectacular, over-stimulating, overwhelming, busy, bustling, hustling, digital, busy, modern, crazy and ... did I mention busy?
Since coming back to San Francisco, I haven't been feeling a lot of culture shock -- I think that's in part because I spent time in super modern Hong Kong wandering around at how hip and global it is, and also becuase after three days I was ready for SF's chill charm.
Where I Went
I arrived late in the day from Bangkok and didn't get up to much on my first night — I wandered to a mall where I had some Hong Kong BBQ at the food court, then went to another mall where I wandered around for hours in awe of the abundance of expensive designer brands and stores from all over the globe, plus visited a bookstore for a while. Then I wandered down to the promenade to check out the incredible skyline of Hong Kong across Victoria Harbour.
On Day 2, I headed out to conquer Hong Kong's Victoria Peak. One of the best things about long-term travel is that the days of the week lose relevance; there's that awesome moment when you have absolutely no idea if it's Sunday or Thursday because it just doesn't matter or affect how you're doing things. Of course, this backfires when you decide to go to a major metropolitan's major tourist site on a Sunday with every other tourist and local in town. This is what happened to me trying to ride the tram up to the top of the peak, and it didn't help that I got there right around 12:30. I waited in line for a good hour, and got to the top a bit before 2, had some lunch at a café and then walked around the top of the peak and then all the way down the hill which was steep. Much steeper than I had anticipated, actually. I mean, you grow up near SF and live in SF and you think you know hills, but Hong Kong wins for steepness, I think. I walked all the way through the park and checked out the aviary and the Museum of Tea Ware, housed in a famous old British colonial building called the Flagstaff House. At this point, it was getting late in the afternoon, so I walked back to the metro station and headed back to Kowloon, where I rested at my hostel for a while before heading out to check out the Temple Street Night Market for a bit, then grabbed dinner near my hostel.
The next day, I had plans to meet up with an old friend from boarding school who is from Hong Kong. When Jen and I were making plans, I said what I really wanted to do was eat good local food, so she found an article with some places to check out and we set off to Mong Kok. Our first stop was Kam Wah Café, where I had a big delicious bowl of soup plus a famous pineapple bun. Then we went to a vendor for curry fish balls and then had an uh-may-zing coconut juice at King of Coconut. We went to a beauty store where I shelled out $50 on a ton of face masks and then said farewell. I headed back into Hong Kong to check out Man Mo Temple. I wandered around the streets filled antiques shops for a bit, then headed to PMQ, which Jen had suggested I check out. PMQ is filled with local designer boutiques and art galleries, many of which offer craft and design classes, too.
From there, I wandered down towards a shopping in search of a dim sum place I'd been recommended by a girl I met in Myanmar. I eventually found the dim sum place but had a totally upsetting experience there, of which I will spare everyone the details. I was screamed at by the hostess, and I abruptly paid for my meal without finishing it and left.
I had seen The Peninsula Hotel on my first night in town, and, inspired by its beautiful presence near the Kowloon Promenade, did some research and found it was one of the fancier hotels in Hong Kong, if not all of Asia. Naturally, I wanted to check out it and since it was my last night in Asia, what could be more perfect than going there to wrap up my trip?
I put on my "fancy" sandals (they're not fancy) and headed on over. After wandering around a bit to check out all that was available at the hotel, I settled in at the lobby and listened to the live jazz band while indulging in a $20 glass of wine. Then I decided I'd really splurge and treated myself to a $30 glass of champagne. Yes, I spent on drinks the entire amount of my daily budget (I was aiming to get by on $50 a day) but whatever! It was my last night and I wanted to celebrate my trip.
The next day, my flight didn't leave for SF til late. So I holed up at a café I'd found where I'd been spending an hour each morning writing and hung out there for a while, then had some lunch and then wandered around Kowloon Park for a while. And then it was time to head to the airport and bring my amazing four-month solo sojourn to an end.
Where I stayed
Urban Pack Hostel When it comes to accomodations, Hong Kong is even more expensive than Singapore. In Singapore, I found a good dorm room for $15 (it went up to $20 on the weekends) but Hong Kong I could barely find a dorm room for less than $30. There might be places that exist, but I wanted to also go somewhere I was fairly sure would be clean and quiet and Urban Pack fit the bill. Located right in the heart of Kowloon, it definitely did not get me away from the hustle and bustle but the facilities were super tidy, furnished with bright, happy contemporary colours and fitted with all the right essentials (like electrical outlets by the bed, nice sheets, good a/c, etc.). (bed in a 6-bed, all-female dorm, $28/night)