Graduation came and went, and so did I. The day after commencement I caught a flight that would be 12 hours across the pond. This was my last hoorah before starting my very much adult life. We were off to Asia.
Asia has been a place that I’ve been to once in my life and wanted to explore more of. Especially after expressing the disconnect between my Asian heritage and myself, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity. So we decided to start where it all came from, where my father spent his childhood: Hong Kong.
In 2011 my family visited Hong Kong for the first time as a large group. I felt that as a freshman in high school I did not fully appreciate the visit as much as a I should’ve. This time around I can say threading through the crowds of people was exhilarating and in a way humbling.
Hong Kong had almost felt like home, except much more condensed and humid. Your lungs filled with thick air encourages your legs to move faster to reach your air conditioned destination quicker. Loud voices promoting street food or the latest bargains ring in your ears, as your eyes dart around trying to find the next window between sticky bodies.
Many at first may not realize there are two parts of Hong Kong. An island, Hong Kong Island and a section that is attached to mainland China known as Kowloon. Both sides are separated by a harbor, but connected by their public transportation system, MTR.
Hong Kong Island can best be described as Manhattan, where sky scraping office buildings stand and where most go to work. While Kowloon is best described as Brooklyn, bustling with locals while also growing in popularity. Both each have their own respective atmospheres and culture, but mixed together makes Hong Kong even more worth while.
We stayed in the Royal Plaza Hotel in a neighborhood known as Mong Kok on the Kowloon side. It was convenient and comfortable for the week. Only a 10 minute walk to the red MTR line and a 20 minute walk to the light blue line. Three streets over is the flower street market, goldfish market, and laundry street.
Our week began with two free walking tours that took us around Hong Kong Island and Tsim Sha Tsui. Each were about three hours each and extremely informative. Luckily we had the same tour guide, Matt for both tours. He educated us on the history of landmarks while providing dry humor to distract us from the heat. Along the way we were able to to try various foods from local spots. To name a few: HK Milk Tea, egg tarts, and Ying Yang tea.
During our trip we were able to meet Ashley and her family who also happen to be vacationing in Hong Kong at the same time. They arrived a week earlier and visited last year, therefore they showed us various locals spots and ventured with us to the top of Victoria’s Peak. The view at the top of the peak was absolutely breathe taking and could make anyone fall in love with Hong Kong instantly.
The city’s food was quirky, plain looking, but oh so good. HK waffle stands lined the streets with bubble wrap pastries on displayed. Next door were stands selling curry fish balls or grilled squid pieces on a stick. Hole in the walls served authentic Wonton noodles or buns (aka baos) of varying flavors. Grab and go is encouraged, for the people of Hong Kong always have somewhere to go.
The train system is rather simple, less complicated than New York’s MTA. Stops are both announced in Chinese and English, a nod towards their previous British control and the amount of tourists. The price to use public transport is based on the total amount of distance you have traveled. Be careful with rush hour though or you’ll be one of many sardines!
One can purchase a card known as an Octopus Card to get around. It acts as a debit card that can be filled with money to pay for public transportation transactions and to purchase goods at most stores. Hong Kong is generally used cash more than credit cards. I wouldn’t blame them considering their colorful bills and how thoughtfully designed their coins are.
The endless amounts of street markets generally have the same goods for sale. The usual phone cases, the very *real* luxurious hand bags at a very *reasonable* price, cartoon pencil cases, tea sets, and tourist t-shirts. The most popular markets are Stanley Market, Lady Market, Fa Yuen Gai Market. At night the booths turn their lights on and continue to ring with shouts of beckoning to buy “quality” goods.
At night the Kowloon harbor is a place to visit at least once. Across the harbor you can watch the daily laser show that the Hong Kong Island towers display at 8PM. Quite frankly it’s a bit anti-climatic but if you play your own sound track it is a sight to see.
Or you could catch the Star Ferry to the Hong Kong Island side and visit the Central Pier where the Hong Kong Observation Wheel stands and lights up at night. The piers along the shore are perfect spots to watch sunset cruises come and go. These cruises look like traditional sail boats but realistically they are motorized, nonetheless they look great in photos.
Towards the end of the trip my Mum has asked me if I would or could live in Hong Kong. I gave it a moment and finally came to an answer, “yeah if it was this hot all the time I can see myself living here.” While the Hong Kong humidity keeps me away, I know I’ll be back in the future knowing all is swell.