Of my little tourist trips I’ve taken while in China so far, Hong Kong was the one I was most excited about. When I was flying to China last year, my second layover was in Hong Kong, and just from what I could see of the landscape from the airport, it was certainly a place worth coming back to. I was absolutely mesmerized by the rolling hills and the view of the sea from the plane. Luckily, I had a friend studying there at the time who I had met in Botswana when she was on exchange at the University of Botswana. As soon as my winter holiday came around I made my travel plans and went there to spend a week.
My friend had planned my stay pretty well. She listed all the must see locations and also gave me a rough idea of what it would cost me to stay there a week. Hong Kong is one of the most expensive places in the east, only rivaled by Singapore. A good meal at a decent restaurant sets you back anywhere from 100-200 HKD/12-24USD/80-160RMB which is crazy to me since that would feed 2-3 people here in Baoding at a fancy Western style restaurant.
I flew in from Tianjin Airport and the relatively fresh air that greeted my nostrils was such a pleasure! Hearing English being spoken was also music to my ears though I had to get used to the fact that people could now hear what I was saying too. Given that Hong Kong is a group of islands, views are plentiful. There’s always some blue in the distance whether it’s the hazy blue sky or the sea. At night the buildings are draped in lights leaving no space for darkness, my friend calls it light pollution. Chinese cities are obsessed with light and Hong Kong is certainly no exception, in fact they take it up a notch.
While there I did the following: visit the big Buddha at Ngong Ping on Lantau Island, visit Fa Yuan street more widely known as Sneaker street, take a bus tour which would allow me to see most of the city, take a tram up to The Peak to enjoy a night view of Hong Kong, visit Lamma island, visit some street markets in Mong Kok, visit the Mid Level escalators, visit Disney Land, then with the time I had left I strolled through some parks and went shopping! The best places to go touristing were Lamma Island closely followed by Ngong Ping and though it may not appeal to some, Disney Land was a winner for me because it allowed me to relive my childhood.
Lamma Island is one of Hong Kong’s charming tiny outlaying islands that one can traverse on foot in an hour or less. It has tiny beaches nestled between little forrests and hills, quaint welcoming houses and lodges, small shops selling lots of unique artsy travel friendly souvenirs, and tons of seafood restaurants. The only thing that spoiled the fantasy was the food prices, nothing except the drinks was below 100HKD so I didn’t have the full seafood experience I had hoped for because I had to penny pinch. There is also a large factory on the island that ruins some of the views but it can be ignored.
Ngong Ping is a highland on Lantau island that hosts the Po Lin Monastery, Wisdom path and the 34m tall Tian Tan Buddha statue amidst the hills. After the obligatory visit to the Buddha, one can take a relaxing walk through the wisdom path, visit the monastery and eat at the monastery’s vegan restaurant. Ngong Ping is accessible by hiking which I saw some brave souls doing but for the rest of us there’s the cable car (you can choose between the normal cable cars and ones with transparent base). I really enjoyed the wisdom path and took some time to sit and enjoy the views of the surrounding mountains. The cable car ride was also quite enjoyable, since the airport is nearby you could watch planes taking off and landing. Ngong Ping also has a little “village” designed to take your money, lots of little shops and restaurants and if one gets distracted too easily you’ll find yourself buying things you really don’t need.
Disney Land was a fun experience only because of the nostalgic value it holds, if not for that it would have been a stressful experience. Shout out to my friend Anna for going with me because she has gone before and I don’t think I would want to go twice. It was extremely crowded! She insisted we go before 9 to be there just after they open so that we attack the good rides first and I guess everyone had the same idea. The queuing was endless, but they set it up in such a way that you always think the queue is about to end. Having lived in China for a year plus now I’m a veteran at queuing, with a population this high you queue everywhere! The rides at Disney are tailored for kids so nothing too manic which suits me just fine, I can’t stand rides that flip you over or make you dizzy.We also took pictures with Disney characters and I was impressed by their ability to stay in character throughout, even when walking away to take a break; Minnie mouse would skip and occasionally pause to smell flowers. The kids loved it because for them it was pretty much like meeting a living cartoon. One girl was so excited to meet Princess Aurora she couldn’t contain herself and constantly screamed “Aurora!” while queuing to meet her. The highlight of the Disney visit was the parade, the whole park STOP during the parade because all the characters are in it. It’s not a place I would go to again unless I had kids I suppose, there were just way too many people!
Read more about my trip in Part 2! 🙂