Hong Kong is a busy, dizzying city. We stayed in Kowloon, which was both crazy and brilliant. Coming from mainland China, one of the first differences we noticed is how expensive the city is. You realise this when you are forced to pay £20 for the smallest room possible in a hostel (and if you’re lucky you’ll get a window!). Aside from that, alcohol is expensive in bars and you may need to wander a bit to find some cheap eats. Getting around is fairly cheap if you get yourself an Octopus card, and a lot of the things to see are free so there are ways to limit your spending.
It’s safe to say we spent too long in Hong Kong. We stayed for 10 days. This was partly due to wanting to stay for the New Year celebrations, but also because Mitch and I both have a writing job which keeps us occupied when we’re not teachers. For this reason, slow travel is better for us.
By the end of our time there, we were happy to be leaving the city. We needed somewhere quieter and cheaper. This isn’t to say I didn’t love Hong Kong, because I really did, and there is lots to see. There is so much I could write about but here are some of my Hong Kong highlights:
If you ever need good pictorial evidence of pollution, you can it from “the peak” as you look over Hong Kong island and to Kowloon. Although you may be at the same altitude as the blue sky, above and amongst the buildings is a thick brown smog. Air pollution in China is such a big issue and it makes me so sad. Pollution aside though, the view from the peak is incredible and it was still a Hong Kong highlight for me. We decided to get the famous tram up to the top. It’s great …if you don’t mind a long queue. It opens at 8am so perhaps this is the best time to go up. We went at about 11am, which was evidently a very busy time. Still, it was fun, and well worth the experience. When you reach the top, you’re first hit with commercialism (lots of shops and restaurants) but once you get off the beaten track, that’s when it gets exciting.
We started walking around one of the designated walking paths. We got some fantastic views over the city (smog aside) and it was brilliant. You can see the vast difference between the banks and high-rise buildings within the city, and apartment blocks of varying age as the city sprawls out. We walked for quite a while until we came to a little park to have a rest. In the corner of the park was a small pathway, somewhat shrouded with trees, not very obvious to passers by. Our intrigue led us down this path. We walked some more, and found ourselves walking upwards. It was a fair walk and a warm day but when we got to the top: WOW. We were literally at one of the peaks of “the peak” – not very well advertised at all so super glad we managed to find it. It was lovely and peaceful up there, so much so that we stayed for about an hour, just sat reading and relaxing. The odd jogger (damn, they must be fit) or other tourist would make it to the top but for the most part it was pretty quiet. We descended as the sun started to go down, happy that we had found this unadvertised peak.
Stanley was not something on our original list of things to see, however, it turned out to be one of my favourite places. It was in January 2015 that Mitch and I went to Albania and stayed with Lizzie, an Airbnb host who we got on really well with. It just so happened that she moved to China at the same time as us, but she moved to the Shenzhen in the South. As luck would have it, this was just an hour’s ferry ride-away from Hong Kong, and so she came and met us for a day. We caught up on each other’s Chinese experiences in a cafe over breakfast and then she suggested visiting Stanley. Stanley is the other side of Hong Kong Island along the southern coast. We were blessed with nearly 20 degree heat, perfect for a little paddle in the sea and for relaxing on the beach. Although it is a very touristy area (literally think it was about 85% Westerners there), it’s a totally different atmosphere to the busier side of Hong Kong island and a great day trip to chill out and explore.
Victoria Harbour and The Star Ferry.
Of course Victoria Harbour is a highlight. We strolled down on our first day and were greeted with the incredible view across the harbour: high buildings with a backdrop of mountains. I suppose that sums up Hong Kong really: natural beauty amongst modernity and wealth.
It is also a wonderful experience to take the classic Star Ferry to the other side. There was once a time when it was the only way to get from Hong Kong Island to the mainland. A clearly noticeable green and white old thing, you can hop on for about 20p and get to the other side in a few minutes. Sit by the window and enjoy the sea breeze.
Ladies’ Market and Temple Street Night Market
I love markets, which is odd because I hardly ever buy anything. I’m awful at haggling and generally just remind myself that I don’t need all those random bits of jewellery, souvenir magnets, t-shirts, new purses, phone cases etc. I love walking through them though, having a look at what these people are selling, being amazed at how they come here ever day and barter to make a living. It’s a great atmosphere. Both the Ladies’ Market and Temple Street Night market are worth a walk through, whether you buy anything or not.
Kowloon Park and Hong Kong Park
Maybe it was the weather, or maybe it was the fact that we were technically on “holiday” as it was a break from our teaching jobs, but Mitch and I did a good job of relaxing. We did things which we hadn’t done for ages in Hangzhou. For example, on a couple of afternoons we sat ourselves down in one of the many parks Hong Kong has to offer and just read our books in the sunshine. I forgot how much I loved reading books, and not having to worry about planning lessons, doing washing or those other bits we can easily get caught up with in our daily lives. That is one of the reasons why I love backpacking and travelling, of course there are times when it is stressful and lonely, but in a different way. I felt like I was truly on holiday, sat in a park, reading a book, bliss.