No matter how many places I’ve been there is nothing like that new-country-smell, anything and everything is possible. After five solo weeks in China, I was meeting my San Franciscan friend, Laura, for a week in Hong Kong.
One of the joys of being a budget traveler, short on money but long on time, is I planned my destinations around the cheapest connections. Flying from San Francisco to Beijing was the cheapest one-way to Asia. Hong Kong to Tokyo was the cheapest way to get to Japan, my most anticipated destination for four years (even though Tokyo is geographically closer to Shanghai).
It was night when I got to the Mong Kok neighborhood but the neon lights were so bright that it looked like midday. Hong Kong has millions of skyscrapers and millions more people. The metro is always packed. Hostels are converted apartments in 40-story buildings, and having a window costs 20% more. So Laura and I shared a broom-closet-sized room to save our money for delicious food.
Remember Izzy, the Aussie I met in Kunming/Yangshuo? This time she followed us for a week of Hongkonger adventures. We started the days with a full table of Dim Sum, small plates of Cantonese food, and ended with even more street food. We wandered markets and ate our way through entire neighborhoods, all the way to the pier and back a few times.
Our first day together, Laura’s friend invited us to a fashion show. As you may know, I’m a sucker for new experiences despite having zero experience or interest in fashion, so we snuck in by pretending to be buyers from the USA. I couldn’t get over how impractical the clothes were but I kept my unfashionable mouth shut and enjoyed the free ice cream. I know I keep mentioning food but the food in Hong Kong is really worth mentioning, they are nearly hipsters about the artisanal cuisine.
That night I hit the clubs to find my people: the Lindy Hoppers. It’s a thrill to go dancing in foreign countries. For those three minutes you are just another dancer in the community, it doesn’t matter that you can’t speak a word of the local language.
Hong Kong Island is even hillier than San Francisco. There are outdoor escalators to take people from one part of town to another. Can you imagine, commuting by escalator? The views are pretty spectacular, especially at the top of Victoria Peak. The weather was cooperating so we went for a hike up Dragon’s Back mountain, actually a big hill, to see a quieter side of the island.
Right near Hong Kong is Macau, an even smaller country that was a former Portuguese colony. It’s known for its Vegas-style gambling scene with a smattering of Portuguese influence (and melt-in-your-mouth egg tarts). Paul, my host in Guangzhou, had never been so we met him and a few friends there for a day of gambling. Just kidding, we played one game of roulette and treked around town to see the famous landmarks.
Back in Hong Kong Laura and I decided to treat ourselves to fancy, British-style high tea and desserts. And a trip to Disneyland (Paul works at a Disney company and got us free tickets). And a Michelin star restaurant for Dim Sum. Traveling can be tiring, it’s not all Mickey Mouse and gourmet chocolate. But sometimes it is.
// I’m back in Boston! I finally have time to catch up on all the adventures and pictures from the last few months, so stay tuned for more. Once I’ve caught up on travel stories I’ll keep going with Boston-themed stories. Just because I’m not country or island hopping doesn’t mean life isn’t full of wonder and magic!
Categories: Hong Kong