First trip of 2015! I was pretty stoked to pull out the renewed passport and get packing for a brand new adventure in 2015, and it’s been quite a week that I spent in Hong Kong! I walked so much and had some pretty amazing experiences and new discoveries. But one thing I’ve realised is that some places just resonate with you more than others, and Hong Kong just isn’t my place.
Right from the start – Hong Kong wasn’t where I wanted to travel to. The initial plan was for me to return to one of my favourite countries – Taiwan, but it just so happened that the period we chose for travel was the week of Art Basel and other artsy events happening in Hong Kong which my travel buddy A had VIP access to, so it seemed like a pity to miss it. Taiwan became a Taiwan-Hong Kong trip, but with just one week to travel, I wasn’t really keen on doing transit flights and spending hours in the airport instead of travelling, so it eventually became just a trip to Hong Kong.
I was a little excited about Hong Kong though – after I did my research and realized that while I had visited the city twice before (once with the family, once with friends), I had pretty much only seen the central touristy bits like The Peak and Ocean Park. I was curious to see what else Hong Kong had beyond its typical offerings of food and shopping, which seemed to be pretty much what every one does when in Hong Kong. Most people had recommendations on where to shop and where the good food places in the city were, and that was pretty much it.
So I ended up spending a full 8 days in Hong Kong, which is a pretty long time for a small city. I also ended up walking a LOT – my feet were aching every night. We also hit a bit of a cold snap – I was expecting weather to be in the low 20s but on many days it was around 15 – 18 degrees on average, so I have to thank my mum for making me bring her waterproof windbreaker.
Hong Kong is actually a collection of several islands, and I used central Hong Kong as a main base to explore these other islands. You won’t see recs on must-eat dim sum places or a list of fabulous shopping centres in my upcoming Hong Kong posts, but you’ll see some ideas on places that you can visit around the city centre if you want a bit of a break from the fast paced city life. People in Hong Kong seem to move at such a fast pace, even on their off time I feel like I have to run to catch up with them.
Cheung Chau is about an hour away by ferry and known to have excellent seafood. It also had a pretty beautiful sunset which resulted in one of my most liked instagram photos. Read more about search for pirate caves and an excellent meal on Cheung Chau.
Lamma Island is a little smaller and just half an hour away by ferry, which is one of the main ways you get to the islands around Hong Kong. This little island is actually quieter than Cheung Chau and has some great walks too. Read more about our epic cross-island hike here.
Lantau Island was on the cards as well, but the big Buddha and Ngong Ping cable car were not accessible at the time so we skipped that this trip.
We took a ferry up to Macau and spent a night there, and quite monumentally we didn’t spend any time in the casinos, instead exploring the outskirts and checking out the nature and cultural landmarks of the Taipa and Coloane regions. Read more about what you can find away from the Casinos.
Also, big props to the folks from Traveling Spoon who set me up with a Hong Kong host who lived in the New Territories, which is one way of getting out of the city centre without having to take a ferry. Besides teaching us to cook some Cantonese dishes, she cooked up an amazing array of seafood for lunch and introduced us to some local curiosities in her neighbourhood like the walled village of Kut Hing Wai.
Of course there were the artsy nights where I attended the art fair Art Basel and apparently shared the same air as some famous folks (I say sharing air rather than actually star spotting because in some cases, I didn’t even know I’d brushed by anyone famous until A told me later on) like Hong Kong actors Edison Chen and Shaun Yue, and Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara. But what I enjoyed most out of all the artsy stuff was checking out HKwalls – a street art festival in its second year where they decked out the hipster Sheung Wan neighbourhood (thanks Stephen Richards for the tip!). Read this detailed guide I made on where to find all the HKwalls murals in Sheung Wan, or check out my other street art guides here.
But still, despite all these great discoveries, Hong Kong still continues to feel overwhelmingly grey to me. The buildings still feel like they’re too close together with too many windows and people packed together. Maybe my mind will change some day, but Hong Kong isn’t the place for me, not right now.
Are there places you’ve visited that you know just aren’t spots you resonate with?
Shoutout to Changi Recommends who provided me with a Hong Kong SIM card as well as the Telecom Square folks who kept me connected with portable wi-fi device Wiho – what’s your favourite way of staying connected overseas? I weigh the pros and cons in this post.