I’m back on my home turf. Well, not my home turf. But somewhere I can speak the language.
After leaving my sister, I flew from Bangkok to Hong Kong on my beloved Thai Airways to meet my friend Mia there for 2 weeks of China travel. I arrived the day before she did and really had two full days in Hong Kong to myself first.
Hong Kong makes a great first impression. Officially my new favorite airport to fly into, you descend over a series of beautiful islands, built up with impressive shiny buildings. It really is an impressive beautiful entry to one of the most cosmopolitan cities I’ve been to.
I spent my first day just walking around Hong Kong island (it’s an island! Who knew?) and doing some emergency shopping. I needed things like tweezers and a new pair of sunglasses. It was clearly a thrilling day on my own and these are details that make for a compelling blog. I went out for a lonely but delicious hot pot meal and went to bed to get ready for my next very exciting day.
The next day before I met up with Mia, I may or may not have gone to the 4th most magical place on Earth: Hong Kong Disneyland. Yup. I did it. Am I ashamed? No. Was it magical? Yes. Was it incredibly magical? Maybe not. The smallest of the Disney parks, it is just Disneyland (or the Magic Kingdom), but smaller. It has about 13 rides and you can walk from one side to the other in about 10 minutes. I happened to get there just 3 days after the new roller coaster, Grizzly Gulch opened, and I had the honor and the privilege of racing a hundred or so 10 year olds to be first in line. It looks like all of that marathon training paid off because I sat in the front and beat all of them! I’ll take my victory points where I can get them. I ended up sitting next to a gregarious 13-year old kid named Aaron who went to the park alone (talk about relaxed parenting) and he asked if I wanted to go on more rides with him and I agreed. So my first friend on my own was a 13 year old kid. He was pretty cool and really into the rides at Disney. By the time I shook him off around 1PM, I got in line for Space Mountain (which if you haven’t realized, the sound track is incredible!) and I made friends with a 10 YEAR OLD and then we went on Jungle Cruise together.
I met up with Mia and she and I spent the night walking around town and catching up. Mia, you probably have forgotten, was my pal from France that I did cathedral Thursdays with so she and I were proven travel buddies. The next day, we did what we she and I do best – a walking tour. We huffed our way all over the hilly city, looking at beautiful architecture, interesting fish markets, and the delightful different neighborhoods.
We then did the single most popular thing to do in Hong Kong. We took the tram up to the top of Victoria Peak to get a view of the photogenic city. If you are looking for a peaceful get away to the hills, this is not it. The tram takes you to a fairly serviceable shopping mall head and shoulders above the towering skyline of the city. The hustle and hubbub doesn’t get in the way of the beautiful view.
That night, we went to do the other most popular thing to do in Hong Kong – see the light show. Yes. It is as ridiculous as you might think. The entire city of Hong Kong participates in a giant light show that you view from the other side of the harbor. Music is played, and the buildings flash up and light in perfect synchronization. It really is impressive, but also eerily wasteful. The other terrifying part about the skyline is that it is incredibly commercialized. You might wonder how a skyline can be commercialized, but it is. As you stare at the view, the names of dozens of technology companies are lighted in the darkness, staring back at you , glaring “Olympus” or “Nikon”. It feels very weird.
We did one last fun thing in Hong Kong on the morning before heading out to mainland China. Trip Advisor, my current favorite website, recommended the Nanlian Gardens and the Chi Lin Nunnery. With an open schedule and an open mind, Mia and I decided to head on over and we were pleasantly surprised. This tiny gem of a garden is nestled right between tons of skyscrapers and a is partially underneath a highway overpass. But you would never know it because of how tranquil it is. Our day was extra tranquil as the rain scared other tourists away and we enjoyed a moment of peace in the beautiful gardens.
This post probably covers the longest period of time of any post, about 3.5 days so if you feel swindled out of some Hong Kong information let me give you one more picture and the most random fact in the world.
Random Fact: Our hostel was in a building called the Chungking Mansion. This building has a bustling sketchy market on the first floor filled with African men speaking French, and a family of Persians I would buy water bottles from. Mia’s guide book informed us that this market place is big on the electronic trade circuit and that 25% of all mobile phones in use in Sub Saharan Africa have passed through this market. It’s a very specific, but very weird statistic. Think about it and its relationship to globalization and our shrinking world while you wait for my next post.