• Hong Kong, China •
Somehow, my aversion towards crowds, noise, and feeling like salmon swimming against a current had dissipated, overtaken by the fascinating amount of people threading to and fro a concrete jungle. After an eight-hour flight venturing further east, we arrived in Hong Kong.
I took a step back, reluctantly at first, and entrusted our itinerary to my boyfriend’s aunt and uncle, who to this day I am greatly thankful to for providing me with such a pleasant tour of their city. After being picked up from the airport, we nestled into a little room in their apartment, atop a hill overlooking the illuminated streets and structures of Causeway Bay and whatever was beyond.
Sleeping in on our first day was the best feeling in the world. We were suddenly swept into dining at Wa San Mai for seafood teppenyaki. At the time I was still unsure if I really had a shellfish allergy, so I took caution… But I still ended up trying scallops and abalone so allergy: false all along. In short, the service and the food here was impeccable, matching its “ultra high-end” prices.
Later that evening, we made a pit stop at Cong Sao Dessert, only to find it was packed inside and out. We opted for take out and brought back the popular mango pancake and durian pancake (durian is apparently very popular), and mango pudding.
Of the two “trails” we took, the Victoria Peak Walk provided us with a well-paved path; it was a neighbourhood road/sidewalk, but had vicious mosquitoes. I terribly, terribly regretted not applying mosquito repellant. While our views were mildly obscured by clouds (or fog, or was it smog?), there was interesting vegetation – if you were one to appreciate them. Oh, and you can still do a little shopping around the main lookout areas.
In speaking of shopping, two memorable stores in Hong Kong were Log-On and Eslite. Log-On was more Indigo (only stationery and accessories) + Sephora + Hallmark + Little Burgundy (everything but the shoes) + Muji (no clothing). Eslite is somewhat similar; it is an actual bookstore, but also had accessories and jewelry, foncy foodstuffs and kitchenware, and even footwear. The options were endless…
Taking the ferry from Hong Kong Island, we then explored the streets of Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok after filling ourselves with dim sum. Frugal me felt out of place as we passed by high-end/luxury brand name boutiques; meanwhile, I was drawn to stores and stalls where I could get deals. Even then, the only thing I bought was a popular (and counterfeit, but still very well-made) Issey Miyake bag. We spent much of our time, however, trying to find Sneaker St. due to arrangements for a Korean barbeque dinner with some of my boyfriend’s relatives. Eventually I found myself a pair of New Balances for work – I was not going to leave Sneaker St. empty-handed!
Not sure whether this was actually Sneaker St. Though as we got closer to the aforementioned place, each street, path, and road was very much occupied that trying to pass by was a feat.
After dinner, we drove to 1881 Heritage. The outside was enough of a reason to stop and appreciate its beauty, even with the museum and stores closed. Planted on the massive rooftop balcony were two majestic trees, with spotlights illuminating its features from the bottom up.
A beautiful weekend morning was spent at Repulse Bay Beach and Stanley Market. The winding roads leading to the beach gave way to a small inlet of toasted sand. You could sit under the trees for shade and enjoy the mountains to your left, and probably unattainable million-dollar apartments to your right, with the vast shades of blue straight ahead if you dare fight the rays of the sun.
From the flea market-like nature of Stanley Market, I purchased a backpack for my brother that today is neither used, nor is its authenticity validated (probably fake). And I also bought a cute hand-stitched dog (definitely not fake), which I suggest you visit because the craftsmanship on the stuffed animals is remarkable. Frugal me thrived and had fun looking through shops at Stanley Market. Again, I was not and did not leave empty handed!
Before ending the day at a buffet and watching fireworks at the Four Seasons Hotel (average food, their rooftop pool/lounge/dining area was nice, and service was nicer because they brought me bug spray because I was still being bitten while eating), we made a pit stop at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal Park. Talk about cityscapes; here you can view Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Bay. I can imagine sunsets being the ideal time for photos.
Arriving at the trailhead of the Dragon’s Back Trail at the hottest time of the day on a weekend was probably not such a good idea. People young and old flocked to hike, and I mean flocked! From toddlers to elderly with their assistive aids! The views were definitely something to take in, but rather than go at our own pace, we had to follow those in front of us. The trek left me feeling more tired because the heat of the sun + the steepness of some areas + slow-motion from the crowds. We took the shorter route back to the road rather than go to Big Wave Bay, where everyone else seemed to be headed. I also wanted to head to the beach, but that meant more slow-motion and follow-the-leader, and my friends know very well that I was not made to leisurely walk.
Our last day was spent on Lantau Island. My boyfriend and I hitched a ride on the Disneyland train, for my experience and for the air-conditioning, and then returned to Citygate Outlets to catch a ride on the Ngong Ping Cable Car for the village and large Buddha statue. Apart from the cute shops (make sure you compare prices!) and the beauty of the area, the most memorable portion of it for me was the gondola. To this day I still force myself to ride gondolas, but the leisurely speed only adds to the anxiety already brewing in me. I 100% prefer roller coasters… But of course, it was more tolerable looking around by taking photographs.
Exploring the metropolis that is Hong Kong exceeded any expectations and ideas I had on food, shopping, and especially nature. A hub of economic, financial, and social activity within the confinements of the city streets, there is so much to do.
Though what I desired more than to walk through malls was to trek through dirt, along steep hills, and discover vistas that make you realize how you are a mere speck on the earth, and barely a grain in time. And that to capture the memory as best as possible, after the sweat, hunger, and the heaviness of your legs, is but a priceless reward gifted to those who make the effort.
So, the one thing I have taken from this visit is to take advantage of the hiking trails in the future.