I have been fortunate to travel to some pretty neat places in my life. Hong Kong was the time I got to stop in Asia, and I was impressed. It is a very very unique place, and I did not get this impression because it was my first time in Asia, its a unique place because it almost has an identity crisis.
Before I get into the details of my exploration of Hong Kong, its worth mentioning a little bit of history here. Hong Kong was ruled by the British from 1945 – 1997. In 1997 the British handed Hong Kong over to the Peoples Republic of China. As you probably already know, China and Great Britain are two totally different types of government and you can see and feel the transition that is still going on to this day.
Talking to the locals you will often here the term 1 Government 2 systems. This is because despite being part of China, the residents of Hong Kong have a bit more personal freedoms and liberties than their counterparts in the mainland.
The other interesting aspect here is this 50 year cause, which is explained by Wikipedia here:
The declaration stipulates that the region maintain its capitalisteconomic system and guarantees the rights and freedoms of its people for at least 50 years after the 1997 handover.
As a result, the people of Hong Kong could be in for some big changes come the year 2047. Talking with the locals, this is something that is always constantly on their minds. As shown in the 2014 Hong Kong protests, the people don’t always see eye to eye with the Chinese government. To give my visit some context, it was a few months before the 2014 protests started.
To give a little bit of context to some of the locations I will mention in my post, below is a Google map:
When I arrived in Hong Kong, I took out some cash from a bank and me and a buddy hailed a cab to go find our hotel, the Harbour Grand. When we hailed a cab we inquired roughly what the price would be to get to our hotel, and the driver wanted around $90 !!! So this is my first warning about Hong Kong, if you look like a tourist or like you are not from around there, be careful with the cabs, they will try and rip you off. In another cab, I had a driver try and grab all the cash out of my hand when I was counting it…. and one time they would not start the meter, so I politely asked them to stop so i could get out. Rule of thumb never ride in a cab that will not start a meter, they will make up a crazy price at the end of your trip.
When we finally arrived at our hotel, we were greeted by a beautiful entry, with an amazing harpist playing. It was almost a little surreal.
As we checked into our room, I was instantly reminded that we were no longer in America. Our “two” bedroom, room had probably a total of 4 inches in between the two beds. Also the bathroom we really interesting to me, it had a glass wall, not smoked glass, like see through glass you would have in a window on your car. You could see directly into the bathroom. Luckily I found a switch that made a blind come down to cover the window.
The Peak Tram
One of the first things I was told to check out in Hong Kong was the Peak Tram. This tram takes you from the city, up the mountain side to see amazing views of the city and the harbor. I highly recommend if you stop in Hong Kong to check this out. What is really unique to me coming from America, and having spent most of my childhood going to New York City, was all the green I saw in Hong Kong. This city of Hong Kong buts right up against these beautiful bright green hills. Its absolutely beautiful.
When you get to the top the views of the Harbor and the city are awesome! If I were to do this again, I would have loved to go up around sunset and then get to see the city from up high at night too. Nerveless the view during the day is still great!
Aberdeen Floating Village
Next up on the list for exploring Hong Kong, was a Aberdeen Floating Village. Its a group of people who live on boats their entire lives. To take this tour, we ventured onto a boat of our own.
In the background of the above photo, you can see some of the nice yachts of the millionaires of Hong Kong. As we continued our journey to the floating village, the scenery was about to change. Later on I will share some pictures of the amazing architecture and beautiful skyline of Hong Kong, but this is the flip side where the less well off live and work.
Shopping is a big part of Hong Kong culture, and Stanley Market is one of the many markets. Its unlike any market I had ever been to in my life, it reminded me of an American flea market, except it was crazy crowded and very thin paths in between the stores. Mostly Stanley market sold cheap trinkets and clothing.
Once you cut through the busy crowded paths of Stanley Market and come out on the other side, you can walk down the street a little and are instantly reminded that you are on a beautiful island.
Tin Hau Temple
Around the corner from the waterfront near Stanley Market is Tin Hau Temple, it was small peaceful and relaxing. It wont take much time out of your day but I recommend you stop by for a quick visit. The neat thing inside the temple is that they have a tiger skin on the wall of a tiger that was killed on the island back in the day.
Another one of the popular markets in Hong Kong is Ladies Market in Kowloon. Kowloon is on the other side of the water, north of Hong Kong Harbor. Kowloon is a must see, do not spend all your time on the main island. On the main island I thought it was pretty crowded but, Kowloon really was super crowded. You can get to Kowloon either by car, ferry, or subway. We traveled there by bus.
The big joke people make about Ladies Market is that you can literally buy anything there except ladies. They have clothes, shoes, electronics, trinkets and pretty much anything else you can think of. Just like Stanley Market there were tiny shops and pretty much tables through crowded small alley ways.
The one place where I made a purchase, was this cool table that sold 3D cards that popped up when you opened them. After admiring many cards that had iconic buildings from all over the word that would pop up when they were opened, I settled on a sweet pirate ship for my nephews. The fun part about purchasing things in these little markets is negotiating. Negotiating is fun, especially when neither party speaks the same language. We were able to haggle back and forth by typing different numbers into a calculator and shaking our heads. It was actually a lot of fun!
After shopping around for awhile, I we ended up hoping on the subway. For someone who grew up near NYC, it was great fun comparing this crowded Hong Kong subway to the ones in NY. They were just as crowded but boy were they super clean and easy to get around. Despite not speaking Chinese, I was able to jump on the subway, pay and get to where I wanted to go. If your in Hong Kong, do not be afraid to take the subway, its a cheap, clean easy way to get around the island.
Avenue of Stars
In America we have Hollywood, and the Walk of Fame. An awesome street in Los Angeles, that has the hand prints of all our favorite actors. In Hong Kong, there is the Avenue of Stars which is very similar.
If you not from Hong Kong, you may be wondering why you would want to see their famous actors hand prints because you may not recognize any of them. Well if you look closely you may recognize a few…like this awesome statue:
Or these awesome hands:
Not only do you get to see all the awesome Stars of Hong Kong, you also get some amazing views of the main island. So even if you don’t care for seeing famous peoples hands in stone, go for the views!
When your done walking around, you can jump back on the subway to get back to the main land, or take the state run ferry that is crazy cheap. Me and my buddies chose to take the ferry and it was another great experience. First of all I think the ferry came out to only a couple of cents America, and it was a great view as we sailed across.
Overall, I had an amazing time in Hong Kong, and I highly recommend the trip if you can make it over. There are a ton of great cultural things to do, awesome night life, and amazing architecture. I did not have has long as I would have liked in Hong Kong, but I would love to go back and continue to explore the city!