In lieu of the fabulous year of the Dragon, I have finally finished writing my post on Hong Kong. Here I leave you with my story of the most amazing 8 days in China....If you can make it to Hong Kong in your lifetime, you should...what an amazing city!
[caption id="attachment_15139" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Traveling Latina jumps for joy for being in Hong Kong."][/caption]
You always hear stories, of places people have been to and things they have seen and done while there. Then you see movies that show skylines of cities you can just only dream of going. Until one day you get the chance to actually go to one of those cities and see all of the bright lights shining off of each tower. That was my first impression of Hong Kong: very modern, bright light, tall buildings, a little chilly, a little bit of a language barrier amazing city.
For the longest time I had been wanting to visit Hong Kong and finally thanks to the study abroad program I participated in (my third one by the way!), I got the chance to experience one of the most modern, cool, hip cities in Asia.
It was amazing to get into the famous little red cabs and head towards our hotel and see these highrises just glow away with their bright lights and variety of colors. It felt like a dream to see the skyline of what really is a small island compared to the rest of China. It was just shocking to see how these skyrises were real, they existed, they weren’t just on TV, movies or pictures, they were there and people worked or lived in them.
The Hong Kong skyline took my breath away; literally, after I walked into a pole from admiring it so much! (side note: I officially have a dent on the side of my left cheek from that mini accident). The skyline was just one of the many things I loved about Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is definitely a melting pot city with the variety of cultures that live there. I believe this is thanks to the British invasion since they brought people from India, Australia, Singapore, etc. I noticed this detail through the variety of food options that the island offered and the different languages that I heard spoken as I walked through the Central area of Hong Kong.
Even though the British Empire has been gone for more than 10 years now, the local government and its people have still kept many of the elements from that time era. It can be seen through the bilingual traffic signs to help those English speaking residents and tourists, to the fast paced lifestyle similar to London or New York City, everyone either speaks English fluently or have a good grasp of the language and those that are not Chinese know some of the key words in Mandarin that helps them move around slightly easier.
The interesting part is that although you would think there should not be a language barrier there, I at times felt like there was one especially when providing directions to cab drivers and even at some of our business meetings, some of us had to rephrase our question so that the presenters could better grasp what we were trying to say.
Language barriers or not, one of my favorite things to do when I travel is to enjoy the local food. Although I did not get the chance to have the street food, which according to celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain “Hong Kong has some of the best street food in China”, I did have some great meals in Hong Kong.
Our first family style meal which was a mix of Thai and Malay, I felt like I was in heaven since the plane food did not do much for my palate, do not get me wrong it was great (compared to other airlines) but not good enough for a 16 hour flight. After that meal there were two more that I could not stop thinking about: Nepalese food and Rainbow.
Our second night on the island, a few of us went to SoHo and checked out a Nepalese restaurant. It was the first time for all of us trying this type of food and it was a great experience. A lot of the dishes were curry based which we were all familiar but many of the spices they used were different from what we had already tried in Hong Kong and back at home. The blend of flavors and the mountain feel environment that the restaurant provided made me feel like I was in another country. Thanks to that dining experience, I now added another location to my travel wish list, Nepal.
Another meal that I will never forget from our Hong Kong trip is when we all packed up our evening wear, with a Carlsberg or two at hand, and headed to Lamma Island for one of the best seafood restaurants in the Hong Kong area, Rainbow Seafood. For someone like me that enjoys seafood dishes at any time of the day, it was amazing to see tanks filled with live lobsters, fish of many colors and all manner of sea creatures clambering over one another in a vain attempt to escape the chef’s hands and into my empty belly! My favorite dish was by far the lobster tails and crabs with fresh garlic and lime juice, just thinking about it makes my mouth watery it was so deliciously good. It is no wonder why this restaurant is a favorite by locals and expats.
One of the things that Hong Kong lacks in, is the quality of customer service. I guess that is what happens when you become a mini New York City, it is OK to be rude to tourist or not help them out at all. There were several times that we got slightly lost or needed to ask front desk to clarify something for us and it just seemed like the people we contacted with were too busy or in a rush to talk to us. That is one of the things I must say turns me off from visiting such large cities like Hong Kong, NYC or even L.A., people think they are better than the tourists and are not friendly to stop and help them out.
Although the customer service was poor for my standards, the hotel we stayed at in Hong Kong was clean and was in a great location. Our room had an amazing view of the skyline which I loved admiring every night we went to bed and the breakfast was decent enough for what it was worth. The biggest highlight of the hotel is definitely the location!
Everywhere we wanted to go to was easily accessible either via foot, train, bus, ferry or cab. In fact, that is by far the most attractive trait Hong Kong has, their public transportation system was amazing. And if you really wanted to you could literally walk everywhere. I got to see so many different things the days that we had “free time” because I just walked everywhere or took the train to those locations that were slightly far to walk to.
On a final note about Hong Kong, although they have a lot of public transportation options it was sad to see how strong the pollution levels were there. The day we went to Avenue of Stars in Kowloon is when I noticed the thick brownish-gray pollution cloud lingering over Victoria Harbour and through the Hong Kong highrises.
In fact, while we were there, an article was published by asiancorrespondent.com which disclosed that Central’s road is by far one of the most polluted areas in Hong Kong with “fine particles in the air that can penetrate deep into a human respiratory system and may cause severe health risks”. This information is slightly disturbing especially coming from such a modern city that should enforce environmental safety practices that forces their residents to take more public transportation, limit the cars that are sold per year, etc.
Small things like the ones I just listed could definitely help bring the pollution levels down in the Hong Kong bay area and avoid health-risks to their residents and tourists.
With its great food, amazing skyline, "rude" people, great public transportation and some pollution particles going into your lungs every time you breathe, it's what makes Hong Kong one of the best cities in Asia. I will definitely have to come back because I felt like the city had so much to offer and I wasn't able to do everything it had.