Beyond the buildings and businessmen

Hong Kong Travel Blog

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view from victoria peak
An early, yet uneventful, flight carried me south to a warmer Hong Kong. As I attempted to type with the food tray jammed into my abdomen, I concluded that there were two types of people in this world: Those that have no problem reclining their airplane seat to its full potential, and those whose guilt and consideration leave them upright and uncomfortable. I am of the considerate, albeit cramped, caliber and contemplating a makeover.

I had no idea what to expect from Hong Kong. I pictured a city overflowing with shiny new buildings, English businessmen and an endless supply of little plastic toys that go into kids' stockings and cereal boxes (or is that Taiwan??) Either way, my initial impression proved that I wasn't far off on at least the first two accounts.
warren and daniel


Hong Kong is an immensely tall city. Row after row of high-rises sprout up from every inch of the island. Corporate buildings (proudly displaying their corporate logos) line the water front, and apartment buildings of equally impressive stature fill the gaps. With no room to build out, everything builds UP; resulting in an endless skyline and cramp in my neck.

As for the businessmen, there are Americans, Europeans and Asians as well as English, and women as well as men, but they do exist in an abundance. The sudden thrust back into a mob of westerners after two months in Asia was a shock to my system and not necessarily an easily-welcomed one. But with a hop, skip and a metro ride, I could trade in the Starbucks and Armani suits for the local fish and fruit vendors of a culturally richer side of town.
The flats may be smaller, the pubs sparser and coffee shops non-existent, but neighborhoods like Sai Wan Ho (home to Warren, my duck-eating, club-going kiwi friend from Christmas in Beijing) contradicted the overly-westernized areas to the, well, west and proved some Chinese still actually live in Hong Kong.

I spent five nights on a couch in one of those small-but-charming Sai Wan Ho apartments. I arrived a few minutes after my host Warren had himself returned home from the trip up north. The customary get-to-know-eachother period had already taken place in Beijing, so by this point--a week and six flights of stairs later--I was arriving at the flat of a good friend.

Daniel (yet another of the Kiwis from Christmas) also spent the week in Hong Kong before returning home to Sweden.
reunion with emily and peren
The two of us taking over the couches in the 3-tenant apartment made for a cozy experience, but good company. Having both guys at my disposal proved to be beneficial when either Warren had to leave us for work or the few days Daniel came down with something and couldn't be asked to move from the couch. I was healthy, ready to see the sights and always had at least one of them to do it with.

I had flown in on a Saturday evening. Just in time to experience the nightlife of Lan Kwai Fong. It's an area of Central Hong Kong, bustling with bars, tourists and expats. It's also where we magically ran into my english friends, Emily and Peren, within five minutes of arrival. I knew I'd meet up with them at some point in the city, I just didn't know it would be so soon or so easy.
such a caring host


Our night spilled into other neighborhoods, more bars, possibly a lame strip club if my memory serves me right, and a show by Hong Kong's finest cover band. It was a splendid way to begin my experience in this new city.

The days that followed fused purposive sightseeing with aimless roaming. Warren took me through congested shopping streets that could make the most crowd-loving socialite claustrophobic, and the parks and lots lined with immigrant Filipino women; eating, playing games and gossiping on their day off. We took the historic Star Ferry to the facing banks of Kowloon and caught the last few minutes of HK Island's nightly light show.

While Warren was away teaching, Daniel and I ventured upwards.
monkey with the mustache!
Victoria Peak gives the best bird's-eye-view of the city, and a 60-degree angled tram ride carried us there. We snapped our pictures, weathered the wind and then wandered down to the Zoological and Botanical gardens, where I found my new favorite animal: the emperor monkey. Also known as the monkey with a mustache. If American customs wasn't so particular, serious consideration would have gone into climbing into that cage and taking one as a souvenir. But, alas, I had to leave it be, along with the gibbons and lemurs and other furried creatures merrily swinging around in their pens.

On Tuesday, we met up with the girls and bussed to the south side of the island. We did little more there than eat ice cream and soak in the sun, but it was nice to see a skyscraperless side of Hong Kong.
The following day, Daniel and I took advantage of free admission Wednesdays, and expanded our brains at the Museum of History. Then time-warped back to childhood with the Science Museum, where we gleefully ran around like 10-year-olds to check our verticals, make bubbles and wander through the house of mirrors. Wednesday nights are all about horses at the Happy Valley Racecourse. Our Kiwi, English and American groups combined for a night of beers and betting under the lights of the track. And because it just wouldn't be right to be in Hong Kong and not eat a dinner of dim sum or ride on the world's longest escalator (800 meters in total), we fit those into our week as well.

By the time I left, I had formed a new appreciation for what this city could offer beyond shopping. I think it may have something to do with all the friendly, familiar faces here, or perhaps it was the fruit guys that worked in the shop below Warren's flat. We established a bit of a bond in this short-time, and I fear for the wrath Warren will incur when he has to explain to them why he kicked out his new "girlfriend" and why they'll no longer get to see her smiling face. Good luck with that, Mr. Baumberg and goodbye Hong Kong.
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view from victoria peak
view from victoria peak
warren and daniel
warren and daniel
reunion with emily and peren
reunion with emily and peren
such a caring host
such a caring host
monkey with the mustache!
monkey with the mustache!
Botanical Garden
Botanical Garden
the star ferry
the star ferry
the flat
the flat
hall of mirrors
hall of mirrors
where east meets west
where east meets west
grandstands
grandstands
lucky #7
lucky #7
happy valley racetrack
happy valley racetrack
emily and a random girl that wishe…
emily and a random girl that wish…
daniel, me, warren and john
daniel, me, warren and john
the track
the track
peren, me, emily...love these girl…
peren, me, emily...love these gir…
peren
peren
looking across to kowloon
looking across to kowloon
hk by night
hk by night
busy shopping streets
busy shopping streets
view on the way down the tram
view on the way down the tram
at victoria peak, with the lovely …
at victoria peak, with the lovely…
Hong Kong
photo by: Sunflower300