East meets West
Hong Kong Travel Blog› entry 16 of 25 › view all entries
People who made my travels more enjoyable: Michelle (USA), Hanford (Hong Kong), and Hanford's friends (Hong Kong)
Our first destination of the morning was Guangzhou East Railway Station. This was my second experience with trains in Asia (1.5 years earlier I took the high speed KTX in Korea). The Shangri-La staff made everything smooth and easy. First they drove us, via shuttle, to the train station and once we arrived, a hotel staff member greeted us and walked us directly to the ticket agent. Had the hotel staff not been there to help, navigating the mass of people and the large building would have been especially difficult. Still, the train station was in good shape, relatively clean and not overly crowded (this was definitely the exception in China, not the rule).
Hong Kong, although now part of China, was an independent British colony until 1997. In preparation for Hong Kong's administrative return, the PRC Government enacted a policy called, "One country, two systems". Hong Kong was allowed to keep its democratic political system and manage its own local affairs, while the PRC government took control of foreign affairs and defense related matters. Luckily the One Country, Two Systems policy did not dramatically alter the environment or everyday lifestyle of Hong Kong citizens. In truth, the handover had some benefits for foreigners and PRC citizens alike; travel between Hong Kong and China was now easier than ever!
Similar to Europe, traveling by train between Hong Kong and China was like traveling between two different countries with two different train systems.
One of the biggest hassels regarding Hong Kong immigration was the mass of Chinese citizens that were dumped on the foreigner line.
After clearing customs, Michelle and I got in line for a taxi. Hundreds of taxis were moving in and out of the train station, so we only had to stand out in the heat for a few minutes before we were able to fetch a cab. As we drove toward the hostel, I stared out the window and admired the new environment.
Checkin at our hostel went smoothly and the manager even spoke pretty good English. Michelle and I were starving, so as soon as we dropped off our bags, we went in search of Dim Sum. As many of you already know, Dim Sum is delicious. If you have never tried Dim Sum, be sure to get some at your earliest possible convenience! The history of Dim Sum is long, but in modern times, it has become a staple of Cantonese cuisine.
After walking for about ten or fifteen minutes, Michelle picked out a restaurant that she thought looked good. I didn't care where we ended up, I was just happy to be off the street and back in a cool room. Unlike Korea or Vietnam, the people of Hong Kong loved A/C and they were not shy about cranking up the dial. I stopped to admire the fish before we entered the main dining room. Unlike many western establishments, the fish at Chinese restaurants are not for decoration. If you are hungry and prefer a certain type of fish, one of the restaurant staff will quickly fetch it for you from one of the many tanks.
Once we were seated, Michelle and I started to order our dishes. My personal favorite is steamed pork buns, but I also like pork fried rice and shrimp dumplings. Michelle gave me a bit of a hard time for not being more adventurous with my choices, but I tend to prefer the "white people" dishes as Michelle liked to call them.
After filling up on Dim Sum, Michelle and I walked back toward our hostel. Every block or two we would duck inside a store to check out the wares and also cool down in the A/C. I was so fascinated with all that Hong Kong had to offer. Amazing food, shopping and entertainment. Even more, everything was reasonably priced compared to other cities of similar stature.
I spent the afternoon resting while Michelle went on one of her usual excursions.
For dinner, Michelle and I were able to locate a Kraze Burger in a mall (can't remember if the mall was in Kowloon or on Hong Kong island). To get to the mall, we took a ride on the MTR (Hong Kong's subway system). The subway system in Hong Kong, while nice, definitely showed more wear and tear than the subways I was familiar with in Korea.
Conveniently, the subway was connected directly to the mall. It's not that I'm super lazy, but if I went outside I'd start sweating profusely and I was trying to delay that as long as possible. Once inside, we made our way up countless escalators until we found the Kraze Burger. I won't go on another rant about how good Kraze Burger is, but I was soooo happy that they had a restaurant in Hong Kong. I've found that while in Asia, hamburgers and pizza are my ultimate comfort foods. I know... healthy right?
After dinner Michelle and I met up with her cousin Hanford at a hotel on Hong Kong island. The bar had a trendy atmosphere and the patrons were a mixture of expats and local customers.
We walked for a few blocks until we found a street that was full of life. Large balloons and flags advertised some sort of festival as drunk parties stumbled up and down the steep hills. I never got a firm answer what the celebration was all about, but it did mean that there was plenty of alcohol and people around. The weather was warm, but an intense rain storm from earlier in the evening had cooled things to a comfortable temperature.
Hanford took Michelle and I to meet up with a few of his friends at an ice bar. I was familiar with the ice bar concept, but I had never visited one in person. My verdict on the experience... neutral. The cold air was certainly refreshing, but it's cold enough that you can only spend a few minutes in the room. Let me put it this way... An ice bar is a great place to take shots, it's not a great place to hang out. Next we checked out a club along the same street. We paid a stiff cover (~$15) and the place was pretty dead/lame. Miche and I left slightly discouraged, but overall we had had an amazing day.