East meets West

Hong Kong Travel Blog

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Near Guangzhou East Railway Station

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).

Mong Kok, the area of Kowloon where our hostel was located

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.

Double decker busses
KTT (the Hong Kong run train) would take us from Guangzhou East Station directly to Hung Hom Station in Kowloon. We had to go through passport control and customs at the Guangzhou station and then we had to go through customs again once we arrived in Hong Kong. Boarding the train in Guangzhou was easy and everything appeared to be well organized. The train itself was in pristine condition and the staff on the train spoke English well. They maintained a positive demeanor throughout our trip, which made me feel like I was on a European train more than an Asian one. Once in Hong Kong we left the train and followed the mass of people upstairs to immigration.

One of the biggest hassels regarding Hong Kong immigration was the mass of Chinese citizens that were dumped on the foreigner line.

Tall buildings
Most foreigners do not need a visa to enter Hong Kong, but citizens of mainland China cannot come and go as freely as one might think. Therefore we were stuck in line for nearly an hour, while we waited for immigration to clear all the Chinese citizens. One other thing to remember if you plan on visiting Hong Kong from China. You need a double or multiple entry visa! Traveling to Hong Kong counts as leaving China and you don't want to run into trouble when you try and return. 

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.

View from our hostel in Hong Kong (Yes, the view was of the inside of our own building).
The blending of cultures in Hong Kong is fascinating. Tall, tightly packed buildings reminded me of New York. Neon lights and digital advertisements reminded me of Seoul. Right-side driving and double-decker busses reminded me of the London. Everything was blended together into one mish-mash of East meets West. And let me tell you one thing, all those cultures blended into one makes for a totally kick-ass urban 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.

Dim Sum
In recent years it has become quite popular in the US and many of my friends, Chinese or not, would eat Dim Sum on the weekends. The best thing about Dim Sum is that it affords you the opportunity to try a lot of different dishes, without forcing you to commit to an entree.

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.

So hot, So pot
Honestly, you can't get much fresher than that!

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.

MTR
In the early evening we met back up and went to do some shopping. I was running low on shirts so I stopped into a few stores to see what I could find. The prices were really fantastic, especially considering the quality of the products. The other interesting thing was that I could communicate with the sales staff! They didn't really speak English, but they certainly understood it. This was great because it allowed for Michelle and I to split up and do our own shopping. I didn't need a translator for once!

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.

Wall in the mall. Looks trippy right? That's cause it was!
Then again the MTR opened in 1979, which is earlier than most (if not all) subways in Korea and China. 

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.

Michelle, that burger is as big as your head!
The bartenders spoke very good English, so we had no trouble communicating and understanding each other. Hanford had studied in the States and was extremely friendly and welcoming to both of us. We ordered some very exotic shots and everyone downed the tasty drinks in a hurry. After half an hour or so of chatting we decided to change locales. 

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.

Michelle and Hanford
The setting was really wonderful. The hills, lights and tightly packed buildings reminded me of downtown San Francisco. That is certainly a fond comparison considering how much I love San Francisco. 

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.

Hanford and friends in the ice bar
The train from Guangzhou had been a breeze. The city of Hong Kong was just spectacular, it had the perfect blend of eastern and western culture, delicious cuisine, reasonable prices and friendly people. To finish up the night, Michelle and I took a taxi ride back to our hostel in Kowloon. Tomorrow we would return to mainland China and the city of Guangzhou.

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Near Guangzhou East Railway Station
Near Guangzhou East Railway Station
Mong Kok, the area of Kowloon wher…
Mong Kok, the area of Kowloon whe…
Double decker busses
Double decker busses
Tall buildings
Tall buildings
View from our hostel in Hong Kong …
View from our hostel in Hong Kong…
Dim Sum
Dim Sum
So hot, So pot
So hot, So pot
MTR
MTR
Wall in the mall. Looks trippy rig…
Wall in the mall. Looks trippy ri…
Michelle, that burger is as big as…
Michelle, that burger is as big a…
Michelle and Hanford
Michelle and Hanford
Hanford and friends in the ice bar
Hanford and friends in the ice bar
Cool tower in Guangzhou
Cool tower in Guangzhou
Buildings in Guangzhou
Buildings in Guangzhou
Convention center
Convention center
Another view of the tower
Another view of the tower
Sorry about the reflection :(
Sorry about the reflection :(
Another view
Another view
More KFC!
More KFC!
Outside elevators
Outside elevators
Kowloon apartment buildings
Kowloon apartment buildings
Old gate
Old gate
Mans Paradise
Man's Paradise
Japanese candy
Japanese candy
Hip Pop
Hip Pop
Hong Kong mall
Hong Kong mall
Kraze Burger in Hong Kong
Kraze Burger in Hong Kong
Why so serious?
Why so serious?
Now Im excited because my food ca…
Now I'm excited because my food c…
Yummmmm
Yummmmm
Hong Kong island at night
Hong Kong island at night
Looks like juice
Looks like juice
Tasted just as good as juice
Tasted just as good as juice
Time to partay!
Time to partay!
Festivities
Festivities
More festivities
More festivities
And more!
And more!
How long it take to drink a beer o…
How long it take to drink a beer …
Drinks in the ice bar
Drinks in the ice bar
Hanford made quick work of his dri…
Hanford made quick work of his dr…
Hong Kong Hostels review
I'm in a box!
Don't let the title fool you, I would absolutely recommend this place to any budget traveler. Ironically I was more comfortable in this tiny room than… read entire review